|I was 17 years old and in high school when I
enlisted in the service. One day a friend and I decided we had had enough
of being in school so we went back to the school, put our books down and
left to join the service. This was in January 1941, nearly a year before
Training was rough. We went to boot camp in Norfolk,
Virginia. The old chief thought of all kinds of hardships to make our life
rough and to make men out of us. I liked it. We did a lot of marching from
8 to 11 in the morning and again from 1:00 to 3:30. It was cold and we had
to stand watch for 4 hours in our heavy peacoats with a rifle. A typical
day in the Navy after we left training consisted of reveille, then
breakfast. Since I was aboard an aircraft carrier, U.S.S. Ranger, next we scrubbed
the decks with a broom that had a hole in the handle filled with sand.
After we'd scrubbed the decks clean we rinsed them with salt water.
The salt water would bleach the decks and they looked like new each day.
Next, we painted whatever parts of the ship needed to be painted. They put
out a shipís newspaper with want ads advertising the jobs that had
vacancies. After about a year of cleaning decks and painting I was tired
of that and saw an ad for a striker to be a fire control man. I had no
idea what I was signing up for but I wanted out of the deck crew, so I
I found out that this was the person that maintained
the gun batteries. I was a range-finder operator. It was like a telescope.
I would pick up an enemy airplane and would put a diamond over the enemy
plane and the computer in the lower level of the ship would send a missile
to shoot the plane down.
I was on a neutrality patrol between Norfolk and
Trinidad before the war broke out. We were cruising up and down the ocean
with all the lights on. We looked like a cruise ship! After the Japanese
hit Pearl Harbor every light on the ship was put out. You could not make
any light, even to use a cigarette lighter. Our job was to look for German
During this time a German captain, Lieut. Otto von
Bulow, sunk what we called a "jeep" boat. It was a small boat but the
German captain radioed back to Hitler that he had sunk the U.S.S.
Ranger. The U.S.S. Ranger, of course, had not been
sunk. Because of this she was nicknamed "The Ghost Ship" and went on
to sink 40,000 tons of German shipping during a raid in
My wife and I met while I was on leave. I had
been serving in the Atlantic and was on my way to the Pacific when we met.
I went on leave with her brother. We met at a church social. We were
married six months later. The only correspondence that I received between
January and May of 1945 was a telegram announcing the birth of our
While in the Pacific I was stationed on board the
USS Bennington. There were 5,000 men on board. Our ship carried
90 airplanes. They main airplane was the F4U Corsair and it was a very
fast plane. A big cable stretched across the deck and caught a hook on the
back of the plane when they came in to land. Sometimes, if they didnít hit
their mark and the plane would go into the ocean.
We got into a typhoon off the Sea of Japan and the
storm bent our bow beneath the flight deck. We went into Leyte Gulf and
cut off part of the flight deck. We finished off the war with a shortened
deck. Over the years, this ship was recommisioned (put back into service)
The Japanese planes that we were dodging were called
Kamikazes. These were planes loaded
with explosives which would try to crash into American ships. Those
boys did not know how to fly. They were taught how to take off and told
not to come back. They sacrificed their lives for the Emperor.
When the war was over we were given $100 and sent
home. I returned to Washington D.C. and was discharged. I worked odd
jobs for a while and took advantage of the "52-20" club. It was called
that because the military would pay you $20 a week for 52 weeks to help
you get back on your feet. After several attempts to find good jobs
I told my wife that I was going to California in my van. I made it
as far as Kansas City, and stopped at the Church of the Nazarene's
publishing house. And 29 years later I retired from this job at the
Church's publishing house as a maintenance electrician.
It is my hope and prayer that everyone of us does
their part to make sure that war does not happen again.
Permission Granted for Use by Wilbur Mowen ©
Transcribed by: Judy Wimmer