Like most World War II veterans, my dad didn’t have much to say about his time in the service.
“What did you do in the war, Dad?” “What I was told” “What places did you visit?” “Wherever the ship went, I was there”… and so forth.
I was able to piece together that he joined the Navy as soon as he was able in 1943 and served on the USS Atlanta for three years in the South Pacific. It was basically a support and supply vessel. He wasn’t involved in the major battles and had no major medals. He was just doing a job he was supposed to do. He didn’t want any big fuss or displays for what he had done.
The one story he enjoyed telling was about his travels to and from port. He was raised on a farm on the west side of Bartow County and his ship was in Savannah. Since the government didn’t pay for travel and since his family had no way of getting him there, this is what he did when it was time to go (or return) to port.
They could make him a bag lunch, load up the family and travel Highway 41, which was one of the few paved roads in the county. Then he would get his duffle bag, stand on the side of the road and hold out his thumb in hopes of catching a ride.
He stood about five-feet nine and weighed about 135 pounds and was at 17, literally, right of the farm. Naïve, inexperienced and wide-eyed, this youngster standing there in his uniform was putting his well being in the hands of strangers and the public. What we in the year 2013 might find hard to believe, is that he was in good hands.