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Gene Osting
Gene Osting
Assigned: 37th Division
Location of Service: South Pacific
Gender: male
From City: Delphos
From State: Ohio
Current City: Delphos
Current State: Ohio
Honored by Michael Ford

My War Stories
1941 (Courtesy Michael Ford, Delphos Herald). From decoding pre-war Japanese secret transmissions to landing at Guadalcanal in the South Pacific, one local veteran survived some of World War II’s worst. Gene Osting, enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps in April 1941. Though he was a warehouse foreman who set up supply dumps from island to island as troops advanced, his training after basic included decoding Japanese transmissions before war was declared. “We put in coding and decoding messages; this was all secret material. The messages would all come in over teletype in groups of four letters. Then, with coding devices, you could read it like a book. The Japanese were sinking American ships around the Aleutian Islands way before the war ever started,” he said. After his training, Osting made his way to the far reaches of the Pacific, where he participated in actions taken at Guadalcanal after it had been invaded by the Marines. “We landed on a Sunday morning. They were shelling right across the top of us. When we went in, the Marines had already taken the beach and were coming out. About three miles down, there was a Japanese ship that was grounded and had been unloaded. When we hit the beach, we had no idea where we were going. Some Australians were in a fox hole and told us to dive in or we’d get shot. “We were attached to the 37th Division and it was solid rain and mud five inches deep. The front was about three miles ahead and the Japanese shelled over our heads every night to push back the front. We went through hell for months. After months on Guadalcanal, a big bomb dump blew up and the whole island shook. I saw many dog fights in the air day and night. We finally left when the island was secured,” he said. Of the many artifacts in his possession, Osting owns a Japanese flag he found in an unpleasant location. “We were in a Japanese ammo dump on Guadalcanal; there were dead Japanese all around. I stepped over one and saw a Japanese flag sticking out of his pocket so I snatched it up,” he said. The blood it was soaked in that day remains part of the fabric. Also on Guadalcanal, Osting ran across a Catholic bishop who escaped slaughter at a mission the Japanese had attacked. Osting says the bishop told him he moved by night with the guidance of a native who brought him out of the jungle. However, Osting recalls being told of a night when the bishop saw the Japanese bring approximately 13 blindfolded nuns to a river where they were executed so as to fall into the body of water. “The Japanese were as evil as the Nazis,” he said. He also heard stories of American medics transporting the wounded away from the front, where they were grouped together. Japanese soldiers attacked those who could not fight back while medics were retrieving other wounded. “They would bayonet them right on the stretcher. Now, I never saw it but this is what we were told,” Osting said. After building an air strip at New Georgia Island, Osting went on to Sterling Island, where an air raid killed 12 soldiers next to his tent. On one occasion, he was in his bunk with his pants hanging on a post above him. Soldiers were writing letters when a shot rang out, tearing a bullet hole in the pants which Osting discovered the next morning. At many islands he worked at, Osting serviced the radio equipment used in Allied aircraft. However, his experiences also entailed seeing a mass burial of American casualties. “We went to the cemetery one morning and saw them bury 145 soldiers in 45 minutes. It was terrible. The put two ropes over the hole, lay the bodies on the ropes, let them down, pull the ropes out and go to the next grave. They did the same thing over again. There were many graves with two white crosses. The cemetery was about 50 acres big,” he said. While en route to the South Pacific, Osting saved a man’s life. “I saved a buddy of mine from drowning when our ship was bouncing back and forth against a barge. My friend was coming off the ship and barge on a rope ladder that fell into the ocean between the ship and the barge. I was the only one who saw him go under. I got some soldiers and laid on the barge. When I saw a piece of clothing, I grabbed it, pulled him onto the barge and we got him out before the barge hit the ship again,” he said. During his time of service, Osting also experienced the speed with which a PT boat could get underway. “They said when you hear one beep, hold on. They can go 60 miles per hour and we were patrolling the islands. The Americans bypassed the Shortland Islands and we were going down through the strait when they dropped the torpedo. I actually saw the torpedo, then I heard the beep and held on as the boat swung around,” he said. Osting is one of five brothers, all who served. The other four were Urban, Wilfred, Ed and Moletus. The fifth brother earned the American Defense Medal, the Honor and Efficiency Medal, the Good Conduct Medal and more. Osting’s wife, Edna, of 55 years, passed away in 2000. They raised a son and three daughters.