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History alive at junior high

Mike Keith displays a war trophy from the Pacific Theater of World War II, a saber carried by a Japanese non-commissioned officer. Photos by Phil Custodio (click for larger version)
February 20, 2013 - Learning about World War II history, ninth-graders at Clarkston Junior High School heard from men who fought it, Feb. 6 at the junior high.

"Combat was awful I'm glad to tell you how terrible war is," said Mike Keith, who was a radio operator with the U.S. Army in the Pacific Theater of the war.

His first day on the island of Peleliu, he helped fight off a Banzai mass attack by Japanese soldiers.

"I couldn't believe it," he said. "I threw my radio off and grabbed my rifle."

John Thomas sailed the Atlantic to Europe and back 19 times, protecting convoys as an anti-aircraft gunner on board the U.S.S. Lansing.

The Lansing, named after a Texan, Aviation Machinist Mate First Class William Henry Lansing, not Michigan's capitol, was a destroyer escort bristling with guns and launchers for depth charges and torpedoes, Thomas said.

German submarines and bombers would attack convoys as they entered the Mediterranean Sea escort ships would respond with everything they had, Thomas said.

"Depth charges, we'd roll them off the fantail, launch them with K-guns it was the prettiest sight when they'd go off," he said. "Did we sink anything? We never knew."

The ninth-graders also heard from John Heller, a survivor of the U.S.S. Indianapolis; Harry Gooch, who fought in the Pacific Theater; James Megel, who served in the European Theater; and Clarence Johns, a veteran of the Iwo Jima landing.

Phil Custodio

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