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Big Sky Honor Flight: Vet to Vet

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I first met Al Muggli at the airport before we left for Washington. At 99 years old, the Clyde Park man was the "elder statesman" of the fifth Big Sky Honor Flight. Since no one understands a veteran quite like another veteran, I asked him to conduct an interview with another vet while we toured the World War Two Memorial. The man he spoke to was Louie Edwards. Muggli quickly discovered that both men had been stationed at Camp Robinson in Arkansas, and later, in the Philippines. Within minutes, the two were trading stories.

Muggli asked Edwards what some of his experiences were when he was in Luzon. "Well, one was they had about a six-foot lizard there, and we had to crawl around without a light, and I met one nose to nose. It had horrible breath!"

"I was on a ship going overseas when President Truman dropped the atomic bomb, when he approved it, and I knew the war was over. I wound up in the Philippine Islands. And of course, there was still a lot of Japanese action in the mountains, and I wound up on the island of Cebu," Muggli recalled.

Muggli said American troops often had trouble distinguishing Japanese troops from Philippine Islanders. "The Philippino soldiers, they could tell the difference between the Japanese and their fellow soldiers. I remember a chow line that was going 24 hours a day, and they always had a long line. Some of the Japanese used to come down from the hills, the Japanese who did not recognize the surrender. But they got hungry, so they'd come down, and they got in the chow line. They looked like Philippines to me. We'd put the Philippines as guards on the chow line, and they recognized the Japanese immediately, and when they saw one, that Japanese took off and the Philippines went after them.

Edwards recalled that local women would sometimes steal mattress covers to make dresses. Muggli responded by telling about the women wearing large round hats with bananas on them. He added that when Philippines addressed an American soldier, "They called him Joe. Hi Joe! Hey Joe! Everybody's name in the Philippine Islands was Joe."

After being transferred from the Philippines, Edwards had a brief stop in Okinawa on his way to the main island of Japan. "I had to guard that cliff where they jumped off, committed suicide, for two days, four hour shifts. When the tide was out, there were rocks, big rocks, boulders, and they'd just jump 200 feet and kill themselves rather than give up.