York County marks 70 years since end of war with Japan


Charlie Petron remembers V-J Day very well — it was one of the days after he returned from seeing combat in the European theater when he was accidentally AWOL in central Pennsylvania.

"You won't believe this story," the 92-year-old Army veteran says before launching into the tale.

These days living in York Township, Pfc. Charles G. Petron served overseas in Europe with the 90th Chemical Mortar Battalion, driving a communications Jeep. After the Germans surrendered on May 8, 1945, his squad was shipped back to the States and was slated to eventually head out to battle the Japanese in the Pacific. But first, on July 10 or so, they were given a 30-day furlough, due to report back to Fort Indiantown Gap in Annville, Lebanon County, on a Saturday in August.

But Petron thought it would be very abnormal for the Army to move troops on a Saturday, so he figured he could show up on Sunday and it'd be fine.

It wasn't.

His battalion had been shipped southward.

"They couldn't figure out what the hell to do with me" at Indiantown Gap, he said.

So he eventually grabbed a bus to Harrisburg, and that's where he was a few days later on Aug. 14, when the Japanese announced their surrender. He said he was very relieved.

"We knew we were gonna get out now," he said.

After that, he eventually ended up back with his battalion, and though he got a bit of the silent treatment from his comrades, everything ended up OK. They sat around for several months before eventually being discharged as the armed forces wound down after the war, he said.

"For three months sitting back here in the States, I did absolutely nothing," he said. "They just didn't know what to do with us."

V-J Day: Petron will be one of the veterans in attendance at 4 p.m. Friday during the V-J Day remembrance event in York City at the Veterans Memorial Gold Star Healing and Peace Garden. The event is being organized by his daughter Susan Byrnes.

Byrnes, a Republican candidate for county commissioner, will emcee the occasion, introducing Col. Craig T. Trebilcock, who's a York County Court of Common Pleas judge, as the keynote speaker.

The offices of U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-York County, and state Rep. Stan Saylor, R-Windor Township, will present a citation to the family of the Hake brothers of Wrightsville, a set of seven siblings who all fought in World War II.

There also will be a book signing by York County World War II veteran Frank Renda, who wrote a book called "18 Years & 82 Days" about his time fighting in the war's Pacific theater.

But Byrnes hopes most of the two-hour event, which is open to the public, won't involve sitting around and listening to people talk.

"We're hoping to keep the speaking to a minimum," she said.

They want to leave plenty of time for the DJ, a woman who goes by Mustang Shirley, who'll spin swing hits from the era the event is remembering.

"They're going to play music that was popular in the '40s," Byrnes said.

— Reach Sean Philip Cotter at