I was born William Doyle Sadler January 17, 1922 to Monroe Cecil Sadler and Ada Belle Roberts Sadler. From then on my life was like an elevator, up and down. Daddy didn’t work very long at any one place, so by the time I was five we had moved God only knows how many times. Anyway, two years after I was born Donald came along. We lived in Farmington, MO at the time. Daddy was going to poultry school. Back to Chaffee again, moved out on Cox Hill between Chaffee and New Hamburg where Daddy raised chickens for a living. Our chickens were doing good and laying good. The catch was the government was sponsoring Daddy’s chicken farm so that meant inspections every once in a while. So, all at once our chickens quit laying. Daddy got mad and blamed it on the government men for changing his feed. So, instead of going back to his old feed, he blew his stack and back to Chaffee we moved.
Daddy went to work at the Hoop Mill where he had worked off and on since he was ten years old. Well he got a job paid 7 cents an hour. We weren’t getting rich, but it would feed us, and rent at the time was five dollars a month. Well, the next thing happened was Dad got a job on the railroad, which was real good pay. He got $3.00 a day, rich man’s pay for those days, especially laborers. Then they tried to organize a union, which in those days was against the law. So they got nowhere, so again Monroe blew his stack again and wouldn’t work so he said he didn’t want to be a scab. It got rough as the government put guards on the hillside and tracks to protect the railroad which was like it should be as it was against the law at the time. So, anyway some of the people who stayed and went back to work some had lifetime jobs and as times changed of course they finally got the union, which was good in that day and time, of course after several years. But, Monroe’s temper made us boys and Mom suffer. If he cared for his family he would have worked like the rest of those men who stayed.
Well, Monroe was out of work a long time so we moved in with Grandma and Grandpa Roberts. In 1928 Dad went to Flint, Michigan to work at the Chevrolet Plant. He worked nights, but he got good pay. He got $9.00 a night in fact. He was paid $1.00 an hour and in those days there was no income tax and no social security held out of your check. I don’t know what the rent cost, but anyway Dad was in walking distance of the plant about two blocks anyway. About 9 months later Monroe came in for supper one night, told mom I am going back to work after supper which was about 11 o’clock and he told Mom, you start packing and we will go to St. Louis in the morning. Well, what little we had to pack didn’t take long and believe me Monroe had worked his longest time at one place. Nine months, of course this didn’t matter because the Great Depression hit shortly after that and the whole nation went downhill.
We went to St. Louis and Monroe got a job at the Cooperage Company in South St. Louis. This company made wooden barrels for pickles or for anything that a wooden barrel could be used for. Of course, this was another big job. $1.50 per day, but we were doing pretty good. Again, Monroe came home, said pack up, we’re going back to Chaffee. In the meantime, they gave the veterans a bonus, but paid only half of it. Monroe got about $200.00. He bought a 1927 Chevrolet for $75.00 to get us home, or I should say back to Chaffee, MO. Well where the other $125.00 went I don’t know, but anyway we moved in a house at 406 Cook Avenue in Chaffee. We were supposed to pay $6.00 a month rent. We lived there four years, but we were three years behind in our rent. So one day, Mr. Rose, a man from Cape came down and asked us to move. This old house leaked like outdoors when it rained, but the landlord couldn’t fix it up without rent money. When he asked us to move, Dad told him “Mr. Rose the next man can’t pay his rent either”. So, Mr. Rose left, but in about an hour he was back. He said “Mr. Sadler you were right, the next man can’t pay his rent either, so just stay until I can sell it or do something with it.” Well, about that time Dad got his pension through, which was $10.50 a month. So we got rich and moved out two houses west of this house. It seemed like a mansion to us on rainy days! We didn’t have to put buckets under the leaks.
Before we went to Michigan, Dad and his brother-in-law, Jack Gramlisch, had built the house where Mom lived when she died (126 Cook Ave., Chaffee, Mo.). It cost $1400 new, with no bathroom or lights. In those days we used kerosene lights. Doc Finney, the President of the Building and Loan, came to Dad and said, “Monroe your old house is empty.” Dad said, “Doc I don’t have any money.” Doc said, “just move in and pay me $3.00 a month.” The house only cost $300.00, so it didn’t take long to pay, Doc got some interest, but we got a good deal. Again, Monroe got a big idea to go back to Michigan, but Ada told him if you want to go, go on, I’m not taking these kids out of school, and she didn’t. Every time we changed school it was like it is today, about the time you get acquainted with other kids Dad would move. People weren’t as friendly then as they are now, at least I don’t think so.
