Born north of Fairmont in 1927
World War II U.S. Army Veteran
It’s a common story. One repeated thousands of times throughout the Midwest during the War years of the 1940s – High school graduates leaving the family farm and joining the military to fight. For Robert Malo of Fairmont, it was no different.
Malo was 18-year-old when he enlisted in the United States Army. “I wanted to go in early, but my parents wouldn’t sign the waiver when I was 17, so I had to wait,” Malo remembered.
After basic training at Fort Dix in New Jersey, Malo was sent to radio operators school. It was around the same time as the Japanese surrender. He joined up with the 25th Army Infantry Lightning Division with the Signal Corps., then was shipped to California to board a victory ship with other troops headed for Japan.
“It was winter when we got to Yokohama, Japan,” Malo recalled. “It was so cold, and the devastation was unbelievable. There was so much debris, bombs and airplane parts scattered everywhere.”
One of Malo’s duties was standing guard over the Japanese prisoners. “They were still considered the enemy,” he said. Japanese civilians had to be watched, too, Malo remembered. “They would try and steal gas or supplies from the base and we had orders to shoot and not take any prisoners.”
Another of Malo’s jobs was to take mail out to the surrounding units so the soldiers could get letters from home.
The Army veteran brought up an interesting side note, not often addressed when talking about war memories. “There was a real division in the 24th Infantry between the White officers and the Black troops,” Malo said. “It didn’t go too smoothly.” The United States Armed Forces were officially segregated until 1948, although World War II helped lay the foundation for post-war integration of the military. Executive Order 9981 officially ended segregation in the Armed Forces in 1948, but some forms of racial segregation continued until after the Korean War.
Malo was in Japan for nearly 10 months before leaving the military heading back to Martin County. He rejoined his dad on the family farm, eventually taking over the family farming business. Malo said he retired from farming when he was 64 years old. He has two grown children from his first wife. His son, Douglas, is a professor at South Dakota University and his daughter Georgie continues to operate the Malo family farm with her husband.