WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman recognized the service and sacrifice of WWII veteran John Rollins in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series recognizing the military service of Arkansans.
Rollins grew up on his family’s farm in Wheeler, a community outside of Fayetteville.
He was drafted into the service in 1943 and first chose to serve in the Navy, but had second thoughts once he announced his intention to military personnel. “My conscience started getting the best of me because my dad didn’t want me to be in the Navy. He was afraid of me being on the ocean,” Rollins said. “I went back and said that I wanted to change my preference to Army. I could do that because I hadn’t been sworn in. The recruiter said ‘you’ll be sorry.’ And I was for a long time.”
Rollins was assigned to the 70th Infantry Division and sent to Camp Adair, Oregon. He completed infantry training while simultaneously participating in clerk typist school. The division was tasked to provide replacements for the Army. Rollins left Camp Adair, uncertain of where he would be sent, and was assigned a new role.
“I said I was a clerk typist,” Rollins recalled telling the sergeant who was processing the troops boarding the ship heading overseas. The sergeant argued with him about that because his records showed that he was an expert rifleman in the infantry. Rollins persisted as the line behind him grew. “He finally got exasperated talking to me about it and assigned me to the 6th Army Headquarters. Best stalling I ever did.”
After about a week on the cargo ship, Rollins and his shipmates learned they were headed to the South Pacific. The ship landed at Ora Bay, New Guinea on June 2, 1944.
Rollins says the Battle of Leyte was the most difficult for him. A convoy of ships landed three days after the initial invasion, but a delay in unloading made the ship a target for Japanese planes.
“BETTY Bombers came over and one of them headed straight toward us,” Rollins recalled. “They did hit us and killed a lot of people.” He lost his helmet during the explosions and picked up another on the deck. “A head rolled out of it,” he remembered.
Rollins praises President Harry Truman for his decision to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. “He had the guts to do something no one else wanted to do, and he saved millions of American lives doing it,” he said.
“I am grateful for John Rollins’ dedication and service to our nation. His memories of his military service are an important part of our history, and I am pleased to be able to collect and preserve his stories,” Boozman said.
Boozman will submit Rollins’ entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans.