First of all, I want to thank the school, the staff, and all those who made Veterans Day in Payson a very special event. Those beautiful ladies who danced on stage, they made my day. And those youngsters made the veterans special by escorting them to their seats. Thank you for the honors, especially to our Gold Star Mothers.
Prior to World War II, America was concerned about the Depression and how to deal with it.
However, Japan, Germany and Italy had other ideas and the cauldron of war was brewing, especially on the Pacific side. The American government was anticipating some action from both Germany and Japan. America reactivated the Selective Service Act, which had passed the Congress, then the Selective Service was passed by a single vote in the House of Representatives. America's military power was rated a pitiful 17th, behind Portugal and Greece.
The following is a story written by Lowell Thomas in 1943. You can find it in the book "The Medal of Honor." Lieutenant Commander Corydon M. Wassell. U.S. Navy, Medical Corps, Navy Cross. Dr. Wassell was born in 1884 in Little Rock, Ark., he was 58 years old and had seen considerable service as a missionary in China. As the war in the Pacific became inevitable, Dr. Wassell was transferred as a lieutenant commander in the Navy Medical Corps, then serving in Java. When the Japanese invaded the Dutch East Indies, heavy fighting raged between the Allied squadron and a numerically superior Japanese armada. Heavy casualties of the U.S.S. Marblehead and the U.S.S. Houston were left in the medical and hospital custody of Dr. Wassell. As Japanese Forces spread their tentacles across the island, orders came for them to evacuate with as many casualties as possible.
To leave our casualties behind to face the barbarity of the Japanese was unthinkable. Dr. Wassell flatly refused to leave them behind. Dr. Wassell improvised crude crutches, stretchers and recruited natives to help carry them to the sea coast 50 miles away through rugged inhospitable terrain and enemy air attacks.
Upon arriving at the sea coast, the doctor commandeered a small Dutch ship, upon which the seriously wounded were loaded. Day by day the Japanese bombed and strafed the defenseless ship of mercy, which miraculously escaped serious damage. Having conquered the savage elements of the hostile jungle, treacherous sea currents and merciless Japanese airmen. Dr. Wassell defeated all odds in getting his ship, 12 wounded and crew to the sanctity of Australia, the first leg on the long journey home. He was received by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
CSM Lawrence D. Okendo (Ret.),Payson