Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Motorcycles and Freedom

I found out something recently.  It relates to our freedom -- and to motorcycles in a small way.

What have I discovered?  That my bride's father, who served in the Navy in World War II, rode a motorcycle while serving in a far-away land.  He is one of so many who sacrificed to win the war in the Pacific.

During his earthly days, he spoke little about his time of service, but piecing together some information from his bride and from others, and his notes on a few old photographs, it turns out that he saw action between 1944 and 1946.  Recall that the United States was drawn into the war in the Pacific on December 7, 1941 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and ended on August 14, 1945, when the Japanese Empire formally surrendered.  

Born in 1926, my father-in-law graduated high school in 1944.  He entered the Navy in mid-1944.  He wanted to serve in Underwater Demolition, but his family and girl friend -- later his wife -- talked him out of it, along with his eyesight that wasn't good enough to meet the standard.  Instead, he trained for a Naval Advanced Base Unit (NABU) at Naval Training Station Great Lakes, joining NABU-12.  The NABU was designed to set up mobile and fixed bases in the event of major landing operations within, and beyond, the territorial United States. 

He landed, under fire, on the third largest island in the world, Borneo, near the town of Balikpapan.  The battle there took place in July of 1945. 

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As a heavy equipment operator, he helped prepare the island base.

He also buried the enemy dead to prevent disease, an unspeakable duty of his job.

The island was in the wet, sweltering tropics.   

Christmas of 1945 was spent there.

Among the Navy equipment they had there, was this 27-foot motor launch with a V-8 engine in it. 
He seemed particularly interested in that big engine.

The motorcycle I spoke of earlier was a BSA M20, probably manufactured in the last half of the 1930s, though he identified it as a 1929 model on his photographs.  The M20 was not manufactured that early, so he was probably mistaken.  Here is a video describing the M20. 

That is Dad sitting on the tank in front. 

Here is the same bike, ridden by another young sailor. The bike was said to have been nicked -- maybe borrowed -- from the Australian military personnel on the island. 
Looks like a great way to travel on wonderful roads -- not!  I suppose that it provided some basic transportation, and a little fun along with it. 

And here is another bike with a sidecar.  This one is a Harley-Davidson, judging by its front suspension. 

When troops left the island in 1946,they destroyed any equipment they were not taking with them.  Among this was that motor launch with the big V-8 engine Dad liked so much.  He spoke many years later about hating to see it scuttled. 

The natives here posed for the camera.  Dad related that the women of the island tended to be bare-chested most of the time, so the service men gave them tee shirts to wear. 
Caution: Adult content
However, for convenience, the ladies cut openings in the tee shirts in strategic places.  (Not shown here.) 

Despite the horror of war, there was humor.  Amongst the items in Dad's photo album was this:

Thank you Dad for helping ensure our freedom and making the world a safer place. 

That precious and hard-won freedom forged by the blood and sacrifice of soldiers like Dad is being lost now, squandered away by traitorous politicians.  May God keep His hand on our country, as He has since its founding, and not forsake us to our evils ways. 

More on Pearl Harbor:

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