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November 28, 2014
Oroville Mercury Register
September 13, 1943
Robert Dennis Dies: Has Four Sons In War Pastor of Local Church, Helped Found Townsend Club

The Rev. Mr. Robert H. Dennis, 62, died, at his home on Robinson Street, at 6:20 a.m. today of a hear ailment. He had been in ill health for several months. Mr. Dennis, a barber, had been active in church work for the last 30 Years, and three years ago became pastor of the Missionary Baptist Church in El Medio. One of the organizers of the Townsend club in Oroville, he was for several years president of Club No. 1. Mr. Dennis was born in Tennessee, Aug. 9, 1881. He came to California 21 years ago from Iowa, settling near Marysville, where he operated a farm and dairy. He came to Oroville in August, 1930. He was a barber at various locations in Oroville, in the last several years, operating a shop on Marysville Road. He is survived by his wife and four daughters and five sons. Three of the latter are in the armed services and a third, a civilian, is a prisoner of the Japanese. Survivors are: Mrs. Gula Dennis, his wife, and the following sons and daughters, Mrs. Naomi Steed and Mrs. Rachel Theime, both of Benicia, Lt. Robert L. Dennis, of the U.S. Navy: now in the Pacific, William M. Dennis, who was captured on Wake Island by the Japanese, Mrs. Orlena Beever of Oroville, Staff Sergeant H. E. Dennis of the U. S. Army Air Force, now at Carlsbad, N. M., K. L. Dennis pharmacist’s mate of the U. S. Navy, stationed in San Francisco and John L. and Beth Dennis of Oroville. Funeral arrangements are being held up pending word from Sergeant Dennis, Hamilton and Riley has charge of the rites.(Stu-Sadly, Robert died before all his boys came home. )

Charles Leroy Myers (Chico High School Graduate and Prisoner of War, Wake Island 1941)
“After Capture", continued)
When the war ended the Japanese said we had used poison gas. We were all out on work detail when the officers and Japanese workers were lined up outside the main office building. A speech came over the loud speaker. The women in the main office building of the ware house started to cry. We knew something big had happened or was about to happen. A few minutes later a squad of soldiers came on the run to take us in. We thought that the USA had invaded Japan proper. They had told us several times we were to be executed if Japan was invaded. When we arrived at camp everyone was kept on the parade ground. The camp commander got up and through an interpreter said the war was over and now we can be friends again. When he finished making his speech he left the platform and left the camp. You could not find a Japanese soldier anywhere within 30 minutes. We were left all alone. American planes had dropped instructions as to what happened. They said Japan had surrendered. All military men were to report to the highest ranking officer in the camp and to take his orders. The highest ranking officer was Dutchman from Java. He wanted everyone to line-up and told us to behave like soldiers. He thought we were all American soldiers. The American doctor in camp told him he could tell the American soldiers what to do, but he had no control over the civilians in camp. The Dutchman had guards at the entrance but several civilians took down the side fence and went to town for a few days. Dad and I sat in camp waiting for American troops to show up. I found out where the rest of our group from Camp 18 had gone. I went down to the railroad and went to their camp in Moji to see the other men who were in our squad, Pat, Adam and several others. This camp was a coal mine near Moji. After visiting for a day or so, I went back to Camp 1. The Americans had dropped food to all the camps they knew about. Several Australians had gotten some wood alcohol thinking it was Saki and mixed it with fruit juice from the food drops. Several men died and many were sick. A plane with American doctors was flown in from a base camp at the South end of the island. This was the closest base from Okinawa, which was controlled by the U. S. at the time. The doctors said if we went down to this new base, they would take us to Okinawa. The next day my father and I headed South with two English soldiers. We got to the train station and were put into the front car. The Japanese asked where we wanted to go. We told them and started to find seats. There was a Japanese soldier who still had his gun. He started saying “Hari Kari, Americans bad!” The four of us decided to take him down if he got up from his seat. A few minutes later the Japanese police came aboard to take him off. (To be continued.)

Stu’s Notes: I
t never ceases to amaze me how I stumble on to a story that relates to the one I’m doing. I do know Leroy is still alive and well, I have sent word to him through his daughter Kathy, who I see every week or so, to let him know about Robert Dennis and his son William who like him was taken prisoner on Wake Island. Robert having 4 daughters and 5 sons, hopefully some still survive, maybe even William. There are many Townsend’s in the Oroville area, including my long time friend and Barber Jim, and Oroville Veterans Memorial park member Jim Townsend and now I wonder would there still be some members of the #1 Townsend Club around Oroville. Pearl Harbor Day, Dec7th is approaching fast. I’m pretty sure there will be an honoring ceremony at the Gridley Cemetery. I’ve gone to Gridley for over 15 years now. I must make some phone calls. Sunday, November 30th the sun will set at the end of Grand Avenue, looking west from my 6th Street if it doesn’t rain. Look for me there.