Dr. Charles G. Hawkins, the Cleveland resident who wrote “Borrowed Shoes,” a book about his efforts to understand the homeless by becoming homeless himself, has decided to write another eye-opening book — this time about his life during World War II.
Having served in the Army of Occupation, spoken out against segregation during the civil rights movement and dedicated his life to the service of others, the former pastor of Whitehaven Church of God of Prophecy said he decided to write his memoir and share his journey with the world.
“From the moment we enter this mortal realm we receive something of value from everyone we encounter and we leave something of ourselves with them,” said Hawkins.
“So it is, as we travel on this one-way journey that ends in death. My journey began on Dec. 23, 1926, in the rural area of Choctaw County, Miss. In the summer of 1936 at the ripe old age of 10, during a revival meeting under a brush arbor I became a Christian.”
Hawkins became a charter member of the newly organized faith-based group called The Church of God over which A.J. Tomlinson was general overseer.
“At the age of 18 I received a letter from the president of the United States, Harry S. Truman, stating that since our country was in the midst of World War II, I was being drafted into the U.S. Army and to report to the induction center at Camp Shelby, Mississippi.”
From there Hawkins was sent to Camp Rucker, Ala., for basic training as an infantryman in the Army.
“I entered active duty on April 26, 1945 and finished boot camp on Sept. 1, 1945,” he said. “I was given a furlough with a bus ticket to my home in Jackson and a train ticket from Jackson to San Diego with instructions to be there no later than Oct. 1. From there I would depart to some undisclosed destination.”
By the time he arrived at home Hawkins learned of the surrender of Japan on Sept. 2. Relieved and amused, Hawkins admits he delighted in telling family and friends the Japanese heard he was coming and gave up.
Soon thereafter he was informed of a general assembly of the church to which he belonged convening their General Assembly Sept. 12-18, in Cleveland.
“I determined to attend. It was during this assembly that I became convinced that God was calling me to be a minister of the gospel,” said Hawkins. “When I left that assembly I knew I had been trained to fight our enemy on the battlefield but I had no idea what the military would be expecting of me.
“However for the first time in my short life I sensed that I knew if I survived my tour on duty in the military, my life’s work would be as a minister of the gospel.”
With a greater sense of purpose, Hawkins boarded the Liberty Ship SS Heintzelman Oct. 9, 1945, and arrived in Tokyo Oct. 24. According to Hawkins, there was a legend growing among the U.S. troops in Japan about Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s ground rules for the post-war occupation. Hawkins, a military policeman at the time, will share the story in his memoir.
“MacArthur told the emperor, ‘I am going to let you live provided you will help me keep the peace. When there is a problem, I will send for you. You will come to me. I won’t come to you. We will work out the problem together,’” Hawkins wrote.
“Some five months later I was in Tokyo the day Gen. MacArthur and Hirohito, the emperor of Japan, were in a meeting in MacArthur’s headquarters complex of the Dai-Ichi building in downtown Tokyo.
“As they departed from their meeting, I was able to take three pictures of MacArthur and his aid getting in his Cadillac, and Hirohito in his chauffeur-driven car approaching the moat into his palace compound in the center of Tokyo.”
Hawkins said he will include the rare photos along with several others in his upcoming book.
“There were many wars fought throughout the world before WWII and many since then that have ended with a negotiated peace,” said Hawkins. “However, there is every indication that there has never been a more peaceful negotiated peace than this one between the U.S. and Japan.
“Speaking from my personal experience as a military police officer for 10 months and four days short of one full year as a member of the Army of Occupation, I never witnessed a single shot fired in Japan except on the practice firing range.”
Although he was prepared for war, Hawkins said he witnessed peace and a new era of negotiations. His return to the States led to his becoming a pastor, civil rights advocate and founder of the Memphis Day Shelter for the homeless.