Families remember loved ones

By Clarence Plank: PNT staff writer

Memorial Day was set aside for the people who lost loved ones in war.

Carol Nash of Clovis carries the legacy of an uncle who died in World War II at Okinawa, Japan.

Nash, her mother and other family members have collected all the letters that Roy Melvin Johnston wrote to his family in Bellview.

“He mostly wrote his folks and his wife,” Nash said.

Johnston was in Company C of the 306 Infantry in the Army as a bazooka man. He was responsible for destroying many enemy positions, Nash said, reading from a letter the captain of Johnston’s unit had written to Joyce Johnston, his wife.

The letter explained Johnston was struck by mortar shell fragments and was killed.

He was buried in the 77th Infantry Division Cemetery in Okinawa before the family decided to have his remains brought to Clovis, where he now rests in the Mission Garden of Memories cemetery.

“He wrote home every few days,” Nash said. “He wrote mostly about what they were doing and going on a ship … over there. Of course growing up north of Clovis he never seen much water so he wrote to them about his time out at sea.”

Nash said Johnston, an infantry soldier, joked that he was becoming a sailor since they have spent so much time at sea.

Johnston wrote letters until May 4, 1945 — two days before he was killed in action.

David Tanner of Clovis has spent the last seven years researching his great uncle, Leo M. Eminger of Upton, a town between Floyd and Melrose.

Eminger was a navigator who was missing in action and later pronounced dead in WW II.

“My earliest memories were being told that he died in WW II,” Tanner said. “I was doing some genealogical work and thought I would just go look. I thought he was a fighter pilot. I didn’t know he was a navigator.”

As it turned out, Eminger was part of a nine-man crew on the B-17E “Bessie the Jap Basher,” which crashed into the ocean just off Guadalcanal in the Domo Village behind Japanese lines, said Tanner.

“I found his name and the number of the airplane … and I knew I could put it in a search engine to look for it,” Tanner said. “From there I started getting the names of the crew and the information to what plane it was and what it was doing.”

Tanner has been compiling all the information to publish a book about his great uncle and the crew.

Tanner said he learned the pilot, Charles Norton, was captured and taken to the Japanese commander, who later wrote that Norton was executed in front of him.

Gunner Bruce Osborne was the only crew member whose remains were found after the Americans were able to take Guadalcanal.