Karkula, Ernest

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    BIRTH: May 2, 1924, Weslaco, TX
    DEATH:  
    SPOUSE: Lylda May Lang Karkula, Michel Larson Karkula
    CHILDREN: Nick Karkula, Terry Karkula Cooley, Janet Karkula Kleinman, Peggy Karkula Dotson
    PARENTS: John J. Karkula, Bessie Trevino Karkula

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    Ernest "Ernie" Karkula was born in Weslaco, Texas, in 1924.  His father, John J. Karkula, suffered from poor health and was advised to move to Arizona for the better weather.  John moved his entire family - Ernie and his 9 brothers and sisters - to Goodyear in 1931.  The family settled in what was known as Camp #3, roughly the location of today's Riggs and Dobson Roads in Sun Lakes.  Ernie began working the cotton fields at an early age.  By the age of 15 he was driving tractors on the ranch.  When World War II broke out after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Ernie's older brothers joined the military.  His oldest brother, Richard Karkula, joined the Army.  His next oldest brother, Harold Karkula, joined the Navy.  When Ernie's time came, he joined the Marine Corps.  Ernie did his training at Camp Pendleton in San Diego, becoming a BAR (Browning automatic rifle), man  before hopping on a ship and heading for the South Pacific Theater.  His first stop was Guadalcanal.  Arriving after the island was secured, Ernie's company was stationed at Henderson Airfield.  While on Guadalcanal, they constructed telephone lines and trained for combat excursions in the jungle.  Guadalcanal would serve as Ernie's basecamp for the next several months.
    Ernie's next mission was the invasion of Guam.  He was part of the first wave of the invasion, landing on the Guam beaches on the morning of July 21, 1944.  Surviving the assault, Ernie spent 27 days on Guam working as a guard and training for his next mission. 
    After some R & R (rest and relaxation) in New Zealand, Ernie returned to Guadalcanal, where he boarded a ship for Japan.  His unit was used during the battle for Iwo Jima as a diversion, faking a landing towards the south end of the island to relieve pressure on the invading forces.  From there, it was on to Okinawa, where Ernie was once again part of the first wave.  While on Okinawa, Ernie experienced almost constant shelling from the Japanese forces.  After one assault, Ernie was using a shell crater to bathe in when more shells came in.  He took off running and jumped behind some rocks for protection.  He landed wrong and injured his knee and ankle.  Ernie was taken to a field hospital fifteen to twenty miles behind the front lines where he stayed for three days.  He was still in the hospital when the Japanese surrendered and the war ended.  
    After his discharge from the Marine Corps, Ernie returned to Chandler.  He became an electrician, using the communications skills he had learned in basic at Camp Pendleton.  He later got into the cattle industry, and was also a police officer in Chandler.  
    He married Lylda May "Sox" Lang in 1950, and the two had four children - Nick, Terry, Janet, and Peggy.  The two remained married until Lylda's death in 1987.  Ernie later married Michel Larson, though that marriage ended in divorce.  
     
    To see photos of Ernie Karkula, CLICK HERE.
     
    To read and watch oral histories with Ernie, CLICK HERE for a 2001 interview, and CLICK HERE for an interview about his service in World War II.
     
    To see Ernie's World War II scrapbook and other documents, CLICK HERE.
     

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