Robert Shriver

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - FRONT PAGE - BY JAY GREESON STAFF WRITER

Robert Shriver, 93, fought as a World War II ma­chine gun­ner, serv­ing in In­dia. What did he learn? “War is stupid,” he said.

Robert Shriver’s words echo through his­tory, and his re­flec­tions of­fer per­spec­tive, as well as a call for peace.

“War is stupid,” the 93-year-old said re­cently in his com­fort­able chair — the one on the left op­po­site its match­ing com­pan­ion for his wife — in his Soddy-Daisy home. “And the guys who de­clare war are never the guys who are called on to go fight the war.”

Shriver knows. He was a ma­chine gun­ner in World War II and joined up with Mer­rell’s Ma­raud­ers in In­dia in 1943. The group needed the re­in­force­ments af­ter work­ing be­hind en­emy lines and los­ing most of their orig­i­nal 3,000 sol­diers.

It, like most ev­ery as­sign­ment in World War II — es­pe­cially those that in­volved fight­ing the Ja­panese forces — was not for the weak-kneed.

“It was tough, but that’s why we were trained, and they were so hard on us in boot camp,” Shriver said.

How hard was the prepa­ra­tion train­ing at Fort Swift in Texas be­fore he was sent over­seas?

“When I was is­sued a mule [for moun­tain travel] in Asia,” Shriver said, “I named that mule af­ter my drill sergeant back at Fort Swift.”

The threats from the re­lent­less and ruth­less Ja­panese forces in Burma were only part of the con­cern. Sick­ness was ram­pant. The mon­soon sea­son pro­duced months and months of tor­ren­tial rain. Dysen­tery was so se­vere that, ac­cord­ing to “The Road to Burma” by Paul Mehney, dur­ing ex­tended bat­tles the Ma­raud­ers were known to cut the seats out of their pants so they did not have to stop fight­ing to go to the bath­room.

The orig­i­nal goal of the Ma­raud­ers be­fore Shriver be­came part of the unit was to re­claim the Burma Road so Al­lied forces could send sup­plies and

aid into China and help the Chi­nese forces fend off the Ja­panese.

Part of that mis­sion for Shriver and his group was tak­ing and then pro­tect­ing an air­field sev­eral hun­dred miles be­hind the Ja­panese front. Shriver said he can talk about his ex­pe­ri­ences in the war — “I’m an old blab­ber­mouth,” he ad­mit­ted — be­cause he did not see con­stant com­bat but he un­der­stands his fel­low vet­er­ans who do not like to share the hor­rors they saw.

“To my knowl­edge I never killed any­body,“he said, “but I might have. They tried to kill me and I tried to kill them, but I don’t know for sure if I ever killed any­one.

“I thank God ev­ery day for that knowl­edge.”

Atop a moun­tain, Shriver, armed with his ma­chine gun, ex­changed fire with the Ja­panese. Shot in the arm sev­eral times, Shriver was forced to walk at night to the field hospi­tal.

The shrap­nel — which Shriver has kept to this day — had shred­ded his arm and was em­bed­ded in his bone. He fought through a case of hepati­tis he caught in the hospi­tal and was shipped home and dis­charged Oct. 4, 1945.

He spent 32 months in the Army and a lit­tle more than a year over­seas, with about half that spent in hos­pi­tals.

But like so many of that gen­er­a­tion and ev­ery­one who served, there’s not a day that goes by that Pvt. First Class Shriver does not think of his time in ser­vice to the United States of Amer­ica.

“I sup­pose there are some things I wish I hadn’t done and lots that I wish I had,” he said. “But I don’t need to see [the World War II me­mo­rial) in Washington, D.C. I have my own me­mo­rial in my mind ev­ery day.

“And that’s enough for me.”

Con­tact Jay Greeson at jgree­son@times­freep­ress.com and 423-757-6343.

STAFF PHOTO BY TIM BAR­BER

Robert Shriver, 93, puts on the hat he wore dur­ing his ser­vice in the Burma Cam­paign.

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