By Judy Hunter Kirkham
Forest LeRoy Hunter
Forrest LeRoy Hunter was born the secon...
In Forrest’s house one never slept alone. All the boys were in one room and the
girls in another. He never had his own bed...
That night a little girl came crying through the front lines. She was the banker’s
daughter and had a note and quite a bit...
wheel so hard he bent the steering wheel. He hit the other truck and dented the fender—it
was an officer. At first the off...
gallon drums and they had a much-welcomed shower, but it was salt water they had to
use which left them feeling quite stic...
Conant. Forrest’s father died New Years Day of 1958. Judy had just been brought home
from the hospital when Forrest left f...
job and on the side Forrest and Jean continue to raise a nice garden, pigs, cows, and to
help with and enjoy their many gr...
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  1. 1. PERSONAL HISTORY OF FOREST LEROY HUNTER By Judy Hunter Kirkham Forest LeRoy Hunter Forrest LeRoy Hunter was born the second day of August, 1925 in Driggs, Idaho in the county of Teton. His father was a freighter and used a team and wagon to haul bricks from Utah to the Driggs Basin. An older sister, ElDoris, had the privilege of tending Forrest quite often. She said, “Forrest was a cry baby. We’d put him in the wagon and had to keep it going because he’d cry if we stopped it.” He was a stocky, tubby child and loved to double up his fist and show off how tough he was. When he was four or five years old his family moved to Basalt and it was there he started school. His father, Adam Lynn Hunter worked in the spud houses or for farmers. His wages of $1.00 a day had to support a family of six or seven by then. At school, two grades met in each room with one teacher for those two grades. The children rode to school on a rubber-tired wagon. In the spring the crusted snow would thaw and the wagon would tip over quite often. In the winter the children would ride in a sleigh with a potbelly stove in it to keep them warm. Forrest remembers his older brother Jack tossing him out of the wagon to run along behind so he wouldn’t freeze. One of Forrest’s teachers was Miss Vless. ElDoris relates being quite amused when Forrest came into her room one day and said, “Mr. Hawkes, Mill Vless would like some squaws.” He hadn’t quite mastered his t’s yet so straws came out a bit different. The family used to have a goat and the kids would hide their straw hats behind their backs so the goat couldn’t eat them. ElDoris had worse luck because the goat ate her dress! A favorite family activity was when homemade skis were made for everyone and they would take turns skiing behind the sled. Those waiting a turn in the wagon had hot bricks at their feet to keep them warm. To top off the end of the ski parties, Forrest’s mother would always have the big dishpan filled with popcorn for all the kids, neighbors included. Forrest liked to hunt a lot and frequently went with his brothers hunting rabbits. They often walked two or three miles with only one shell. In other words, they had one shot to get a rabbit. At age seven or eight, after working all fall picking spuds to buy school clothes, he still had enough to buy his first .22 rifle single shot, and for Christmas that year he got a carton of ten boxes of .22 shells. The instructions that came with the shells were to keep the family in meat such as pheasant, duck, and rabbit. Forrest became their main source of meat for many years.