I forgot to mention, when we lived down at 406 Cook, Dad and Grandpa Roberts would cut wood and try and sell it to make a little money. They would haul it behind that 1927 Chevrolet in a trailer and Dad was always tearing out bearings, so he would find some old leather and make leather bearings and put in the old car. They didn’t last long, but it was a cheap way to keep it going and didn’t take long to put in. Just drop the pan, loosen the bearing and pack them. Another thing I forgot was about the house at 406 Cook Avenue. We borrowed water from our neighbor’s pumps as we had no water. Another thing about 406 Cook was, for once I was proud of Monroe.
He took a job breaking rock. Back in those days they didn’t have
rock crushers, so they broke it with sledgehammers. He made 50
cents a day and he earned his money. Of course, he quit this job too.
The reason I have mentioned all this stuff is that it reveals the kind
of life we lived. We were so underfed! We lived mostly on water
gravy and we had sores all over our bodies. Thanks to Franklin
Roosevelt, who got a law passed providing for school lunches, we
got to eating at school and our sores all left us.
We went back to 126 Cook Avenue. We were doing all right, us kids were going to school and doing well, then they were going to sell our house for taxes. It was my senior year in high school. I went the first semester and then I joined the CCC camp. They sent Mom and Dad $22.00 a month so they could pay their taxes. Of course, I got $7.00 per month and $1.00 went for my laundry, which was cheap.
WARTIME SERVICE AUGUST 1942 – JUNE 1945
I stayed for a year. Air Force Recruiters tried to recruit us for the Army Air Corps, but after being away for a year I decided to go on home. I was home for a while and then Virgie and I got married May 17, 1942. I enlisted on August 10, 1942.
I chose the Marines because I saw a magazine showing Marines at church services. I found out real quick that church services were few and far between. In August I left for the Marine Corps in San Diego, California. It was behind barbed wire and we lived in tents with blimps overhead to help prevent enemy attacks from the air. They worked us day and night whipping us into shape. I got my butt chewed out the first five minutes I was there because I was too short.
That old sergeant had been in the Marines for 20 years. He said, “You damn little feather merchant, why didn’t you join the Navy?” I said I wished to hell that I had. He said don’t give me any back talk, so I listened. Next they sold us a water bucket, a bar of soap, and a scrub brush. We were told every day at 3 o’clock you use the brush and soap to wash your clothes and we would do that. They would check your wash and if your shorts were not clean enough to suit them they would march the platoon over them. I guess God was watching over, because it never happened to me. Then we would rise at 5:00, eat breakfast at 5:30 and fall out for inspection. While we stood at attention they would inspect our beds and tents. Then, God help us, the rest of the day they would drill us 6 hours every day for two weeks. At the rifle range, we were given the 02 bolt action 30 caliber. We would practice that 6 hours a day, then finally after a week we went to the rifle range for our final qualification. Boy, the first hundred yards I got three Maggie Drawers, (editor’s note: the term “Maggie Drawers” denotes a red flag waved to indicate a complete miss on a target range.) and my instructor said “you’re not going to qualify!” I said, “Sergeant, just wait until I get to 500 yards.” Well, we had 300 and 400 to go first, but I got better the further away. Then came the 500 yards; it’s hard to believe I shot a perfect score and ended up with a sharpshooter badge. The next place we trained was the obstacle course. This part I enjoyed as I was always interested in a challenge. I did real well. I did almost fall when I caught the rope swing over the creek, but I made that also. Then Bayonet drill; we had dummies with hinges so we could knock off their head. They also had straw bodies for the horizontal jab. I learned the vertical and horizontal stroke very well. The next thing was learning to go over a mountain on a rope and no matter how I tried I always burned my right hip, but I didn’t complain. We had other training, but I can’t remember it all. We trained for 9 weeks. Then our platoon got 4 weeks of mess duty. They would draw a pea to determine who got mess duty and we got it. We would go to work at 4:00 in the morning, then we would work until about 10:00 at night. Then we were sent to Camp Pendleton for some rough training. At Camp Pendleton I could get to town every other night. While in boot camp I never got off the base, because it was a rule that they had for boots. When I could get out I sent for Virgie to come out. Well I didn’t get much time with her, just a couple of weeks after she was there. One day I saw a troop train backing into our area so I figured what was up, so I slipped to a phone and called Virgie. Within an hour they had us on a troop train headed for San Diego to catch a ship. This was January 1, 1943.
