Battle of Guadalcanal Veteran Glenn Hepler

As I mentioned last week, I was fortunate enough to photograph two WWII veterans while visiting my hometown in western Pennsylvania. Thanks to a good friend from high school, he put in touch with his grandfather, Glenn Hepler, who served in the 260th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company. While working with a tight schedule and after several phone calls, I was able to sit down and talk with Mr. Hepler.

After 11 weeks of coast artillery training in Virginia, Hepler found himself on a troop train headed to San Francisco where he would board a ship. After some friendly initiations for crossing the international date line and a short pit-stop at New Caledonia, Hepler was headed to the Guadalcanal. After landing on Guadalcanal, Hepler became part of the 260th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company. He stayed with the 260th Ordnance throughout his four years in the war.

“I stayed with the 260th Ordinance the four years I was in service. I was a welder. They never gave us a furlough or anything. We could always tell when there was an invasion coming up. We had to check all the equipment before it was put into service.”

Hepler eventually left Guadalcanal and wound up on Peleliu where fighting with the Japanese was grueling.

“We got shipping orders and went into Peleliu. The island was like a horseshoe. It was open at the west side and the rest was a mountain range. The Japanese had these ranges hollowed out. There were hospitals in there and all their supplies. We weren’t allowed to go in because it was all booby trapped and all that stuff. We heard of fellas that it was their job to go in and clean out the supplies. A few Japanese soldiers would be sticking around up there and they’d bring them in as prisoners, or if they couldn’t bring them in alive, they’d bring them in dead. But that’s how they cleaned out Peleliu.”

He also remembers where he was when word came that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Japan.

“I was on Peleliu when they dropped the atomic bomb. I don’t know whether the plane was on Peleliu or not. I couldn’t say. If it was, it was close guarded. It was a secret. Nobody knew. Peleliu was the closest airstrip to Japan.”

With the war over, preparations for getting troops back home were underway. Because Hepler’s company had not seen any rest or recreation time during the war, it was the first on the list to be sent home in time for Christmas. His wife was waiting for him at the bus stop in Youngstown, Ohio where he finally arrived on Christmas Eve.

Using Format