The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

May 26, 2013

Kingsville Township veteran thankful to be alive 57 years after service

Star Beacon

KINGSVILLE TOWNSHIP — Richard Wright is one of many men who believe the atomic bomb saved his life.

A letter from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in 1944, started a process that led 24-year-old Richard Wright from peaceful Ashtabula County to an infantry unit waiting to attack Japan.

Wright already had two children, with his wife Elizabeth, and feared he would never see them again.

“We were going to take the place of somebody who wasn’t coming back and we didn’t think we’d be coming back,” Wright said.

After basic training in Texas, Wright and his infantry mates were sent to California and loaded on a steamship headed to the Philippines.

“We landed at Manila,” Wright said. He said the ship was anchored five miles from shore because there were so many ships in Manila Harbor.

Wright then participated in operations to clear Japanese soldiers from caves on the island of Luzon. “I got shot at,” Wright said of his work to find Japanese hiding in the caves.

Wright said he and another infantry man would be leading a group of soldiers. “We were out there to draw their fire,” he said.

The soldiers slept in fox holes and took turns watching for Japanese soldiers. “The Japanese moved at night and we moved in the day time,” he said

“My hearing became so acute you could hear the bugs crawling,” Wright said.

After three or four months of mop-up work, Wright and his infantry mates were training for the invasion of Japan.

“We were about finished with our training when they dropped the bomb,” Wright said of Aug. 6, 1945.

“I think it saved my life. We were about to get our boats and go to Japan,” he said.

Even though the war was technically over, military leaders realized they needed soldiers on the ground in Japan.

“We were on one of the first ships (going to Japan),” Wright said. He said huge waves made the trip quite an adventure.

“What a trip that was. It (the boat) creaked and groaned,” Wright said. He said some guys looked over the side as the ship rocked from side to side, but he stayed away from the edge of the boat.

“They told us if you fell over we are not going to turn around and pick you up,” Wright said.

After arriving in Japan Wright was stationed at an air base for three months to insure the nation was stable. “We slept on concrete for three months. I’d much rather sleep on the ground,” he said.

Wright said Japanese citizens were nice to the soldiers and some even worked on the base. He said he even learned a little Japanese.

While Wright was scared to be away from his family, he said he realized it was his duty to serve his country or we’d be fighting enemies on our own shores.

“You just had to do it,” Wright said.

After completing three or four months at the air base Wright boarded a ship for the trip home. “We started home on Christmas Day of 1945,” he said.

After a short time in California, Wright came home to his family assuming he would be a farmer. “Was going to be a farmer, but had a different idea,” he said of his call to become a pastor.

Wright, presently 93 and a resident of the Ashtabula County Nursing Home, was a pastor in the Church of the Nazarene for more than 50 years and still leads Bible studies and counsels people when needed.

“You never quit being a pastor,” he said.