  2. 2. In Forrest’s house one never slept alone. All the boys were in one room and the girls in another. He never had his own bed until he joined the service and got a canvas cot. Forrest spent the summers of his early life working at various jobs. At sixteen he worked in Montana stacking hay; at seventeen he welded in a shipyard in Portland, Oregon; and then, at eighteen he joined the Marine Corps. He enlisted at Pocatello, Idaho in August of 1943 and was sent to Boot Camp in San Diego, California. By June of the next year he was in combat. In his words, Boot Camp was “murder”. The recruits slept the first night in barracks but after that they were in tents. They were taught not to stick their hands in their pockets and if they did their pockets were filled with sand and sewed shut. If an officer told them to do something, there was no asking “Why” or “How,” but rather “How long?” Because of his hunting experience, Forrest could outshoot everyone in platoon, including the drill instructor. A score of 306 was “excellent” and Forrest shot a 319, “high excellent.” In the spring of 1944 Forrest’s division was sent to Pearl Harbor on an aircraft carrier called “The Wasp.” They did calisthenics to keep fit. Forest then was sent to the island of Maui. He was assigned to the 4th Marine Rocket Detachment. Camp was made halfway up a volcano where they trained to launch rockets. The rockets were 4.5 rockers that were fired or launched from trucks. In June of 1944 Forrest experienced his first combat on the island of Saipan of the Mariana Islands. The Marines and the Army infantry had a clear-cut mission: They were to seize the Mariana Islands of Saipan, Tinian, and Guam, the next logical steppingstone in Admiral Nimitz; westward drive throughout the central Pacific. The Mariana were only 1,300 miles west of Tokyo, and were key stronghold in the Japanese defensive chain. Saipan was some fourteen miles long and five miles wide, with towns, sugar plantations, terraced hillsides and a large Japanese civilian population. Volcanic in origin, it had at its center a 1,554-foot peak called Mount Tapotchau. The U.S. plan of attack called for the 2nd and 4th Marine divisions to assault the beaches on the southwest coast of Saipan June 15, 1944. The 2nd Division would push inland and upward to capture Mount Tapotchau. Meanwhile, the 4th Division would head eastward across the island, cutting the Japanese off and capturing Alito Airfield. * Forrest recalls they went from the ship to landing craft boats and then drove their trucks through about 200 yards of water (they had previously waterproofed the undersides of the trucks). It took about one month to take the island. They lived mostly on lumps of sugar, hard tack candy and what was called “dog biscuits.” Forrest would put these biscuits in his canteen, then add some water, break it up and make mush out of it. There was nothing much on the island to eat; they found a few peanuts and some squash. The island was declared secure on July 9, 1944. The men had gone almost 30 days without taking their shoes off. Forrest’s socks had rotten his feet and many of the soldiers had foot rot. There were many snipers and booby-traps to watch out for but there was not much hand-to-hand combat. As they hit the capital of Saipan Forrest remembers that the only think left standing was one wall of the bank. At the City Parks was a ball diamond. On the pitcher’s mound, at catcher, and on first, second, and third bases were dead Japanese, and in the batter box was one dead Marine. Someone had placed the bodies in that position.
  3. 3. That night a little girl came crying through the front lines. She was the banker’s daughter and had a note and quite a bit of money tagged around her neck. She was only about five years old. The officers took her in and cared for her. Next, the 4th Division went to an island across the channel from Saipan called Tinian. The only beaches that seemed to be suitable for landing were in the southwest corner so all the defenses of the Japanese were concentrated there. The north had only two tiny gaps of sand between cliffs of jagged coral—an unlikely site to land. On July 4th, landing boats started to shore and then pulled back. Meanwhile, two regiments of the 4th Marines had landed on the tiny north shores. They got all their equipment up the rocky ledges and by nightfall 15,000 Marines were ashore. The trick had worked. Forrest lost one of his best fiends on this island. He had met Carter during line training. After Boot Camp and Basic Training the men were trained in different areas. (Forrest was trained for scout and sniper but that wasn’t needed so when he got overseas he was put on special weapons, particularly rockets.) At about four o’clock in the afternoon, a sniper killed a fellow named “Abe”, shot Carter right above the ear, and hit another man in the leg. The wounded man was able to go back and tell the other men. The Jap surrendered, but carter only lived until the next morning. In two or three weeks the island was secured. On August 2nd, Forrest’s birthday, the Marines loaded the sip to go back to Maui in the Hawaiian Islands. There, the 4th Division was split and half went to the 5th Marine Division, Forrest being in this group. They then went to Hawaii or the “Big Island,” and started a rocket detachment. The next combat, which Forrest described as a “mean one”, was