WW2 Navy Veteran’s story on the seas

WW2 Navy Veteran’s story on the seas in the Pacific and thoughts about living through a Depression.

Answer: Oh, okay.  I spent 24 years in the Navy on active duty and then the Reserve.  And then I got out and I ended up by a fluke in the Air National Guard, Washington International Guard, and became their first recruiter and ended up being put on active duty with the Air Force and assigned back to the Guard, so I spent 14 years active duty with the Air Force before I retired when I was 60.  Figured I couldn’t beat it with a stick, you know, just kept coming back.


Question: So when did you go into the Navy then?


Answer: 1942.  April 1st, 1942.  And I went into the Navy before I graduated from high school.  I wasn’t with my graduating class, they graduated in June, I believe.  But that was right after, you know, few months after Pearl Harbor, which was on December 7th of 1941.  And I remember coming home with my dad that Sunday and Mother were listening to the little old radio we had and Roosevelt was declaring war on the Japanese, and this had happened over there.  And so we were just expected to go.  I mean, everybody felt that way. There was no feeling about, well, no, it’s not our involvement or anything else.


Question: So it wasn’t even a question then.


Answer: No.


Question: It was just a —


Answer: No, everybody — I found out later, out of our graduating class of about, I think there were about 500 in it, I don’t recall, but a third of them were killed in World War II and a third of them became farmers and ranchers in the Montana area, and the — out of the other third, there were a lot of wounded and things that had changed their thing  — that they went different directions, but we lost a good part of that graduating class.  And I suspect there were other graduating classes in that time that the same thing happened.  Because we were — suddenly got involved in two different fronts and places that we never even studied when I was a kid taking civics and stuff in high school.  We never even talked about these countries.  Most of the teachers, I don’t suspect even knew where they were.  When you start talking about the Micronesian Islands and this little island and that little island, you talk about the Philippines.  We’d been involved in the Philippines from way back in 1800 — late ’80 — but hadn’t been anybody — people there.  I met one guy later on that — that had been in one of the expeditionary forces in the Army over there.  But that was very unusual, but — cause we didn’t have the newspaper coverage in those days, and the radio was just — fairly new. They didn’t have people out interviewing — just what they got over the teletype that came in, that’s the way they got the news in those days.  And as a result, things had happened and people weren’t bisecting and dissecting the news and everything that happened and something happened and somebody got on a radio station that was smart enough to say, well, maybe we should get somebody up there and talk to this guy.  When the dam broke up in the upper — and flooded a lot of ranch land and those things, that was a big thing because agriculture was the thing that paid all the bills in that country over there.


Question: So news was slow in coming.


Answer: Slow in coming.


Question: So then you didn’t go through your graduation then?


Answer: No, I never — I graduated but they graduated us, all us kids that went in, but I didn’t go through high school graduation, no.


Question: Boy, I didn’t even think about that aspect of it, that must have been pretty heart moving for parents and staff to go to your graduation ceremony and the kids aren’t there.


Answer: Yeah, I imagine it was.  I don’t remember what my mother said or stuff.  But they went because somehow I got my graduation certificate, in a little — it’s in a little folder-like, a little thing that they made.  So they must have gone to graduation, but by that time, when they — I was over in Farragut.  I was one of the first classes that went through Farragut, boot training.  Over in Farragut.  They were still building buildings all over the place and everything else when I went through over there.  So, yeah, there was just — there weren’t very many people at graduation.


Question: Were you 17, 18?



Answer: I was 17.  I enlisted for — what they — was called minority enlistment.  I — until the day — I got out the day before I was 21.   So I spent four year enlistment.  And I’d always wanted to fly and so I — when they — when you went through, they sent me over to — on a train, to Seattle, to I think it was Pier 91 over there where we took flight physical and I thought I had it made.  And I was going out the door and the doc called me back and he says, no, I can’t pass you.  He says your nose is just too broken up to — to pass.  I had had it broken playing football in high school.  And in those days, unless you really needed a doctor, you — people didn’t go to the doctors.  I mean, Dad probably moved it around or did something, you know, and straightened it out.  I don’t quite remember.  And I didn’t pass the physical.  So I came back and enlisted in the Navy and went off for basic. And then I began to find out there are ways you can do all these things.  I was always one to find out about — cause I wanted to do lots of things.  And I’ve done that in my life.  I — if something looked really interesting, let’s check it out.  Maybe that would be interesting to do.  And so I had a lot of neat experiences and met some wonderful people all over the world by doing that.


Question: So at this point, it’s an exciting adventure for you?


Answer: Yes.  And it’s something — I’ve always tried to look back and figure out, but everybody just figured, all my friends, everybody — it was something to do — we had to do it.  And as soon as they announced that we were going to go to war, I remember the recruiting stations were just loaded with people.  And they had all kinds of people that were in their oh, 34, 35, 36 stuff, that they turned down at first, but they had more of those than they had young kids at the time.  I suspect one of the reasons was that we were just coming out of the Depression, and people nowadays, have no idea what it’s like to live through a depression.  And even my thinking nowadays is tempered by what I went through because I tend to save things.  I tend to set stuff so if this is going to need fixing sometime, I’ve got this board saved or that thing.  I’ve got all kinds of stuff saved.  My parents were that way, all the old-timers were that way, everybody did — they saved stuff.  We didn’t have all the things to eat that we have nowadays.  It was pretty tough.  I think that, as I said, my dad and his friend, they each put up 300 bucks they’d saved and saved and saved to go into business, and they managed — both those guys managed — there were five kids in my family and he had two or three, as I remember.  And they raised a family on it and did things.  They belonged to — they went to church, they did — they were involved in things that happened in the community because they were in business, but they were just interested.  Everybody was interested in people because — think of the time and the place, they just worked together.  You could rely on people.  It always amazed me, looking back, that if I became a miscreant, so to speak, when I was a kid, if you were in the neighbor’s yard, they took care of it.  You got your butt kicked by the neighbor or three blocks up the street, they’d take care of you because if you messed around, and your parents never heard of it.  You never told them.  You just — watched your P’s and — you can’t do that nowadays.  And it’s too bloody bad.  Because of the fact that those people, as they talked, it takes to make up a village and so forth.  The people made up the town.  And it wasn’t a big town, then, but we — everybody worked together and knew each other up and down the street.


Question: And the war unified this even more.


Answer: And the war unified this even more.  As the war came on.  Because we — the Depression was over back East but it takes awhile for it to kind of roll through the West.  It seems like we’re always two years behind everybody else when things happen.  And so when it came about in 1941, it had never really affected anybody in the West.  And the price of wheat, they were still having droughts around, and they didn’t have the moisture that they wanted in the Plains States.  We were — throughout Montana, Dakotas, always winter wheat are


Answer: And they relied on snow and stuff in the wintertime to get the moisture they needed to grow the crops.  And if they didn’t have it, like this year, they had a terrible year.  They just didn’t — and so people relied on each other.  And you could trust people.  If somebody said they were going to do something, it was — that’s the way it was.  If you — they didn’t keep many accounts.  I know when my dad started, people just — they knew that people owed them and people would pay them, when they had the opportunity, they’d pay.  The —


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