Honoring & Remembering: Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class James Dwyer


Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class James H. Dwyer was born in Sully County, Onida, on Oct. 1, 1923 to Thomas and Johanna Dwyer.

James (Jim) H. Dwyer was attending Southern Normal College in Springfield when Pearl Harbor was attacked on Dec. 7, 1941. He left school to take over farming for his brother who had been drafted into the Army. His dad asked him about continuing farming but Jim really wanted to get away, so, his dad rented out the land and Jim went to Omaha, NE and enlisted in the Navy November of 1943.

He went through boot camp at Farragut, ID. When that was finished he was sent to the South Pacific by troop ship to the Island of New Caldonia in the New Hebrides. New Caldonia was formally occupied by the French and a Leper Colony was there.

Jim was assigned along with about 150 other enlisted men and 25 officers and pilots to the Scouting Squadron #57. He was the lone one from South Dakota.

When we arrived in New Calidonia there were sunken ships in the Harbor. My squadron's job was to look for enemy submarines. There was one that had just been sunk before we arrived, but we were never able to find any submarines ourselves, he said.

Jim was also involved in working on line hanging bombs on SBD Dive Bombers and re-calibrating 30 and 50 caliber machine guns. Each one had to be able to shoot between the propellers without hitting the blades.

The Armed Services were segregated at that time and I remember that the officers had seven African American Stewards that cooked and served them.

We heard about President Roosevelt's death on April 12, 1945 while on the island, he said. Communications were far different than now; no satellites, internet, cell phones and the like. Mail was very slow arriving and of course mail call was a highlight if you got a letter even if it had been censored. You never wanted to mess with the guy who just got a letter from his wife or girl. Unfortunately many received Dear John letters.

As the war progressed the Unit was retired and I was shipped out by troop ship to Sand Point, WA. We left everything, equipment, supplies, buildings to the natives, Jim said. They were very happy to have whatever we would leave. While on the way to the United States we received notice that the atomic bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima Aug. 6, 1945. I was a brig guard on this ship.

While he was on leave to South Dakota, Japan surrendered on Sept. 2, 1945 aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

I remember the troop trains. They were something else. Many times when we would stop the townspeople would come with treats for us all. The state of Utah treated us the best, Jim said. I returned to Sand Point, WA and then was sent to Minneapolis, MN for separation on Dec. 20, 1945 with the rank of Aviation Ordnance Man 2/c.

After his discharge, Jim worked for Northwestern Rail Road for two years. He also worked for Bell Telephone Company. While working for Craig and Jensen Contractors they were building Rural Electric Lines in Eastern South Dakota. In 1949 Jim was employed by Clay-Union Electric as a lineman. He retired in 1984.

Jim and his wife Ardiss have been married for 61 years. They have seven children and 18 grandchildren.

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