Saturday, January 06, 2007

In memory of my dad on his birthday ... one of the Greatest Generation

WW II Navy veteran from USS Wisconsin

He was born January 6, 1924 ... 83 years ago today ... during a depressed time in America. He was a country boy, the oldest of five children, who quit school after the eighth grade so he could work to financially support his family. He never finished high school and, yet, he was one of the smartest men I ever knew.

He was part of the Greatest Generation ... those men who rose to the call and served during World War II. He helped save America ... and the world ... from communism and tyranny. He served in the U.S. Navy in the South Pacific, living onboard the USS Wisconsin from 1944-1946. He passed away in 1975 at the young age of 51.

He was an American hero. He was ... my dad.

He pulled himself out of an impoverished background and made something of his life. After the war, he married, raised three daughters, and worked at the same company for 30 years. He was strong in his faith, teaching Sunday School and serving as a deacon in our church. He lived the life that he and his fellow veterans had sacrified to provide for us.

Dad loved to camp in the Shenandoah National Park and he passed that love on to my sisters and me. We grew up camping at Big Meadows and Loft Mountain, hiking the trails and learning the history of the area. He was the first naturalist I knew. He taught us to "take only pictures; leave only footprints." He admonished us if we picked a flower ... "leave it for the next person to enjoy"... and recycled before the word "recycling" became vogue. We were taught to conserve ... reuse ... preserve.

During the war my dad served on the USS Wisconsin. At the age of 20 he shipped out in April 1944 on the newly commissioned battleship ... and that was where he lived until the age of 22. He was involved in some of the worst battles in the South Pacific ... a young man from Virginia who was part of the crew that fired the 16-inch guns that rained shells onto Tokoyo, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, the Philippines ... and brought down Japanese airplanes.

The timeline of the USS Wisconsin's service in World War II between April 16, 1944 and April 1, 1946 -- the years my dad was one of the young sailors on board:

April 16 - Commissioned Philadelphia Naval Yard.
July 7 - Departed Norfolk, VA, for shakedown cruise to Trinidad, British West Indies.
September 24 - WISCONSIN sailed for the West Coast, transited the Panama Canal.
October 2 - Reported to the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet and dropped anchor at Ulithi, Caroline Islands.
December 9 - Joined Admiral F. Halsey’s 3rd Fleet.
December 13 - WISCONSIN acting as support unit to the carriers performed its mission of rendering Japanese facilities at Manila useless.
December 14-16 - WISCONSIN earned her 1st Battle Star in the Leyte Gulf.
December 17 - A severe typhoon developed in which we lost destroyers USS Hull (DD-350), USS MONAGHAN (DD-354) and USS SPENCE (DD-512) all capsized and sank. WISCONSIN proved her seaworthiness as she escaped the storm unscathed.

January 3-22 - WISCONSIN armed with heavy antiaircraft batteries performed escort duty for TF 38’s fast carriers firing air strikes against Formosa, Luzon, and the Nansei Shoto to neutralize Japanese forces there and to cover the unfolding Lingayen Gulf operations. Those strikes included a thrust into the South China Sea in the hope that major units of the Japanese Navy could be drawn into battle. She earned her 2nd Battle Star in Luzon operation.
January/February - Subsequently assigned to the 5th Fleet when Admiral Spruance relieved Admiral Halsey, WISCONSIN moved northward to strike at the Tokyo area on the Japanese home island of Honshu. This attack on the enemy’s capital was to provide strategic cover for the invasion of Iwo Jima by cutting down the Japanese air force and wrecking industrial plants.
February 16 - WISCONSIN, as supporting unit, approached the Japanese coast under the cover of adverse weather conditions and again achieved complete tactical surprise.
February 17 - WISCONSIN supported landing operations against Iwo Jima.
February/March - WISCONSIN earned her 3rd Battle Star for Iwo Jima operations.
March 14 - WISCONSIN’S task force stood out of Ulithi for Japan. Its mission was to eliminate airborne resistance from the Japanese homeland to our forces invading Okinawa.
March 17 - WISCONSIN earned her 4th Battle Star in the Okinawa operation.
March 24 - WISCONSIN trained her 16-inch guns on targets ashore on Okinawa. Together with the other battlewagons of the task force, she pounded Japanese positions and installations. The task force was wholly concerned with protecting our landing operations.
April 12 - WISCONSIN bristling with 5" 40mm and 20mm guns, together with other units of the screens of the vital carriers, kept the enemy at bay or destroyed him before he could reach his targets.
April 17 - Ship’s gunfire knocked down 3 enemy planes.
June 4 - A typhoon was swirling though the Fleet. WISCONSIN rode out the storm again unscathed, but three cruisers, two carriers and a destroyer suffered serious damage.
June 8 - WISCONSIN’S seaplanes landed and rescued a pilot from a downed plane off the USS Shangri-La (CV-38).
June 13 - The WISCONSIN dropped anchor in Leyte Gulf for a period of repair and replenishment.
July 1 - Admiral Halsey’s 3rd Fleet fast carrier forces, now the greatest mass of sea power ever assembled, steamed northward to wage a tremendous pre-invasion campaign of destruction against every Japanese facility which could be used for prolonging the war.
July 15 - WISCONSIN participated in the bombardment of Muroran, Hokkaido, and her great 16" shells wrecked steel mills and oil facilities in the city.
July 17 - WISCONSIN blasted the Hitschi Miro area of the Honshu coast, northeast of Tokyo.
July-September - WISCONSIN earned her 5th Battle Star for the Operations against Japan.
September 5 - WISCONSIN dropped anchor in Tokyo Bay. She had been continuously at sea on the front line for periods of months at a time and had steamed 105,831 miles since her commissioning. She was credited with shooting down three enemy planes and assists on four others. She had refueled 150 destroyers at sea and had participated in every pacific naval operation since she joined the fleet in December 1944. For his services as commanding officer, Captain Roper was awarded the Legion of Merit.
September 22 - WISCONSIN embarked home-coming GIs at Okinawa and departed on the 23rd
October 4-9 - Stayed over at Pearl Harbor for 5 days.
October 15 - Arrived San Francisco

January 11-13 - WISCONSIN passed through the Panama Canal
January 18 - WISCONSIN arrived Hampton Roads, Va.
February-March - WISCONSIN cruised to Guantanamo Bay Cuba.
Summers months - WISCONSIN returned to Norfolk for a yard overhaul.

Source: USS Wisconsin Official Website

Thanks to the veterans, including my dad, who helped save our freedoms.

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