We went to Aukland, New Zealand to pickup some supplies, but we arrived ahead of the supplies. So the big wigs decided we would take a hundred mile hike to keep in shape. We were told to get a sock and put some rice and raisins in it. We were allowed one canteen of water per day, and the water was to cook with also. Most of us didn’t cook, we saved our water. We were allowed three days to make the hike. When we got back, they checked our feet and if your feet were bleeding you would be transferred to the Navy. My feet didn’t bleed, but they were really sore. They just swabbed them with some kind of solution. Before we left New Zealand we had to make another 100 mile hike and we all survived. We ended up being two months in New Zealand. We then went to Guadalcanal. We spent time training, hunting Japs and Japs raids out of the hills and ducking bombs every night when the moon was bright. If it was cloudy we didn’t have company. We stayed at Guadalcanal until October 28, 1943.
We boarded a ship and headed for Bougainville, about 100 miles from Guadalcanal. We hit the beach in Higgins Boats on November 1, 1943. We were in the first wave and hit a hill that was straight up and down. It was a 25 feet bank, straight up all the way the length of the beach head. If the Japs had been at the top of this location we would have been slaughter house bait, but their troops were expecting us on the far side, so we out-foxed them! Their planes did strafe us, and we were all afraid to look around, but we didn’t lose a man. We all thought the man behind us was gone, but that wasn’t the case. but having experience and proper training on scaling a wall, we moved each squad up and over in 6 minutes by putting our butts together and two men standing on top of two men we wedged pegs into the rock, secured ropes and over the top we went! We did real good for about 1⁄4 mile then all hell broke loose! This battle lasted about 11⁄2 hours. We worked our way to a jungle path and believe me, the mud was up to our knees. It seemed we just moved inches at a time, but I guess it was feet because we outran our supply trucks! They would have to hook a rope onto a tree and winch themselves. That night finally hit a road, so the dog handlers turned the dogs loose and they went to get the Japs by the throat and shake them to death. We got ready to move out next morning and our roadblock was clear, but a half mile down the road the Japs were waiting for us. We had pretty good battle. I ran about 200 hundred rounds through my BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) and I just fired short bursts. This was November 3, 1943. After the second day we had all we could handle with the Japs. We were outnumbered 10 to 1 with no supplies or big guns to support us. We tried the Navy big guns which were offshore about 12 miles. But they couldn’t zero in on our targets. Ammunition was wasted which was something we didn’t need. The elements were terrible!
It rained every day we were there. We couldn’t get supplies up and would have to send one man and sometimes two from each platoon to get food for the platoon in any form they could.
The next night we dug our fox holes, but they filled up with seep water, so we had to sleep on top of the ground. When they started bombing us, we would hear the guys hitting those water filled holes, but I had a hollow tree I planned on hitting. I thought I was first when I got there, but two other guys were already there and I landed on top of them! That tree we landed in was full of razor blades and nuts. Someone made crack that all the old scrap we sold the Japs before the war they were throwing back at us that night. We didn’t lose anyone that night. That was November 4, 1943.
The Seabees were trying to build a road and were cutting trees and laying metal matting to cover the mud. They were also trying to build an airport for fighter planes. We had bombers 100 miles back at Guadalcanal where we were based to make various landings when needed. The next morning we moved out and we hit no Japs that day at all. November 6, 1943 we had another good day of advance with very little resistance. On November 7, 1943 we tangled with about 200 Japs. The jungle was so thick we couldn’t get a good shot and neither could they. On November 8, 1943 our Lieutenant decided he would move to higher ground. We figured we would draw some fire when we moved, but we didn’t. We got to higher ground and decided to stay put that day. That night we stayed on the hill and received a supply of hand grenades. Our Lieutenant had things figured just right. About 1:30 or 2:00 in the morning we could hear a noise coming up the hill. Our Lieutenant told us he would throw the first grenade and us to follow. I would say about 2:30 he threw the first grenade. We all cut loose throwing our grenades. We stopped the Japs. The next day they called that Hill 600. Why 600 I don’t know. I don’t believe we had that many Japs. I would say about 45-50 were lying on the hill side, anyway we got a job well done.
The next two days we had easy going. Then on the 14th day we hit some light resistance. Then we put some barbed wire across the island. The reason for this was we had secured half the island. Our job was to hold them back while the Navy patrolled around the island. The reason for this was to keep supplies from coming to the Japs. This would starve them out and it worked very well. Finally on January 14, 1944 we were relieved by the Army. The night before we were relieved we were hit by large number of Japs. They came at us with rifles and bayonets. We accounted for 350 that night. We were relieved about 10 o’clock the next morning. We spent from 1 November 1943 until 14 January 14, 1944 on the front lines without relief.
