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Living history

By Staff | Sep 11, 2016

Claude Hone, 96, flew a Corsair in the Pacific during World War II, including the deadly Battle of Okinawa, in which 20,000 lives were lost in 30 days.

Hone dressed in his U.S. Marine khaki uniform, leather bomber jacket, hat and military-issue wristwatch to share his experience before the enthralled group of Estherville Lincoln Central?seventh graders Thursday morning.

His daughter, seventh grade social studies teacher Nancy Johnson, dressed in vintage 1940s clothing to assist Hone with his presentation.

On an easel, Hone illustrated flight formations and other details of his service.

Hone enlisted in the Marine Corps before Pearl Harbor in 1941. He started as a drill instructor.

Hone explained the weeks and months of drills, from marching to making what seemed like ridiculous requests to new recruits, trains enlistees minds to obey commands.

Hone overcame his airsickness by skipping supper the night before and breakfast that morning as he finally was given passage from drilling new recruits and sent to war.

A student asked Hone how many enemies he shot dead.

“None,”?Hone said. “Veterans hate war. We wish there was another way. But if someone attacks our country, we can’t just be passive.”?

Hone said, “I think war is terrible. It doesn’t solve a thing.”

As far as fighting the Japanese, “If we wouldn’t have stopped them, we would be speaking Japanese today. But war is not the answer.”

One of Hone’s early missions was to take off from the island of Guam and take the nearby islands of Saipan.

“Guam wasn’t secure, and the airfield was on the peninsula with a lot of cliffs,”?Hone said.

“There were dead bodies lying around, and tanks blown up, but we set up camp in tents near our airplanes.”

They didn’t know Japanese were camping out below, and they would sneak up at night to get food or anything they can get.

One night, Hone woke up and was shaken by an explosion. Red hydraulic fluid was all over.

A Japanese soldier had crawled under the seat of a plane with two hand grenades. They detonated, and slowly, Hone’s cohorts pulled him out, fearing he was booby-trapped with another grenade.

Hone flew in the Iwo Jima battle, too. “I don’t remember how many casualties were in that one,”?Hone said.

There were 12,571 Chance Voight F4U Corsair planes built, which served from 1942 to 1953.

Hone also flew in the strike on Tokyo. Hone and the other bombers took off from the carrier early in the morning. They were about 200 miles out from the coast. They were detected by the Japanese, who radioed back to the land troops.

The coast of Japan, Hone said, is a bit like San Francisco.?There are a lot of hills. They climbed about to 7,000 feet and came straight on down. “All kinds of planes were taking off on the runways, and we were firing at the planes and into all the hangars,”?he said.

“Five went out in a snowstorm, but three didn’t make it,”?Hone said.

Seventh grader Nathaniel Kirkpatrick, whom?Johnson said is a student who has done a lot of research on World War II, was invited to the stage to try on Hone’s bomber jacket, hat, and military-issue watch.

Johnson said, “Some people say we shouldn’t have bombed the Japanese; that it was very mean of the United States. But,”?turning to Hone she asked, “how many American lives did we save?”

Hone said, “a million.”

Johnson said, “And Japanese??About the same number. We saved the Japanese.”

Johnson added, “Of course atomic or nuclear war is not a good thing at all, but when there are tough choices to make, sometimes we have to travel the hard road.”