on Iwo Jima. Iwo Jima lay 625 miles north of the Marianas and was a key island for the U.S. because it had two airfields and was within good range to the western Pacific and Japan. Japan knew it would be attacked and spent all summer of 1944 building up its defenses. On Iwo, 6,821 soldiers were killed, missing or died from wounds received there, and 19,217 were wounded. Iwo had the highest casualty rate of any engagement in 168 years of Maine Corps history. On day six of the invasion, as the men fought for Hill 382 and Turkey Knob, nearly four Marines went down for every yard gained. (We are fortunate to have Forrest to even tell this story!) Also on this island was Mt. Suribachi where the famous photograph was taken of the U.S. soldiers pushing up the American flag. Forrest describes his experience on the island as follows: “The island was volcanic ash, there were only one group of trees and that got blown up. We could dig foxholes but the sulfur was very hot. Each soldier had two blankets and instead of putting them over them they would put them underneath them if they couldn’t find a board because of the heat.” On this island, Forrest had another friend called “Big and Mean Smitty.” Forrest describes Smitty as “230 pounds solid fat.” Smitty was from Maine and he and would argue which were best—Idaho spuds or Maine spuds. But when Smitty was drunk Forrest would agree Maine spuds were best. When there was a flat tire, they would just get Smitty to lift the jeep while the tire was changed. He was 30 years old and didn’t know how to drive, so one day he got out on a baseball field in a truck and was driving in circle to learn. He was having a great time but there was another truck coming through the center of the field. As he came around the men watching yelled, “Turn!” He jerked the
  4. 4. wheel so hard he bent the steering wheel. He hit the other truck and dented the fender—it was an officer. At first the officer was mad, but when he found out it was Smitty he said, “We’ll fix it.” It was known Smitty didn’t like officers. Once on Saipan, Smitty was ordered to guard the officers. He said, “If I have to stay awake to guard them they won’t get any sleep either.” So he spent the night shooting rats out of the trees with a machine gun. Flares were shot into the air, a parachute would open on them and they would float back down to the ground. This was how they kept the area lit at night. The rats would run up the trees when the flares were shot and these gave Smitty his targets for the night. Needless to say the officers didn’t want Smitty to guard them anymore. As they approached the beach of Iwo Jima, Smitty was in a 4 by 4 truck ad it got stuck in the sand. Smitty’s driver got hit and then Smitty caught a mortar shell right in the belly. He held his fist in his wound and yelled, “Better find a dry land swabbie!” (These were navy corpsmen that were first aid men.) He went a little ways and then passed out. It took six men to load him back in the ship. Forrest still doesn’t know if Smitty died of his wounds or not. The 5th Division spent the first night on Iwo Jima on the beach, but no one slept. They dug foxholes and banked them up with sand and boards. By morning shells hand blown the sand away. They were about 1,500 yards down the beach from Mr. Suribachi. Forrest said this is where he had a guardian angel. He relates the story as follows: “I had the rear wheels of my truck shot out from under me and a few of my rockets wet on fire but not enough to disable us. We were ahead of the front line and we put out 72 rockets in one to one and a half minutes. We flattened the area out but the front line wasn’t ready to advance and they yelled to us to jump out of the truck and get in a hole. So we did and then everything went silent. It was spooky; there wasn’t even any small fire—nothing. I got into a hole chest-deep. Hamilton, a buddy, did the same in a hole next to me. We were talking back and forth wondering what was going on when a mortar hit right between us………and didn’t go off. Either it was a dud or they didn’t pull the pin. It bounced and landed in the lieutenant’s hole nearby. That’s probably the very closest I came to death that I know of.” They fought their way to the other end of the island until it was finally secured. But then, according to Forrest, we had “to turn around and fight all the way back the ones we missed the way over.” Forrest, a corporal, Rhodes, a private first class, and Clements, a sergeant were picked by the lieutenant to seal up any caves that had been by-passed. They had a trough to place the rockets in and two nails for the electrical firing point. First, one would fire a machine gun in the cave to keep the Japs back while the other two crawled up and set up the trough and rocket. To set it off a wire was connected to each nail. Clements would set the charge off. They had to hold their ears and keep their mouth open or the concussion would break their eardrums. Forrest’s division spent about 45 days on the island. When they set up camp to wait for the ships to come to take them off they found a pump and got some pope to pump the water in, then covered the pipe with sand. Because the sand was so hot, it heated the water so well that they could barely stand under it. Holes were punched in 50-
