WWII Snapshots by Margaret Pendleton - 2008

Fred Hadle, Army, and Edith Hadle, WACS

Serving the military during World War II was a memorable time for many soldiers. But for Fred and Edith Hadle, it was far more than that. Without the war, they probably would have never met.

Fred Benton Hadle was born Sept. 7, 1917 in Lineville, Iowa. He attended the local schools and then he and his mother moved to a farm 20 miles south of Leon, Iowa. It was on the farm that Fred heard the news about the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

"We did have a radio, I guess, where we got the news, but I probably didn't think too much of it that day," Fred said.

Since farming was designated as an essential activity for the war effort, he was not required to enter the military, but he wanted to do his part so he and his mother sold the farm. Selling the farm changed his draft classification and he was drafted in February 1943.

He was 25 when he began his service at Camp Dodge in Iowa. He spent a month in freezing temperatures during basic training.

Then, in March 1943, Fred was sent to Fort Sill, Okla. where he spent six weeks training on field artillery. Upon completion, Fred and the others in his unit boarded a troop train and headed west to Camp Stoneman in California.

Camp Stoneman was a port of embarkation (POE) for troops and was also a place where much cargo was shipped overseas. But after waiting for two weeks, Fred's first trip was only to San Francisco aboard a riverboat. From there, he boarded an old Dutch troop ship with about 5,000 others, heading overseas.

It took more than 30 days to reach New Caledonia, an island about the size of New Jersey, off the east coast of Australia.

"It wasn't a pleasure cruise," Fred said of the long ship ride. "Anybody who's ever been on one knows that."

The conditions were fairly unfavorable, as the ship was crowded and hot for most of the trip. Fred said he spent most of his time waiting in line for food from the mess hall.

After New Caledonia, he moved on to join the 25th Infantry Division in Guadalcanal shortly after the bloody campaign there had ended. The 25th then shipped out to New Georgia, part of the Solomon Islands.

Fred's unit was placed on a very small island where a lot of night firing took place. He began as a powder cutter, moved up to being a loader, and finished as a gunner on a 105 mm howitzer, one of the main artillery weapons. It could fire a 33-pound projectile seven miles at a rate of up to 10 every minute. Their purpose was to support the troops who were in combat.

"Compared to the infantry, we had a picnic," Fred said. "We really had not too much to worry about."

After the campaign was over, he and his fellow troops briefly returned to Guadalcanal and then they were shipped to New Zealand for R & R - rest and relaxation.

This was an enjoyable time for Fred and his fellow soldiers. In New Zealand, they were able to get away from the Army food and have such things as fresh milk.

With their R & R over, they headed back to New Caledonia. Things were pretty quiet and they often spent time repairing equipment. Fred was later assigned to motor pool duty and drove the commander on weekend excursions.

But things soon changed. The invasion of Luzon, the main island in the Philippines, began in January 1945. Fred described the battles on the island as a long struggle.

"We landed and stayed throughout and dealt with a lot of rain and mud," he said.

One night while Fred and some fellow soldiers were trying to get some sleep in a foxhole, two Japanese fighters slipped past the guards and invaded the camp. The man next to Fred happened to look up just as the two soldiers were going to attack their hole. He killed one of the soldiers next to Fred and the other man ran off into the jungle.

The heavy fighting on Luzon lasted about two months before U.S. forces successfully subdued the enemy.

In August 1945, the Japanese surrendered after the dropping of the two atomic bombs. Fred and his fellow troops were shipped to Japan as part of the occupation army.

"We landed at Nagoya, and everything had already been leveled flat by the Navy for landing space," Fred said.

They were transported to a small town with an airbase where their job was to guard a large warehouse full of captured Japanese weapons.

After three months, he was sent home in December 1945. The voyage back to the States took more than a month. He was stationed at Fort Dix in New Jersey. From there he was loaded on a troop train that took him to Leavenworth, Kan. He was discharged in January 1946 and rode a bus back home to Iowa.

Fred returned home to his mother and collected his $20 each week - his military compensation. That ended after a year and he had not yet found anything he wanted to do. So he re-enlisted for a year and a half, and was sent to San Francisco, Calif. It was there his whole world would change again. He met a young lady named Edith Mieren, who was working as a lab technician at Fort Stevens in Oregon. Her life had been dramatically changed by the war just as Fred's had.

Edith was born in Halstead, Kan., and graduated from Wichita North High School in 1938. At 17, she was too young for anybody to hire her, so her parents reluctantly allowed her to go to college. She attended three semesters at Wichita State University, until she took a job at Boeing Aircraft.

After two years at the Wichita location, she transferred to the Seattle, Wash. plant, performing final-assembly inspection.

When the news arrived about the bombing on Pearl Harbor, Edith knew her life was about to change.

"I had just celebrated my 20th birthday and was enjoying life," she said. "I had heard so much about World War I from my mother, so I was not looking forward to what was to come."

In spring 1945, Edith enlisted in the Woman's Army Corps (WAC), and completed her basic training at Fort Des Moines, Iowa. She enjoyed her time on the home front and her time in the service.

After Iowa, she was sent to Fort Stevens in Oregon. Her duties included giving shots, drawing blood and running simple blood tests.

Edith, or Edie as her friends and family call her, traveled to San Francisco with two other WACs. One of the ladies had been dating a soldier who was stationed in San Francisco and knew Fred. Edith and Fred agreed to go on a blind date with their friends. Fred and Edie were married Oct. 5, 1946 in San Francisco.

They stayed in San Francisco until Fred was discharged in 1947. Edith had been discharged just months after their marriage and had been working as a civilian for a year. With his commitment completed, they moved back to Edith's hometown of Wichita.

Then they moved to Stillwater Okla., where both attended Oklahoma State University for a semester. In February 1948, they moved to Manhattan, Kan., where they both finished their schooling at Kansas State Agricultural College (now Kansas State University), receiving degrees in horticulture.

The Hadles both accepted employment by K-State, moving into a house that had been built on the K-State horticulture farm. There they worked, doing research on the farm until they retired, Fred in November 1983, and Edith one month later.

They have two sons, one living in Riley, Kan., and the other in Gillette, Wyo., and eight grandchildren whom they thoroughly enjoy.

Fred and Edith have always enjoyed nature. They traveled to Colorado annually until into their late 70s, hiking and camping in the thick wilderness, an activity many of their grandchildren enjoy. They still keep full gardens in their front and back yards.

The two felt good about being in the war and that it was something they had to do, but they both agree they would not want to have to be a part of any war today.

"They are fighting a whole different type of war," Fred said about the current war in Iraq. "The conditions are much worse, and that heat would be impossible."

Fred is a member of the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) as well as the American Legion and encourages younger veterans to join one of the two organizations. Fred and Edith both have a tremendous respect for the military and look back fondly on that period of their lives.

"I wouldn't have missed it for the world," Edith said. "I have no complaints on anything."

Edith Hadle in the late 1940s

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