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Monday, July 06, 2009

Independence Day - and a yellow tablet

Dad003 My late father-in-law joined the Navy in June of 1943.

World War II was raging and the young man knew his country needed him.


He was three months short of his 18th birthday when his mom reluctantly signed the parental consent.


Fortunately, he kept his promise to her and came home in one piece.

Like most of the veterans from the Greatest Generation, Dad had not been one to share the events of his war service. Nor had he discussed his feelings and thoughts in our presence.

I will never forget that day when he let down his guard.

* * * *

It was July of 1999 and I invited my husbands extended family to celebrate the 4th of July with us at a barbecue in our back yard.

"Dad" was in the 28th year of his fourth marriage. He'd been a father to his step-daughter and step-son ... something he'd not been allowed to do with his own two children.

I called him several weeks before the event and made a special request.

"Dad," I asked, "Would you be the guest of honor at the party and tell us about your experience in World War II and the Korean Conflict?"

His response indicated reluctance, but I was not giving in easily.

"I know WR is looking forward to hearing your story."

I wasn't really lying. I knew that WR knew nothing of his dad's time in the armed forces. I also knew that in his heart he felt cheated out of his fathers relationship, time, and love. There was no doubt that WR would embrace my appeal.

The weather was gorgeous, the food was exceptional, and the children and grandchildren of his two families enjoyed the camaraderie that one expects of an Independence Day gathering.

Dad pulled out his war memoirs handwritten on a yellow tablet.

We sat quietly - even the very small step-grandchild - as he read about joining the Navy.

After flunking the V-12 unit, Dad switched to Sonar School in San Diego, CA. We heard of his journey to New Hebrides and Tulagi, and dropping depth charges that may have hit the target.

He convoyed to Bouganville with supplies and troops.

After "10 days R&R in New Zealand, beautiful country - but on the way we ran into the rim of a typhoon."

DadNewZealand

He spent months on mine sweeping duty near New Caledonia, performed search and rescue off the coast of Guam, and towards the end of the war served harbor duty in the Philippines.

The boat's trip home was delayed twice by a broken shaft. He and and his fellow conquering heroes arrived in San Francisco harbor after a weary journey at the end of tug boat tow line.

DadKorea September 1950:
"This was tough, almost unbearable. Married --2 kids, WR Jr & Sherry, and on my birthday - Sept 2 - I got orders in the mail and was ordered to report to Pier 91 in Seattle in one week for Korea."

Dads voice broke and he wept as he told us of his agony in leaving his family; and then came the loss of his good friend and cousin Robert in combat (Battle of Chosin Resevoir). Twice his ship ferried South Korean guerrilla fighters into northern territory where they were massacred. He felt complicit.

Other than one memorable raid that blew up a railroad tunnel and slowed the enemy supply line, most of his long and lonely nights were spent stationed on the sonar gear, creeping along the coastline "doing my pinging."

His boat was eventually relieved by another A.P.D and they "came home...was discharged...life went on. That's my story -- WR, Sr.

I asked him if I could keep the sheets from his lined yellow tablet. The paper not only has his words, in his own pen... but is punctuated with his tears. I knew it would be a priceless family keepsake.

Dad died of cardiac arrest in December 2002.

Thank you, Grace (Mama Rehama), for choosing a memorable Independence Day Holiday as the subject for this week's Fun Monday.

46 comments:

Kila said...

Freedom isn't free, is it? So glad he finally told his story to you all.

Janis said...

What a heart rendering story. To think this man kept all that emotion bottled up for years. Thank God he shared his story with the family, it not only lifted a burden from him but gave new understanding to the family and drew them closer. Thanks for sharing. Kila is right...freedom does not come free.

margaret said...

Wow, Pamela. Just wow. Thank you for asking for, and preserving, this priceless keepsake. And from the pics, I see that you have scanned some or all of the original writing, thus preserving it forever. Thanks to you, and to Dad for his service.

jill said...

wow, just wow. my dad wont talk about Vietnam either. he says he's not ready. what we do know is that he did some search and rescue in the water, for god's sake, and from the choppers took bodies of men that were dead or almost onto the ship. he told MY husband that, not any of us, but he passed that along to me. No wonder he babbles in Japanese from time to time when he is asleep. some things, run deep.

jill said...

and my post is up, I didnt end up on the list...

Sayre said...

I've noticed that most veterans of WWII and Korea are rather quiet about the whole thing. It must have been so traumatic, being ripped from your family to go kill or enable others to kill people. I feel for the soldiers who are in Iraq and Afghanistan now because they are in the same boat. Even if you sign up for it, there's no way of knowing exactly what's going to happen or how you'll feel about it until you're right in the middle of it.

You are truly blessed that your FIL agreed to open up and tell you all about his experience.

Junebug said...

Merciful heavens, that was good. Thanks for posting it. I have a nephew that was stationed in South Korea for 1 year, 1 year in Iraq, and this winter he is going to Afghanistan for 1 year. I'll talk to him about his trips over.

Intense Guy said...

I'm so very glad you shared this. There are so many stories of what these men did during "the war" and of the terrible price even the survivers paid. Your grandfather's story was a unique one and your keepsake, the lined yellow paper, is priceless.

I salute your grandfather with true respect and the utmost of honor and a most humble thank you

tlawwife said...

I'm so glad he decided to share. Terry's uncle never did. What a priceless keepsake you now have.

Faye said...

Front page in local paper this morning--young reservist returns from Iraq with leg gone at the knee--23 year old wife with new baby. But as your "Dad" so succinctly said "Life goes on". What a lot is left out of that statement. I'm so glad you were able to keep this precious story in the soldier's own hand. when I enlarged to read in his own hand it was so moving. When soldier go to war they have the double burden of fighting and feeling guilty for the responsibilities they leave behind.

