of the Lex
I enlisted in the
U.S. Navy in the late summer of 1942
after having graduated from high
I was 17 years old at the time
and had no clear idea of what I wanted
to do, except that I wanted to join
I arrived in
for boot camp on
November 13th, 1942.
Boot Camp Company #41-713.
Henry Fonda was at the same
time in company 42-714.
I had a cousin, Norman Taylor,
in 714 with Fonda.
We didn’t get to visit much while he
was there. He got
sent back to
for trade school. I
think that’s where he finished out the
After boot camp I
went to Aviation Ordinance
school-which was in
When that was over I was sent
to aviation gunnery school.
The gunnery school was located
on North Island
at San Diego.
When the schools were completed
I was assigned to a fleet air wing
Island. My job
was to help beach the big flying
boats-the PBYs & PBMs.
This was a very cushy
our crew just sat around and played
cards and drank pop, with liberty
almost every night, plus sit and watch
the waves go by.
I got bored with
that after almost a year so I
volunteered for sea duty.
I didn’t know what I would get
because we knew there were 2 or 3
carriers in Pearl Harbor
that needed replacements.
Luckily I was
assigned to the
There were about twenty of us
from San Diego
and we were taken over on a new
destroyer-the USS Sigourney #643.
It was a rough week going over
and most of us got pretty seasick. We
new recruits went aboard the
Lexington on October 13, 1943.
I was assigned to the V-5 division,
which consisted of plane handlers,
plane captains and ordinance crews.
Later, I think V-5 was
ordinance only. For
about a week I was a plane handler
pushing planes, pulling chocks etc.
I didn’t like that at all.
Someone must have
finally looked at my records and
discovered that I had been through
ordinance school, thereafter I was
assigned to an ordinance crew.
I always worked with the
Torpedo Bombers, the TBFs and TBMs.
It was tough physically
demanding work, with lots of long
I can only
remember a couple of instances where
my particular crews work ever gave the
pilots any trouble.
One a 50Caliber wouldn’t fire,
probably electrical and the other
pilot error. This
pilot brought a bomb back aboard ship
that was rattling around loose in the
bomb bay. This bomb
was armed and just a little tap would
set it off. Four of
us took ropes and tied around that
bomb bay so it wouldn’t open too
far-just enough for the crew leader to
get his hand in there and unscrew the
fuse. He did that
and proceeded to throw the fuse over
the side. I’m a
little miffed by that incident because
it was a volunteer call and the crew
leader got a Navy and Marine Corp.
medal and the rest of us didn’t even
The Lex had been
on one small sortie before I went
aboard. Shortly after I got aboard we
went down to the
Our planes failed to knock out
their airfields and too many planes
left to attack us.
So the Japs came out in force the
night of December 5th.
It was a full moon and the Japs
also were dropping parachute flares.
It was light as day. Being an
ordinance crew I didn’t have a
specific battle station so I was free
to be topside to watch all the
that it was too hot to sleep below
decks as we were near the equator.
thinking when those torpedoes were
being shot at us=”What am I doing out
here?” I could be
back in San Diego,
beaching planes and watching the waves
go by. Then also we
had all heard horror stories from the
of the Coral Sea,
with guys abandoning ship getting
badly burned from burning oil on the
water and also how the sharks harassed
them. I didn’t
relish the thought of going in the
We had a lot of
faith in Captain, Felix B. Stump.
He got on the P.A. system after
we took the torpedo hit and said “I
got you into this and I’ll get you
out” but it wasn’t really him.
It was an ingenious engineering
crew that was able to pioneer some new
steering techniques that got us back
to Pearl Harbor.
Here we unloaded the dead and
made temporary repairs. The
was sent to
for repairs and those were made in
record time. It was
quite a sight to see that ship in dry
dock. This repair
time gave the crew a chance for leave
and this was my first time home since
going into the service.
My Brother Richard a fighter
pilot instructor in the Army Air Corps
was also able to take leave at the
same time. I think
he was stationed at Luke Field in
While I was home
someone stole my billfold.
I couldn’t believe it after
having been in all kinds of rough
places all over the West Coast.
Because of losing my ID I
stayed around town a couple of days
more than I should in hopes that
someone might turn in my stuff, but it
never showed. I had
a rough time getting back to
Richard arranged for me to fly
on a military aircraft going to
Oakland, then a
train ride to
I was late by several hours
getting back to the ship so I was put
on report and also restricted to the
ship for the rest of the time were
there. Back to
By now the crews
were all well trained.
I could go to the history books
and give you dates and places but they
have blurred for me.
We were kept busy and well
informed on where our targets were
going to be and kind of what to expect
in retaliation. As
I said before the Ordinance crew
didn’t have a battle station so after
our work was done loading and arming
planes, we were free to roam around
and I spent most of my time up on the
Because of that I got to see most of
the hostile action.
One time I saw a
twin engine Japanese Betty bomber fly
all the way across the fleet, about
ten feet off of the water, weaving
back and forth and heading for us with
a torpedo. Such a
daring, skillful piece of flying.
I kept hoping he would get away
and perhaps he did.
I saw a lot of planes shot down.
One time, I saw a Jap plane on
fire, flying the full length of the
flight deck and then landing in the
water, just off the port stern.
Another time our flight deck
was strafed by a Jap plane.
Luckily no planes aboard so no
damage was incurred.
