When two World War II vets get together they have a lot of stories to share especially when both spent time in the South Pacific. Though their paths would not cross for many years after the war, their war background in common forged a friendship that continues today.
Merle Glines, of South Paris, and Elmer Smallwood, of Oxford, met at a Veterans of Foreign Wars meeting more than 20 years ago and discovered they had both spent quite a bit of their military service in the South Pacific, one on land and one on the ocean and possibly at one time or another may have even been in close proximity.
“I like to tease Elmer,” said Glines. “I tell him he was on the ship eating cake and ice cream while I was rolling around in the mud.”
Smallwood, a Navy man, was stationed on the USS Yorktown CV10 Aircraft Carrier patrolling the South Pacific while Glines, an Army Air Force man was in New Guinea and Biak Island living in a tent.
“I spent most of my time out to sea,” said Smallwood. “Fortunately, the Yorktown took only one hit and it ended up going right through my darn laundry case. The Navy even offered to reimburse me for that. Sadly, there were six fatalities in that hit.”
The USS Yorktown CV10 was nicknamed, “The Fighting Lady,” and carried between 100 and 110 planes.
“We shot down a lot of Japanese planes and we sunk a few aircraft carriers, too,” said Smallwood.
Glines also had responsibilities in armament as a Gun Specialist. “If you needed to have your gun fixed,” said Glines, “I was your man.”
When Smallwood knew he was going to be drafted in 1941 while he was at the University of Maine in Orono, he decided drop out of college and enlist. “It was going to happen anyway,” he said.
Glines entered the Air Force in 1942. “I really wanted to be a pilot,” said Glines. “But, I was told I was too darn short to fly a plane, so I ended up a gun man.”
“Merle and I used to argue who was the oldest,” Smallwood chuckled. “But, we finally figured out that I was a year older.”
Both veterans agree that there are some beautiful islands in the South Pacific. “There are some that aren’t so nice, too,” said Smallwood.
“I really liked the Philippines,” said Glines. “The people were pretty nice and everyone could dance. Even the little kids could dance.”
After the military, Smallwood went back to college. “I was released in Boston and went to Orono the same day -- I was still in my dress uniform,” he said. “Boy, did I draw a crowd!”
Before the Navy, Smallwood was majoring in aeronautical engineering, but switched to business after the military. “I was sick of aircraft at that point,” said Smallwood. “I wanted to do something different.”
After college, Smallwood worked for Sears and Roebuck for many years.
Glines took advantage of the GI Bill and went to art school in Boston and eventually owned his own sign business.
The two veterans still see each other at VFW meetings and other occasions and speak frequently on the telephone.
“Elmer is a good guy,” said Glines.
“Merle is one of the best,” said Smallwood.