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Page 14             October  2017                                    The Catoctin Banner Newspaper                                     Published by

            C o m m u n i t y news

            Jim Wisotzkey’s Luck Held Through World War II

               James Rada, Jr.

               Jim Wisotzskey considers himself   only one sent to Quartermaster       they didn’t, he                                        Photo by James Rada, Jr.
            the luckiest guy in the world. He     School in San Diego. The rest were   still needed to
            is ninety-three years old and is      sent off to fight. Once Jim learned   find the items.
            still going strong. He has lived in   how to be a quartermaster, he was    He would
            Thurmont all of his life, except for   shipped off to Hawaii.              scrounge
            a few years in the 1940s during         Three days after arriving, he and   through
            World War II. He survived the war,    the other Marines were told to line   junkyards,
            barely missing several times when     up to get their orders to ship out   and also
            he could have easily been among       to an island where they needed to    admitted to
            the casualties—this is why he         build an airstrip. The problem was   “borrowing”
            considers himself so lucky.           that the Japanese were on the island   them from
               After the Japanese bombed Pearl    and intended to remain there.        Navy planes
            Harbor in 1941, Jim, like many          While he was in line waiting       without asking
            Americans, rushed off to join one     to board the plane, a bicycle        the permission
            of the Armed Forces. The problem      messenger pedaled up with a          of the Navy.
            was that he was seventeen years old   message for the officer in charge.      Another
            at the time, and he couldn’t enlist   The officer read the piece of paper,   instance of his
            without his parents’ signature.       looked at the line of waiting        luck saving       Jim Wisotzkey is shown in front of a display of the many puzzles he has put
               Grinning, Jim recalled, “I know    Marines, and cut it off at a point   him was during           together and mounted as an art display at Moser Manor.
            they wanted to get rid of me, but     ahead of Jim. He and the other       the West Loch
            they wouldn’t sign.”                  Marines behind the cut-off were      Disaster. On                          spent in Thurmont, getting married.
               When he turned eighteen,           told to return to their barracks.    May 21, 1944, a mortar round on       He and Lilalee Caton had known
            he enlisted in the Marines and          Jim thought that he would just     a landing ship exploded, which set    each other before the war started;
            was shipped off to Parris Island.     be taking another plane out the      off a chain of explosions and fires   although, she had been fourteen
            Apparently, it wasn’t as grueling     next day, but Hawaii became his      at the Pearl Harbor Naval Base.       and he seventeen when they met.
            a time for Jim as it was for other    duty station.                        Over the next day, 6 landing ships    She wrote to him while he was in
            Marines. He actually said that he       “Of that first batch of Marines    sank, 163 people were killed, and     Hawaii and sent him care packages.
            liked his drill instructor.           that went out, only seven came       396 people were injured.              Now they were both adults and
               At the end of his basic training,   back,” Jim said. “It was my            “We had fallout raining down on    decided to marry on July 4, 1945.
            all of the enlistees were taken into   name that saved me. We were         our camp for seven days,” Jim said.      The war was already won in
            a hall and given a test. This was the   alphabetical, and I’m always near     The incident was kept classified   Europe, and the focus was on
            first time where Jim’s luck helped    the end of the line.”                until 1960, and so it is not a well-  ending the war in the Pacific. After
            him out.                                Jim’s job in Hawaii was to gather   known incident from WWII. Jim        his leave, Jim had to return to
               “I was raised by a storekeeper,    orders. Each morning, he was given   could have easily been one of the     California for six more months. He
            and the test was all about            a list of supplies and parts that    casualties that day, but he was       was discharged as a sergeant at the
            storekeeping things,” he said.        he needed to collect. Usually, he    working elsewhere.                    end of the war and returned home
               He figures he must have aced       would go out to Barber’s Point to       “Friends told me they saw          to his wife.
            the test, because of the ninety-four   meet the incoming supply ships and   Marines holding onto railings with      He became a carpenter, and he
            Marines in his group, he was the      see if they had what he needed. If   their heads missing, but they were    and Lilalee raised three children.
                                                                                       still standing,” remembered Jim.      Lilalee passed away last year, but
                                                                                          One time where his luck failed     she did not leave Jim alone. Besides
                                                                                       him was when it came time to return   their three children, they have
                                                                                       to the states. As he was waiting to   seven grandchildren, seven great-
                                                                                       board the ship that would take him    grandchildren, and one great-great-
                                                                                       home, he got horrible stomach pains   grandchild.
                                                                                       and doubled over. He was taken to
                                                                                       sick back with an acute appendicitis,
                                                                                       so severe that a doctor had to be
                                                                                       brought in to operate immediately
                                                                                       on Jim.
                                                                                          Meanwhile, the ship sailed
                                                                                       without him, and it had all his
                                                                                       papers. He was forced to spend the
                                                                                       next three months recovering in a
                                                                                       tent area on Hawaii until his papers
                                                                                       made their way back to him and he
                                                                                       could leave for California.
                                                                                          As the war wound down, Jim
                                                                                       got two weeks leave, which he

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