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Big Chuck

December 16, 2013

Reunions all the sweeter amid WWII

There is nothing like running into old friends in the most unexpected places. Like on a vacation, or in a mall or even in the supermarket. It is always a time for a “Hail and how are you?” moment.

But what if you ran into your old buddies in some far-off land? Now, that would be a time for a real celebration. And it did happen. To several area men. During World War II.

Here is their story.

With millions of American men serving in the far-flung battlefields of the globe during World War II, can you imagine what it must have been like to look up and see someone from your little town in Otsego County walking down the street toward you?

It happened to Corporal Joe Field, Pfc. Ralph Leach and Lt. Maylon Clark of Hartwick. They ran into each other in New Guinea in August of 1944. I’ll bet these three guys never even heard of this South Pacific island before they signed up and were shipped out. There is not much on record of what they did during their reunion, so I guess maybe the old saying goes that “what happens in New Guinea, stays in New Guinea!”

Four young men from Cooperstown also managed to unknowingly converge together in Hawaii in July 1944. We can only imagine the look on the faces of “Big Jim” Lettis, Harold “Plumber” Butler, George “Doc” Turner, and Dick “Deak” Deakin when they first saw each other. We don’t have to just imagine what these old buddies did, however. In a letter home, Deak Deakin said they “ate steak dinners within earshot of the ocean and were served cocktails by an awe-stricken Kanaka lass whose eyes were nearly as large as our check.” The writer said the four boys laughed and caroused well into the night and ended the evening solemnly toasting to each others’ good luck in the coming days of the war.

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