Reunions Recall the Rockets' Red Glare

Compiled by the VIEW staff.

When Armand Poisson thinks back to his first three years of Navy service during World War II, he has to admit it was not on a prestige vessel.

Instead, Poisson, then a chief petty officer, shipped out on the USS American Legion, an aging ocean liner pressed into service as a transport. It was already 21 years old when it was activated a few months before Pearl Harbor.

But though the American Legion wasn't much more than a rust bucket, Poisson and 600 or so crewmen served aboard her enthusiastically, transporting as many as 3,500 Marines at a time to such hot spots as Guadalcanal and Bougainville in the South Pacific. Then the war was over, the American Legion was scrapped and the members of her crew went their separate ways.

Poisson, who stayed in the Navy for 18 years after the war ended, didn't forget the American Legion and, instead, he has become one of a long list of veterans who have taken it upon themselves to try to keep up old wartime acquaintances. And a favorite tactic is the periodic reunion.

Even for a ship as pedestrian as the American Legion, the strength of the wartime kinship remains strong, according to Poisson, who now lives in retirement in Chula Vista outside San Diego. "It (the reunion) renews old friendships and recaptures the camaraderie," he said in a telephone interview.

"The wives seem to like it quite a bit because most of us were single in those days and we don't talk too much about what happened. So for the wives, sharing information at a reunion is a way to find out what their husbands went through."

The American Legion's next reunion will be in Las Vegas this September.

If notices received for possible publication by The Times are any indication, the World War II reunion lives on as a vibrant institution for tens of thousands of people like Poisson, who can be reached by former American Legion crewmen at 1500 3rd Ave., apt. 33, Chula Vista, Calif. 92011.

Other upcoming reunions include: The 95th Bomb Group (write to Adam Hinojos, Box 372, Lemoore, Calif. 93245); Headquarters Battery, 8th Infantry Division Artillery (James Woolley, RD 2, Box 230NN, Love Creek Park, Lewes, Del. 19958); the 459th Bombardment Group (Keith Magee, 16444 N. 33rd Way, Phoenix, Ariz. 85032; Flying Cadet Class 41-E (L. Berglund, 1510 Tatum Dr., Arlington, Tex. 76012); 30th Bombardment Group (30th Bombardment Group Assn., 19 Lowndes St., Charleston, S.C. 29401), and 104th Infantry (Timberwolf) Division (Fran Haas, 1965 Winchester, Lyndhurst, Ohio 44124).

Births on Fourth

Edie and George Ishii of Silver Lake didn't exactly plan things this way, but they have turned into perhaps one of the most unintentionally patriotic couples in recent memory. When their second child, George Alan Ishii, was born on the Fourth of July in Beverly Hospital, Montebello, he was the second Ishii offspring to come into the world on Independence Day.

The first-born, Yolanda, chose July 4, 1981, for her arrival.

Edie Ishii is both puzzled and amused by it. Both babies were late, arriving several weeks after their due dates. But two children on the Fourth?

"I was shocked," said Edie Ishii.

Is this a manifestation of some kind of new patriotism? Said Edie: "Seems that way, doesn't it?"

George Smith: Ole!

George B. Smith, a retired Los Angeles Unified School District Spanish teacher, called up the Los Angeles Public Library a few months ago and told officials there to come on over to his house and pick up his bullfighting literature collection. He was going into the hospital for surgery and, at age 91, didn't want to assume anything about his longevity.

Smith is still alive, recuperating in a Santa Ana nursing home, and the library has found that, unlikely though it might have seemed, it has inherited a world-class collection of bullfighting materials.

It includes 1,500 books and other bound volumes of bullfighting materials, all accumulated by Smith over a period of several decades of visits to Spain and proxy shopping by Spanish friends whom the American teacher met during his travels.

Michael Leonard, a library spokesman, said that as the years went by and Smith's ability to travel was affected by age, he began sending money to friends in Spain who sent him new materials as they became available there. And then, said Leonard, once a year, Smith--even after he became completely unable to travel--would send an annual check to a Spanish friend so that bullfighting aficionados the teacher had befriended could gather for a dinner party, even if Smith couldn't be there himself.

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