January 21, 2020

Memories of Saipan bring WWII vets together

Although today is officially Veterans Day — the day we honor, recognize and remember those who served our country during times of military conflict — Mary Patterson of Brewer observed her personal Veterans Day nearly a month ago.

It was a mid-October Friday when another World War II veteran, Forest Sheldon of Dover-Foxcroft, came to visit Patterson with one of his World War II buddies, Charles Donnelly of Arnold, Mo.

Mary Adams Patterson was a resident of Holden when she was commissioned an officer in the U.S. Navy. She served with the occupation forces in 1946 at Saipan in the western Pacific.

Her memories of World War II are unique.

They are memories she had been unable, until last month, to share with others face to face.

“A group of us who are interested in Saipan kind of developed a friendship and have kept in touch, over the years, by phone,” she explained.

“Many of us feel almost positive, from the sources we have, that Amelia Earhart was killed there. At the time, there was a lot of diplomacy, and we had to keep our mouths shut.”

The Sapian-Navy relationships started with that interest, she said.

“Few people knew of such an island. I sure didn’t until the war.”

Donnelly and Sheldon were shipmates who remained friends after the war. In October while visiting Sheldon, the two decided to finally meet Patterson.

“It was just one exciting day for us,” Patterson said.

“We are three very, very different people than we were when we were Navy people. We all three had canes. All three wore glasses. All three had wrinkles. All three were rather stout. All three wore sweaters, and that’s a very good characteristic of old age, since the sun was shining brightly.”

But, Patterson said, “we had the same memories. When we got talking, you would have thought we were in our 20s still.”

The three shared such a common memory “that we were right back into the feel of it,” she said of being in the Pacific.

“Not only could you hear it, but you felt it. One would start a sentence, and the other would finish it.”

They remembered “the impressive markings on the big, high coral cliffs from the shelling of the Navy guns from the sea,” she said, “and we really went into the suicide cliffs where the Japanese jumped into the ocean. We discussed the harbor and the people of the island, too.”

Back then, of course, thousands of military personnel were on Saipan and the three never met. The men served aboard ship; Patterson in the naval hospital.

“But we talked and talked and laughed about those days,” she said “They told the story of being on ship and Sheldon was supposed to get the mail, but he came back with no mail, so the crew threw him overboard.

“Actually, it was VJ Day [Victory in Japan] so no mail was available.”

Patterson said being part of that conflict is something “that can’t be passed without being recognized. We all made sacrifices,” she said.

“We all carry scars. But there are some good things that come from bad things; some good memories and some sad memories.”

Reliving those memories with one another that bright, October day made them “the most alive three old people I’ve been with in a long time,” Patterson said. “We are going to try to keep in touch.”

As Patterson escorted her visitors to the door, she said they decided not to think of themselves as senior citizens, “but to go with old salts.”

Of her personal Veterans Day, Patterson said, “It was the greatest Friday afternoon that I’ve had in years.

“I can’t talk with anybody about Saipan because nobody has the feel of it.

“I finally got to remember all that with them.”

What a long way to go. But we know you can do it.

As of late last week, only seven turkeys had been contributed to Manna Ministries in Bangor to help feed the needy in our area this Thanksgiving.

“We need to raise 2,000 turkeys,” reported Manna’s Bill Rae.

“The turkeys go from Presque Isle down to Augusta.

“What we’re doing is spearheading the third annual Turkey Drive for northern and central Maine. Food providers throughout this area collect and give out turkeys to individual families, or cook them in soup kitchens.

“What Manna is doing is spearheading that drive rather than having a bunch of people trying to collect the turkeys.”

Rae said it is much easier for one organization to do the collecting, and then distribute the turkeys where they are needed.

To make sure everyone who needs a turkey has one for Thanksgiving, Manna must have the 2,000 turkeys by Tuesday, Nov. 25.

Manna, located at 180 Center St. in Bangor, is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays.

But you do not need to deliver a turkey in person: You can simply make a donation.

“We will take gift certificates from local stores, or checks made out to Manna saying they are for the turkeys,” Rae said. “And we can use the fixings, too.

“Last year we [collected] 1,400 turkeys, so you can see how the need has grown.”

Seven down, 1,993 to go.

If you can help, please do.

The Standpipe, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402; 990-8288.

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