Thank you for sharing this memory, Pamela.

Karmyn R said...

I don't remember that.

aussiechic said...

Mate, that is a tear jerker if I have ever heard one.....

The Church Lady said...

I so enjoyed reading your post. It brought a tear to my eye. I am so glad you have this memory of your dad. Thanks for sharing.

Desert Songbird said...

I've spent a lot of time in tears this holiday season.

grammy said...

Very touching post. My Father was on the USS Oklahoma when it was hit and sunk in Pearl harbor. He survived and was in the Navy for four more years. He died in 1956 of cancer. I was only three. His Grandsons would have loved to hear the stories... if he would have shared them. My Mom said he didn't like to talk about it.

coffeypot said...

Unfortunately his story of his family life is all to common for men in the Navy. Too many long months away from home and the loneliness of the wife and kids back home can take their toll. It is good he was able to share those moments with all his family. You are a lucky woman to have the family you have, Pam.

Irene said...

A lovely tale as usual, Pamela! Thanks for sharing!

Hayden said...

wow. and thank YOU for gently insisting, and making it possible for him to share, and for you - in turn - to share with us. very moving.

dawn said...

Wow, what a great gift he gave you and you gave your readers. It is awesome to hear the stories of those who have gone before and it makes those things they went through more real for us and appreciate them more. Thanks for the great post.

lisaschaos said...

What a brave man! i'm so glad he came back! I have a young uncle (17 - he lied about his age) who did not come back. I'm sure you are proud of him and that you miss him still!

Stephanie, Mama Dramatist said...

I loved that story!

In his last days, my Granddaddy finally started unburdening himself of his experiences in the Philippines during WWII.

I won't forget his words. I won't forget the price paid for our freedoms. And I will pass down his words to my daughter.

Thank you for this post, Pamela.

Ari_1965 said...

A powerful July 4th. I'm glad you got to keep the yellow tablet sheets.

DesLily said...

wow. that's all.. just wow.

Moi said...

Wow. What a life he had. I'm glad you got him to tell his story.

The Dishes Will Wait said...

Thank you for sharing a touching story. Today's servicemen/women tell such a different story than those of yesteryear, but nonetheless the same. A story of courage and sacrifice.

Amanda said...

I don't remember it, either. Was I at that BBQ?

Riveting, though. War stories in general interest me. Those coming from my grandfather, though, touch me in a completely different way.

LadyStyx said...

wow

ChrisB said...

Sorry I only just got around to reading this wonderful post.

Now why have you made me cry when I'm waiting for a friend to pick me up!

Carla said...

This was a wonderful post. So many of those men never talked about their experience. I remember when a friend's father whom I had met for the first time, in his eighties started talking to me. Everyone was struck silent and said that he had never ever talked about his experience before that. I'm not sure why he did that day, but I certainly felt honoured.

C said...

War stories and books always captivate my attention. The last war book I read was Paco's Story. It made me cry. :) His life made other's possible. Thanks for sharing that family story.

MarmiteToasty said...

This is beautifully moving.... fanks for sharing...... and didnt our young servicemen look so much older then their years, I have a photo of my father in his uniform at 19 and he looks like he is late 30s lol....

How special to have all these precious things to remember.... we should never forget..

x

Molly said...

I have been a negligent blogger of late although I was tempted to sign-up for this particular topic. I am touched by your tribute to your father-in-law.

Molly said...

One more thought... you were very wise to be intentional about asking your father-in-law about his time in the service. My grandmothers both lived into their ninties. I regret not asking them about their youth when they were still with us.

Shelby said...

WOW this is powerful. It doesn't get much better than this.

You have such a heart for remembrance and the importance of the blessing.. and for loving.

Your father in law was a true blessing for all of us.

Far Side of Fifty said...

He gave many the gift of freedom, all soldiers are special..and not nearly thanked enough. I have found that young men like him, suffer greatly in the years after the wars, many never talk, many feel like it was wrong..to kill others, but they had to kill or be killed..what a hard choice. My Father still struggles over his 13 months in Korea..dreams it, and talks sometimes.. they carry it with them forever. Great Post! :)

addhumorandfaith said...

A wonderful story. And isn't it wonderful that you have this very specific memory of him now that he is gone.

bermudabluez said...

What an amazing story, Pamela! So very difficult for those that went through it. Thank you for sharing this memory with us.

Kathleen Marie said...

What an awesome story. I know my Dad shared a lot with my niece who has promised to type it all our for us.

Larry's Dad never shared a lot, bits and pieces here and there that you had to grab quick or miss.

Thanks again!

Marti said...

Wow, what a story! Thanks for sharing!

Hope this finds you well, I've missed you. Big hugs!

Lil Mouse said...

just wanted to check and see if you were okay, as you hadn't posted in a while

WT said...

Helloooo?? Testing 1-2-3...is this thing turned on??

Gaynor said...

Yeh! Where are you, of course we're missing you Pam.
Love, Gaynor xx

The Artist formerly Known as Purpleworms (!) said...

Very moving.

Julie said...

Wow! Great post! Here's what I think. You should write a book. You have so many wonderful stories about your family.

What a wonderful 4th that would be. Very touching.

Susie Q said...

Wow...and what a blessing to all of you to have these words,in his own hand, this story. My dad would never talk about his war experience to anyone save for the silly things. He did say a few things to Bill after he joined the Navy...I wish we knew more. I know you treasure these papers and his words. What a blessing.

Peter said...

This one slipped by my radar Pamela, what a great story about a great guy and a family treasure to hold on to.

WV is "yings" story is the yangs.