Once a Jap dive-bomber had been
shot down and he landed off our port
bow. When we
cruised by he was standing on the wing
of his plane hollering for help.
This was before kamikazes were
operating. One of
our destroyers picked him up.
I remember Mog
Mog and Majuro.
These were small atolls where we got
to go ashore and drink 2 warm beers,
play baseball and go swimming without
worrying about the sharks.
It wasn’t all
drudgery, we had movies quite often.
We had a lot of books aboard.
We had cribbage, acey ducey,
all kinds of card games with poker
being a mainstay.I had a bad case of
poker fever for a while.
I would go all over the ship
looking for a game.
Another diversion that we had was to
get on a work detail to bring supplies
aboard. You could
almost always steal a crate of oranges
or a box of apples or some such and
never get caught. Some of the plane
handlers and fire fighting crew
brought a dog on board in
As luck would have it the dog
was loose on the hanger deck one day
and darted in front of me.
I was pushing a 500# bomb and
couldn’t stop. It
broke the little guys leg and I
thought I was going to have to fight a
bunch of guys. This
same bunch smuggled a monkey on board.
They told me later that he died
on the way back to Pearl
Harbor from seasickness.
At one time we
were at sea for more than 90
days-underway and no land in sight.
We were kept pretty well
supplied with decent food and mail
came pretty regularly.
I got quite a few letters from
home. We also had
the Gedunk ship, with ice cream, candy
About the only
Island where we could see
the action taking place was at
Guam, when it was
assaulted and captured.
We carried Marine
survivors and wounded from the
Tarawa back to Pearl Harbor.
There was a bitter bunch of
Marines. They took
it in the shorts for poor planning,
poor intelligence and suffered an
awful number of casualties because of
it. Of course we went though several
major storms while I was aboard and we
suffered through at least 2 typhoons.
One of those was in the
South China Sea.
It was a real killer.
There were several destroyers
and also several baby flat tops that
capsized in that one.
Sometimes we would wonder if
the ship was going to right itself
after a roll. It
was almost impossible to eat or sleep
during that time. I
think we were in that one storm more
than 24 hours before it finally
I remember the
Marianas turkey shoot.
It was pretty exciting because
we could hear the pilots talking on
the ships PA system.
Our pilots really clobbered the
Japanese in that battle.
I remember the
night landings when the planes had
gone beyond a prudent range for fuel.
A lot of them were crippled and
shot up. Almost all
were out of gas and they got back to
the fleet after dark.
Admiral Mitscher gave the
unprecedented order to turn on the
landing lights on all the carriers.
I think it was a safe move
because the Japanese were too busy
licking their own wounds to do any
more fighting that night.
Normally a plane goes back to
its own carrier but not that night,
they were landing wherever they could
find a slot.
Several of the planes had to ditch
because they ran out of fuel. I
think most of the crews that survived
the water landings were picked up by
the destroyer escorts.
This was a very frantic night
for the pilots and landing officers
and flight deck crews.
Some of the planes came down
the groove and wouldn’t or perhaps
couldn’t take a wave off.
Several bad crashes as a result
and that just compounded the problem
of cleaning the decks of a crash and
getting things operational again. I
stood on the side by the
Island and watched it all
and helped push at least 2 crippled
planes over the side.
No time to waste on them.
I was glad I wasn’t flying
Then the battle
came along and the Japs came up with
the Kamikaze idea.
Actually this was not a new idea for
early in the war Colin P. Kelly
crashed into a Jap ship.
Colin Kelly was an Army Air
force pilot who the Kelly Field in
is named after.
The day we were
finally hit by a Kamikaze I was up on
the flight deck waiting for our planes
to return from a raid.
Two Japanese planes out of
about a dozen got through the outer
screen, or pickets and they seemed to
pick the Lex as a target.
Our gunners blew one out of the
sky but the other kept coming and when
he was almost directly overhead I
remember thinking “I’ve got to get the
hell out of here!”
I got about halfway down to the hanger
deck before he hit the superstructure.
There was over a hundred people
killed and many wounded.
As for me I got knocked off the
ladder and I can’t remember what I did
for several hours afterward.
There was no damage to the
flight deck so we were able to land
planes and continue to function.
One of the more
heartwarming jobs was dropping
supplies to American prisoners in the
P.O.W. camps after the Japs
Of course it wasn’t too long after the
fell until the A-bomb came along and
then it was on to
was the first carrier to enter the
harbor. We had
several liberties in
I didn’t make it to
but visited Yokasuku and other
outlying places. I
still remember the odors.
It was strange to all of us.
One of the more memorable
sights was seeing this great harbor
full of American ships on a cold,
clear night, with a full moon behind
Some time in late
January we came back to the states.
brought between 4000-5000 troops home
so we had to stand in line for
were sleeping everywhere, yet no one
complained too much because we knew we
would all get home soon.
Lots of high stakes poker games
going on. We landed
in San Francisco
to a hero’s welcome.
Ships came out to meet us,
bands playing, flags flying
everywhere. It was
I got discharged
in February 1946 and I hung around
for a couple of days trying to get
Finally three of us hired a private
automobile to take us to
I managed to get a bus to
later I rejoined some of my shipmates
at the 10th annual
Hey I remembered several!
This was a very emotional
experience for me.
Who knows, we thought we were right.