CARTER COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Most discussions about World War II focus on the battles against the Axis powers in Europe and the race to stop Japan in the Far East.
But too little is said about what happened in the Philippines, according to Frank Childers, 95, of Carter County.
He would know. Childers was there in the years right after the end of World War II.
“We were there to help rebuild the place,” he said, remembering his assignment to what once was a Japanese airfield during the war. “The U.S. had bombed the airstrip for days. We went in and built barracks. We put in electrical and waterlines too.”
During the war years, while the Philippines played a key strategic and military role in the global battle, Childers was too young to sign up to serve. At age 14, he started driving a truck for money and worked manual labor jobs around Northeast Tennessee to help his family make ends meet.
When the war ended and soldiers started coming home, Childers said jobs in East Tennessee became scarce, leaving him with a big problem.
“I needed a job, so I went down and frankly told a lie about my age,” he said. “I told them I was 18, and I needed to go to the Army.”
The Army was happy for the help, quickly sending him to training and then to the Philippines.
Frank Childers was only 16 years old at the time.
“I was thankful to have work, a roof over my head and everything I needed,” he said.
But after about two years in the Army, Childers decided it was time to come home. That independent spirit that led him to the Army now was leading him to life as an adult back home in the U.S.
“I just don’t like someone telling me what to do all the time,” he said, laughing at his own honesty. “I make my mistakes myself.”
Now, almost eight decades later, Frank Childers says he’s proud to have served his country, but he’s worried about what he sees in America today.
“The old things we used to believe in and that this country was built on, they’re not as good as they used to be,” he said.
Maybe that’s why you’ll often see Childers in his front yard tending the American Flag that flies high on a pole for all to see each day.
He said it’s his way of saying thanks for the chance to serve and to get a start in life.
“The country did that for me, and I owe them something,” Childers said.
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