Our Earth is huge and contains many people in many countries. According to Google, in 2020 there are 8 billion people on the earth. I read someplace years ago that each and everyone has a twin. I don't know about you but I can't recognize myself except when looking in a mirror. Even then I wonder who that old geezer is who is looking back at me.
In World War II, 1944, I went overseas on a troopship, the USS Mount Vernon, from San Pedro, California via Australia to Bombay, India. The war ended in August 1945 but I didn't come home until January of 1946 on the USS General Brookes troopship from Calcutta, India, through the Red Sea, Suez Canal, Mediterranean Sea, Atlantic Ocean, New York City, Camp Grant, Illinois and finally Milford.
I was still 20 years old and had been clear around the world. Wow! Over the past many years my wife Connie and I have been in every state except Oregon. Our international list includes Holland, Panama Canal, and Ireland. Traveling is enjoyable and educational but at 95 years of age, I find it difficult. I suppose I can say, "been there and done that." In those many travels, I have encountered personal friends in odd places. The World isn't as big as we think when stumbling on old acquaintances in unexpected places and circumstances. The following are examples of those encounters.
In July 1943, I was inducted into the U.S. military at Camp Dodge. Clayton Goodell of Lake Park was among the fellows in that group. Clayton and I embarked by train to March Field, Riverside, California, and did our basic training with the 19th Platoon. We parted after basic training and I lost track of him. I was later assigned to the XX Bomber Command (B-29 bombers) at Great Bend, Kansas and we shipped out late February 1944 to Bombay, India. We were on the USS Mount Vernon with 7,000 other military personnel. We had plenty of time on our hands so the one thing we could do was roam the decks and passageways.
One day, while walking the deck, who did I run into but Clayton Goodell! What a small world. We had a great conversation catching up as to where we had been and what outfit we were in now. We met several other times while on that voyage and I didn't see him again until many years after the end of WWII. He went back to the Lake Park area. He and his wife came to visit me when we lived on Pocahontas Point, West Lake Okoboji.
On the troopship USS Mount Vernon another passenger besides me and Clayton was a terrific friend of mine, Mickey Landen. Mickey was from Omaha and also the Okoboji area — Echo Bay. We became friends via the Okoboji Yacht Club. Mickey was very involved in the Yacht Club as we were. The Friday night socials encouraged members to socialize and Mickey and I had many great chats.
One night in our conversation, we discovered we were both on the USS Mount Vernon going to India in 1944. Mickey also was on the same troop train crossing India. He was in the Burma jungles fighting and I was with the B-29s driving vehicles. The military duties of his service were a great deal different than mine. He told me that many times he never removed his shoes for two or three weeks trudging through the jungles in Burma. Later in life, he had many problems with his feet. Mickey joked with me that he envied me driving trucks as my feet were dry.
When I was assigned to the XX Bomber Command at Great Bend, Kansas one of my close buddies was Joe Flynn from Denver. We palled around, were in the same barracks, troopship, and Bombay, India. I recall that one day while in Bombay, Joe and I ventured from the camp into the city. The streets were full of people — people, and many new strange smells and sights. Venders and beggars were all over the place and Joe and I must have looked like easy prey as we were approached multiple times. Joe and I were together until I was reassigned to a different outfit and lost track of him. Years later when Connie and I were teaching in Greeley, Colorado Connie's parents came out to visit us. One of our outings was to Denver, Colorado. We drove down and parked in a large parking area in downtown Denver. We exited the car and just at that moment, Joe Flynn walked by. I recognized him immediately, although it had been over eight years since I last saw Joe in India in 1944. We talked a short time and Joe told me he had contracted polio and was left with a limp. What a small world to meet him in Denver in a parking lot.
During the war we met many fellows from all over the country and we usually asked what state they were from. Many of the fellows from the New York City region had a sketchy knowledge of USA geography — especially Iowa's location.
China is a long way from Milford but to illustrate how "small" our world, I will describe the following incident. I was stationed in Liangshan, China with the 2459 Quartermaster Truck Company from June to November 1945. The war ended in August of 1945 but with 250,000 military personal it took a long time to get us home. We were kept busy and one of our tasks was to drive about 50 miles to the Yanez River to a town named Wanhsien. After the war ended the British gave the Americans until Jan. 1, 1946, to evacuate all military equipment and supplies from India. Planes were flying the Hump, landing at Kunming, unloading their cargo which was then put on boats and moved to Wanhsien.
At Wanhsien we loaded various loads in our trucks, drove back to Liangshan, and deposited our cargo at a "dump" just off the airstrip. The trip was 104 miles to and from. We never knew what our cargo would be from clothing to food, gasoline, bombs, etc.
In the fall of 1945, one day, I was assigned to unload cargo from the C-46 airplane. I drove to the airstrip tower, waited for the plane to land, and followed it until it stopped, turned around, and shut off its engines. I backed my truck up to the cargo door and waited. Soon the doors opened and who should emerge and stepped out on my truck but Earl "Muggs" Sheldon. Muggs and I were both from Milford and grew up living only three blocks of each other. Muggs had graduated in 1942 and me in 1943 from Milford Public School. I recognized Muggs immediately and we both just stared at each other never believing that two guys from a little town of Milford would meet halfway around the world. It was wonderful! We talked and after I had the cargo on my truck, drove off thinking that was a brief encounter. Two weeks later Muggs showed up at my barracks and announced he was now stationed at Liangshan. We stayed in contact with each other there, at Kunming, China, and debarking camps in India.
I had other incidents of meeting acquaintances at odd places. Two of those were Glen March and George Swanson. These chance meetings occurred in Minneapolis, which only goes to show that the world is not as large as one thinks.