  5. 5. gallon drums and they had a much-welcomed shower, but it was salt water they had to use which left them feeling quite sticky. Finally they got on the ship, the “Merchant Marin.” The ship was short of supplies and the only thing they had to eat was canned chicken, but to the men, it was like New York steak, because they had had all the rations they wanted! Once back at Hilo, Hawaii, they rested for one week, not even having to answer roll call. At the first opportunity, Forrest went into town with Reed Baird, an old school buddy, and ordered one dozen eggs, sunny-side up, and a bowl of French fries each. He ate it all and declared it was “the best meal I ever had.” Forrest next went to San Diego to be quarantined for one week and then went on to Pocatello. It was now the first part of November 1945. On the 25th of that same month he married Judith McBride in the Logan temple. He had met Judy in high school and they wrote to each other during war. After they were married they went to Idaho Falls for their honeymoon. Judy finished high school that spring; meanwhile, they lived in the basement of Judy’s parents home, Zelma and Wallace McBride. When Forrest was released from the service in the spring, he went to work for Eldon Jolley on a farm. They moved to what are now the Peterson Farm and that fall Forrest went to work welding at Belville Manufacturing. While he was working there their first child, Marsha Emma was born on October 31, 1946. The next year Forrest attended Boise Junior College, mostly to play football. He played the quarterback position. Forrest Mont, “Monty,” was born on October 2th, 1947. With two children for support, that ended school for Forrest. He had taken a few machinist classes, so he returned to work at Belville running the lathe. The next couple of years Forrest worked Forrest worked for the State Police as a highway patrolman. His third child, Wallace Marion, was born on September 29th 1950. Forrest farmed a year on the reservation and then another year at McBrides'. He next farmed on the river, and during this time Anthony Lynn, “Tony,” and David Jack were added to the family. Tony was born on March 18th, 1952, and Jack was born January 19th, 1954. Forrest said Tony was a bull-headed and wouldn’t answer to his name so he called him “Joe” and he would pay attention. One day on the farm someone noticed Wally was missing. Marsha was carrying Jack, and Monty was with her but no Wally. Forrest asked Marsh, “Where’s Wally?” No one knew. Forrest thought he heard a faint cry, so he jumped the fence and found Wally crying in the canal hanging on to a board that held the milk cans. Forrest reached down and scooped him up out of the water. With a rapidly growing family it was sometimes hard to keep track of everyone. In February of 1955, a new opportunity for work came to Forrest. He went to work for Gibbons and Reed Construction Company. James Randall was born on April 9, 1955, that same year after which the family moved to Portland, Oregon, to the new job. At work, Forrest ran the backhoe and dragline. Forrest and Judy bought their first house in Gresham, Oregon but only stayed there a couple of years. Not liking all the rainy weather in Portland, the couple eventually moved to Dunsmuir, California. They first lived on Butterfly Avenue but soon moved do to Conant to a roomier place. They lived next to an elderly man named Mr. Smith who was really good to the kids. Judith Marie was born December 30, 1957 while they lived at
  6. 6. Conant. Forrest’s father died New Years Day of 1958. Judy had just been brought home from the hospital when Forrest left for Idaho to the funeral. At this time Forrest and Judy were having problems in their marriage, which ended in divorce. After the divorce Forrest worked one year in California and then went back to Idaho and lived with his mother. Once back at Idaho Falls he worked out at the AEC site. Later Marsha came to live with Forrest and Grandma Hunter’s house. She was fourteen at the time and they got along wonderfully. Gibbons and Reed sent Forrest to South Dakota and Marsha went with him. She kept house and did the cooking and washing for Forrest, taking care of him very well. After the job was over, they returned to Idaho Falls where she went to school. Forrest went up to Bozeman, Montana to visit this brother Vee. Both Vee and Forrest’s mother had repeatedly told him about Jeannie Kelsey. Forrest had gone to grade school with Jean, (then Jean Armstrong), so he had known her a long time. When his mother suggested he take her and Jean out to dinner he decided that since Forrest was “just a friend” he could take her out. From her previous marriage Jean had five children who decided that since Forrest was “just a friend” he could take her out. They went to Bear’s ruck Stop. And had rib steak. The next day Forrest returned to Idaho Falls; Jean had told him she wasn’t interested in anyone then, so Forrest didn’t’ see her again for another year. The next year she was ready to be more than “just friends.” Jean had four boys and a girl: Terry, the oldest was 17, followed by Susan, Steve, Mike, and Scott who was about 10. Forrest and Jean got married on April 27, 1964. On their honeymoon they went to Spokane, Washington to meet Marsha and Lynn. It was a good thing that Marsha had gotten married, Forrest says, or Jean might not have had a chance. Marsha was very protective of Forrest and earlier when he was dating a lady named Shirley in Idaho Falls, Marsha had