Editor’s note: World War II officially ended Sept. 2, 1945, when the Japanese signed surrender terms. We’re honoring the war’s area veterans over the next several months with these brief profiles.
Date of birth: Aug 14, 1923
Dates of service: July, 1942 to December 1945
Hometown: Newton, Iowa
Lives in: Clovis
Theater and location of service: South Pacific
Branch: Naval Air Corps
Rank: Aviation radioman 1st class
Military Unit and specialty: USS Intrepid; aerial gunner
Veteran organizations: American Legion
In his words: Part of a two-man crew, Emperley served in the South Pacific as a gunner on dive bombers. The plane would fly straight down, drop its bombs at 2,000 feet and pull out of the dive at approximately 1,000 feet.
The view from the plane was “very amazing,” he said.
“It was something we had to do. I volunteered. We had to win the war.” Emperley said. “I’d liked better to be in the Navy Air Corps than be drafted.”
Buren D. Johnston
Date of birth: March 12, 1917
Dates of service: December 1940 to June 1946
Branch: Army National Guard and Army
Rank: Staff sergeant
Military unit and specialty: 200th coast artillery; anti-aircraft
Veteran organizations: American Disabled Veterans, Veteran of Foreign Wars
In his words: While operating a .50-millimeter gun for coastal defense, Johnston was captured and forced to toil in Japanese coal mines in Fukuoka prison camp No. 23.
He recalls frequent beatings, and on one occasion, the Japanese brought all the prisoners together to witness the execution of two fellow POWs. He was in prison 13 months.
The news the war was over came from a Korean woman working with them who had heard reports on the radio.
“We done the best we could to get through it — to get back home. I felt pretty good to get home, we was excited all right,” Johnston said.
Recognized for his service and sacrifices, Johnston received several medals, including the Bronze Star.
World War II profiles are compiled by CNJ staff writer Sharna Johnson. Contact her at 763-6991 or by e-mail: