The Marine and the Navy nurse
ROUND LAKE -- Clifford "Hooley" Huehn of Round Lake points to a spot on his nose and another on his neck where shrapnel pierced his skin during his first day of combat against the Japanese during World War II. The battle scars are reminders of the U.S. invasion on Roi and Namur in the Marshall Islands.
The battle lasted only a day and a half, but there were hundreds of American casualties as they fought to take control of the islands from the Japanese military.
"That was our first operation," said Hooley, a member of the Marine Corps 4th Division, 24th Regiment. "It was kind of tough."
The USS Iowa was firing on the islands when Hooley and his fellow Marines departed their landing craft and headed into the unknown. He was driving a half-track vehicle and headed right toward a pillbox -- a large hole where Japanese soldiers were hiding.
"There was a sniper in the tree above us," Hooley recalled.
The sniper tied himself in the palm tree, and as soon as he fired the first shots, the Marines responded.
"When they shot, I thought they were going to shoot that tree down," Hooley said.
During the course of battle, he was accompanied in the half-track by his sergeant and a radio operator. All three were in the cab when the vehicle ran over a mortar. The explosion drew attention, and they started getting shelled.
"I threw it in reverse and took off," he said, adding that a door in the back of the half-track was flung open so he could see where he was going.
Another Marine, sitting in the back, flew into action and began firing the machine gun.
"He fired at the trench as I backed up," Hooley said. "He was credited with 22 kills."
As for the men in the half-track, the sergeant took shrapnel to the face, making it look as though he had a moustache and goatee, and the radioman took shrapnel to his arm.
Both of the other men spent the night in sick bay, but Hooley -- not wanting to wait in the long line of soldiers needing attention -- went to help the mechanic take the drive shaft off the damaged half-track and then slept just outside the sick bay.
Because Hooley never sought treatment for his injuries, they were never officially recorded into the U.S. military records. Consequently, he was never awarded the Purple Heart.
Hooley Huehn graduated from Round Lake High School and worked for the gas company in Worthington before deciding, at age 20, to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corp. By then, he'd gone on a few dates with a pretty little lady named Lorraine Jochims of Sioux Valley. The two had met while still in high school at a dance in Sioux Valley.
Together, they saw many of their friends go to war. Hooley figured it was only a matter of time before Uncle Sam called for him.
He enlisted on Sept. 28, 1942, and completed eight weeks of basic training in San Diego. The boot camp was shortened because the military needed men on the front lines.
After attending artillery school at Camp Elliott and regimental weapons training at Camp Pendleton, Hooley shipped out of California in January 1944 with specialized training in operation of a half-track and firing 37 millimeter anti-tank guns.
"We were the first division to leave the states and go directly into combat," he said.
A few months after Hooley entered combat, Lorraine -- still living at home -- decided she, too, could help with the war effort. On April 17, 1944, she enrolled in boot camp at Hunter College, N.Y.
"You had to be 20 to get in," she said.
After completing a shortened boot camp, she was sent to Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland for nurse's training. She ultimately became a Pharmacist Mate in the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service).
Lorraine was assigned to Naval Hospital Shoemaker in California.
"The hospital was new. It was just put up out in a pasture," she said. "It was built like a wheel -- all the spokes were different wards.
"My first ward was the malaria ward," she added. "I tended to sailors and marines. The ward had 80 beds for mostly enlisted and rooms for about eight non-commissioned officers."
During her time at Shoemaker, Lorraine worked in several wards and assisted the doctors with sick calls. She eventually moved into the personnel department before the hospital was closed. Her last three months with the WAVES were at a military hospital in San Leandro, Calif..
Lorraine was discharged in July 1946, nine months after Hooley received his discharge papers, and returned to southwest Minnesota.
Working the front lines
Hooley managed to keep in contact with Lorraine throughout his tour of duty in the Marine Corps -- writing her letters when he had a chance.
It offered a bit of a reprieve from the stresses of war.
After his initial battle in the Marshall Islands, Hooley's regiment returned to Pearl Harbor for replacement soldiers. After training with the new recruits, the unit headed across the Pacific once again, this time to Saipan. Hooley's new assignment was with the 37th anti-tank gun.
