Editor's note: This is part of a weekly series published each Monday between Memorial Day and Veterans Day honoring local veterans.
WARREN - John Pappas recalls the time when, as an infantryman fighting in the south of the Philippines, the residents of a small mountain village misled the group of U.S. soldiers he was among on the whereabouts of enemy Japanese forces.
U.S. fighters asked the villagers if any Japanese soldiers were near. The villagers said no - to protect themselves from harm from the Japanese, Pappas said - but the enemy was near, nearer than those U.S. soldiers could have imagined.
Japanese troops were below in a valley and up above the ground.
''That's when all hell broke loose. They were up in the trees,'' Pappas, 91, said recently from his home on Warren's northwest end.
Pappas, a corporal, was stationed on Luzon, the largest island in the Philippines, toward the close of World War II. First, he was based near the Bay of Manila and then later, further south near Mount Mayon, a volcano near Legaspi City.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
World War II U.S. Air Force and Army veteran John Pappas stands outside his home in Warren.
It was on the volcano that his outfit encountered other Japanese soldiers.
''We fought right on lava rock,'' Pappas said.
It was 1942 and Pappas was a 22-year-old newlywed working at cabinet, cupboard, sink-maker Mullins Manufacturing on University Street N.E. and his draft notice arrived: He was now a member of the U.S. Air Force.
SERVICE / RANK: Air Force and Army, corporal
AWARDS: Good Conduct medal, Southern Pacific medal and Victory medal
FAMILY: Wife, Jean; children, Tom, Jack, Jean, Lee and Patricia; and multiple grandchildren and great-grandchildren
OCCUPATION: Steel mill worker and business owner
Pappas and about 380 other men left Warren for Camp Perry along the shore of Lake Erie. It was there that Pappas' preference to work in a quartermaster unit was rejected and instead, he was assigned to work on an Air Force ground crew.
Pappas remembers telling the man making the assignments he didn't know anything about planes. Pappas also remembers the man's response: You'll learn.
He was moved to Mississippi and then to Colorado, in Colorado Springs and there in Pueblo, where he got orders, because of the Battle of Bulge, that he was pulled from the Air Force, put in the infantry and sent to the Philippines.
Although he was thousands of miles away from Warren, he says it was like home.
That's because his brother Ernest and friend, Ezra Chadwick of Warren, were stationed there, too. Ernest was at a base nearby, and Chadwick was at the same location as Pappas, what was called the 5th Depot.
The two had arrived in the Philippines after Pappas.
''That was something I didn't expect, it was just like being at home,'' Pappas said.
Pappas said he was supposed to be part of the first wave to attack Japan, but then the atomic bombs were dropped.
He was discharged in November 1945 and returned home to his wife, Jean. The two had met roller skating in Lake Milton before the war and had married in 1941.
Upon his return, he worked in a steel mill but quickly changed the direction of work. Pappas said he thought about getting into business, ''so I leased a gas station,'' which evolved into his operation of about four in Trumbull County.
And, he owned a restaurant in Braceville near where the Ohio Turnpike is now.
Pappas is a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars 1090 in Warren, the American Legion and the Forty and Eight, an honor organization for U.S. veterans.