Was in first unit to occupy Post-War Japan
When his country called him to serve he was a 21-year-old farm boy in 1944. When he returned, he was still a farm boy in 1946, one with a lot more knowledge of the world.
For David Sports, World War II has become a long ago memory. A memory filled with moments he’d rather not discuss, even with members of his family.
“It was just Army life, it was tough,” he said. “I was a rifleman and I learned to take care of myself. In combat, I will say this, we did a hell of a lot of fighting.”
He’s a reluctant American Hero as there is, and maybe for good reason, considering some of the atrocities he was witness to in the Pacific are best left untold.
“There was no relaxing over there,” he said. “You slept, you woke up and you always had somebody over you. You always worried if you were going to live or not. And that was it.”
When President Harry S. Truman made the decision to drop the atomic bomb, it marked the beginning of the end of the war for Mr. Sports and his fellow troopers.
He was on a military base in the Philippines when he and the rest of the men in the 7th Regiment of the 1st Cavalry Division got the news.
“We were out in the field and they came over the radio and said they dropped the bomb,” Mr. Sports recalled. “We all sort of went and threw our hands up. We waited, waited and waited after August the sixth when they dropped that big bomb.”
The next three days were filled with anticipation for Mr. Sports and his fellow troopers as they hoped it would signify the beginning of the end of the War in the Pacific.
“We waited for three days, then they came out and said Japan surrendered,” he said. “You ought to have seen us, we threw our hands up and we were so happy.”
When word of the surrender came, Mr. Sports was exactly where you would think an infantry solider of the time would be.
“I was sleeping in a foxhole in the Philippines,” he said. “It made us feel pretty good.”
As anyone familiar with the history of World War II can tell you, the Germans had already surrendered a few months ahead of the Japanese, something not lost on then-Sgt. Sports or his fellow troopers.
“They kept us informed,” he said. “They said the war’s over in Europe and we were happy.”
After the Japanese surrender, something Mr. Sports didn’t get the opportunity to observe firsthand, he was on an adjacent ship in Tokyo Bay when the surrender was signed, he and his fellow troopers were assigned the duty of occupation.
“I was on another ship,” he said. “When they signed it we went over the side of the ship and went ashore. Went on shore Sept. 2, I didn’t get to see them sign it, but I went in right after the surrender.”
In September of 1945, he was a part of the first unit to occupy the city of Tokyo, which it too had it’s unusual sights. When asked how the Americans were treated, Mr. Sports recalled there was really no one around to treat them in any fashion.
“There was no people when we went in there,” he said. “There was nobody there to greet us, there was just an open field with nobody in it.”
Mr. Sport recalled also how the Japanese soldiers would treat the American occupying force with an unusual form of respect.
“They thought we were gods,” he said. “When they would see us coming they would kneel down. We had to wave our hand to tell them to go because they didn’t understand what we said. After a while they finally stopped doing it.”
Mr. Sports, who lived to see his wife of 27 years, Armitha, give birth to six boys and three girls, was only wounded once during his time in service. He was shot in the foot while in the Philippines, but it was on the trip home he was most terrified.
The ship he was on board for the trip home got caught in high water swells, causing it to veer as much as 45 degrees with water splashing over the sides.
Naturally, he breathed a sigh relief when the rescue ships came along side to help.
“The USS North Carolina and the USS Enterprise came to help us after they sent out the SOS,” he said. “I was more scared when I was on the ship during that storm than I ever was during my time in the war.”
-Dunn Daily Record