In years past Memorial Day was a solemn day of mourning to honor those who paid the ultimate price for our freedoms. Businesses closed, towns held parades, speeches were given and prayers offered up. Cemeteries were filled with people cleaning graves and decorating them with flags and flowers remembering those loved ones lost in service to our country.
This weekend would be a great time to interview family members young and old of their memories of Memorial Day. My father wrote the following of his experiences of fighting in World War II and being homesick. He shared the joy that he and other soldiers felt being back in the United States with family.
“The war had ended and it had been almost two years since I had seen my family, and I missed them. I was ready to go home now, but it would be another six months before I would get to see them.
But first we were refueled and were sent back to Okinawa to pick up other personnel and headed for San Francisco. Additional bunks were welded to the hangar deck to enable us to pick up more soldiers in Pearl Harbor.
The next assignment for us was to go to Shanghai, China and pick up more troops and take them to Seattle, Washington.
We brought back a lot of men home to the United States, and they were really happy to be back. What a wonderful and exhilarating time that was when we saw the States. We were back home in the U.S.A.
After a short stay in the States we moved down the coast to the Panama Canal. After a short stop there we went through the Panama Canal to the Atlantic Ocean and to Norfolk, Virginia. Our ship was to be decommissioned.
In March 1946, I finally got a 15 day leave to go home after 27 months away. After my leave I went back to Norfolk, Virginia and back to the Anzio. In May I was finally discharged and went back to Beaumont, Texas.
After being out of the Navy for three months, I reenlisted for two years. I was sent to New Orleans for reassignment, and I was placed on a sea going tug for a short time. Then I was assigned to Washington D.C. to work with guided missiles off of Virginia. After a stretch there, I was placed on a newly built huge ship named the U.S.S. Coral Sea. We took it out for a shake down to try all the new equipment. We went to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, and we got to see some of the sights of Cuba.
I was due to be discharged in two months and was not re-enlisting so I was removed from the U.S.S. Coral Sea because preparation was being made to go on a six month cruise to the Mediterranean. I’m glad I didn’t re-enlist because if I had I wouldn’t have met my wife, Jean. I was getting tired of all this adventure, and I had enough to last me a life time.
During my time of service I was able to go ashore in the Philippines, Island of Guam, Ulithi, Okinawa, Kerama Retto, Ryukyu Islands, Marshall Islands, Caroline Islands, Korea, China, Cuba and Panama City.
I was finally discharged in July 1948. I’m happy to say that I was proud that I did serve my country. I got to see a lot of this world, but the U.S.A. is still the best. It’s an adventure I shall never forget. Looking back at all the events I experienced, I thank God for all the lessons I learned and that He brought me back safely.”
Dad has not only recorded his memories of his experience serving in World War II for his family but has done his part in preserving American history. This weekend would be a great time to interview family members young and old of their memories of Memorial Day or of their service to our country. Pull out your laptop or grab paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories and the memories of family members to preserve a historical military story for future generations.
- What did your hometown do to honor fallen victims of war?
- As a child, how did you celebrate Memorial Day?
- How did you feel when you heard the war was over?
- If you were overseas, how long did it take for you to return home?
- How did you feel when you set foot back in the United States?