St. Edward

WWII vet Carl Thompson recalls time in the service

Carl Thompson in uniform during basic training.
Carl Thompson

(Editor’s Note: This story is in honor of the 100th anniversary of the American Legion. Thompson has been a member of the American Legion for over 60 years.)
By Gabby Christensen

It wasn’t long after high school graduation that St. Edward native Carl Thompson found out he would be drafted for the service during WWII.
It was August of 1945 and although the war was nearing the end, 18-year-old Thompson thought he would be sent overseas.
“They changed their mind at the last minute,” Thompson said. “I don’t think they really knew what to do with us at the time.”
Now 91 years old, Thompson recalls travelling to Fort Leavenworth and then onto Fort Louis Washington by way of tube train.
He went through eight weeks of basic training and then eight weeks of engineer training.
Thompson was then shipped to California where he thought he would then be sent overseas.
That didn’t happen, though, and after six weeks Thompson was sent back to Fort Louis Washington.
During his time in the service, Thompson worked as a supply manager.
He remembers working in the general hospital where injured troops were sent.
“A lot of guys came in badly hurt,” Thompson said. “We saw all sorts of things in there. It was awful.”
Although times were bleak for a lot of the soldiers, Thompson and a buddy of his found a way to boost morale for their fellow comrades.
“People started letting us use their back yards for parties,” Thompson said. “People would even throw parties for the guys and we would get on a bus and travel to all the different homes in different cities. It was a lot of fun for them—and for us.”
Thompson returned to Boone County in November of 1946, after serving for 15 months.
Upon returning home, Thompson promptly began farming.
It wasn’t until 2009 that Thompson eventually retired from farming and up until last year, he worked in area sale barns where he accumulated over 60 years of experience.
In 1950, Thompson married his wife, Janet, who was also a St. Edward native.
Together, the couple had four children.
Thompson moved into his current home in town in 1969, where they both lived until Janet’s passing in 1997.
Today, Thompson still lives in the family home, which is decorated with photos in every room, bookmarking memories.
In an old photo album, Thompson still keeps photos from the war era, in which he can still point out faces and names from others he served with.
“Times are different today,” Thompson said. “People don’t keep pictures around as much as they used to. But I always will.”
Thompson, who hasn’t been able to do as much traveling since returning home from the military, said he was able to experience a lot of new things while serving.
“It was an experience that allowed me to see a lot of the country that I probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise,” Thompson said. “I also met a lot of people and made some good friends.”
For vets returning home from service, Thompson said he recommends they consider joining the American Legion.
“I’ve been a member for 66 years,” Thompson said. “It’s a good organization that does a lot for the community and for our vets. They help veterans get the healthcare they need and help families of veterans, too. We probably wouldn’t have all the advantages we have it weren’t for the Legion.”