Of all my memories, I cannot recall anything more exciting and joyous than that span of time from the liberation of my town until its return to the humdrum normality of peace.
The day that the American liberators came, the distant thunder of heavy guns could be heard, but we were used to that by then, that we no longer paid attention. Its intensity increased, but it was so gradual that it was well along in the afternoon when we realized that, that day would be different. The volume of artillery and small arms fire steadily increased till it seemed that it was just around the next bend.It was then that my mother decided it would be safer in our bomb shelter.
We stayed in the bomb shelter for what seemed to be an eternity. Then, for some unknown reason, the sounds of guns were replaced by an eerie silence. Shortly afterwards, very faintly at first, the rumble of tanks and other vehicles filtered through. The sounds grew louder and louder. Somebody reasoned that the Japanese did not have anything in such quantity to create all that noise, so they must be Americans. He decided to investigate while the rest of us waited in a mixture of fear and anticipation.
"Americans! The Americans are back," he shouted.
"Are you sure?" my mother asked. "Yes, come out and see for yourself," was his excited but happy reply.
We all filed out of the shelter and our eyes were greeted by the sight of a seemingly endless cavalcade of tanks, trucks, jeeps, and soldiers. The road side started to fill with people.... some were crying....some were laughing....while some just stared in disbelief. Three years of Japanese tyranny had just ended.
It took the American troops about two weeks to secure the area, but most of them remained after the battle. Some sort of "rest & relaxation", perhaps in preparation for a push towards other enemy strongholds. It was this period of time that I enjoyed the most.
There was a tank outfit, some combat engineers, and if my recollection serves me right, at least a battalion of infantry. Each outfit had its own mess hall and in the evenings, had movies.
I was befriended by one of the soldiers (more so than the others) and he gave me a mess kit. It sure was big treat for a boy of ten to be able to line up and eat with soldiers. I even had it better than they did because I could choose which mess hall to eat at and the servers were more generous to me. The evenings, I spent at the movies and the afternoons were used to check out what movie was playing at each camp. I did this because I did not want to waste my time on musicals and mushy love stories; I preferred Westerns and war movies.
It seemed like I could have anything for the asking, except for cigarettes. I tried to get some for a grown-up neighbor and I was given a harsh lecture. Candies and such, all I had to do was look at it hungrily and its given to me. In my strolls from camp to camp, I never returned home without my pockets bulging with candies and other goodies.
I really enjoyed those days and I was quite dejected when camp after camp was disbanded and life gradually returned to normal. There were still soldiers long after the last camp was struck down, but they were stationed at a base with gates and sentries, and regulations that precluded the same camaraderie that I have greatly enjoyed.