WWII veteran

World War II veteran Ken Peters shows off a photo of him in Guam during the war. A member of the Marine Corps, he started serving a few weeks after graduating from high school in 1944.

Ken Peters just turned 18 and had graduated from high school. There was no question what was next for him.

It was the summer of 1944, and that meant he was drafted to serve the nation during World War II.

Within two weeks of his final class, he was part of the Marine Corps and on his way to San Diego for basic training.

“I ended up serving in the infantry, because I guess they needed cannon fodder,” he said.

Advance training followed in Oceanside, Calif. It was a small village then; today, there are more than 175,000 residents who call it home.

“We stayed in a tent camp we called Little Tokyo,” Peters said.

Others in his unit were sent to Camp Pendleton, and Peters was eventually assigned to the USS Hersey and taken to Guam. He was assigned to the 11th Marines Artillery Regiment. His unit was supposed to be part of an invasion of Japan in late 1945, but with the use of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 and the subsequent surrender of the Japanese, that mission never came to fruition.

Instead, he was stationed in China and helped guard Japanese prisoners of war.

He said his only close encounter was during a march in Guam when he and others came across a hand grenade on the ground.

“I suppose if we kicked it, it would have ended differently,” he said. “As it was, we told someone about it, and another unit disarmed it.”

Two of his friends from boot camp were killed at Iwo Jima.

He would be eligible for discharge from the service in the fall of 1946.

He said he didn’t really think much about making a career of the military.

“I was 20 years old, and I wanted to come home,” he said.

Intent on going to college at UW-Stevens Point, Peters was offered a job with Standard Oil. He never made it to college.

After 30 years as an agent with the company, he went to Pickerel to work in real estate with his brother-in-law. Eight years later, he returned to Langlade with his own firm.