Veterans’s Day: Story About My Grandfather


I had a close relationship with my grandfather Earl whom he passed away last October 2016. Today is Veterans’ Day and I am going to type every word from the newspaper my grandfather gave it to me. The newspaper article was written in November 2007. Please note: My grandfather’s Tozier parents adopted him when he was six weeks old in Kansas. The original last name was Riley.

TITLE: Yacolt Senior Remembers Snakes, Heat of Philippines

Earl Tozier, a resident of the Yacolt area for most of his life, remembers snakes and heat in the Philippines during World War II. Tozier, 82, was only 10 years old when he moved with his parents from Kansas to the Sunset Falls area in 1935. He attended area schools, and during his senior year in high school, he was anxious to do something to help his country after Japanese forces attacked the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor.

Tozier said he wanted to enlist in the Navy at age 17, but his mother refused to sign his authorization. Only persons at least 18 years old could enlist without parental consent. He said he quit school and went to work at the Vancouver Shipyard. Just before his 18th birthday in 1943, he enlisted in the Navy.

After completing Navy boot camp in Farragut, ID, Tozier was assigned to a Navy communications center at Fort Winfield Scott in San Francisco. He said he and unit members lived in underground bunkers almost under the Golden Gate Bridge and communicated with arriving and departing ships. Tozier remembers that his next station was aboard a Navy tugboat based out of San Pedro. “We towed barges between San Pedro and San Diego,” he said. After spending more time in San Francisco, Tozier was ordered to sail to “destination unknown” from San Francisco as a passenger aboard a troopship packed with Army troops. The troopship and its troops were bound for Samar, an island in the Philippine Islands. The ship stopped at Pearl Harbor and Ulithi on its way to the invasion of the Philippines.

Tozier said the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft after arriving of the Philippine Islands. The ship’s antiaircraft gunners got credit for two “half Japanese planes,” he said. After going ashore with the Army troops at Samar, Tozier was assigned to duty at a communications stations on the tiny island of Homonhon, about 40 miles from Tachloban. He said he first worked with Seabeans to help build the base, and then did duty as a signalman, using lights and flags to signal passing ships from a high point on the island. He said that when necessary, he would run a small boat out to ships to deliver orders.

Tozier said he was stationed on the small island until the war ended. The Philippine people were gracious hosts, said Tozier. He said he and his buddies would hire native girls to clean their tents and wash their clothes. He said someone had an electric iron and the girls learned how to iron clothes. When a girl borrowed the iron to use it at home, she came back disappointed saying it wouldn’t work. Tozier said that after questioning her, the sailors discovered, she didn’t have electricity at her home.

Asked what he most remembers most about his experiences in the Philippine Islands, Tozier said, “It was hotter than Hades!” He said he remembers birds on the islands chirped loudly all day long. He also has vivid memories of deadly snakes. “Small coral snakes that could change color could be found just about anywhere,” said Tozier. He recalls a day when a buddy appeared to go crazy, flailing a club at a desk at the communications center. Tozier said his friend was killing a coral snake that had somehow reached the top of the desk.

He said he also saw a python’s body crossing a road. He said the snake’s head and tail were off the road, and its body reached across the road. During his stay at the island, Tozier operated an LCI (Landing Craft Infantry) ship during the course of his duties. In February 1946, Tozier was reassigned to Pearl Harbor. He said his tour of duty at Pearl Harbor, the final resting place of the USS Arizona which was sunk during the Pearl Harbor attack, was especially interesting to him.

He said his father had served as a sailor aboard the Arizona during the 1930s. Tozier returned to the mainland as a 3rd Class Petty Officer and was honorably discharged in May 1946. Following his homecoming to the Yacolt area, Tozier began working in the woods, operating various heavy equipment including shovels, tractors and yarders. He worked in the woods for more than 40 years before retiring.

Tozier said he remembers meeting Mary, his future wife, at a party in Yacolt. She became the love of his life, and they were married in 1951, about a year after they met. The Toziers raised three children, and now have seven grandchildren and four great grandchildren. They still live in the Sunset Falls area southeast of Yacolt.

NOTE: After my grandfather met my grandmother in a party, they had been married for 65 years, and my grandmother died in June 2016, four months later, my grandfather died. I remember the most that my grandfather taught me so many things to embrace the values in life. He was the best cribbage player in the family. Oh, by the way, he was a champ in Philippines then later, became a world champ. Seriously, he was.

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Copyright © 2017 Jason Tozier

This text may be freely copied in its entirely only, including this copyright message.


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