Veteran of the Day graphic by Emma Catlett.
Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is actually two Army Veterans, Denton W. Crocker Sr. and Denton “Mogie” W. Crocker Jr. Denton served during World War II from 1942 to 1945, and Mogie served in Vietnam from 1964 to 1966.
Denton was born in May 1919 in Salem, Massachusetts. As a child, Denton developed a passion for nature and the world around him as he went on hiking and backpacking trips with his family. His love of nature continued into his adult years as he pursued a degree in biology from Northeastern University. However, the outbreak of World War II would change his plans and infuse him with fond memories of his time as a soldier in the Pacific.
Denton received his draft letter in January1942. He was able to defer his enlistment until June of that year to allow him to graduate. On June 29th, Denton arrived at Fort Devens in Massachusetts. His time at Fort Devens and Basic Training at Camp Pickett, Virginia was a pleasant experience for him, as he enjoyed the physical activities, meeting new people and the good southern cooking.
Denton continued his training at various posts in the U.S., and it wasn’t until January 1944 that he left the States for New Guinea. Denton was part of a Malaria Survey Unit whose job was to find where mosquitoes were breeding, the hours of the day they were biting and make recommendations for control. Since the Japanese had been driven out of New Guinea prior to his arrival, Denton and his team saw little to no combat.
In addition to his time in New Guinea, Denton also traveled to the Philippines, the Dutch Indies, Okinawa and Japan. Although Denton remembers his time in the Pacific fondly, there was one near-death experience that stood out in his mind. On a convoy heading to an island for invasion, he saw twenty-one planes shot down. As they came on to the beach, a Japanese plane was shooting at them while the door came down. Thankfully, the gunner was able to shoot the plane down, saving Denton’s and many other men’s lives.
After the war, Denton kept in touch with all but one man from his thirteen-man unit. He then got married, attended graduate school and had four children. He credits the Army with helping him to grow from a young man to a self-reliant person.
Denton’s son Mogie was born in June 1947. He was the oldest of Denton and Jean-Marie Crocker’s children and was fondly remembered as a very bright young man. His enlistment in the U.S. Army came about in a rather unforeseen manner that left his family surprised and puzzled at his patriotism.
On Sunday October 18, 1964, Mogie left his home in Saratoga Springs, New York without telling anyone in his family. He had run away to enlist in the Army and knew his parents would not approve. In a letter found in his desk drawer, Mogie stated that he had enlisted in the war for several reasons. One reason was that he “wanted to help the Vietnamese keep their freedom,” and he also wanted to earn his way in the world. With youth and idealistic views, Mogie got his wish when he became an infantryman.
During his time in Vietnam, Mogie wrote letters home to his family and told them about his experiences overseas. However, Mogie’s time and fascination with Vietnam was sadly cut short. In June 1966, his mother and father received notice that Mogie had passed away from injuries received from small arms fire. He died June 4, 1966, a day after his 19th birthday.
You can learn more about Denton’s and Mogie’s experiences during WWII and the Vietnam War through the Veterans History Project, or by reading Denton’s memoir entitled, “My War on Mosquitos, 1942-1945” linked here: https://memory.loc.gov/diglib/vhp/story/loc.natlib.afc2001001.00392/pageturner?ID=pm0001001&page=2 , and by reading Jean-Marie Crocker’s memoir about her son entitled “Son of the Cold War: A Personal History” linked at: https://memory.loc.gov/diglib/vhp-stories/loc.natlib.afc2001001.11174/pageturner?ID=pm0001001&page=6.
We honor your service, Denton and Mogie!
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Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Graphic designer: Emma Catlett
Editor: Kaylee Hogsed
Author: Melissa L. Ter Burgh