MIlitary Police

Combat Engineers

Mars Task Force

Early LIfe

Marriage

Postwar

Myitkyina

Reflections

Annotation

Roy Uthes grew up in Detroit, Michigan. His father was a policeman. Uthes had brothers who were also in the service. He grew up with friends who were like brothers rather than neighbors. Race relations were good at that time. Uthes graduated from high school and found employment with the Ford Motor Company at Willow Run where the B-24 bombers [Annotator's Note: Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bombers] were made. He soon got his draft notice. He passed his physical in Detroit and was sent to Fort Custer in Battlecreek, Michigan. After testing, he was sent to Camp Maxey near Paris, Texas. There, he was assigned to Company B, 792nd Military Police Battalion. After training, the 792nd Military Police Battalion shipped out on a Liberty ship. They landed in Oran in North Africa then travelled by boxcar across Africa to a port city where they boarded the SS Santa Rosa and traveled the Mediterranean. During that voyage, Uthes felt the concussion of an explosion, but the ship continued through the Suez Canal and Red Sea on its way to Bombay, India. From there, the 792nd Military Police Battalion traveled aboard small rail carriages to Ledo where their first assignment was guarding munitions dumps.

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The 792nd Military Police Battalion was subdivided and Roy Uthes was assigned to the 209th Engineer Combat Battalion [Annotator's Note: Company B, 209th Engineer Combat Battalion] as a truck driver helping to build the Ledo Road. There were 21 switchbacks as his vehicle climbed the mountain. Each one required the vehicle to make sharp turns while going up or down the mountain. Uthes' concern with oncoming vehicles or lack of power in his own vehicle made him fear for his safety. The Ledo Road was being built to replace the Burma Road after its capture by the Japanese. During this time, he met one of his old buddies from Detroit. It was a strange feeling to see someone from home. Uthes' friend showed him a skin from a tiger he had shot with his carbine. The natives had skinned the animal and just wanted the fangs from the tiger. On another occasion, he met a quartermaster unit with many of its members from Detroit. It was quite a celebration when he met some of the guys that he had been friends with before. On returning to his unit, his unit was mustered to move out only with weapons and light gear. They did not know where they were headed.

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Roy Uthes discovered that his unit [Annotator's Note: Company B, 209th Engineer Combat Battalion] was being sent to the airfield in Myitkyinā as replacements for the Mars Task Force which had replaced Merrill's Marauders [Annotator's Note: 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional)] there after the battle. The first time Roy Uthes was shot at was after his battalion was attached to the Mars Task Force. During this time, Uthes mainly stayed on the airfield. While watching a movie in the open air, a Japanese aircraft flew over and dropped small bombs with propellers in the side of them. The bombs were dropped so low that they did not have a chance to arm themselves. Uthes picked one of the bombs up. He had no fear of them exploding. On occasion, Uthes had the duty of retrieving American bodies. He also drove trucks of supplies and munitions to Chinese camps nearby.

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Roy Uthes was born in June 1923. He had two brothers and two sisters. He grew up in a large home and was the youngest of the children. With his father being a policeman, life was not so bad during the Depression. He had connections with a packing house and would get meat that way. The family grew a garden in the back and his mother would can the vegetables and fruit. His dad was paid in script which was so much on the dollar. The local stores nearby were a convenience to the family. His dad retired in 1936 but he went back to work as a night watchman when the war started. Uthes graduated from high school and went to work for the Ford Motor Company. The neighborhood and neighbors were very good growing up. Radio was big during these times, and that is likely how he heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor. The family often centered around the radio. Large family gatherings were common. There could be 20 or 30 people in the house at a time. Growing up in a mixed neighborhood resulted in him having no bitterness toward black people. He had good friends who were black.

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Roy Uthes met his wife after she had been accosted by an individual in a park. Uthes ran off the trouble maker. Eventually, Uthes dated and then married the girl he had rescued. She would go on to join the Army Air Corps during the war while Uthes was overseas. She flew extensively in the Air Corps even though she was not an aviator.

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Roy Uthes was in Myitkyinā when word was received about the end of the war with Japan. After the war he was flown out on a DC-4 transport airplane. They landed in Calcutta then transferred to a ship which took them to the United States. The chow onboard the ship included fresh turkey and ham. The mess room tables were platforms for the men to stand at and eat. The seas were rough, and some passengers suffered seasickness. Uthes never got seasick even though the ship constantly pitched then rose up and dropped down and then rolled. It was a frightening voyage. It was a rough trip for many troops. Near the United States and New Jersey, the troops were told that they had a chance for a hot shower in fresh water. By the time Uthes got his shower the water was cold. From the port of debarkation, Uthes traveled to Camp Atterbury, Indiana for discharge. He had several souvenirs that were stolen from him in camp before his departure for home. Uthes was discharged as a private first class then traveled home. His wife was discharged as a sergeant. She gave Uthes grief because of their respective ranks. After 70 years of marriage, Uthes misses his deceased wife.

Annotation

Roy Uthes arrived in Myitkyinā without any combat experience. His unit [Annotator's Note: Company B, 209th Engineer Combat Battalion] was dispersed among the various units of Merrill's Marauders [Annotator's Note: 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional)]. Uthes felt that they fit in with the experienced troops. He learned to keep his butt down when the incoming fire was around him. Today when a door slams, Uthes hunkers down to avoid the round. His main job while with the Marauders and Mars Task Force was to pick up wounded and the dead. He asked himself why did they die and not him. After the dead laid there for quite a while, it was not a good thing to see or smell. It was gruesome work. Uthes had seen Japanese prisoners of war sitting against a tree. That was the only live enemy he saw. Other than those two live prisoners, he only saw Japanese who were dead. Uthes felt resentment toward the enemy. His feelings toward the Japanese stayed the same over time because of the way the Japanese treated American prisoners. He felt the same toward the Germans. He resented the Japanese even more after the motion picture came out about Louis Zamperini's [Annotator's Note: Louis Zamperini's Oral History Interview is also available n the Digital Collections website] treatment while he was a prisoner of the Japanese.

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After he was discharged from the Army, Roy Uthes did not take advantage of the GI Bill. He and his wife lived with his parents for awhile. He worked two jobs. After saving some money, he went down to the Veterans Administration and asked for a VA loan for a house. As time progressed, he worked for the Post Office as well as part time jobs. He and his wife adopted a relative's daughter and included her with their children. The Uthes family moved up to his wife's hometown to take care of her retired parents. They put the house in his wife's name to take advantage of her VA loan access. The home was a two bedroom home. Her parents shared one bedroom and Uthes, his wife, and their three children shared the other. It was a tight squeeze. At the same time, Uthes was driving 72 miles one way to his work. At times, he had to hitchhike to and from work. After eight years of commuting, he transferred to a local post office through the help of a friend.

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