Some World War II veterans finished their military careers with that war. Jim Phelps was just getting started.
Phelps, now 86, signed up to fight in World War II in 1945 when he was only 15 years old. Friends of his in Oklahoma forged a letter from his parents giving approval for him to join the Army. Since his friends from his hometown were going to war, he wanted to go, too.
After WWII, he went to Japan as part of the occupation force making sure the Japanese weapons were destroyed. Phelps said that most people cooperated, but some Japanese were upset.
He came back to America in 1947 after his discharged. Taking advantage of the GI Bill, he went back to high school. He graduated in 1948 having taken accelerated courses.
In 1950 he went to college and re-enlisted in the Air Force. He was sent into the Korean War as a staff sergeant. He wasn’t there long but did get to see Germany and France.
“I didn’t like Korea,” Phelps said. “Korea is cold and hilly.”
He volunteered for the Vietnam War in 1966. He saw no helicopters in WWII but saw a lot of them in Vietnam. He also saw a difference in the civilian response to the war.
“World War II was a different kind of thing,” he added. “Everybody was patriotic.”
He retired from service in 1969 and took up construction work in Vietnam. He met his wife, Lien, while he was there.
“She was a secretary at the construction company,” Phelps said. “We will be married for 50 years soon.”
The two reside in Panama City Beach. Phelps joined the police department in the 1970s and retired for good in the 1980s. He has been awarded numerous service awards, including the Bronze Star, News Herald reported.
Mr. and Mrs. Phelps often help out at the Emerald Coast VFW Post 10555 in Panama City Beach.
“Even at their age, they try to do all they can,” Post Commander Ken Waringa said. “They’re very well-loved and well-respected at this post.”