WWII veteran Harrison Dedmond of Coarsegold traveled with his travel “guardian” Gary Powell, Commander of VFW Sierra Post 8743, to Washington, D.C. as a participant in the sixth Honor Flight from the Central Valley.
The Central Valley Honor Flight program is one of some 100 across the country that coordinates veterans’ trips to the nation’s capitol to see the memorials that honor WWII and Korean War veterans.
For Dedmond, the highlight of the trip was watching the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. There the group from the Central Valley placed a wreath.
Dedmond grew up in Chattanooga, TN. Because his father has been a Marine, he joined the United States Marine Corps on July 20, 1946 to become one of the 16 million Americans who served in WWII.
Following boot training in Paris Island, SC, a three-day trip by troop train brought him to Camp Pendleton, in October of that year. He was among 5,000 Marines who boarded a troop ship in San Diego in November.
Some of the troops disembarked at Pearl Harbor and Guam but Dedmond was transferred to a ship headed to China arriving at Taku Bar in December, 1946.
“(We) spent the night in an old Japanese prison camp. Snow was waist high and we had to unload our sea bags off the ship. It was past midnight before we got to sleep,” he remembered.
After a six-hour train trip to Tientsin, he received his assignment to G-2 section Headquarters Company, Headquarters Battalion,1st Marine Division.
“The Marines were in China to disarm the Japanese and send them back to Japan,” he said. “We would go to work every day by rickshaw, which cost a nickel one way.”
Dedmond earned $75 a month but lived on just $10 of that. One dollar bought a case of beer, eight cents bought a pack of cigarettes and one dollar per month was spent for a houseboy to clean and run errands.
“The Marine Corps paid us in $2 bills because they wanted the Chinese to know where that money was coming from.”
“One of my jobs was to investigate White Russian women who wanted to marry Marines,” Dedmon said. “They were paying $5,000 and when they got to the states and got their citizenship, you could get a divorce. Our colonel put the word out, no applications would be approved.”
Then on May 10, 1947 four battalions of Marines were shipped 300 miles south to Tsingtao, China. The Marines were leaving China as the “Communists were taking over.
“The 1st Marine Division was being shipped back to the states and the rest of us formed the 1st Marine Brigade. I didn’t have a job. I found out that they had an Armed Forces Radio Station on base.”
Dedmond was asked if he wanted to be an announcer or an engineer and he chose the engineer position.
“We had a 500 watt transmitter and ships at sea could hear us 200-300 miles away.”
Because he had a Marine Corps driver’s license, Desmond was called on to drive Marine officers and their families while in Tsingtao.
“In February, 1948, (we) boarded a ship for the states and ended up at Marine Barracks Naval Air Training Base in Pensacola, Flor.,” Dedmon continued.
Needing to finish his four-year commitment to the Marines, Dedmond returned to his hometown of Chattanooga serving in the Active Reserves.
“I decided I needed more education so I enlisted in the Air Force to let them pay for my education.” He was trained in basic electronics and in electronics counter measures and taught electronics. “We could jam all the enemy’s radar, radio and TV stations.”
After receiving orders to go to Japan, he extended his enlistment so that he could bring his wife and son there. His work involved the conversion of B-50 bombers to “weather reconnaissance” planes. These planes would fly missions over China.
“We could map radar units,” Dedmond said. “We could tell everything but the guy that was running it. If a plane went down, it was always a weather plane.”
Arriving back in the states, a divorce followed. His plans to return to civilian life changed when it became necessary to pay child support and he reenlisted in the Air Force. An assignment with the Strategic Air Command in Ohio and another in Denver working in the Precision Measuring Equipment Laboratory followed.
Following his military service, he worked for the Philco Corporation and for the Kellogg division of ITT, developing stable platforms for tracking Apollo Missions.
He was also employed by General Dynamics to teach the military internet and long distance systems and computers. Other employment in the field of computers followed.
He met Ann in an officers’ club in 1973. Ten days later they decided to get married and they celebrated 41 years of marriage this year. She retired as a major in the Air Force.
The most recent Central Valley Honor Flight left Fresno June 16. Applications and information on future flights can be found at cvhonorflight.org.
“Approximately every three minutes a memory of World War II – its sights and sounds, its terrors and triumphs – disappears.
Yielding to the inalterable process of aging, the men and women who fought and won the great conflict are now mostly in their 90s.
They are dying quickly – at the rate of approximately 492 a day, according to US Veterans Administration figures,” the National WWII Museum in New Orleans website said.