In honor of Veterans Day I'm doing something a little different today.
A little something for my Grandpa.
Quite a few years ago he typed what he remembers from his service in World War II. I am so glad I have a copy, and think today is the perfect day to "publish" his story.
Remembering W.W. II
Back in the year of 1941, I was a senior student at Maize High School;.. Like millions of other students my age, I never worried much about any attacks on America.
Then, suddenly on Dec. 7, 1941 our Naval Task Force at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, was attacked by the Japanese. Americans, the country over realized what a momentous task we faced, that of ensuring the safety of our country and our own families. The war in Europe had worsened, and the German Army had conquered all of Europe except England in their quest for World Power. The Japanese had joined forces with the German and Italion Countries. Japan had invaded many of the islands in the Pacific, such as the Phillipines, New Guinea, and some of the smaller islands. Upon this new threat to America, my thoughts were influenced by a sense of Patriotism and Loyalty to America.
As soon as I graduated from Maize High School, in May, 1942, I enlisted in the U. S. Coast Guard. Even though I was only 17 yrs. of age, I convinced my Mother to endorse my application.
In October of 1942, I was inducted into the U. S. Coast Guard in Wichita, Ks. There were about 100 of us new recruits.
We boarded a train for New Orleans, La. where we began our basic training. We completed our basic training in 30 days, and were assigned to various Coast Guard stations throughout the Gulf States of Louisianna, Mississippi, and Alabama and Florida.
My first assignment was on an island off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, where I patrolled the beach on foot during the night hours. The beach was 20 miles, so it took all night to accomplish our task. Our duties consisted of challenging any boat of person on the shoreline. This operation was designed to prevent Sabateurs or Terrorists from entering our country. It also was a deterant agsinst enemy submarines. Although the duties were not difficult, I was anxious to go Sea and engage the enemy at a different level.
After spending several months at Pensacola, I was sent to St. Augustine, Fla, where my duties were the same. I was determined to be more involved in the war, so I applied for and was accepted at Machinists School in New London, Conn. After 3 mo.s of school, I graduated as Machinist Mate 2nd. class.
From there I went to Amphibious School in Norfolk, Va. The training lasted 30 days. Upon completion of Amphibious Training, I was sent to Pittsburg, Pa, to await assignment to a ship.
The ship I was assigned to was L.S.T. 768, and Amphibious Assault ship. It was newly built in Pittsburg, Pa. It was 327 long, and displaced 5,500 tons of water. We had a crew of 250 men. We sailed down the Ohio river to Paduca, Ky, where we entered the Mississippi, thence to New Orleans. After being fitted with cannons and armament, our ship headed to the Panama Canal. From there we sailed around Mexico to Los Angeles.
After spending a few weeks in Los Angeles, we sailed for Pearl Harbor. There we witnessed the sunken battleship Arizona, and other sunken ships in the harbor. What a devastating sight to behold!
At Hawaii, we received our cargo of Army Personell and vehicles. We were then sent to aid in the invasion and retaking the island of Guam. Our ship would hit the beach, open the bow doors, and dispatch troops, tanks, and trucks under enemy fire. Then we would return to Pearl harbor for another load. My normal station on the ship was in the Engine Room, but during battle, I was 1st. loader on a quad 40 mm. cannon.
Our next assignment was the island of Leyte in the Phillipines. There was still some enemy resistance in the islands, so we were required to make several landings with men and supplies. After Leyte was secured, our ship along with other ships in our convoy were anchored off shore. While there, we were privelidged to see General Mc Arthur, the supreme Commander of the U.S. Armed forces in the Pacific, return to the Phillipines, as he had promised.
Our next assignment was to be a part of the invasion of Iwo Jima. This island was to be a base for our B-29 bombers so they could strike the Japanese mainland. It was so much closer than Guam or Saipan.
The invasion of Iwo Jima was terribly costly to the U. S. Marine Corps. During the first three days of fighting, they suffered more than 2000 casualties. The Japanese were so deeply entrenched in caves and tunnels,it was difficult to get them out. The only way to conquer them was the use of flame-throwers and hand to hand fighting. Our ship made two trips to Iwo Jima, the first was landing troops and vehicles. The second trip consisted of ammunition for the Marines. While the island was being taken,we witnessed the raising of the American Flag on Mt. Sarabachi.
Our next assignment was the invasion of Okinawa island, which provided a still closer base for our bombers to strike the Japanese mainland. Our ship was dispatched to the island of Morotai, just off the coast of New Guinea. We loaded personel of the 8th. Air Force for the invasion of Okinawa. After several landings at Okinawa, the island was taken. One real threatto our shipwas the Japanese Kamikazi planes flying over at night. We were fortunate to have escaped ok.
While anchored in the harbor at Okinawa, we heard the news that our B-29 bombers had dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, one at Hiroshima, the other at Nagasaki. The causalties suffered by Japan were very severe. Nearly 20,000 to 40,000 people lost their lives at each bombing.. The Japanese soon surrendered to the Allies.
After the Japanese surrender, we were sent to Kobe harbor, to clear it of pressure mines that our B-29 planes had dropped. These mines were dropped to prevent Japanese ships from using the harbor. All but 25 of us were removed from the ship, while we swept the mines. The mines would surface behind the ship and were blown up by sharpshooters.. After our sister ship and 2 minesweepers completed the clearing of the harbor, we were allowed to go ashore and witness the terrible destruction by the Atomic Bomb which was dropped on Nagasaki.
From Japan, we were sent back to Pearl Harbor to await being returned to the United States.
After about a month in Pearl Harbor, our ship was sent to Los Angeles, then the Panama canal, and back to New Orleans, where we de-commisioned our ship.
Then we were sent to St. Louis to be discharged from the U. S. coast Guard. I returned home in March 1946.
Many times I have reflected and gave thanks that our ship and crew returned safe and sound during those trying times. We were priveledged to have served America in our small way.
Please note - these are my Grandpa's own memories of his experiences.
I have typed this without making corrections, so it is the same as the original document.
I could write an entire post just about my Grandpa, but let me simply say
I love him.
Grandpa and Ben
I often take for granted how lucky I am to live in such a wonderful country with freedom and opportunity. It's easy to do when our daily lives are so busy. It's also easy to forget about the wonderful blessings we have as citizens of the United States. And in doing so, I believe we often overlook the men and women who have fought, and even given their lives, so we can continue to live as we do. Please remember them today.