Stories with Dee Walker- The 94-Year-Old World War II Veteran

We’re just going to jump straight into it this week. I (Anthony Crosby) recently had the great privilege of spending some time with Mr. Dee Walker. Typically, when preparing an AAT blog, I approach my conversations with my guests as interviews. However, I knew that when it came to Dee, I just needed to shut up and listen to his stories.

You see, Mr. Dee Walker is many things. He is a World War II veteran who could very well have gotten a purple heart for his service. He’s a world traveler, journeying to places like China and the jungles of Japan. He is a sixty-year resident of Elko after moving to our town in 1960 by way of working for a jukebox business. He has been well associated with old-time greats such as Bing Crosby and Wayne Newton. Oh, and did I mention that he recently celebrated his ninety-fourth birthday?

So, you can hopefully see why I was excited to sit back and listen to Dee’s stories. Allow me to share a few of them with you today.

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Before we kick off the first set of stories, let me share one quote with you from Dee that you’re going to want to keep in mind until the end of this feature.

“My theory is that our knowledge comes from study and experience, but our instincts guide our actions!”

Dee’s Fondest Memories

“I’m the baby of a large Mormon family, the youngest of twelve children. My father was the youngest of twenty children because, back in those days, polygamy was encouraged for the settling of Utah. I was born and raised in Southern Utah in a town called Cedar City. We grew up on a milking ranch. One of my fondest memories was when I was just becoming a man. I was in the garden with my mother. I was supposed to be helping her with the weeds, but I apparently wasn’t doing my share. My mother looked over, hollered at me to ‘take off that ugly damn hat! It looks just like you!’ [She] didn’t mean to make it sound like I was an ugly booger, but it was so comical! That is one of the delicious things in my life, to remember that.

“One of my brothers, who was just a bit older than me, had all the talent. He was more well-built, athlete, and he even had a wonderful singing voice. I didn’t have any of that. However, I had one advantage to all of that; I was a good sport, and he wasn’t! So, I got along well in school athletics! In 1972, I happened to be working in a casino in Las Vegas when my old high school coach, Mr. Bailey, walked in! He grabbed me and we hugged. I told him I was puzzled because I didn’t understand why he put me on the first-team during practice, but during the competitions with the other schools, he would hardly ever let me play! He told me that I was such a good sport, I would cheer for them too! It pleased me to hear that, and that is still a fond memory of mine.”

Dee Walker (top row 3rd from the left)

Stories from the War

“After school, back in the forties, I filled out my draft papers and volunteered to go into the service. I got in during the last part of the war. I did combat duty in Okinawa [Japan] for about four months. It was during the last battle of WWII. I didn’t have much hand-to-hand combat; I was scared every minute I was there. One time, our group was sent out to be “feelers” of an area because you never knew where the enemy was at that time. We didn’t have any contact, so we got the signal that we could retreat to the main group. As I was walking back, bugs that seemed to light up started coming up. I thought that was strange; I hadn’t heard of any type of bug that looked like that. I would stop walking, and the bugs would stop coming up. All of a sudden, I realized those weren’t bugs; that was an automatic weapon firing at me!

“My time in the war was when the Japanese started their kamikaze attacks where they would take their own lives by running a plane into a ship. One time, my platoon and I were in the rear of a battle, sort of resting. About three or four of us got permission to go around and look for souvenirs. Two exciting things happened that day.

“One exciting thing happened was when we were walking on a hill and could see the naval battle happening in the harbor. Every now and again, you’d see a Japanese plane run into a ship. My sergeant, Able, started pointing out that one of the smaller Japanese planes was heading right towards us. It came around until the plane was about thirty feet from us; the pilot looked at us, waved, and then he was gone! If he wanted to, he could have mowed us down, but he just waved.

“The next exciting thing from that day came from when we were walking through a cane field. Eventually, we stumbled onto a cave. We went over to it and started monkeying around. The next thing we knew, a couple of Korean men and women came sneaking out. When they saw us, they were so scared because they had been told that if we caught them, we would kill them! Sgt. Able pulled out some crackers and offered [them] to them. They smiled and could tell that we weren’t going to hurt them. One of the Korean gals had gone to school in Guam and had learned some English. Sgt. Able was conversing with her, asking her questions, and told her to have everyone come out of the cave. This may be exaggerated, but some say there were five hundred people in that damn cave after it was all said and done! A Japanese soldier was with them; he just happened to be dressed in the Korean’s clothes. One of the girls pointed him out, and when she did, he took off! One of my guys reached over, grabbed my rifle, and put him down. That was an experience.”

The Thanksgiving Story

“This last story is one of the most beautiful parts of my whole life. Before I start, I have to remind you about my theory about instincts because my whole life has been about following my instincts. My brother, Jack Walker, was nineteen months older than me, and he had already gone into the service. I head to California for basic training and rifle range training. During the rifle range training, we wouldn’t use live ammunition. One guy would pull the trigger, and another guy would slam the gun back like it had fired so that we could get used to the feeling of it. All of a sudden, I got my hands on a live ammunition shell. For some reason, my instincts told me to use it! Immediately, they made me think I was in big trouble! They suspended me for three days and all that. Then, I got acquainted with someone who suggested that I volunteer for mess duty, which is where you clean up the dishes and trays after everyone is done eating. His suggestion and my instinct lead me to volunteer for a month of mess duty.

“After training, they sent me overseas to a little island not far from Guadalcanal to be assigned to my regular outfit. My particular company’s showers happened to be out of order one day, so they told us we could go over to the next company and use their shower. We walked over, and at that moment, they were doing their mail call. They called out the name Jack Walker. They called the name out three or four times before I wondered if it could be my brother. I got permission to go talk to the mail clerk, who was pleasant enough to let me see the letter addressed to Jack Walker. When I looked at it, I recognized my mother’s handwriting! We started looking to see why my brother was not there; he had been wounded in a previous battle and was in a naval hospital. I got permission to get on the mail to go to the hospital, where I was able to spend Thanksgiving of that year with my brother.

“I happened to be at the right time and place to hear my brother’s name because of some broken showers. If it hadn’t been for my instincts, which lead me through the whole rifling firing thing and signing up for a month of mess duty, I would have been assigned to the unit that went to the battle of Iwo Jima, where I perhaps would have been killed. This is why I really want to emphasize listening to your instincts.”

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See you around, Elko!

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