We spent Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years on the front lines. We came out with our pants rotted off and just hanging. Also, our shoes rotted, but still had to wear them to keep from banging up our feet and we got jungle rot also. The mud we went through to get in had been replaced by a road built behind the lines by the 28th CB Battalion and believe me it looked like a four-lane highway to us!
We went back to Guadalcanal and rested for two days. Then we started training to assist Marines at Mundie Air Base, where another Marine unit had hit the island. In four day’s time we had secured the island. We had to take an airfield, which was very difficult because their fire power had us outnumbered, but we succeeded. Then we went back to Guadalcanal where we got two weeks rest. Then we were whipped in shape and sent to assist at Kwajalein. We secured that island very quickly. I don’t remember the date this occurred. I think it was in April of 1944. Then back to Guadalcanal. This time we got lucky and had 11 days before starting a tough training course for our next landing. Of course, we didn’t know where.
One month later we boarded LST’s headed out not knowing where we were going. We finally arrived off the shores of Saipan. We thought, “here we go again”. The generals drew peas to see who hit the island. We lucked out. The Fourth Division got the assignment. We were designated as the floating reserve. They hit heavy resistance not because of the Japs but because they used Higgins Boats which were hanging on the coral reef and they had to wade in which made them easy targets. They got the job done and secure enough for us to go onto Guam. After two days they released us. We thought we would go back to Guadalcanal as we were tired and worn out, but to our surprise we had drawn the pea to hit Guam. After seeing what happened to them on the landing we decided to use half-tracks. We also hit coral reefs, but the half-tracks changed gears and they were able to get us about 5 feet on the beach. Once we got our feet on the ground we hit lots of resistance, but we didn’t have the jungle to contend with so much. This was July 21, 1944.
Our going here was pretty rough. Pillboxes were full of Japs as well as civilians. This made our job very tough. We didn’t want to kill any civilians. In pillboxes, we would take them with pole charges or flame throwers. Depending on how many we thought were in the pillboxes determined what we used. For 2-4 people we would use pole charges. If 4 or more we would use flame throwers. The reason for flame throwers was you had two chances. If they had explosives it would set them off. If they didn’t have explosives other than machine guns, the heat would either burn them or suffocate them. You might ask, why didn’t they retreat? The answer is that the machine crew was chained to their gun and fought until death. One day on Mt. Choe Chaw (sic) the caves and pillboxes were loaded with Japs, not only with machine guns, but big artillery pieces which they would regularly ride out on a rail and fire in the direction which they figured we were coming. They couldn’t miss, as the island was only 21 miles long and 12 miles wide. We stretched our lines across the 12-mile way, to prevent them from getting through. (But believe me they did get through because some were captured years after the war.) We only had two flamethrower men left (we had five when we hit the beach.) So Frank Calvin and I had all the work to do. We don’t know how many Japs we accounted for, but we just answered on the visible ones in the caves. We couldn’t account for them as we were not assigned to that particular duty.
It took us 20 days to secure the island and 8 days for the mop up. During mop up duty the civilian population came out of caves and holes or wherever they were hidden and were hugging and thanking us for liberation. We were proud that it worked out that way. The people were old men and old ladies mostly, with a few young girls and some even had young babies. How they were delivered don’t ask me, I can’t answer that one. We set up camp right off the beach opposite the beach we made our beachhead on. We set up guards. Believe it or not, the Japs would try and get in our chow lines, even though we had them licked. It was nothing to get two or three prisoners a day. On December 1, 1944 we had an inspection. When it was dismissed I was still standing with my 45 in my right hand. The sun was hot. Major Campbell came to me and said, “you can put the pistol down”, and I did. Then he said, “I will get you out of here in about 8 days”. By that time they would have the harbor secure enough to land boats in the bay. So, sure enough they made good on their promise…except the day before we were to leave I had 103 degree fever, which I wasn’t going to say anything about, but a boy from Bakersfield, California turned me in. They put me in the hospital which we had set up. We weren’t supposed to leave until 8 o’clock in the morning. The same boy that had me put in got the doctor out of bed had him check my temperature and released me. I didn’t have anything to pack or check in by the supply sergeant. So I was ready to go.
I arrived broke and borrowed 40 cents from a guy from San Antonio, Texas who had also been shipped back from another company. I went through boot camp with him but we got different assignments. Anyway, I sent Virgie a night letter and she wired me some money and the day I received it, I was shipped out to Fort Worth for my first and only leave of my military career. I had to pay my way home from Fort Worth, but I got 32 days at home. I enjoyed this time very much. I was supposed to report to Camp LeJeune, NC after my leave, but the Marines knew something I didn’t, so I received a letter while home to report to New Orleans. After arriving at the Second Casualty Company I was sent to the Naval Hospital in New Orleans for treatment. On June 29, 1945 I was discharged with a 50% disability. Virgie and I came home that very night and arrived in Chaffee the next day! Thank God for His watch and care then, and also now.
