A Sailor's Story
October 27, 2011
This year, Veteran’s day falls on a very special date: 11-11-11. The irony is that the armistice that ended the fighting in World War I went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. President Wilson declared in 1919 that November 11 would be the first commemoration of Armistice Day, which later became known as Veteran’s Day and now honors all veterans. My father, father-in-law, and husband are all veterans, so I have been thinking about this special holiday for some time. The passing of the years brings out stories about war experiences that often are not discussed when a veteran first returns from a war. One of these stories will stay with me forever.
My father-in-law served in the Navy in World War II on the USS Newcomb (DD-586). He rarely mentioned his service during his life, except to say that he "hated rice" because he had to eat so much of it during the war. However, a year before his death, we were watching a ceremony on television honoring survivors of Kamikaze attacks during WWII when he began to talk about how he would never forget the look on the faces of the Kamikaze pilots as they flew their aircraft into the bridge of his ship in their suicide missions. He talked of the serene look on their faces and the way their scarves were blowing in the wind. While there are conflicting reports of the number of Kamikaze strikes (from three to five) to the USS Newcomb on April 6, 1945 during the Battle of Okinawa, there is no question about the destruction caused by this attack. The death toll, the mayhem, and the memories left for the survivors to face for the rest of their lives are not a matter of question. There are so many of these stories that went to the grave with veterans, and we will always be indebted to the honorable men and women still living who shouldered the burden of them.
North Oak Branch