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Richard Laws
War: World War II
Branch: United States Army
Unit: 511th Heavy Weapons Division
Birth Year: May 1, 1923
Place of Birth: Michigan


SUMMARY Richard Laws Richard Laws was born in Michigan on May 1, 1923. After high school, he became a door-­to-door salesman for Awrey Bakery Co. He did so well he bought his own truck, for which he paid $880 and paid it off in the first six months on the job. He also helped his parents buy their house. At the time, he was not allowed to enlist because the Government had closed enlistments. He was eventually drafted and volunteered for the Paratroopers. He was assigned to the 511th Heavy Weapons Division.

Richard (he likes to be called Dick) made a total of 25 jumps, of which six were in combat conditions. He was in constant battle conditions for one and a half years that included New Guinea, Leyte, Luzon, and Okinawa. It was in the Philippines that he lost his best buddy with whom he had planned to go into business with at the end of the War.

Dick's company was assigned the task of creating a diversionary battle in order to draw the Japanese away from Los Banos Interment Camp where 2200 American, Australian and various other civilians were being held. It was believed that the prisoners were only days away from being executed since the Japanese were withdrawing. All prisoners were rescued without any casualties. There were a number of Nuns in the Camp. When they saw the parachutes coming down, they said the "Angels were coming." Dick's unit adopted the White Angel designation for their Unit.

From the Philippines, Dick's unit was shipped to Okinawa, days before the Japanese were driven out. In August, two Atomic Bombs were dropped on Japan, which convinced them to surrender. Dick was picked to put together a unit to land in Japan and prepare for the others who were to arrive later. There were some tense moments when they landed, and Dick told his group to keep the door locked when he deplaned. If there was any trouble, they were told to take off without him. Although tense and difficult because of the language barrier, the situation went well. Dick became the first American to set foot on Japanese soil.

Dick became a member of General MacArthur's Honor Guard. In appreciation, the General gave him a Japanese sword and two rifles as thank you gifts, all of which he still has.

Dick's citations include: Good Conduct Medal; Bronze Star with three Battle Stars; Bronze Service Arrowhead for Philippines Liberation with two Battle Stars; Victory Medal; American Theater Ribbon; Asiatic/Pacific Theater Ribbon.

After service, Dick returned to Awrey. He keeps in touch with his old buddies and in June of 2004, at the age of 81, drove his pickup truck to Reno to attend a Regimental Reunion.