World War II seems part of distant past, confined to the pages of our history books and a few old movies. So, when I learned that Uncle Johnny Jack served in the Pacific at that time, I asked if he would mind sharing his experiences, and he invited Mom and I over.
He began by showing us some of his mementoes: among them pictures of Uncle Johnny and other sailors, ribbons that indicated he participated in five major battles, a piece of wreckage from when a kamikaze pilot crashed into the ship he was on, and a cover from Time Magazine.
The USS Honolulu was one of two ships that he served on. Uncle Johnny told of how, while he and another sailor were taking depth readings, he looked up, and saw a torpedo heading right for them.
“What did you do?” I asked.
He smiled and said, “Why, we ran like hell! The torpedo hit a magazine chamber and set off one of our 50-inch shells, so it really threw us for a loop. We were both pretty skinned up -- my buddy went for first aid, but I figured I just had a few scratches. He got a Purple Heart, and that’s the only time I actually got hurt, so I never got one.”
The ship listed to its side, but didn’t sink, and the crew stayed onboard and sailed it over 1000 miles at 3 knots, most of it through enemy waters!
The next ship Uncle Johnny served on was the Kenneth White, which was hit by a kamikaze pilot. As the war was drawing to a close, the captain called all of the men together and said, “If you have enough points built up to go home, just shout and we’ll get you there.”
“Well,” Uncle Johnny said. “I didn’t have anywhere near enough points, so I was just going to stand there quietly, but the guy standing next to me poked me in the ribs hard enough to make me shout, and the next thing I knew, I was signing papers for my release!”
His future bride, Aunt Marie, was serving in the Air Force at the time, and so he stopped to see her on his way home. “We went out that night, and I asked her, ‘Why don’t we go ahead and get married?’ She said, ‘Why not?’ and so we went to get the blood tests done. They told her it would take three days to get the results, and I said I didn’t have any money and couldn’t stick around that long. She went to her supervisor, and he rushed it through so we could get married the next day. Then I went on home and she followed me six weeks later.”
I’ve always admired Uncle Johnny, but now I have even more reasons to. Thank you, and all other veterans, for your service!