Bill and Jim in July, 2006, reminiscing about the war.
A couple of days ago I posted a letter from Jim about him volunteering for the Navy. He related that after Pearl Harbor he was assigned to the USS New Mexico (BB-40). From then he skips over the entire war, not telling us some of the most harrowing tales of the South Pacific.
There are hints, but most of the stories are missing. He does mention that one of his duties was far below decks, handling the huge bags of gun powder. He told me what each bag weighed, and I wish I could remember, but it was close to a hundred pounds. Jim was a small man, and only seventeen at the time. There might have been as much gun powder as there was Jim! He was doing his job, far below decks, always in danger of explosion, in tropical heat. My claustrophobic self cannot, does not want, to imagine being in that hell hole. Fortunately, Jim was able to wrangle a promotion to the bridge working navigation.
Beginning around the year 2000 Jim started visiting a war buddy of his in Clear Lake, Iowa. His name was Bill. They served together on the bridge of the New Mexico and had a lot of shared stories. The most dramatic was the one in the video below. There is more information about the attack on Wikipedia.
Jim’s Letter of Induction Notice – 1941
When Jim was seventeen in 1941 the world was quite different from the world I occupied thirty years later as an (about) 17 year old. Hitler was running roughshod across Europe during Jim’s youth. Brezhnev was the evil dictator in my time, and it was Viet Nam, not Europe. Jim volunteered for the Navy and I avoided the draft with a combination of college and good luck. Volunteered may be a misnomer.
The war played a significant role in Lucy’s life, too. The attack on Pearl Harbor was the turning point in her life. Louie and Grace were a little too young to be effected directly. Louie’s older brother went to war in Europe, which did change how Louie handled the Korean War, but more on that later.
After enlisting, Jim served on the battleship USS New Mexico. While Jim did tell me a little of his experiences, he was reluctant to share many stories of his escapades in the Pacific. These letters contain almost all of what he told me about his life in the service during WWII. In his later years he and his friend Bill from Iowa did share some with me. In a future post, I will share a video of them telling some of their more harrowing experiences.
In 1991 Jim writes:
Since this year is the 50th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese Imperial Navy, it also coincides with my 50th anniversary. For on Sept. 23, 1941 I enlisted in the US Navy at Greenfield, Mass. More by accident than by choice. I was 17, an innocent, naive, know it all, smart-mouth kid. With no skills. Jobs were scarce, especially for a kid my age …