WWII veteran honored with birthday parade

Algie Boone holds a sign as he greets a well-wisher at his 96th birthday party at his home on South Locust Street on Thursday. 

A World War II veteran turned 96 years old on Thursday, and after 75 years removed from the war, he remembers it like it was yesterday.

Friends and family celebrated Algie Boone’s birthday with a parade, after which he sat down to reminisce about his time serving in the Pacific Theater.

With Boone sitting in a chair on his front lawn, a line of several cars full of family members paraded by. The vehicles sported signs professing love and birthday wishes, and Boone enjoyed waving his visitors.

Talking about his wartime experiences afterward, he said, “I would think about it a lot when I came back. I would dream about the Japanese. They were mean.”

Boone was one of six brothers who went overseas, and one of four who saw combat. He was a field medic attached to the 126th Infantry and 32nd Division, and wherever a battle was, he was not far behind, pulling wounded soldiers out of the fire and dodging bullets.

“I was with the infantry. Wherever the infantry got shot at, I was there,” he said. “We had several battles. It was tough. Whenever they would shot, I had to go and pick them up.

“I’ve had to go and pick people up, and it’s hard to kind of think about, and that wasn’t last week, either.”

Boone was 19 years old when he joined the military and spent between 1943 and 1945 all across the Pacific, mainly in Australia, the Philippines, Japan and New Guinea, among other places.

Boone said at one point, he and his brother were both stationed in Manila. His brother was on the front lines and stayed in pillboxes made from hollowed coconut trees, and Boone would visit him.

“I went up and stayed in the pillboxes with him at night, and I liked it,” he said.

While in Japan, he remembered a night patrol with a unit, noting that one medic was always assigned with soldiers during patrols in case of an emergency.

“We were out in the woods one day, and we saw this one lonely Japanese man,” Boone said. “One guy on patrol could speak Japanese. He asked him a few questions.”

Boone said the Japanese man said he just wanted to go home and see his family, and the soldier who could speak Japanese asked the man where his friends were. The man said he didn’t know, and the soldier asked him to go find his friends.

“He had a picture of his wife and children,” Boone said of the Japanese man. “(The soldier) let him get about 25 feet and then shot him down. I couldn’t have done that.

“It was bad. It was kill or be killed.”

Discussing another battle. Boone said he was with four other men when they heard a call for a medic come through an Army communication line.

Boone took the men toward the battle, following the copper line. They made it to a soldier sitting in a foxhole, and Boone asked him where the injured soldier was. The soldier told him he did not know and said to keep going toward the fighting.

Boone then walked up to a lieutenant sitting in a foxhole and asked the same question, and the lieutenant pointed ahead without giving a direction.

“I said, ‘Lieutenant, either you get up out of that foxhole and go show me where he is, or I’m not going,’ ” Boone said. “He got up and took me on up there because rank didn’t mean anything around that. It ain’t good to be looking around and them shooting at you.”

Boone has multiple awards. Sitting proudly among ribbons and medals is Boone’s Purple Heart. When asked how he got it, Boone said, “I didn’t get nothing but shrapnel to the head there,” pointing at his forehead.

Boone maintains that God protected him and his brothers through the war, adding that of the four that saw active duty no one was seriously injured. Two brothers were unscathed, and one came home with “shellshock,” a term coined by psychologist Charles Samuel Myers to describe PTSD before the current term was coined.

“God protected me then. He protected me several times. I’m thankful that God spared me and brought me back. ” Boone said. “ I was a Christian. I memorized 91st Psalms, and I kept it as my psalm ever since.”

Despite the hardships he faced, Boone said he does not regret his time in the Army.

Boone and his sister are the last two of 11 siblings. After 96 years, he said the most important part of his family is Christian values.

“We had a whole big happy family,” he said.

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