On Memorial Day, local veteran remembers the camaraderie
Park City native Carl Workman was drafted into the Army during World War II at only 18 years old. He trained at Fort Douglas in Utah, then for two months at a base in Alabama before final training at Fort Ord, California.
"Then I was transferred to Hawaii," Workman said. "To meet my division. I fought with a bunch of guys from New York."
Workman said he was assigned to a New York division after they suffered heavy casualties on the Marshall Islands. Despite the differences in their backgrounds, he said they had no trouble bonding.
"We had guys in that division from Brooklyn, from all over New York," he said. "I got to know all of them, and we were all very close. If someone got killed, we would take care of them as best we could. We would take care of things with their families if we could.
"A few of us kept a notebook to keep track of names and information. And after the war was over I know a few of the guys got in touch with the families of the ones who were killed."
As Memorial Day approaches, Workman said he finds himself thinking about those men with whom he served, many who never made it home. He smiles when he talks about them but he also does not sugarcoat the experience.
"I fought with many guys who died, and I watched some of them die myself," he said. "Once on Okinawa we had nine guys who were blown up so completely, all I could find of them was a shoe."
Workman tells of another experience, where he and a few other soldiers were coaxing a Japanese soldier out of a cave.
"He came out like he was surrendering but he had hand grenades around his waist and he pulled the pins as he came out. He blew himself up, killed one of our guys, wounded one other and wounded me. The soldier who died? I knew him. When you fight alongside each other you get very close."
Workman said on Memorial Day he and his family will head to a local cemetery to honor those who served, including two of his brothers.
"We visit them. We put flags on their graves," he said.
Memorial Day is a somber occasion but Workman focuses mostly on the good memories. He remembers how the division took care of each other, whether it be keeping watch in a foxhole so two other guys in there could sleep, or sharing what little food they had.
"A lot of times we didn’t get food up there on the front," he said. "We might have one bar left from a K-ration or a C-ration, but we would all share it."
Workman remembers fighting on Saipan when he was only 19 and preparing for a final advance on thousands of Japanese soldiers. The fighting was intense and chaotic, and it is situations like that where the bonds soldiers form with each other matter most.
"You could feel the snap of all the bullets flying past your head. You’d think you’d run, but you can’t run," he said. "You have to stay there and take it. When you have a hill to overtake, you can’t stay back and let the other guy do it. You have to protect him. And he’ll protect you."
Workman said one regret he has is that when the Japanese surrendered, the rest of his division returned to New York while he went to Okinawa for the occupation.
"If I’d gone back to New York with them I’d have all their addresses," he said. "They were my friends. I’d like to see them today if I could."
Workman said he sees Memorial Day as a chance to not only honor those service members who have passed, but to share their stories and bring people closer to that history.
"It’s a way to bring what we did into their lives. That’s the reason for Memorial Day."
American Legion Post 14 will host a Memorial Day ceremony at 9 a.m. Monday, May 30 at the Park City Cemetery. The keynote speaker will be Summit County Manager Tom Fisher. American Legion Post 93 will visit six cemeteries in the county starting at 8 a.m. before holding a ceremony at around noon at the Coalville Cemetery.
Nearly a dozen Park City and Summit County officials sat on a public panel Wednesday to outline the way forward on wildfire management and to answer questions from residents.