Contact Jack Pusel jcpusel@msn.com



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Kenesaw Charles Pusel (right), pictured here in 1935, kept detailed scrapbooks while serving in the Philippines and China during the early 1930s as a U.S. Marine. His son, Jack Pusel, wanted to see them shared with the public and he finally got his wish when the Navy Marine Corps Museum jumped at the opportunity to have them. They are on permanent display at the museum in Washington, D.C.



Reminiscing with Jack Pusel: A tale of two veterans
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By Karen Hartman
Reporter
Cashmere Valley Record, November 15, 2016.
Click for full report.

The story starts in 1964 when Jack Pusel was attending Wenatchee Valley College, working on a degree in agriculture in order to become a teacher.

The Vietnam war was in progress at the time and Jack took a quarter off to work (in those days, one could earn enough to put themselves through a year of school by working summers) when the war suddenly kicked into high gear resulting in the loss of his student deferment. He knew he would be drafted immediately so he and another friend, who also had a low draft number, went to join the U.S. Air Force. When they got to the recruitment office, they found it closed but the Navy office across the street was open and a guy came out and said, "Come on over, I can help you," and so they ended up joining the Navy instead.

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Jack Pusel of Monitor literally got to walk in his dad’s footsteps during his tour of duty in the U.S. Navy, serving in Subic Bay in the Philippine Islands. “It was so interesting to go around and see things that Dad had seen when he was there,” said Pusel.




Because he had had basic welding at Cashmere High School, after boot camp he was sent to Ship Fitter A school in San Diego, California, and learned more welding. When the time came for him to choose where he wanted to go, he put in for the East Coast as he already had seen a lot of the West Coast. He was assigned to a landing ship called USS Hermitage in Norfork, Virginia. He did some research and learned that President Eisenhower had taken that ship on its first cruise through the Mediterranean Sea and that every year that ship made a "Med" cruise. Jack thought, "Man oh man, I've got it made... every year I'm going to get to tour the Mediterranean!" He got to the Hermitage as an E3 pipefitter and immediately he was sent to high pressure welding school in Port Smith, Virginia. Three weeks after he got back to his ship, he found himself sailing through the Panama Canal headed for Vietnam. It was the first East Coast ship to be ordered to Vietnam.

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Grandchildren at Navy Memorial in DC 2016 

High pressure steam welders were not common so Pusel found himself being sent to work from ship to ship. This meant that he would often have to be "high-lined" in a basket suspended from cables between ships. "One minute you're way up in the air and the next your tail end is dragging in the water," Pusel said. However, this work is what got him to U.S. Naval Base, Subic Bay, in the Philippines (several times) which is where his father, Kenesaw Pusel, (born Dec. 12, 1911) had served for nearly three years as a Marine during the 1930's. Jack would get letters from his dad telling him to go to such and such a hill and "If there is a cannon up there, we put it there using mules."


Another landmark Jack was directed to look for was an enlisted men's club somewhere in the jungle. Kenesaw told him how he and a fellow sailor had become good friends with the natives, who still hunted using blowguns with poison darts. The Americans had shotguns. One day, the natives came running to ask for help with a huge snake that had swallowed one of their pigs. They were able to find the snake, and the sailors shot it for them and the natives got their pig back which they roasted that night over a fire and shared with the Americans. They also skinned out the snake and gave the skin to the sailors. The snake was over 40 feet long and Kenesaw and his friend had tacked it up on the wall of the enlisted men's club.

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Jack and Nadine by his 57 Navy Shore-patrol Jeep at a Parade 

Jack found that the club and the snake skin were both long gone by the time he went looking for it, some 30 years later.

"It was so interesting to go around and see things that he had seen when he was there. Dad was a Marine guard in a town called Cavite in the Philippines," said Jack. One of the things his dad did while he served in the Philippines and China was to keep scrapbooks and Jack inherited both of them.

Kenesaw Pusel had joined the Marines at age 17. His uncle signed for him to be able to join that young. He was sent to China and the Philippines where he served between 1930-1933 as a trumpeter.

