“I am 92. I left home when I was 16 years old and went to work in the textile mills with my sister and her husband. I joined the Navy in ’44. I went to boot camps and was sent by train to California. It took us five days. I served in the Pacific aboard a patrol craft. It didn’t have a name, just a number. It was 173 feet long with a crew of 68. We escorted convoys and patrolled to keep the kamikaze and submarines away from the battleships. We were in the last operation in Okinawa and escorted a convoy of ships to Tokyo in Japan. We were there when they signed the treaty on the Battleship Missouri.
There were a lot of air raids. When the kamikazes came in, you didn’t know where they were coming until they were there. We fired everything we could at them. It was over fast, but you had to be on continual alert for when the next one came. We were never hit, but one plane exploded after it was hit and parts ended up on our boat. They also had suicide swimmers who put explosions on their backs. They hid under anything the could while they swam out to ships to try to blow them up. We had orders to shoot at that stuff.
We were once headquartered at Guam and they sent us to different places. One was the Island of Yap. The women wore grass skirts and were bare from the waist up. The men wore regular clothes. The women did most of the work while the men sat around doing nothing. There was a well for water and the women walked with the wood buckets on their heads and didn’t use their hands. We tried to do it, but the buckets filled water were too heavy.
I was going to reenlist with a friend, but I met a pretty young lady and wanted to stay home a few days longer. I went her for a year and we married in September 1947. That ended my military career. We were married for 66 years until she died in 2014. After we married, I went to work in the textile mills and in a Coca-Cola bottling plant, but I felt like I wasn’t accomplishing much. I took a veterans class where I got my credits to finish high school. I went to Auburn and got my degree in ag science. I worked in Mobile with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and went on temporary assignments around the country. We tried to get rid of the Mediterranean fruit fly and the imported fire ants when they started spreading like wildfire. They came in through the Port of Mobile about 1918 and got acclimated. They took off about 1950 and spread like wildfire. We never found a solution for fire ants.
My grandson is in the Navy and he is in Guam right now. I am proud of him.”