The Ship - All Hands - Decorations - Remembrance
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After November 1942, the "paper trail" related to my father's service history disappears almost entirely, although there are some clues as to what all went on.
He struck for AOM 2/c on June 1, 1943, five days after Enterprise and her men were awarded the first Presidential Unit Citation ever awarded to an aircraft carrier. Seven weeks later, on July 20, Enterprise berthed in Bremerton, Washington, where she stayed until November 1, undergoing extensive repairs and refitting. A few days later, he took the ferry Kalakala to Seattle and phoned his parents in Ohio, the first time he'd been able to speak to them in over a year.
My father was assigned to the third rotation of men given a month's leave during the Big E's layover in Bremerton, from September 20 to October 20. The train journey between Seattle and Chillicothe, Ohio took four days each way, leaving him three weeks to unwind with his family and friends. At some point during the summer - probably before his leave - he got caught up in a bar fight in Bremerton. Knowing his usual aversion to violence, this is suggestive of the strain the war placed on him and his shipmates. A week and a half after he returned from leave, Enterprise eased into Puget Sound, and entered the Pacific via the Strait of Juan de Fuca, not to return for another 578 days. A number of new men had come aboard in Bremerton, and training began immediately. Years later, my father, in a letter to one of these men, recalled an incident in the Strait:
Almost forgot. I remember one thing you might have been involved in. When we left Bremerton in '43, two of the new fellows were working with me rearming, I think, one of the planes. We were in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the ship had a nice long roll. I'd look around and one guy would have disappeared. Then a little while the later the other guy would be back and the first would be missing. When I found myself without any help at all, I buttoned up and let the fellows enjoy their sea sickness without hassle.
Were you one of the guys?
Over the next year and a half, Enterprise and the "Big Blue Fleet" sailed and fought in the Gilberts, the Marshalls, the Marianas, the Philippines, the Bonins, and finally, at Okinawa, the Ryukyus. By July 1944, my father had struck for AOM 1/c, the rate he held at the time of his discharge some 14 months later. Through conversation, I received a fragmented understanding of his day-to-day activities. He worked in the ship's fighter armory, and apparently preferred sleeping there as well. When the ship was under attack, he usually sought shelter just inside the ship's island, though at some point during spring 1945, he didn't quite make it: one attack left shrapnel in the back of his neck. Always clever mechanically, his duties as an ordnanceman probably suited him well, though he did mention disliking Corsairs as they seemed difficult to work on. The Big E was battle-damaged three times during the spring of 1945, and one of these attacks - probably the friendly fire incident on 20 March - resulted in the destruction of his sea bag:
June 7 1945
MEMORANDUM: TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:
In view of the loss of your sea bag by battle damage, you are hereby authorized to use a parachute bag and/or a salvaged government bag for the transportation of your personal clothing while on leave.
(Signed) W. L. Kabler
Commander, U.S. Navy,
In Ohio, a newspaper printed a short story which his parents evidently believed boded well, as they clipped and saved it:
BATTLE QUEEN - Watch for the return from the Pacific war zones of one of the best known warships of the U. S. Fleets, to complete her life as a training ship.
She can't be identified by name yet, but she has one of the most gallant records of all aircraft carriers. Because of her achievements in battle against the Japanese, she's one of the most widely known of the flat tops, and her return is another sign of the immensity of our fleet. (Newspaper clipping, no identifying marks)
The Big E arrived in Bremerton on June 7, and was still being repaired and refitted on August 14, 1945, when the Japanese surrendered, ending the Second World War. The night Enterprise berthed in Bremerton, my father called his parents, waking them up in the middle of the night.
That summer, he was detached from Enterprise, and transferred to Pasco, Washington, to finish up his enlistment:
The war ended while I sat in the transfer barracks at the air station. I ended up in Pasco. Here was the outstanding event of my Navy career: while waiting for my discharge I had to demonstrate (within a month) that I could swim a mile or I'd be restricted to base. After all, if my ship sunk I'd have to swim! (Letter, June 5, 1989)
He was discharged on October 5, 1945:
Other discharges announced: Aviation James W. Shepherd AO 1/c, 411 Church Street; at Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Wash., on Oct. 5; 1st Lt. Harold Anderson, Clarksburg at Ft. Miles, Del., on Sept. 26; Robert H. Krischel, BM 1/c. Federal reformatory, and Milfred S. Worth CMM (CB) 67 Patton Hill Road, at Great Lakes, Ill., on Oct. 5. (Newspaper clipping, no identifying marks)
Following the war, he lost no time making up for the years of civilian life he had missed:
What has happened to me? After discharge, 10/45, I took advantage of the GI bill. Two schools and 9 years [later] I ended up with a Ph.D. (Chem) and a wife I met at Ohio State and married in '50. After deciding I didn't want to work where most chemists did, i.e. Niagara frontier, Gulf Coast or New Jersey, I was lucky to get a job with a defense contractor 30 miles north of Pgh. [Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania] That died in '67 and I took a job with another Pgh. chemical manufactor [sic]. (Letter, June 7, 1989)
My father's feelings about the war can only be described as mixed. On at least one occasion, he placed responsibility - blame - for the Pacific War on the shoulders of both the Japanese and the United States governments. He considered the war unnecessary, a consequence of diplomats failing to do their jobs. He considered Japan's aggression in China and the American embargo of steel and oil, both as unwisely provoking hostilities. All the same, and particularly later in his life, he was quietly proud of his service, and of Enterprise. In his mind, he was able to separate his reservations about the need for the war, from his responsibility as a citizen to serve and defend his country. He volunteered for service months before Pearl Harbor. After the war he never appeared to harbor any hard feelings for the Japanese, believing that like him, they were obliged to defend their country.