Answering the call of dutySLAYTON — He was trained in weapons firing, unloaded ships, did guard duty, went to telegraph school, worked as a radio operator, decoded messages, was a switchboard operator and finally installed telephone lines in Japan before he was sent back home 10 months after the armistice (Victory over Japan) was announced and World War II had come to an end.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
SLAYTON — He was trained in weapons firing, unloaded ships, did guard duty, went to telegraph school, worked as a radio operator, decoded messages, was a switchboard operator and finally installed telephone lines in Japan before he was sent back home 10 months after the armistice (Victory over Japan) was announced and World War II had come to an end.
Elgie Rachuy was 19 years old when he was drafted into the U.S. Army on Nov. 27, 1944.
The second to the youngest of six children, he was the second in his family to serve in World War II. His older brother, William, was in the Air Force from September 1942 through June 1946.
Trained in the infantry, Rachuy learned how to fire an M-1 rifle, Browning automatic, carbine, Tommy gun, bazooka, 30-caliber machine gun, mortar and hand grenade while stationed at Fort Hood, Texas.
By late March 1945, Rachuy and nearly 35 other soldiers from the Wilmont, Reading and Lismore area received a delay in route and were allowed home on leave for a few days.
“Then we reported to Fort Meade, Md.,” he said. A few days later, they were on the road again, this time to Camp Patrick Henry in Virginia. That’s where the group was split up.
“Most of the guys went over to Europe, but for some reason I was held back,” said Rachuy.
He returned to Fort Meade, was reprocessed and then told to report to Camp Stoneman, Calif., for eventual deployment to the Philippines.
Rachuy left California on May 30, 1945, and arrived in the Philippines on June 24.
“It took us so long to get over there because we ran into a lot of mines,” Rachuy said.
Large floating balls unleashed by the enemy forced the ship to change its course several times — or stop and wait for another American-owned ship to come and have its men disarm the bombs.
Rachuy said he never saw any explosions during his month aboard the ship.
After landing on the Philippines, Rachuy was assigned to a fox troop in the Second Squadron, Fifth Cavalry Regiment of the First Cavalry division. He spent a brief time on the island of Leyte before moving on to the Battle of Luzon.
“I was never on the front lines,” said Rachuy. “We were brought in as reinforcements.”
On Luzon, Rachuy was among four men assigned to help unload ships at the dock. There, they rolled 55-gallon barrels of gasoline off the ships and onto trucks, and boxes upon boxes of canned peaches and wieners.
“We were supposed to be there for two or three days and ended up being there for two to three weeks,” said Rachuy.
They lived on the canned peaches and wieners until their unit returned for them and took them to another part of the island.
While on Luzon, Rachuy took beachhead landing training, during which he had to climb a rope ladder up and down the side of the ship.
“I was a BAR (Browning automatic) man and assistant bazooka man, so I had a pretty good load,” he said. “That rope ladder, it wasn’t easy to climb up and climb down.”
It was during his beachhead training on Luzon that the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan and the war essentially came to an end.
“That was a good feeling,” said Rachuy. “Everybody was happy.”
Though the war was over, there was a point system that determined when soldiers could return home. Rachuy said those who served overseas accumulated points quicker, but he still would spend another 10 months in the military after V-J Day.
“We docked in Tokyo the night before the (Armistice) in August,” he said.
They spent that night aboard the ship, and the next in an old building on Japan.
“We dug a 30-caliber machine gun and took turns on guard duty that night,” Rachuy said. “From there, the platoon I was in was assigned to be an outpost for a Japanese warehouse.”
The warehouse was filled with a conglomeration of items — everything from airplane parts to fancy silk cloth used in making clothing. Rachuy and other men from his unit were assigned to guard it, making sure that all of the doors stayed locked and the windows shut. From time to time, Japanese people would manage to break in.
“At one point, we caught so many Japs in there we had to take them to a Japanese prison,” Rachuy said.
They loaded them all in the back of a truck and, when it didn’t have enough power to get up a hill, the prisoners had to step off the truck and help push it.
After his guard duty assignment was completed, Rachuy was sent to telegraph school.
“I didn’t like that,” said Rachuy with a smile. “Well, it was OK, but it wasn’t for me.”
He then worked as a radio operator in a military police jeep before being reassigned to what he referred to as a crow’s nest atop a 75- to 80-foot Japanese tower.
“I took messages by code and relayed them to the message center,” said Rachuy.
The messages were coming in from the U.S. Air Force and other American contingents stationed in the region.
“One day, the colonel came up the tower and I stood and saluted him. He said, ‘Soldier, you don’t have to salute me up here,’” he recalled.
Rachuy eventually went on to be a switchboard operator for a short while before being assigned his final task — stringing telephone wires for use by the U.S. military.
“I installed, repaired and maintained permanent and semi-permanent telephone and telegraph wire,” he said.
Rachuy left Japan on Sept. 10, 1946, arriving in Fort Lewis, Wash., 10 days later. He took the troop train to Sheridan, Ill., for his honorable discharge, and then boarded the train one last time — for his return trip to the Worthington Depot.
By then, his parents were farming near Brewster, and he helped his dad with the harvest that fall. The following spring, he struck out on his own in farming, first near Wilmont and then near Brewster. Following his wedding to wife Delores in 1949, the couple continued to farm near Brewster until 1958, when they moved to rural Slayton.
The Rachuys raised four sons in rural Murray County. Today, it is son Chuck who farms with his 84-year-old father.
In recognition for service to his country, Rachuy received the Army of Occupation medal, the Japan-Philippine Liberation Medal with one bronze star, the Good Conduct Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Theater Medal with one bronze star and the Victory Medal. He also received the Republic of the Philippines Presidential Unit Citation Badge. Additional overseas service bars and service stripes were also earned, but Rachuy hasn’t yet purchased them.