JOPLIN, Mo. — “Each one of us had a job to do, and I think that most of them did a pretty good job.”
That’s how Rodrick Peregoy sums up his service in WWII.
Now at 105, he took the time to share with us the role he played in that chapter of our nation’s history.
“I started my Marine Corps career in 1942, and I got discharged in 1945,” said Peregoy.
Cpl. Peregoy was affectionately known as “Pops” by the men he served with, even though he was only a few years older than them.
“There were 36 of us, I believe, attached to the Navy and we were in what they called the communication corps, and we were also in the secrets part of what was going on.”
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One of the secrets he’s referring to: Keeping the Empire of Japan from knowing where the Marines would show up next.
“The Japanese had broken our code and they found out, somebody told them about the Navajo, that they wouldn’t be able to understand their language.”
Peregoy said his time in the Marines took him “all over” the Pacific Theater, from Guadalcanal in the early stages of the war, to northern Japan when the war ended.
And during that time, danger was his constant companion.
“The Japanese started sending in Kamikaze, and they were just coming in and diving every place.”
And he and his shipmates found themselves in harm’s way.
“And, boy, here come one of those bloomin’ Kamikazes, and it was a coming right straight at us.”
But a lucky shot, clipping the wing of the Japanese plane changed everything.
“And we just came that much of getting it, if one of the boys hadn’t got lucky and hit a wing to tip it in a different direction.”
Peregoy said the end of the war came with it’s own story. He and his shipmates were off the coast of Hawaii.
“First thing we knew, the ship started shaking, and we thought, ‘well, golly, what’s happening here?'”
That shaking was the ships engines firing up.
“We had left Hawaii for Alaska to form the fifth army.”
The group he was joining was supposed to be a part of the invasion of the Japanese islands. Before that could happen the United States dropped two atomic bombs.
“When we left the Hawaiian islands, war was going on, and by the time that we got to Alaska, the war was over.”
But his story wasn’t over. Instead of an invasion force, Peregoy became part of an occupation force in northern Japan. And saw first hand the horrors of war.
“Those people were starved to death. They came out and they picked up our garbage off the ships so they’d have something to eat.”
The war came to an end, and he eventually came home. But he says at least one thing never changed:
“You’re still a Marine?”
And he says the men he served with had a job to do, and that’s all.
“I don’t think you’ll find many Marines that’ll say that they’re a hero. There might be some, but I don’t believe you’ll find a one that’ll say that they’re a hero.”
“We did as we were told to do, without a question, and we went and did it. And that was all,” said Peregoy.