Why didn’t I ask if he’d seen it before? You never were too sure about any story Uncle Chuck told you. Even when it was 100% accurate, he would have that twinkle in this eye that would make you wonder. I didn’t really understand his story-telling until I joined the USAF and discovered the beauty of the military “War Story” which really didn’t have to be, and was not expected to be, 100% accurate. But it always had to be a good story.
I noticed a couple of things working with Uncle Chuck in the store that I didn’t really understand at the time.
Just in case you have no idea what battles & engagements I’ve been in I’ll write them down as well as I can.
1. Pearl Harbor Attack. 2. Coral Sea. (In which the Lex was sunk & we rescued 500 survivors). [My note: “Lex” is the aircraft carrier Lexington.]
3. Midway battle which lasted four days, (where we lost the Yorktown.) 4. The invasion of Solomons.
5. Two or three large air attacks off the Solomons.
6. Third Sano. or Tassafaronga Bay battle [My note: part of the Guadalcanal Campaign in the Solomons], we were almost sunk that night, we lost the Northampton & had 4 other cruisers badly damaged. (Also the New Orleans)
7. After we were repaired, we attacked Wake Island & bombarded the beach. We dueled with Jap shore batteries which rose out of their cement holes, fired & went back under. We received one hit & 60 near misses, also lost one plane & two pilots.
8. We raided the Gilbert & Marshall Islands, & underwent a seven hour air attack the first night. A Jap plane straffed topside, but no one was hit.
9. Invasion of Gilberts, in which we bombarded Makin Island & helped cover the troops landing.
10. Another raid on the Marshalls.
11. Invasion of Marshall Islands in which we knocked out the shore batteries on Maleolap & also their air base. Also sunk one ship & damaged one. We then bombarded Kawajalien [My note: correct spelling is Kwajalein.] and the other small islands around it. [My note: I can’t help but observe that in my 25 years supporting Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles we have bombarded Kwaj about 80 times! But just with instrumented reentry vehicles, not real bombs.]
12. We attacked Truk in the Carolines, went through a heavy enemy air attack. Next day our ship and 3 others chased several units of the Jap fleet. We caught them. Our ship sank a destroyer & a Jap cruiser in broad daylight. We went through the survivors swimming in the water at full speed.
13. Attacked Guam & Palau, had air attacks for two nights. Shot down undetermined number of planes. (This is on the Kittson)
14. Leyte Invasion. Only one air attack for us on the Kittson.
15. Okinawa, where we had suicide air attacks every day & night. We were lucky. The second time we were there we went through three night air attacks & one day. That completes my engagements. It doesn’t in any way explain the hell & fear I went through, nor the horrible sights I had to witness. And this is the last time I ever intend purposely to talk of it.
But they are easy to find using google maps
I am reminded of a conversation I had a couple years ago with a nice older lady right after church one Sunday morning. It was early December and the subject of the Pearl Harbor attack came up. It was a very innocent conversation, but it triggered something. I could see it in her eyes, horror. Suddenly all the pain of that tremendous conflict came back to her and all her friends and relatives hurt or killed in all of WWII. Her eyes teared up and she began to weep. “So many”, she said. “So many boys. Gone.” There really is no comfort. All I could do was say, “yes”.