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Smither, James (Interviewer)

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Slager, Kenneth

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Kenneth Slager was born on June 11, 1925 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where his father worked for Upjohn Pharmaceutical Company. Slager was the oldest of four children in his deeply religious family, attended Kalamazoo Christian High School, and worked for his uncle’s celery field during his early teenage years. He received a draft notice in the summer of 1943 and opted to volunteer for the Marine Corps. He underwent Basic Training in San Diego and spent two months in Marine Boot Camp before graduating onto two months of Advanced Infantry Training. He was then shipped to New Caledonia and then Guadalcanal aboard the USS President Tyler, without escort, in a Replacement Battalion. Slager arrived at Guadalcanal after the fighting had receded and was assigned to a Military Police Company in the Headquarters Battalion, Third Amphibious Corps. As an MP, he escorted Admirals and Generals, guarded gates and entrances, directed traffic, guarded the Corps’ Brigg, as well as raised and lowered the American flag each day. From Guadalcanal, Slager was involved in the invasion of Guam in the summer of 1944 and was also allocated towards the invasion of Okinawa where he escorted high-ranking personnel. Slager’s cousin was also serving in Okinawa in the Army, but he was killed by an enemy sniper while on guard duty, which was devastating for Slager. From Okinawa, he was transferred back to Guam in preparation for the proposed invasion of Tokyo Bay, Japan. However, the invasion was called off after the use of the atomic bombs leading to its unconditional surrender. Slager was then sent to China for four months under fears that the Soviet Union would stage an invasion of China. Afterwards, he was shipped back to the San Diego aboard the USS Roi and was transferred to Great Lakes Naval Station for discharge in March of 1946. Slager then returned home to Kalamazoo, enrolled into Calvin College, became an Ordained Christian Reformed Minister out of Willmar, Minnesota, and married his wife in August of 1949. He fully retired by January of 1988 and decided to move back to his childhood home to take care of his elderly mother before moving to Grand Rapids, Michigan and partaking in the Civil Air Patrol. Reflecting upon his service, Slager did not believe that the Corps left a lasting impression on his character other than exposing him to a personal religious awakening in China.

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Veterans History Project collection, (RHC-27)