Veteran waited to join the war effort: Chemical technician’s age kept him from fighting until 1945
Editor’s note — World War II and Korean War veterans visited Pearl Harbor earlier this year as part of Honor Flight Nevada’s first trip to Hawaii. The end of World War II in both Europe and the Pacific occurred 75 years ago.
The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor early on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, prompted a call for volunteers to enlist in the military and fight for their country.
One such young man was Jimmie Monsoor, a La Crosse, Wisc., native who now lives in Reno, but his age at the time prevented him from serving.
“When Pearl Harbor was bombed, everybody was ready to join,” he said. “I was too young. Later on, I wanted to join the Marines, but my mother wouldn’t sign. She said I was too young.”
Monsoor was 15 years old when the United States declared war on Japan. As the years slowly pressed on, Monsoor waited before he could join the military, but instead of volunteering at a younger age like he wanted, he received a draft notice when he was 18 years old. Within two weeks, he left for basic training. Monsoor entered the Army Air Force and spent 1945-1946 in a crucial position.
“Praise the Lord, so to speak,” he said. “I was very fortunate to get in at the end of the war.”
As a chemical technician, he was in charge of a bombs dump chemical storage on Guam, a small island in the Marianas that was recaptured by American forces in 1944.
“One of my jobs was to protect those bombs, and if they had a leak, I’d go in and decontaminate it,” he said.
Monsoor said it was dangerous work by tending to an arsenal of mustard, napalm and chemical bombs. Each projectile was filled with liquefied noxious gas that was released when the bomb exploded. If a leak developed, Monsoor said a crew donned their decontamination equipment and fixed the leak.
To this day, Monsoor also remembers Guam’s hot, humid weather, and the jungle and other vegetation that covered half the island.
“There were lots of insects,” Monsoor said. “We were fortunate the island was sprayed every two weeks.”
Monsoor attended basic training Sheppard Field and Wichita Falls, Texas, and completed his advanced training for chemical technician Buckley Field, Colo. After World War II ended, Monsoor, who was a corporal, slipped into the inactive reserves, but with the breakout of war on the Korean peninsula, he was recalled. Monsoor, who spent total of 12 years in the military, remained stateside.
When World War II ended, though, Monsoor settled in California rather than returning home to Wisconsin. He attended a junior college and then California State University Sacramento where he majored in chemistry and minored in math, yet he felt his purpose in life was unfilled.
“I didn’t like being a chemist,” he said. “I applied to a pharmaceutical company in sales and management, and spent 40 years in pharmaceuticals.”
Monsoor also had another trick up his sleeve, that of a magician. He opened a magic store to promote his hobby and was a magician who belonged to different organizations.
After he retired, he and his late wife, Marilyn, had planned to stay in California, but they decided to move in Reno in 2001 where housing costs were more reasonable, and the area wasn’t as crowded.
Since he can remember, Monsoor has respect for those who don the uniform to serve their country. He and Marilyn flew to Washington, D.C. in 2012 on the first Honor Flight Nevada to see the nations memorials built in honor of the nation’s fighting men and women. Marilyn, a registered nurse, served in Vietnam on aerovac (aeromedical evacuation) missions, and also in Japan and England before retiring as a lieutenant colonel. She died in 2017.
The trip to Pearl Harbor earlier this year comes as many nations remember the 75th anniversary of World War IIs end. Monsoor had been to Pearl Harbor before as a young soldier and then with Marilyn after they married, but he said it was nice to be reminded of the price of freedom.
The five days on Oahu in February rekindled those cherished memories for the 93-year-old Monsoor.
“I think of my wife,” he said when they saw some of the memorials at Pearl Harbor. “I wish she was here to see them again.”
Not only does Monsoor reflect on his current journey to Pearl Harbor but also the need for younger generations to learn about the second world war in their classes.
“I don’t want people to forget,” he said. “I want them to remember.”