Joshua Clinton Lamm, 84, of Rockingham is one of the younger World War II veterans that will be attending the Flight of Honor from Charlotte to Washington, D.C. to visit the World War II memorials. According to the Flight of Honor committee, the oldest vet attending the flight is 95; 20 or more veterans are in their 90s, and the remaining veterans of more than 100 are in their 80s.
According to Lamm, many World War II soldiers first enlisted in their 30s when the war began and reached its peak, and have since then passed away.
“I came in at the tail end, so I’m one of the younger ones,” said Lamm. “I was drafted into the Navy; I was called a few weeks before my graduation. There were only 11 grades back then. My mother got my diploma while I was gone at boot camp in Bainbridge, Maryland.”
Lamm said he and part of his company went to Rhode Island to train in the construction battalion (CB) attached to the Marine Corps.
“It was similar to the Army Corps of Engineers,” he explained.
Afterwards, he took a troop train to Norfolk, Virginia and boarded a troop ship there that headed to Puerto Rico, where they collected 300 more soldiers. Their ship then passed through the Panama Canal, which Lamm said took about a day, and from there, headed to Hawaii.
“We stayed for 10 days in Hawaii. They kept us in a tent city so we didn’t get to explore, but it was just a beautiful island. Now the Panama Canal, that’s a sight to behold.”
Lamm said that while he and his company were in the canal, halfway across the world, the Japanese surrendered.
Next their ship took them to Guam.
“It took about seven days. We spent three months dismantling the CB base. There was all this heavy equipment and the war had ended so we were dumping new stuff into the ocean; jeeps, etc. I spent Christmas on Guam. In January they shipped 25 of my battalion on LCI (Landing Craft Infantry) on Marcus Island.”
Marcus Island, or Minamitorishima, is an isolated Japanese coral atoll in the northwestern Pacific Ocean. The island has a unique triangle shape, and consists of an airstrip, a weather station and a few homes.
“We built huts and places to live. There were no trees. Just an airstrip. As soon as we built houses and sheds we shipped away and only left 10 men on the weather station.”
Next, Lamm went to Saipan to maintain a plant that supplied fresh water to the island, where he stayed for 12 months until July ‘46.
“Most of the island was jungles. If they had any cities, I didn’t see them. They still had Japanese soldiers who hadn’t surrendered. They hung out in the hills and were fanatical. Some would be captured and put in Prisoner of War camps after they were taken back to Japan. We worked some of them; the Marines kept them busy,” said Lamm.
He recalled seeing Banzai Cliff, also known as Suicide Cliff, where women and children jumped off a cliff to avoid being raped and killed. Over 20,000 Japanese committed suicide there in the last days of the Battle of Saipan, chosing death over surrender.
Lamm was discharged in August ‘46 but said he was later called back to serve in the Korean conflict, aboard an amphibious ship in the Navy. He helped move supplies on the east coast of the U.S., the Mediterranean, Europe, and North Africa.
Lamm said the worst thing he experienced during his tour was having to sleep in the ship’s bunks, stacked nine high.
“I’d take my blanket and go sleep on deck instead. If it rained, you ran. It was almost like camping,” he recalled.
Lamm’s favorite thing about the service was “getting back home.”
“It was interesting. I saw things I would not have seen. Being the youngest of 10 children who grew up on a farm in Wilson, it was interesting to see how different things were in other places. It taught me patience, and to follow orders.”
Lamm completed his bachelors degree at Appalachian State University, and received his Masters in Administration from East Carolina University. He went on to teach school, then became principal, then superintendent. He received a call to come to Richmond County to lend a hand in the establishment of Richmond Community College.
“That was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. It’s a good school, and good for the county. It started the year after SCC. There were no students, no teachers, or buildings yet. It was called RTI - Richmond Technical Institute; 12th in the state at that time.”
Lamm married in 1951 for the first time. He has three children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
“My time was interesting to say the least. I did my duty and I feel patriotic,” said Lamm.
Lamm is looking forward to visiting Washington, D.C. with the other veterans on May 21 on the Flight of Honor.
In advance of the May Flight of Honor, the Daily Journal will interview veterans from Richmond County that plan to make the flight. This is the eighth of that series.
Staff Writer Dawn Kurry can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ex. 43, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.