They were called the “Greatest Generation” to have ever lived. The men and women lived through the Great Depression, fought in World War II and then helped shape America to be a great super power. They built super highways, sent a man to the moon, ushered in an age of civil rights, and yet never asked for a thank you or a pat on the back.
Warren Corless, a resident of the Presbyterian Manor in Farmington, is one of those men who gave up two years of his life to serve in the South Pacific and doesn’t believe he did much.
“I went in the Army, the war wasn’t over yet,” Corless said. “I took basic training at Ft. Knox, and then was sent to Ft. Meade in Maryland. We were supposed to be sent to Europe, but by the time they were ready to send us, the War in Europe was over.”
Although the war in Europe was over, it was still raging on in the Pacific. Okinawa had yet to fall, General Douglas MacArthur had returned to the Philippines and President Harry Truman had authorized first the invasion of mainland Japan and then later, the use of the first atomic weapon.
“We fumbled around at Ft. Meade for about a month before they decided to send us the Pacific,” said Corless. “By the time we got there, they were considering dropping the bomb, so I really missed the whole bit.”
Once in the Pacific, Corless would be stationed on several different islands including the Philippines, Leyte Island, Savu Island and finally mainland Japan.
While station at Layte, Corless was recovering from an injury before being assigned to the 77th Infantry Division as a member of a tank crew.
It was while stationed on Layte, the United States dropped the bomb on both Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
After the second atomic bomb was dropped and the Japanese offered their unconditional surrender, there was celebration. After six long years, a war that had consumed the entire planet was finally over.
“When they dropped the bomb, everyone cheered,” Corless said. “They went out to the streets and danced. We got a ration of beer and some ice from the Navy, so we had a party on the beach to celebrate.”
For many people of the time, especially for the men stationed in the Pacific, the death and destruction leveled by the two bombs were never vocalized. The bombings meant the war was over and those who had served were finally able to go home.
“I never got any sense that anyone opposed the dropping of the bombs,” Corless said. “Now, no one would want it to happen again. It was devastating. But I don’t think they knew what was really going to happen when they dropped it. Most of us thought if we would have invaded japan, many of us would have died, possibly even me.”
Although the Pacific War was effectively over, Corless and his unit were still ordered to Japan.
“Before they dropped the bomb, we were preparing to invade mainland Japan,” Corless said. “But even after we dropped the bomb, we still went ahead of as if we were going in. I was a tank crewman, so I had to loads all of the tanks and everything else we had on an LST and headed to Japan.”
Once the 77th Division made Japan, they were sent north to Hokkaido, one of the most northern most cities in Japan.
“When we first got there, it was so quiet. No one was stirring, The Japanese were afraid of us,” Corless said. “But once they realized we were going to hurt them, they came from everywhere. They wanted our chocolate, our cigarettes, anything we had.”
During his time stationed in Japan, Corless had a chance to see the destruction caused by the atomic bomb.
“I saw Nagasaki and there was nothing left,” Corless said. “Everything was flattened. There was a couple of things sticking up but the rest was just flat.”
As the days and months after the surrender went on, many of the men in the 77th had been discharged, only leaving a small force left behind for what was basically clean-up duty.
“Anyone with who had enough points got to go home,” Corless said. “So that left a skeleton crew. We had to get all of the tanks and a few other vehicles ready to be turned into the Quarter Master in Yokohama.”
After serving his country, Corless would come home and eventually become a postal worker, a job he would work for the next 33 years. He married his sweetheart, Glenda, and had two children with her, David and Susan.
In 1991, Corless and his wife moved to Farmington and began living at Farmington Presbyterian Manor. On any given day, you can find Corless doing laps around the manor, with the help of his walker, and spending the day with his wife of 66 years.