Jack recalled how his dad described literally "being on a slow boat to China" where the seagulls were out flying the ship. Jack found the scrap books to be fascinating; full of history and also containing mundane, yet interesting details, such as how to make up a bunk Marine style. Jack wanted to find a way to share them with others so he offered them to the National Museum of the Marine Corps at Quantico. Three times he offered them; he was so certain they would be interested in them. Quantico officials always shrugged and said "Oh, we'd probably just stuff them in a closet somewhere," So the journals remained with Jack.

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Jack and grandchildren outside Navy Memorial In DC 2016

Two years ago, the ship he was on had a reunion at Annapolis Naval Academy. He and his wife, Nadine, traveled by train, gathering up their grandchildren along the way, to Maryland. Of course, Jack took the scrapbooks with him. After the reunion, they all went down to visit the sights in Washington, D.C., and specifically to visit the Navy Marine Corps Memorial Museum. Jack had the scrapbooks with him and while there, he asked to see the curator whose name was Mark Webber. Webber opened it to a 1932 page of the Manilla Times with headlines written in large red ink that read, "Japanese War Machine Rolls Over China." Webber took one look and said, "We'd love to have them. It's the Year of the Marine, next year." When Jack got home, he donated all his dad's memorabilia to the museum which included a chest full of sharp-shooting medals.

"Dad was a country boy, you know, so he could shoot. One of his medals was for shooting a Colt .45 revolver off a mounted horse, that's how far back he went," Jack said. The museum decided to do an extensive search of Kenesaw Pusel's history and found that he should also have been awarded the Yangtze medal because he had served on the Yangtze River. (Older readers may remember "The Sand Pebbles," the Steve McQueen movie about doing a Naval mission on that river.) The museum purchased a huge stainless steel display case to hold everything. Everyday, a museum worker would turn a page in the journal so the display was always fresh and new. When the museum opened for "The Year of the Marines," it had set up a huge exhibit made up entirely of his memorabilia.

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Kenesaw Pusels display at the Year of the Marines at Navy Memorial in DC 2016 

The head guy from the National Museum of the Marine Corps came to visit and while he was looking at the display he exclaimed, "Oh, I wish we had this down in Quantico!" to which the Navy Marine Corps Memorial Museum officer said, "He offered it to you three times and you didn't want it."

Jack feels strongly that his dad's things ended up where they belong. He visited his dad's exhibit several times while he was there. One of those times, while he was looking at it, a woman standing there said, "Oh, I wish we had this!"

Jack asked who she was and she told him she was the head tour guide for the National Museum of the Marine Corps. He told her, "I'm sorry, but I offered it to your people three different times and each time they said it would probably just get shoved into a closet and you wouldn't have any use for it." To which she groaned a sorrowful, "Oh no."

After his tour of Asia, Kenesaw Pusel wanted to see "the wild west." He re-enlisted and chose to go to Seattle. He said he had never seen such a big place in his life as Seattle. He was a guard at the Key Port Naval Station, on the peninsula on Puget Sound. Jack's mother was working as the base commander's maid. She and Jack's dad went out on a date and were married on May 30, 1935.

It turned out that a service man couldn't be married at his pay grade so he was discharged.

Then WWll broke out and Kenesaw went to join the Marines again. He had turned 30 five days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the military said they didn't want him because he was too old.

"Later on, of course, they took men much older," Jack Pusel said. They told him he would be more valuable to them working in the Bremerton Ship Yard as a machinist. "Dad's specialty was 20 and 40 millimeter guns."

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Jack and Nadine at Vietnam memorial "wall", Washington, D.C.

Eventually, after the war, Kenesaw and Sophrona settled back in Monitor on part of the family land homesteaded by Deak and Lucy Brown, where Jack was raised and where he and Nadine still live. Jack is active in veterans affairs and often takes his military Jeep to events around the valley. He likes to buys lots of American flags and can be found handing them out to kids at patriotic events.

Karen Hartman can be reached at reporter@cashmerevalleyrecord.com