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NEWS | April 4, 2024

The Pacific – Then and Now: U.S. Army Pacific Hosts WWII Veteran

By Sgt. Alvin Conley

The Jungle:
Stretching from the U.S. Pacific Coast to the Indian Ocean, encompassing Northeast and Southeast Asia, South Asia, and Oceania – including the Pacific Islands, the area known as the Indo-Pacific is home to more than half of the World’s population.

This vast region of tropical water contains volcanic islands, sandy beaches, fierce waters and dense jungle. Located mostly near the Earth’s equator, places within the Indo-Pacific are highly popular amongst many travelers who long to experience the ‘tropical paradises’ the world has to offer.

But for some, a trip to these islands was no dream vacation. The deep blue skies and even bluer oceans could seem dull as the canopies of burned tropical trees and white sandy beaches riddled with crimson red drew closer. The growing sounds of deafening screams, explosions and gunfire could easily alter the image of what was known as paradise, as there is no place of paradise during war.

December 7, 1941, following Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the U.S. entered WWII; more than two years after the start of the conflict. On December 8th, the U.S. declared war against Japan, and three days later, Japanese allies Germany and Italy declared war against the U.S., bringing America to fight in Earth’s ‘Garden of Eden’ – the tropics of the Indo-Pacific jungles, which held both beauty and terror in its depths.

A Soldier’s Welcome:
Landing on the shores of Guadalcanal and Bougainville in the Solomon Islands after 21 days at sea as a medical Soldier, he was met with wild waves, and steep climbs. Weighing no more than 130 pounds, he had to carry his Army issued equipment, along with his medical supplies to the hospital tents. Fighting to make his was way uphill with a 5-gallon water can in tow to ensure the sterilization of his medical equipment, he almost didn’t make the arduous trek.

Being met with unforgiving rain during his journey, everything was drenched by the time he made it. He was handed a carbine and told to strip of his medical insignia so that he would not be a target for Japanese snipers. He then realized the life of a medical Soldier was different in the islands than that of traditional European theater. Settling in, establishing a foxhole and setting up a hammock, he slept outside in the cold, wet rain, being splashed with water every time his bunkmate moved.

This was the first day’s welcome to war for then U.S. Army Technician Second Class Stanley Allen.

Born into a traditional family, his grandfather served in the Civil War and his father was a veterinarian. Allen became the perfect blend of his lineage by serving in the Army as a medical Soldier. He grew up in South Dakota working closely with his father during his free time at the community animal hospital and stable, which led to him enrolling into college as a pre-veterinarian student at South Dakota State College, where he played in the band.

While home one day from school, Allen was tuned into an orchestra program that was interrupted to announce the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The following day at school, during an assembly, Allen and his classmates gathered to listen to President Franklin Roosevelt declare war on Japan.

“It was a great feeling to play the Star-Spangled Banner and the Stars and Stripes Forever that day,” said Allen. “The patriotism was extremely high. Every man in the college couldn’t wait to get into the war.”

With a unique welcome his first night in Guadalcanal, Allen had a second unique first night experience when his unit arrived to the island of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea and were hit with an air raid.

Unharmed, Allen performed medical duties during his tenure in the Indo-Pacific. Treating Soldiers for things such as dysentery, diarrhea and high fevers. He worked in patient and psychological wards, sometimes running the ward himself on 12-hour shifts.

Allen was medically discharged from the U.S. Army in July 1945 – 18 months of which he had spent overseas in the Indo-Pacific. Following his time in service, Allen returned to college. With his background of working alongside his father as a youth and his time as a medical Soldier, Allen used his G.I. Bill to attend medical school and practiced medicine for over 35 years.

Land Power in the Pacific:
Over the last 80 years, having a land power force in the Indo-Pacific has proven to be a vital asset to the U.S. and its allies.

During WWII, having the Army and Marines to fight in places such as Guadalcanal and Bougainville helped end the war by the services implementing tactics such as ‘island hoping’.

Understanding that although many places within the Indo-Pacific are surrounded by water, citizens of those places tend to live, operate and fight from inland, therefore creating the need of land power presence to control the land via combat power. Seizing control of an island, atoll or portion of a country’s land allowed U.S. military forces to then control the surrounding waters and air, as they advanced closer and closer to Japan.

In addition to fighting enemy forces, U.S. military also had to become adjusted to fighting a terrain that essentially ‘fought back’.

Learning almost on the fly what the environmental conditions were like in some parts of the Indo-Pacific during WWII, America did a great job in analyzing what worked and didn’t work for service members, and adjusting accordingly to better fit the fight. Changing materiel of clothing to fit the rain and humidity, changing certain foods to ship that would last longer, and how to employ certain weapons systems to better fight the enemy in their terrain.

The ability to see the need for these changes, and implement them, surely helped in the victory of not only WWII but other Indo-Pacific conflicts to where some strategies are still utilized.

Today, land power forces such as U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) work to normalize the presence of U.S. Soldiers across the breadth and scope of the Indo-Pacific, while training with national allies and partners to increase interoperability and assure America’s commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Back to a Better Jungle Environment:
March 2024, Allen returned to the Indo-Pacific to visit the island of Oahu, Hawaii. During his visit, the 100-year-old was honored with a tour of the USS Arizona – one of the battleships sunk during the attack on Pearl Harbor, a tour of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific – where he observed a repatriation ceremony, and spoke with USARPAC leaders.

“It really had an emotional impact on me,” said Allen about visiting the USS Arizona.” I almost had tears in my eyes because we still remember these things, we still honor them. It’s wonderful.”

Soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, accompanied Allen and his family on his tour of the USS Arizona. The 25th Inf. Div., a USARPAC asset, is home to the U.S. Army’s Jungle School.

The Jungle Operations Training Course is a 12-day program of instruction that allows service members of multiple U.S. military branches and allied partner nations to train on jungle mobility, waterborne operations, combat tracking, survival training and situational training exercises at the squad levels. This course, as well as others, allows today’s Indo-Pacific-based service members to implement lessons learned from battle during WWII and other Indo-Pacific conflicts.

Operation Pathways is the Theater Army’s operational approach to campaigning in the Indo-Pacific, and is the primary way the Army provides the joint force with enduring advantages by building interior lines consisting of command and control, sustainment, protection and collection capabilities.

The Future of the Pacific:
“Looking back over the last 87 years, and 35+ years of medical practice, I’m struck by the profound changes that have occurred over this time,” said Allen.

Home to over 250,000 U.S. military personnel and their families from all branches – Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard – Hawaii continues to serve as a throughput for the Indo-Pacific area, as it did during WWII.

With beaches, jungles, atolls, mountains and so much more, the Hawaiian Islands provide U.S. services and national allies to conduct real-world training and simulations in environments scattered throughout the Indo-Pacific.

A cultural melting pot of numerous spoken languages, various peoples and cultural practices, two-thirds of the world’s population, a majority of the world’s wealth and more, the Indo-Pacific region has been, still is, and will remain, one of the most important areas of the world.