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Legacy on until: January 2012
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Early Naval career

I remember right after getting out of basic training I was what you would call “hot to trot.”  I had waited a long time to get into the service and was ready to be part of the war effort.  One of the first things they did was send me up to Virginia to pick up a battleship called the Wyoming. It was an old ship. What that ship did was leave Norfolk, Virginia on a Monday and head south to Trinidad where they trained flyers down there and came back on Friday.  That wasn’t my gig.  I felt like I wasn’t doing enough for the war and I nagged everybody I could to be able to get transferred.  I said, "Get me out of here, I want to go fight the war."  I just felt like I belonged over there. To make a long story short, about nine months after entering the service and going through basic training; I finally got transferred to a shipyard in Boston where they were building a brand new light cruiser, the Vincennes.  They sent me there to be part of the crew.  I started with that ship from the first day they loaded the ammunition and the supplies.  When I saw that ship I said, “My God who is going to hit her with all of those guns?”  I felt so darn good.  Even though at the time my wife wasn’t there, I talked to her. I still do now, even after she has been gone for 12 years. When I looked at that ship I was in awe.  And I said, “Florence, thank you.”  It took us about two months to get the ship ready and we pulled out to sea. 

Heading to the Front

When we pulled out they told we had another ship with us called yhe Quincy. They told us that we were going to help the invasion in France.  We might not have known everything back then, but we weren’t stupid. When we saw the ship going south, we knew something was up and knew we might not be headed to Europe.  Before we knew it, we were at the locks. I still remember that. It was something else, having the water go up and move that ship through. It took about eight hours.  We then went to San Diego where we picked up Army guys as well as other sailors to replenish our forces at the front.  By now we knew that we were going to join the fleet in the Pacific in the War against Japan.  I remember when they were loading the ship in San Diego and all of the guys were ready to go. We kept asking them what they hell was taking them so long. We were ready to get to the front.  At this point the outcome of the war at sea was uncertain and we were eager to do our part. 

Throughout the course of the war our ship was incredibly blessed.  We only lost four men throughout the war and their deaths were all due to accidents.  After leaving San Diego, we sailed to Pearl Harbor.  When we saw those ships, the Arizona and the Texas, we thought to ourselves, those poor bastards.  At that point seeing those ships did nothing but to increase our resolve to get to the front and help win the war.  At this point we knew we were going to be part of the fleet, as we were a new and fully loaded cruiser. We were excited. We spent about a week at Pearl Harbor where we picked up more guys to take to the front.  I remember when we finally got close to the front we met up with a fleet.  We saw all of the big ships that had had such an active role in the war, such as the Missouri and the New Jersey.  When we saw the size of the fleet we asked ourselves, “How are we going to lose this war with a fleet like this?”  We had three cruisers in the division: our ship, the Miami, and the Houston.  There were over 100 ships and after we regrouped we sailed west to fight the Japanese. 

Baptism of Fire

The Naval Department called this action the Turkey Shoot.  It was my first combat experience in WWII. It started on June 1, 1944 and lasted for three days and three nights.  The Japanese lost 3 carriers and 426 aircraft during that battle. 

What was your job on the ship during these battles?

I was three decks below and I was what was called a load handler.  We had what was called the powder room that was where they kept the powder. The next deck above as where they had the shell. And everything went up; we sent the powder up, the next floor put it in the shell, and it would then make its way up to the guns.  We had it out with a cruiser once. It took us about 20 minutes to sink it. It was a heavy cruiser, but by this time she had already taken a torpedo from one of our submarines. She was limping at about 20 knots and we were doing about 30.  By the time we got up to her she was almost to the straights in the Philippines trying to get back to Japan. I will never forget that there was a guy up top, a big husky guy, that used to take the shells that weighed over 50 pounds and load them one handed while yelling, “Come on you stupid jerks, I need that powder” just trying to get us hopped up.


After about a year of being there, the Japanese saw that they could no longer compete with us. It was not that they couldn’t compete, but they saw that they were taking a beating every time that we squared off with them.  That was the first time we saw a kamikaze. Before that we didn’t know what the word was or what the word meant. The whole idea was foreign to us.  Let me tell you buddy, they were there, and they came in droves.  Their job was to fly right into us, planes and all and you felt sorry for them.   We heard that there was an order from the Japanese government to kamikazes.  We heard about it and we thought to ourselves, “Oh my God, how do we stop them? When they are flying in, it doesn’t matter how much you are shooting at them they are not going to stop.  They hit a lot of our ships.  We got a lot of them, but some still got through.  The kamikazes chief targets were the aircraft carriers and that was our job to protect the carriers.  One of those kamikaze planes did get through to a carrier called the Hancock. It was flaming and all when it hit the ship. It went through the hanger deck and that was that.  Our ship got credit for shooting down about 18 kamikazes throughout the course of the war.  To this day, sometimes I think about what each of those kills meant and potentially how many lives that we may have saved. 



Invasion of Okinawa

I’ll never forget it. It was April 1, 1945. It was Easter Sunday.  I didn’t know what to think.  As a Catholic I would think what would my wife think about me attacking on Easter Sunday?  The Japanese planes came out and attacked our fleet night and day.  My ship shot down 3 kamikazes during this battle. In fact one of those that were shot down by us plunged into the sea only about 50 feet off our stern. She wanted to crash into our ship but didn’t make it.  It was a huge battle. There were cruisers, destroyers, and carriers all firing away, never mind the pilots up there trying to fight and shoot down the kamikazes before they made it to our ships.  After Okinawa the handwriting was on the wall and we knew that with any luck the war would be over soon.  In conclusion after seventeen months of fighting the Japanese our ship was credited with shooting down 18 kamikazes and we only lost 4 men on our ship.  We were very lucky. God was with us.

Soon after Okinawa we got orders to head back to the States.  The Captain came on the loudspeaker and said that he had very good news and let us know that we had just received orders to head back to Frisco. We would have to go in for a six week overhaul.  Everybody started cheering and was very happy. We had been through seventeen months of Hell and we were coming back alive.  Everybody was jubilant.  On the trip back to Pearl Harbor we were like a bunch of kids. It felt like a huge burden had been lifted and the fear of a plane crashing into our ship at any minute was finally started to subside.  We pulled into the pier and the ship that was right next to us was the USS Indianapolis. We knew she had a special mission to do and that they needed some men from my ship to go over.  We transferred about 100 men to them.  They went on their mission as you know to deliver the atom bomb.  It was so secret that no one even knew they were missing for some time. Those poor guys in the water, they were eaten up by sharks.  I don’t even want to talk about. It could have been any of us.  It was such a disaster, sending that ship out alone.  After we spent a little time in Pearl Harbor we were able to go back to the States.  When we got back I got orders to get on a supply ship and that is when I put my papers in.  I had had enough. I would have gone back with the ship, but I wasn’t going to go on a supply ship. 


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