1: World War II
I've served my country in two wars, and I'm proud of it. It all began when I was sixteen years old.
I was the youngest child in my family.
I wanted to join the Navy, but I was color blind and they wouldn't have me, so I joined the Merchant Marines.
It was September, 1943. I was sent to New York state and stayed six or seven weeks for training.
Then they shipped us on the bus to Miami. There was only one hotel. We stayed two weeks. Then a B-52 took us to Panama, where we boarded ship.
The first time I left American soil was on a Liberty ship going 6 mph. I woke up the next morning and I
couldn't see land. I didn't see land again for two months.
On board, we did just about any kind of job that was needed: cook, server, deck hand, fire weapons, whatever.
We also had weapons practice 3 times a day, and at night, too. Myself, I worked mostly in the kitchen and diningroom, and I'm a pretty
good cook to this day! I also worked as a deckhand. In our off time we'd fish. The first time we crossed the equator,
I found out about the ship's tradition. All new hands got a "haircut". What it was was a kind of reverse Mohawk,
only they'd shave out an "X" on your head. Then you got some hair tonic --- a rotten egg!
I was tired of fishing, so I told them, "I wanna be the barber!"
I went to Le Harve, France twice on a Liberty ship.
Then I was lucky to get on the S.S. Costa Rica Victory.
S.S. Costa Rica Victory
A victory ship could move out a good bit faster than a Liberty.
We went back to Le Harve to pick up 2,000 troops.
I had some experience in the Pacific. There were three fleets in Okinawa, and
here came this typhoon and ran us out. Many of the Merchant Marine ships
had been made pretty quickly, and they didn't withstand this type of storm too well.
Down in the Phillipines 40 Merchant Marine ships were lost when they broke in two
because of structural weakness. Those storms were fierce. I got a letter from my good friend
Harry Orders(he later became my wife's brother-in-law) who told me the wind was so strong it blew all their tents away
and shook the tank he was in. |
My family hadn't heard from me in 90 days there at the end of the war;
then I walked in the door. Me and my brothers all made it back alive.
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