LIFE AFTER THE WAR
Virgie was working at Superior Electric when we went to New Orleans. They offered her a leave, but I told her no, we probably wouldn’t be back working there. Little did I know that 6 months later we were both back and went to work at Superior, so Virgie had to start her seniority over again. As it worked out, she ended up with plenty anyway. As for me, I worked 3 weeks then had to go to the V.A. Hospital in Marion, IL. After I was discharged from there I didn’t go back to Superior. My brother Donald got his discharge from the Navy so we both went to work for L.H. Landgraf Lumber Company. Donald was driving a truck hauling lumber and I worked in the yards. Well, they were paying pretty good hauling coal, so I told Don we could haul coal by the ton and make more money. Little did I know we would have to shovel both at the coal yard and at the houses too! I had figured we would load at the yards and use the dump truck to dump at the houses. We had to work twice as hard to make the same money we were making at the lumber yard! One week did us in, and luckily the foreman let us go back to our old jobs. We worked a while and business got slack and the lumber yard had a hard time getting lumber, so they had a big layoff. Donald and I were lucky, Mr. L.H. Landgraf got us a job with his cousin Rueben Landgraf and it paid quite a lot more also. We had to help a carpenter named Hibbs. He was 65 years old and a 100% union man. He was a good old man and he remembered us boys up until his death at the age of 96. From there we both went back to Superior working until 1952. I got laid off then, but found a job at Pipkin, Boyd, and Neal Packing Company on South Kingshighway between Route K and Bloomfield, where I worked until 1968. The packing company went out of business. From the packing company I went into construction work. My first job was working on the Federal Building and from there I went to the airport, to help build three landing strips so they could bring jets into this airport if it became necessary. I made some pretty good pay. From there I drew a few weeks unemployment, then in April 1969 Proctor and Gamble started their first phase of its plant and I was the first man sent out from Laborers Local 282. The Operating Engineers sent out three CAT operators and my job was to keep the tracks from building up and believe me when it was muddy it got to be a job, but we made it. In about a week they sent in big rigs that would dig its own load and hauled 40 yards per load. They were air conditioned and of course I wasn’t an operator, but I got a job checking grade which I liked very much. I worked 17 months on the first phase which also included building a building. I got to work all through the winter and late spring. Then one day as on all construction jobs I got laid off. I drew a little unemployment then went to work on I-55 highway. Our section was from Fruitland to St. Mary. We worked until the snow fell, and I drew a little more unemployment. Then I decided to do something else and this is 1972. I went to work at Superior Electric working for my brother Donald in the punch press department. Then I got a chance to work in the warehouse where I worked until 1976.
I had a heart attack at home, went to the hospital, had an angiogram and went to the hospital in Memphis for heart surgery. I got along ok and had to lay off work for a year. Then I went back to work but had to quit as the doctor said it was hurting my heart. So I retired for good in 1977. Relaxing my heart as much as possible and I got along good until 1989. I could hardly go and I knew I was pretty bad, but I tried to hide my feelings. Dr. Bauman decided to give me another Angiogram and after the results I went back to Memphis. I was hurting pretty bad, but God won’t put more on you than you can stand. With God’s help and prayers of many people and myself we made it ok.
I would like to say one thing: the heart surgery was easy compared to the rough times I had in the jungles of the South Pacific. There was nothing to treat the pain and suffering there. Again, God saw us through. I was well from 1989 to 1992. Virgie has done most of the work and still does. In 1992 we celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. How Virgie put up with me this long I don’t know, but God has helped us in many ways and I hope we never forget it. Our time will be coming one of these days, but I’m not afraid to die. The Bible says we are born to die so I believe the Bible and God’s word will prevail.
I thank God for all of our family. I am as thankful for the bad times in my life as I am for the good times as I believe it takes it all to make us understand life itself.
I don’t know any more to write except that I love you all and may God continue to bless us in a rewarding way. (I forgot to mention the Flood of 1993 and how it gave us all plenty to do. I was proud of all my family, friends, and people we didn’t know. Again, I believe God sent us the best help anyone could get.) Virgie and I were grateful and will always be, as long as we have our right mind to think properly. Thanks to God and all the world, for our churches and the right to worship. Thank God for the greatest country on earth. I am not going to write anymore, but I repeat I love you all.
William D. “Woody” Sadler