lest we forget
page design and photos by nikki carlson
story by krista corner
One veteran's tour of duty in World War II took him to many of the most famous battles of the South Pacific, and his ship was one of the first inside the harbor at Tokyo.
Earl Pollington reminisced Wednesday about life in Kremlin, coming to Montana from Michigan, the U.S. Navy and a marriage of almost 60 years.
Pollington, 92, served his country in World War II aboard the U.S.S. San Diego, an anti-aircraft cruiser. He has lived a colorful life, coming to Montana for the first time at 19. He made several trips back and forth to Montana from Michigan before settling in Bozeman. Eventually he and June met and married. The couple settled in Kremlin near Earl's family and raised three children, all of whom call the Hi-Line home.
Earl joined the Navy on Jan. 27, 1942. After basic training, he said, he set sail on the USS San Diego.
“The ship was new when I got on it,” Earl said. “On Aug. 18, 1945, I got off of it.”
He added that although short, his military kept him very busy.
“I went from (Montana) to Chicago and did basic training,” he said. “From there I went to Norfolk, Va. We took the ship up to Portland, Maine, to get the kinks out of it, if there were any.
“We then went to Panama, San Diego and then Hawaii after Pearl Harbor happened,” he added.
Earl's ship eventually traveled to the South Pacific, too.
“We went to the South Pacific after Hawaii,” he said. “We visited New Zealand and all the islands around that area, too.”
Earl was a welder on the ship's maintenance crew. He said while in the South Pacific, the ship would dock in bays, but the crew didn't go into the cities or towns.
“We'd go out to sea for 40 days, then come in,” he said. “Then maybe we'd go out for 72 days, and if we got any battles in, it was out while we were moving.
“(The ship) went with the carriers,” he added. “When the jets came over to do bombing, we'd go after them.”
He said the ship only came back to the United States once during the war, when it docked in Seattle.
His son Charlie remembers stories from the war and said his father's ship was pretty important.
“Pretty much anything from '42 on he was at,” Charlie said Thursday. “His is pretty much the story of the war.”
Charlie said his dad got to see some exciting stuff. “His ship was in the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Battle of the Philippines, and I think the Battle of Leyte Gulf,” he said. “His ship was one of the first into the harbor at Tokyo, and he saw the Hornet go down, too.”
The Hornet was one of the aircraft carriers Earl's ship traveled with.
Earl met June after the war. They married on
March 6, 1948.
“I don't know how she caught up with me,” he said with a smile.
June, who calls her husband “Pa,” laughed and said she met Earl on a trip to her sister's home in Bozeman.
“He used to board with my sister and brother-in-law, and he was there,” she said. “He worked in Bozeman with my brother-in-law. We met in the spring and about eight months later, we married.”
On their wedding day, June was 22 and Earl was 34. The couple settled in Kremlin and had three children. Terry farms on the Hi-Line, Linda works at Northern Montana Hospital and Charlie teaches math at Montana State University-Northern.
Charlie said his parents are good people.
“They're pretty down-to-earth and supportive,” he said.
Earl and June came to Kremlin because his family was near.
“There were people who lived here that came from Michigan,” he said. “They were related to us and that's how we got here.” Earl worked as an auto body worker - his job before the war took him to sea.
Earl said their lot, a 200-foot wide by 300-foot long parcel of land just off U.S. Highway 2, didn't have much
on it when they bought it.
“There wasn't a bush on it when we got here, and we went to planting,” he said.
Earl said he came to Montana for the first time with his dad.
“Dad and I
came out from Michigan in an old Model T Ford,” he said.
Earl said he liked Montana so much, he hitchhiked back once after returning to his home state.
“You couldn't do that now,” he said. June agreed: “No, you sure couldn't.”
He said he remembers the day he left he didn't have much money.
“I had twelve bucks when I left home,” he said. He still had some left when he got back to Michigan, he said.
Earl's love for Montana began as a child in Michigan where he grew up.
“When I was a kid, I'd go to school and I'd read anything I could get my hands on about Montana and Alaska.”