Story submitted by Diana Devenney, daughter of Jonnie Wallen
I read you article on “A Brief History of the U.S. Army 6th Infantry Division, to try to piece together the stories that my father told of the battles in the Philippines, Guam, New Guinea, and Korea.
He never would talk about his metals. Of which a number were lost throughout the years, do to my younger brother playing with them.
Upon his death, I took his remaining ribbons and metals to a local Army store to duplicate them so we could bury my father in full uniform with his metals.
Obituary for Johnnie Wallen
Johnnie Wallen, age 85, of Marshall died Saturday, January 9, 2010 at Oaklawn Hospital.
Mr. Wallen was born on October 3, 1924 in Allen, Kentucky to Walter and Sarah (Wright) Wallen. On February 21, 1946, he married the former Freda Pauline Hall. The couple moved to the Marshall. Michigan area the following morning after the wedding and had lived in this area ever since. Mr. Wallen had been employed as a machinist, retiring from Warren-Sherer Gillett in 1979. Other employment included Woodlin Metal Products.
Mr. Wallen had also worked as a custom farmer, plowing many of his neighbor’s farmland. He was an accomplished builder and built two homes on his own. He had also assisted many of the local churches with their building projects.
(This is the list the Army Store provided me)
2 Purple hearts
3 Bronze Stars
1 Bronze Arrow Head ( Beach Assault)
Asiatic Pacific Campaign
Philippine Liberation Medal
Korean Service Medal
Good Conduct Medal
WWII Victory Medal
John earned several Extinguished and Excellent Marksmen badges for his sharpshooter skills. Including 2 of the highest level of “Sharpshooter honors
We know he was in: Milne Bay, Maffin Bay “Lone Tree Hill” New Guinea, Luzon, Munoz.
He was just 17 when he joined. His nickname given him by his comrades was the Kid, (as he was the youngest in his division, or KK, (meaning the Kid from Kentucky.) He said he got in more fights over that nick name, saying he was just as good a soldier as anyone that was older than him.
In reading your article, his stories matched up very well with your time line/article .
About the Japs being hidden underground in caves and tunnels, and spoke of Lone Tree Hill, and the rain, mud, and thick jungle, and bugs. of which he did get malaria, shortage of supplies/ammo, He spoke of topping the trees, to keep the Japs from using them as cover.
He spoke of the ships not off loading the supplies, (being the explosive person for his group, he said he said that they did threaten to either blow up the ship, or off load it themselves, but if anyone stood in they way of keeping them from off loading what they needed, they would deal with angry, tired fighting men. He spoke of ammo shortage, and it was not like in the movies, You made every bullet count. One bullet to one Jap, and to make it count, and there was no ammo to waste.
He was one of the few to remain longer, to help clear the airstrip, or more like to clear the island of the snipers, and was deployed to Korea at the beginning of that war, before being discharged in Jan 1946. He spoke of one time in a several day hunt for one sniper that kept the heavy machine operators from working, as this sniper targeted the operators to keep them from clearing the air strip. He said he tracked him for several days, in a cat/mouse game. He said that he figured out that the Jap sniper would move every morning, and figured out his pattern, that he would move about 60 yards right and every early morning would start shooting. So he guessed at his next location, and climbed the tallest tree the other side of the air strip, with the sun to his back and waited. He said he knew the guy wore glasses (as he said most of them did), and he waited for the sun to rise, He said, he knew he would get a glare off of his glasses and sure enough as the sun rose, and the Jap sniper turned his head just right and there it was the glare off his glasses, he took the shot, and nailed his target.
I have a few pictures, one of the division, Standing at the dock of a hanger , and a few others of him in uniform. I will scan and make sure you get them.
He said that he quite often got pulled away from the 20th, and served with other divisions do to his sniper skills.
He spoke of one time of coming into this village to find dead soldiers, one of which was his cousin. He only spoke of this once. He said that he was missing an arm and leg and that he went through the piles of bodies and found an arm and leg, and laid it next to him, so that he could be buried whole.
Another story, he spoke of quite often, of how the Philippine people were starving, but yet kind, and would do anything for you. He said the snipers kept the people from farming and hunting and fishing, so food was scarce. He said there was not a dog or cat to be found, as they had been killed for food. And that he GI’s shared their K rations and chocolate bars with the kids.
He said one time he got up early, Told a group of guys to keep watch, and be ready. He told the women of the village to have their baskets ready, and told them to hurry to the river after they heard a big boom….he took a stick of dynamite jumped in a boat, went to the middle of the river, and set it off and threw it in the water.
It brought up hundreds of fish. The woman ran out filled up their baskets, and ran back to the village. He said they ate fish for the next two weeks.
Another time, he said he would watch off in the distance the water buffalo leave early morning, on a very narrow trail on the side of this large cliffy hill, and every night the herd would return down the side of the hill to lower ground. But the jungle was full of Japs and snipers, so the people could not hunt. The people of the village were starving. So it was one afternoon and it wasn’t raining, so he scoped in his sniper rifle, and waited for the herd to start down the hill. He said he sited in the the lead buffalo, hoping to slow it down, to give him more time to site in a second or third. He dropped two. He and 5 other guys went into the jungle late that night to retrieve the carcasses; they quarter them, and carried them back to the village. He said the kids in the village loved him, and wanted him to teach them to shoot.
These were the stories he told us often, as I think it made him feel better, knowing he kept people/kids from starving/dying and helping people, verses talking about the killing.
One story that I can not tie to anything, was he said he was on his way to Korea or being moved from one island to another, in a convoy of ships, (I think he said six ships) he was on the end ship. And that the convoy came under attack by Jap airplanes. He said that he was on deck when the rear gunner had been hit. He said his eyes had popped out of their sockets, he ran to him, pulled him behind the gun, and covered his eyes with his hankie. Climbed up into the seat of the anti air gun, and started firing. He said it was the biggest damn duck hunt he had ever done, a big Duck hunt with a “big” duck gun. Said he was able to bring down a couple of planes. He said two ships took heavy damage, the one he was on, but none were sunk.
It was so Ironic, that as he was in the hospital, and had arrested twice, his nurse was a small Philippine lady, she revived him both times. She told him that her father was a small boy during the war. And told her stories about the American GI’s, and how they kept the Japanese out of their village, and shared their food. And that she was not going to let him die, after all he and done to save her grandfather and father. Now …..here she was saving my father…..