My Father, who was an 'Boilermaker' onboard the SS Hillsdale Victory is 92 years old now. I live in Florida and though I have been back to Oklahoma twice since the first of the year (2019)and am planning another trip in the next few weeks..., I realize my time to visit with him is getting shorter.
None of us are getting any younger and those of who Served in World War II, in any capacity are getting fewer every year. every day.
I want to make the best effort I am able to meet as many of these 'Old Soldiers' as I am able. Though 'Merchantmen' were not 'Soldiers'in definition, there were more of these brave young men which gave their lives and/or 'Sacrificed' to provide the needed ammunition, petrol and such to the 'Front Line' Soldiers than all of the Military Branches all put together.
I have had the pleasure of meeting and visiting with so many of our Veterans, who served in everything from air planes, helicopters, to armored carriers, tanks, ground troop(s), door gunners to even 'Gliders'..., and so many more!
Not all of them were 'Heros', though some may have been. They wouldn't admit to it if they were. True 'Heros' are not prone to bragging.
I met one guy at Fort Lenard Wood, Missouri which had bullet scars down his back and disappeared under his belt line. I was about 12 or 13 (early '70's) and didn't know how to bridle my curiosity. I asked him what was the scars.
He laughed and told me he was in the Army in WWII and was shot eleven times by an German 'Burp' gun. He even laughed and said he was had three bullets in his ass! LOL! I asked him, "How did you get shot in the butt?" He laughed again and answered, "I didn't get my ass in the Foxhole fast enough!"
Another gentleman I met was on a ship torpedoed by a Jap sub. He was picked up, along with a few other survivors by a Jap boat and taken to 'Bataan', where he also survived the notorious 'Death March' of Bataan. He was then placed on a ship headed to Mainland Japan where he was to be used as 'Forced Labor'. The ship was promptly torpedo by an Allied Submarine. Back into the water..., again. This time he was rescued by some local Natives of an near by Island. Three weeks later, he was returned to the Allied Forces.
At the time I spoke to him, decades after the War, he stated he still would not eat 'Seafood', after spending days in the ocean watch Shrimp, crabs and Lobsters eating the flesh of his fellow seamen floating beside him in their 'Survival Vests'.
My Daddy served as an 'Merchantman'. My Son was '10th Mountain Division' in Afghanistan. I listened to stories of a second cousin relating his experience in Korea and how they would shoot Chinese Soldiers and the Chinese would pick up the rifles of the dead and climb the dead bodies until they could climb anymore because of the blood and gore. At that point, Sheryl Todd said they would retreat a hundred yards and do it all over again. He said the barrels of their heavy machine guns would begin to melt and warp due the enormous amount of rounds fired through them. He stated the dead Chinese Soldiers were, "Stacked like wind rows as far as the eye could see.
My cousin Garry Baxter was an 'Medivac' helicopter pilot in Vietnam. Shot down three times..., twicw behind enemy lines. How he managed to become the man he is now, without losing his mind is a testiment to the will of the human mind. Day after day of landing, under fire, lifting the wounded and dying from the field of battle..., constantly having to wash the blood from the deck of his craft..., "Do I Love my Veterans? You bet your ASS i Do!"
To say a mere 'Thanks' is not enough.