Entries in soldier's diary reflected on surrender of Japanese
SARATOGA COUNTY A lot of people were in the same shoes as Joseph Gamache in the summer of 1945.
Having already spent nearly two years in the Army, the Schuylerville native was going through amphibious landing training in Hawaii for the planned invasion of Japan — which war planners estimated could have meant one million U.S. casualties.
That's where he was when World War II was ended in August, after the U.S. dropped a second atomic bomb on a Japanese city.
Gamache recorded his feelings in a daily diary.
"It seems very ironical that at this minute I am within a few miles of Pearl Harbor, where the Japanese started this bloody war, which they have come to regret," Gamache wrote on Aug. 11, as surrender was a few days away and rumors of a concession swirled.
Gamache, who served from 1943 to 1946 but did not see combat, was honored Oct. 16 as Saratoga County's Deceased Veteran of the Month.
Kim Gamache, one of three sons and three daughters that Joseph raised later with wife Leneta, said the family only just discovered the daily diary while going through memorabilia in preparation for the county event.
It's typed, and copies will be filed with the New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center in Saratoga Springs, and with the Saratoga County historian in Ballston Spa.
Saratoga Town Supervisor Thomas N. Wood III, who described Gamache as a "lifelong resident and good personal friend," said the diary goes into detail about his feelings as he left Schuylerville in January 1943, at age 19, never having been more than 50 miles from home. He had graduated from Schuylerville High School the spring before.
Sent to Hawaii in '45
Gamache initially trained as an Army Air Corps military policeman. He ended up in New Haven, Ct., guarding Norden bombsights, Wood said.
He was later transferred to the infantry, and was sent to Hawaii in early 1945 to train for the pending invasion of the Japanese mainland. Then the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, putting a quick end to further hostilities.
When the surrender announcement finally came on Aug. 14, Gamache wrote, "everyone took the news quietly, reflecting, each man thankful in his own way."
After the war ended, Gamache was assigned to duties in the Philippines, to help as the massive war effort wound down, and vehicles and equipment had to be shipped back stateside. He mustered out in March 1946, and returned to Schuylerville.
For his service, Gamache received the Good Conduct Medal, American Service Medal, Asiatic Pacific Service Medal and World War II Victory Medal.
After the war, Gamache worked for the state canal system for more than 30 years, and was also volunteer firefighter and founding member of the General Schuyler Emergency Squad.
Gamache died in 1998, at the age of 75.
The county honors a different deceased veteran every month.