BY KEN LITTLE
World War II ended a few short weeks before John Organist was scheduled to deploy as a member of the massive allied invasion force that was being prepared in the Pacific to invade the Japanese homeland.
It was to be the final campaign of the war. Although at that stage it was no longer possible for the Empire of Japan to win the war, it was anticipated that the invasion would result in the loss of millions of lives.
However, after then-President Harry Truman decided to drop atomic bombs on two Japanese cities, and did so, the Japanese emperor agreed to surrender, against the wishes of some Japanese military leaders.
Thus, unexpectedly, the war ended before Organist and millions of other American soldiers undertook what would have been sure to be a bloody and prolonged campaign to capture the enemy homeland.
CELEBRATED 89TH BIRTHDAY
Organist, a resident of Durham-Hensley Health & Rehabilitation in Chuckey, celebrated his 89th birthday Wednesday and was also recognized that day for his wartime service with a Quilt of Valor by the Greene County Quilters group.
A Long Island, N.Y., native who has lived at the Chuckey facility since July, he was modest about receiving the Quilt of Valor.
"I think this is great. This recognition is far beyond what I did," he said.
Organist was attached to an amphibious engineers regiment between 1943 and 1945. He served in Australia and later in the Philippines.
His unit built barges in Brisbane, Australia, before transferring to the Philippine island of Luzon as it was being won back from the Japanese by forces commanded by Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
He spent the first few weeks on the island in a hospital suffering from dysentery, a common ailment among American troops.
When he regained his health, Organist was in Manila, the Philippines capital, and then was transferred with other troops to northern Luzon, awaiting orders.
Some military analysis predicted that there would be a million American casualties in an invasion of Japan, but the war ended in August 1945 after atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
He was told at the time that the troops "were two weeks away from Japan," he said.
"We [allied forces] were getting ready to invade Japan," he said. "What we [his unit] did was operate small boats."
ALSO A MUSICIAN
While in the service, Organist was also a musician, playing bass and other instruments at concerts wherever he was stationed. One member of his unit came from the famous Glenn Miller Orchestra.
"He taught me how to play the saxophone," Organist recalled.
When the Pacific war ended, Organist was sent to Japan as part of the Allied occupation force.
He was discharged from the Army in early 1946 and went to school to learn how to repair televisions and radios.
Organist operated his own TV and radio repair business for 35 years on Long Island, said daughter Jane Karuschkat, who was at the Quilt of Valor presentation with her husband, Glenn.
The Karuschkats recently moved to Chuckey.
Organist's wife, Florence, died in 2002.
'DESERVING OF THE HONOR'
Gail Burnett and Donna Barnard were on hand for the presentation from the Mosheim-based Greene County Quilters.
Her father is deserving of the honor, Jane Karuschkat said.
"He's never really received recognition for all his accomplishments in his life. He's always given selflessly," she said.
"It's a really beautiful tribute. He's given so much."
The Quilts of Valor Foundation was founded about 10 years ago by a Delaware mother whose son was serving in Iraq.
Her goal was to see that returning veterans "were welcomed home with the love and gratitude they deserved," according to the website of the non-profit Quilts of Valor Foundation, http://www.qovf.org/.
Many of the quilts are given to hospitalized soldiers recovering from their wounds. Quilts are also presented to active and past members of the armed services who served in times of war.