Growing up in Jonesville, Michigan Memorial Day and Veterans Day were always big events. They still are today. Memorial Day always includes The Parade and for many years my Dad, Grandpa and Uncle Dick would march, in uniform, in that parade. When Grandpa got older the three of them rode together in a jeep. I was always so proud of them
As we celebrate Veterans Day today, let me tell you about my Grandpa and his 4 sons.
Grandpa served in the Army from 1916-1918 during World War I. He served 2 years overseas in France and Germany and he fought at the 2nd Battle of Marne where he was severely wounded. He had wounds through his abdomen and right arm. According to my Uncle Lynn, the German machine guns fired so rapidly that the bullets became so hot they cauterized the wounds or Grandpa might not have survived.
Years later 3 of his 4 sons would serve in World War II.
My Uncle Dick was the oldest of the 4 boys. At the age of 20, he enlisted in the Navy. He was stationed at “Pearl” as he referred to Pearl Harbor and it was where he was on December 7, 1941. 50 years later in 1991, he wrote an account of his military service and thanks to my Aunt Phyllis, I have a copy of it. Below are just a couple of excerpts.
“Enlisted in the US Navy in October of 1940. The day I was to report to Boot Camp deer hunting season opened and so received a card to report on October 15 with the next class.”
“December 7, 1941 … I sat reading the funnies at 8:00 AM when I heard 2 explosions nearby. Stepped to a porthole just as a plane with red circles on the wings pulled up over the Naval Air Station … I headed for my battle station on a dead run as all hell broke loose.”
Uncle Dick was on board the USS Pennsylvania, which had been moved out of dry dock earlier that same morning or it would have been sunk on the first run. Reading about it all sends chills up my spine. He served until 1946 with a rank of FC2c.
My Uncle Lynn enlisted in the USMC Air Corps in June of 1942 at the age of 20, something he had always wanted to do. When I first started writing this post around Memorial Day I asked him to write and tell me about his military service. I found it fascinating that he was named after a friend of my Grandpa who was shot by a German sniper when he went out to repair phone lines. I never knew that!
Here are some excerpts from that letter…
“I flew off the Vera Cruz CVE-119 with torpedo bombers… We were catapulted off the flight deck at a hundred knots, the flight deck wasn’t long enough for the fly aways with a loaded torpedo bomber. …I was very lucky not to be hurt too much. The only problem was the 40mm rifles made such a loud crack that my ears still ring from the noise.”
“…I caught Jungle Fever and was sent to a hospital where they were experimenting with penicillin; it really was a wonder drug but they didn’t know how much was needed…I was able to join a squadron and flew off aircraft carriers from then on. The good thing about the CVE-119s they were built by Henry Kaiser so fast that there were a lot of bugs in them and we spent a lot of time back to USA for repairs and I was never out more than 2 months at a time.”
Daddy enlisted in Naval Air Cadets in spring of 1943 at age 18. Grandma must have been going crazy to have 3 of her 4 sons off fighting in the war. Dad went to V training – for soldiers too young for officer training.
Daddy was also sent to electricians and submarine school and was stationed on a sub in the Pacific. In 1946 he was discharged with the rank of Electrician’s Mate Third Class USNR. He was proud of his military service but he was also very proud that he could still get into his Navy uniform!
I wish I had asked him to tell me more about his service but none of them ever talked about it. I do wish I knew more.
Uncle Putt, who I have written about before, was the youngest of the 4 boys. Since all 3 of his brothers were away at war, Uncle Putt was allowed to stay home and help Grandpa with the farm. Years later, he would join the Hillsdale Police Department and protect the local citizens – a different kind of soldier.
Fortunately for Grandma, all 3 of her sons made it home safely.
Happy Veterans Day to all the soldiers out there and thank you for your service.