History, up close and personal
March 23, 2009
By Darla Martin Tucker
RIVERSIDE, Calif. – ( www.lasierra.edu ) As World War II Navy veteran and La Sierra alum Ervin Mateer described what it was like to be under enemy fire on board a ship in the Pacific, four high school students listened intently.
“We got hit in open sea,” Mateer said to the students, depicting an attack by the Japanese. “Did you have pretty good swimming skills just in case?” asked student Samantha Aarts. Mateer smiled and said the sailors knew how to swim.
Mateer and the students, Aarts, Karas Jackson, Heather Mashier and Matthew Casillas, were participating in the annual King High School Remembers event at Martin Luther King High School in Riverside. This year’s program took place on March 20. Approximately 700 students gathered around long tables in the high school’s gym and listened to about 200 veterans from past and current conflicts describe their experiences from boot camp to combat. The students arrived with lists of questions for the veterans, including “What was boot camp like?” and “Were you a POW?”
The annual exercise is intended to teach students about U.S. military history. John Corona, a King High history teacher, initiated the event in 2001.
Mateer arrived with a folder of faded photos, news articles and letters depicting his military life that ultimately spanned 65 years in the Navy. He retired as a chief machinist mate in a red carpet ceremony Sept. 7, 2007 in San Diego. His story is found on La Sierra’s Web site, at http://www.lasierra.edu/news/2008/july/ervin_mateer.html.
Navy pals remember WWII
Dr. Frederick Hoyt, former social sciences department chair at La Sierra and also a World War II Navy veteran, attended the King High School Remembers program with Mateer. He and the chief machinist mate are long-time friends and the duo recounted their military experiences.
Hoyt served between January 1941 and November 1945 as a radioman in U.S. Navy Communications Intelligence during World War II, intercepting and relaying code sent over radio waves by the Japanese Navy. Hoyt served in Okinawa, capturing transmissions the Japanese military sent over radio waves using syllables that represented the Japanese picture-like alphabet. “I never knew the content of what I was copying because it was encoded,” he said. Hoyt relayed the code to U.S. translators who deciphered the messages.
Hoyt eventually became an operating chief in combat intelligence, capturing transmitted code and helping the U.S. military prepare for an invasion of mainland Japan. The military ultimately scrapped that plan and instead used the atomic bomb.
PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University