told her if Shirley thought she was going to get her Dad she had another thing coming. They lived in Bozeman at Jean’s place for one-year working construction and then in 1965 they came to Blackfoot, Idaho. They built their home on 40 acres and Forrest worked at the Gay mines. At times various members of the family came to live with Forrest. Monty came first, followed by Wally and they both graduated from Blackfoot High School. Tony and Jack spent a couple summers moving pipe. Randy went to one year of school in Blackfoot, playing on the basketball team there; Judy Marie never lived with Forrest for any length of time but visited each summer. Later jobs in Forrest’s life included working at the county courthouse as a deputy assessor for a couple of years. (On the side he always farmed or raised sheep and other animals to supplement their income.) He then worked construction one year on his own and then started up a construction company with Monty, jack and Randy after selling 30 acres of his land. The company was called F.L. Hunter and Sons. They worked jobs from 1972-1978. The sons then went on to other construction jobs on their own and Forrest continued with construction for one more year. After that year he sold oil for Untied Lubricants for a year and a half. In 1980, after much controversy and publicity, he bid and got the contract for the county sanitary landfill and collection system. This has proved to be very profitable for him in 19881 Randy and his family moved back to Blackfoot from California to help with the job. They are currently working hard at this
  7. 7. job and on the side Forrest and Jean continue to raise a nice garden, pigs, cows, and to help with and enjoy their many grandchildren. Looking back, Forrest recalls how he loved to play sports. He played basketball in high school and was the quarter back for the football team. In Jr. College he played halfback on 2nd string. He is also an excellent roller skater and enjoys it very much. After he was married he still played what he calls “outlaw ball,” (which was playing basketball on the local town team). One time they got to play against the Harlem Globetrotters for a money-raising project. He said he would guard one player and all of a sudden the ball was gone. (He had put the ball under his shirt then still acted like his was dribbling.) Forrest said guarding them made him feel like a fool. Another love Forrest had is hunting. He has a hunting story for almost each of the boys—usually about the first time he took each of them hunting. “One trip Wally and I went up Big Elk Creek. We spotted an elk two to three miles away. Wayne, a friend of Wally’s that went with us, got tired so Wally and I walked ahead trying to catch up with the elk. After walking quite a long ways we decided we’d go a few more ridges and if we didn’t catch up with them we’d go back. We sat down and took off our gloves and began eating a candy bar when we looked across the clearing and saw a cow and calf elk. We couldn’t get closer so decided to shoot from there—it was about 400 yards. We counted to three and shot. Just then a herd came crashing out of the trees directly at us. I shot the leader and it dropped 150 feet from us. Wally shot his last shot and then as I was ready to shoot again Wally grabbed my rifle out of my hand saying ‘Something’s wrong with mine, give me yours!’ Sure enough, something was wrong with it—it was empty! This was Wally’s first encounter with elk and he didn’t know how big they were. Each of us had one down. Wally stood there shaking his head and said ‘We shouldn’t have done that.’ Cleaned them and took the livers for proof we shot them and headed for camp. Wally kept me going I was pretty tired (besides I was over 28 then!!) He wouldn’t let us stop and rest. We crossed over a ridge and met Steve, (Jean’s son) looking for us. We came home that night. The next day we got our horses and it still took us two days to get the elk out of there.” He also relates Randy’s first elk hunt: “We went up on Commissary Ridge in lat. October. There was a little snow on the ground, two or three inches. We spotted some elk a long ways away, about 500 yards—so we shot at them. They ran and we cut across to pick up their trail. We noticed that we had to go back to where we were at first to see if we had hit any. They were all cows and calves and started going into the thick trees. Randy was about 20 yards from me when he suddenly dropped down to one knee and shot. Then I heard him say, ‘You hold still and I’ll shoot you again!’ He ran over to me and said he was out of shells—I just asked what was going on! A six point bull elk had walked out of the trees. Randy shot him two times right through the ribs and then he got around in front of it and hot it in the head with my rifle. It took all day to carry it out— quarter at a time. That same year Randy shot two big deer—but that’s another story…” Forrest has a great love for his children and is very proud of them. He feels they are very hard workers and do their share in the work they are involved with. He loves his grandchildren too and they love to visit Grandpa Hunter just as much. When asked what thoughts or words or advice he would like to leave his family, he said this: “Life is lots of hard work, but you should always do your share and a little bit more. Don’t ever be afraid or ashamed to help somebody else out.”