One vet's story
By Hank Lohmeyer
Published Wednesday, September 23, 2015 9:55 am
Jake Drusell at home in Delta's Crossroads Assisted Living Facility.
"Old soldiers never die,
they just fade away"
- Gen. Douglas MacArthur
Feb. 4, 1924 ~ Sept. 6, 2015
Jake Drusell, an old soldier, passed away as he lived,
making people smile, at
the age of 91.
He is survived by his son, George Butcher, and his daughter-in-law, Cindy
No memorial service is planned.
If you've talked with military veterans from the World War II era about their experiences, you may have discovered that some of them don't take much to the title of "hero" they're often given.
One of those was Jake Drusell, who lived at Crossroads in Delta.
"He didn't claim to be part of 'the Greatest Generation' or any of that," says Jake's son, George Butcher of Delta. "He didn't consider himself a hero at all."
Jake tended to see his military service attached to Gen. Douglas MacArthur's 6th Army as a job to do, which he did during a life that included lots of hard work. "They wanted us to go and do a job, and we just did it. That's all," Jake said.
But Jake is a hero in his son's eyes. After all, Jake was in the Army, and his son, George, followed in his footsteps and went to Vietnam, though as a Marine. Still, George notes with good-natured humor, "He only made tech-five."
Jake is a hero for other reasons that don't involve the military because, as George observed with the needling good humor that is a man's way of expressing feeling, "All he ever really did was just work three jobs at one time to make enough money for supporting his wife and kids."
Nevertheless, Jake's military experience in Gen. MacArthur's Army is noteworthy.
Jake served in the 25th Signal Corps, attached to the 25th Infantry Division (Tropic Lightning) attached to MacArthur's 6th Army.
The force consisted of 154,000 combat troops supported by 60,000 other personnel.
Jake was an RTO/radio telegraph operator doing an important job that involved air traffic control, direct assist of fighter and bomber crews with navigation and other matters, aircraft recovery, and serving as a radio relay link with flight operations coordinating close air support, George explained.
Jake went to the Army Air Corps technical school at Boise, Idaho. There he learned Morse code during a 14-week technical training.
With his truck-mounted mobile radio station and his M1 carbine always close at hand, Jake and his unit accompanied MacArthur's 6th Army combat troops on their 165-mile battle march beginning at the south end of Luzon Island and ending on March 3, 1945, with the battle to liberate Manila. They had landed in January 1945, at Linguayen Gulf as MacArthur observed from a high bluff overlooking the site, George said.
After the liberation of Manila, Jake's unit went to Nagoya, Japan, where it was stationed for a year.
Jake earned several decorations: the American Theater Ribbon, Philippine Liberation Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal, Asiatic Pacific Theater Ribbon with one bronze star, and the World War II Victory Medal.
Jake took to the Army way of life and tried to stay in the service. But, as George explained, "congress decimated the military after the end of the war" and Jake became a civilian along with millions of other veterans. Jake says, "They didn't need me any more."
Jake went back home to Milford, Ohio, and then in 1947 moved to California and he began his peacetime life of raising a family and working hard to provide for them. He had brought home a samurai sword souvenir which one day on a family outing became a fishing pole for George to catch his first blue gill with.
He was always a hard worker. "I could never say 'no' to a work offer," Jake says. He held down three jobs at one time. Work had become a way of life for Jake even before the military, doing the back-breaking job of delivering ice.
The iceman's customers left orders by posting one to four black paper squares (displayed on a field of white) in their front windows to indicate the amount of ice they wanted for the day. That saved the iceman a trip to the house to get an order; he could read the number of squares from his truck at curb side.
Jake was a lumberman for 15 years, a successful restaurateur, worked for Meadow Gold Dairy, and was dam keeper for 21 years at the Morris Dam at Azuza, Calif., George notes.
Jake's work life during peacetime subjected him to dangers he never encountered even in the military. As a liquor store clerk, he was once robbed at gunpoint and locked in the store cooler. On another occasion working as a pin setter in a bowling alley, a wayward pin sent flying by a bowler's split landed squarely on Jake, stationed several lanes distant -- no Purple Heart for that one.
Jake and his late wife, Geneva (who passed away in August a week before her 96th birthday) were competitive amateur bowlers and collected trophies and cash prizes in tournaments. Jake's biggest payday was a $1,700 jackpot at one event.
Hobbies have been woodworking and he built numerous life-sized nativity scenes for outdoor decoration. He also collected stamps and coins.
Jake enjoyed a comfortable and social life at Crossroads where George visited regularly. Jake had his sharp sense of humor fully in gear at all times and loved to get along with people. He kept his neighbors and the Crossroads housekeepers on their toes with his friendly wit. "It's just a sense of humor I've always had," he said. "I'm not going to change."
Jake had six grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
George's hero encouraged him as a youth to get involved in Boy Scouts earning his Eagle. He taught him outdoor skills that led to membership in the National Rifle Association.
"He was just the best father a kid could ever have," said George.