“What we went through” – James Belshe, WWII Veteran Earns Purple Heart for Injury Sustained in the Philippines

“The island (Luzon) was pretty well cut in two by us and other divisions,” said Belshe. “Some divisions pushed south (from the middle of the island) and we pushed north. From shortly after we arrived,” he added, “it basically became a running battle across the island.”

Continuing his assignment in the headquarters section, Belshe explained that his duties in communications kept him several miles behind heavy enemy action; however, on March 11, 1945, his distance from the front lines did not diminish his exposure to Japanese soldiers.

“Two fellows and myself decided we would walk to the (tent) to get us some chow,” he said. “We were walking down this little path and KABOOM!—that’s all that I remember.”

What Belshe later discovered is that despite the dozens of American soldiers that had secured their area of operations, a Japanese soldier managed to conceal himself along the path, shrouded by heavy brush and bushes. When Belshe and his fellow soldiers passed by the hidden enemy soldier, a grenade was rolled toward them.

“I was in the lead and was hit with shrapnel from the waist down,” he said. “The guy behind me was hit in the head and killed,” he solemnly added. “I don’t know what happened to the third guy.”

Immediately following the explosion, the Japanese soldier, now exposed, was quickly “taken care of” by machine gunners in the area. Belshe was evacuated and eventually sent to the United States for treatment, and recovered at an Army hospital at Santa Fe, New Mexico.

On November 23, 1945, the Purple Heart recipient received his discharge from the Army and was sent back home to Eldon, still carrying bits of shrapnel inside his body that could not be removed.

In the years following his wartime serve, Belshe married, raised three children and used his G.I. Bill benefits to earn an education degree while attending college in Warrensburg. He went on to retire after teaching for 21 years at a school in Raytown, Mo.

Though his time spent in a military uniform was filled with a combination of both memorable and stressful moments, the veteran maintains his experience overseas has been something he never shared with others, until recently.

“Honestly, I have never talked to anyone about any of this,” Belshe said, describing his time in the Army. “For me, that was always then and this is now and it just became something that I never shared.

“But there aren’t a lot of us (World War II veterans) left and I figure there are probably some people that would like to know what we went through.” Smiling, he added, “And I’m sure there’s a lot more to my story but after seventy years or so, you tend to forget a little of it.”