Posted on

MUSEUM MUSINGS: Harrison corporal is last aboard for home

Written by David Holsted, published in the Harrison Daily Times on September 10, 2020

As Corporal J.S. Wilson walked up the gangplank, he was met by a tiny, five-year-old Japanese girl dressed in a gaily colored kimono. The young child presented the American soldier with flowers.

Wilson, a native of Harrison, was the last of about 1,500 battle-weary Korean War veterans to board the Navy transport that was docked in Sasebo, Japan, on that day in April of 1951. The men were headed home.

A Harrison Daily Times story on April 23, 1951, told the story.

Wilson and his comrades had been in Korea since the first shots of the war were fired the previous June. They were the first to the war front under the U.S. Army’s rotation plan. Fresh troops would replace them.

Waiting also on the gangplank that day to congratulate the homeward bound troops was Maj. Gen. Walter L. Weible, head of the Japan logistical command. The first soldier to board the transport was Pfc. Joe Potter, an infantryman from Lyerly, Georgia.

The soldiers, which included 1,434 enlisted men, sailed for Seattle. Upon reaching the United States, the men were given 30-day leaves to spend with their families. They were then reassigned for duty throughout the Army.

The Daily Times reported in the same edition that the Army had announced its April draft had been cut in half. Only 40,000 men had been called for duty. The cut in draftees, it was explained, was due to the increase in voluntary enlistments and the decline in casualties in the Korean war.