Sunday, March 11, 2012

March 11, 1945...

I know I've mentioned
before that my dad served
in the Navy on the
USS Randolph during WW2.

As is so common with veterans,
he didn't share many details
of his service with his family.
He talked about learning to box
and getting his nose broken.
He talked about making an
attempt in track and breaking
his ankle in the long jump...
or, was it pole vaulting?

The most serious thing he talked
about for a long time was one of
his mates who died from alcohol
poisoning after a day of drinking
in the hot sun.
If he was asked where he served, he would only say
"in the Pacific". He mentioned being in Hawaii and
having no desire to go back. He enlisted after Pearl Harbor.

One day he showed us a scrapbook he made. The cover is a
piece of scratched plexiglass with some brown stains
near the edge. When I asked him what the stains were,
he said, "Oh, that's blood from the Kamikaze pilot
who hit our ship." He wouldn't say anymore.

Not long ago, I read the book "Flyboys" by
James Bradley. It talks about US forces bombing a
tiny (three miles by five miles) island called
Chichi Jima and eight pilots who crashed there, were
captured, tortured and killed by the Japanese.
This book mentions the USS Randolph as part of the
support forces in the bombing raids on Chichi Jima.
This is where dad's ship was when it was hit.

(click photo for book info.)

My dad's job on that ship was working on the
flight deck. He helped handle the "rubber bands".
Some sort of straps stretched across the deck that
the pilots had to hook on with the plane's tail to
keep the plane from flying off the deck when landing.
Twenty-five men were killed when that Kamikaze
hit the flight deck on March 11,1945.
My dad was one of the lucky uninjured.

Putting out the fire after the Kamikaze attack.

Aerial view of the USS Randolph showing the hole
in the flight deck from the Kamikaze hit.
That's where my dad was sixty-seven years ago today.
I wish he'd told us more.

More photos and chronology of the ship can be found here.


Boxer said...

Wow. It's too bad he didn't tell you more, but I think men then just didn't know how to communicate feelings that were difficult or hard. It's too bad because clearly it had an impact on your life too.

Nice post. What a good Dad you had. :-)

Curmudgeon said...

Unless badgered or ordered, men don't speak of bad things that happened in war. You dad sounds like a really great guy that served his country.

Jean said...

Boxer & Curm... I think, in some way, their hesitance is another way of protecting civilians/loved ones from the reality of war. Plus, it would mean them reliving some rough memories. It's only been since Nam that society has recognized PTSD as an accepted side affect of combat.
I believe those never in those situations can never really understand, only express sympathy.

Dad was a good guy but I also know he was glad when the war ended and could come home.
Thanks, both, for commenting.

boneman said...

yup, sounds about right.
No sense in scaring you girls...
Good research, digging this all up.
ongoing search, I'm guessing, as you have hinted at bits and pieces, before.

Jean said...

Berry, it was the mention of USS Randolph in 'Flyboys' that gave me a clue.
I think it doesn't hurt to have "the girls" better informed.

J Cosmo Newbery said...

So much bravery...

Jean said...

Yes, sir. Boggling.

foam said...

I don't think that generation talked a lot about their war stories. I had an uncle who did e Normandy beach thing. H never talked a whole lot about it. he received a purple heart. But I do have to say, th little I know of his experiences, he told my husband. My dad was Los in that war, but he died when I was 7.

This is an amazing story of your dad. I'm glad you were able ti piece it together.

Jean said...

Foam, back then it was part of being a 'man' to ignore that stuff when it was over. That caused problems for some men even then, now it's called PTSD.

I didn't know you lost your dad so long ago. I'm sorry.

teclimes said...

Our dad was a great guy Jean. But, I believe, the experience of war, the killing specifically, even though you were protecting your mates, had a huge effect on his personality. And I'm not sure if he ever resolved that feeling of guilt internally. He was a sensitive man that was brought up to believe that men did not display or openly express their emotions. And, especially if you were a service man, you did what your superiors told you to do, no questions asked. Your faithful duty was a measure of your soldierly excellence.

We now have, since the invention of photography and motion pictures, the ability to look back at these actions in graphic, real and unapologetic detail. We now realize that wars are senseless, cruel and needless destruction of human lives. And some men have been troubled by their involvement, no matter how heroic, no matter how justified.

We have been drawn into these conflicts by people who most often escape the horrendous graphic effects of the wars. But we are forced to survive with the guilt and consequences of the destruction we have brought upon our fellow human beings. It is an internal struggle that will never be resolved until wars are eliminated.

Teresa said...

Your dad sounds like most of the Veterans of that war. They did the job they were given and when they got home they didn't want to relive it they wanted to live their own lives.

What an incredible feat it was to win that war. We were so lucky to have men like your father, my father, and all the rest who did their duty. Many blessings upon them.

Jean said...

Buzz, I'm not disparaging Dad or any vet and what they had to do in war.
Does make my heart ache... after reading some books written by vets... to think about some of the horrors.

I agree, Teresa.

curmudgeon said...

Spiffy. It's always cool to find this sort of stuff out.
My dad worked on submarines during the war. At least he wasn't in combat.

Jean said...

Dave! You're alive!

Anonymous said...

My dad also served on the Randolph and was on the ship when that plane hit. He was transferred off the ship 4 days later to the USS Admiral Coontz. He also never spoke of the time he spent there. He was uninjured as well. He did speak sometimes of the time he spent in the Philippines near Samar. I only learned of his stint on the Randolph recently. He passed in 1987.