By the time the ship reached Saipan, Hooley was suffering from an infection on his feet -- a fungus known as jungle rot. A doctor cut off part of Hooley's boots, wrapped his feet in gauze and ordered Hooley to stay aboard ship for the next five days.
"That may have saved my life," he said. "There were a lot of casualties (on Saipan)."
When his five days of rest were up, Hooley left the ship with a bunch of supplies and waited on the shore behind some sandbags that first night. The next day, soldiers arrived for the supplies and delivered him to his unit on the front lines.
The living conditions weren't pretty. The men slept in fox holes and endured the elements day and night.
After about two weeks on Saipan, there was a rainstorm. It provided the men a chance to get clean, and Hooley decided that in addition to cleaning himself, he'd also wash his uniform with bar soap.
"I used the soap with my uniform on, and I learned that wasn't the right thing to do -- I got such a rash," he said.
The next time it rained, he took his uniform off before washing it.
Hooley spent about three weeks on Saipan before his unit was mobilized once more, this time to Tinian in the Northern Marianas Islands.
"We had men swim to shore on Tinian," said Hooley, adding that they received radio reports of what was happening on the island. The reports helped the Marines prepare for what they would encounter -- and proved invaluable as they came ashore.
"We lost no men," Hooley said.
About 20 Japanese soldiers guarding the access to the island were killed upon the Marine Corps' arrival.
Tinian was an important conquest for the U.S. military. It was located close enough to Japan that the B-29 bombers could make the round-trip flight without running out of fuel. In all, Hooley's regiment spent about a month there to gain control of the island and secure it for use by the U.S. military.
After Saipan, Hooley's unit headed north to Iwo Jima.
"We were losing so much, we thought 'let them have it,' but the Japanese controlled the air fields there and were shooting down American planes as they flew to and from Japan," said Hooley.
He stayed aboard ship when it arrived on the island, having been diagnosed with pneumonia. He was still aboard ship on the third day of battle, Feb. 23, 1945, when soldiers raised the American flag on Iwo Jima. The action angered the Japanese military.
"We thought that was about the end (of athe battle), but it was just the start of it," said Hooley.
Hooley hadn't fully recovered from his pneumonia when he was needed on the front lines -- there were too many American casualties.
"The Iwo Jima battle was only to be about seven days, and instead it went for more than a month," he said.
After Hooley rejoined his anti-tank crew on the island, Japanese soldiers began firing on their truck.
"I got out and ran," he said. "I jumped in a hole, and there were about five bloated Japanese in there."
Hooley swung around mid-air so as not to land on the pile of bodies and ended up clinging to the edge of the hole.
After the Japanese fired two shots -- both missed their target -- they left. Hooley said that was a common practice of the Japanese military.
"The Japanese would shoot a couple of times and then pull back. That's why the war lasted as long as it did and we had so many casualties," he added.
Of approximately 200 men serving in the company, only 14 remained after the battle on Iwo Jima.
When they left Iwo Jima, Hooley and his unit returned to the Hawaiian Islands for replacements. Their next mission was to be on Kyushu, one of the islands of Japan. However, while on the island of Maui, the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb, and the Japanese military was forced to surrender.
Instead of traveling back into the war zone, Hooley boarded a ship bound for California.
"A little aircraft carrier brought us back," he said.
When the carrier pulled into San Diego harbor in September 1945, the Gray Ladies were waiting with bottles of fresh milk and cookies. Hooley said he couldn't remember the last time he'd had a glass of milk to drink.
Hooley was honorably discharged on Oct. 23, 1945, from Great Lakes Naval Base in Illinois. His division began with 20,000 men, and at war's end 3,298 had died and another 14,425 wounded.
For his service, Hooley earned the Presidential Citation with one star, the Navy Citation with three stars, the Victory Medal of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and a Combat Ribbon. Lorraine also received medals, including the World War II Victory Medal and the American Campaign Medal.
Hooley and Lorraine were married on Sept. 29, 1946. They moved to Round Lake and have remained there ever since. They had six children, including son Bob, who followed in his parents' footsteps and embarked on a career in the military. He retired from the U.S. Navy after 24 years and will serve as a guardian on the inaugural Honor Flight Southwest Minnesota this Friday and Saturday.
Bob will join his parents, Hooley and Lorraine, for the trip to see the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. The Huehns are the only married couple -- both veterans of World War II -- taking part in the journey.