|Survivors of SLCU #38: Allen Bashore, South Carolina; Roy W. Kruft, Waller, TX;
Morris Parkel, Arkansas; and Dud Morris, Elgin, TX
Once was a time many Americans would have known what a “standard landing craft” was.
|WWII Standard Landing Craft|
It was the time when the daddies and big brothers and uncles went away, leaving neighborhoods of women, young children, and old people to carry on the work of America.
Our neighbor Dud Morris was 17 when he enlisted in the Navy to go to war against Germany and Japan. His dad didn't want him to go but he signed the papers for him anyway.
At first Dud wanted to be a soldier, but while working a summer job at Camp Swift before enlistment he saw first hand that a soldier's life was not pleasant. There was lots of sleeping out in the field with the ticks, and the Texas summer heat, and the mosquitoes.
He thought maybe the Navy would be more to his liking, so he signed up for that.
Never having gone much of anywhere before, Dud soon found himself in Oceanside, California, training with a few hundred other enlistees. That was March to October of 1944. Then it was to San Francisco to sail on the USS Highlands, departing on Thanksgiving Day bound for Hawaii.
The men left Hawaii in January, headed for Iwo Jima. They sailed past the Marshall Islands and Guam to a small island by the name of Iwo Jima. On February 19th of 1945 a massive Allied invasion of the island began, and it was Dud and his buddies' job to ferry the fighters from ship to shore. The battle raged for weeks until the island was secured in mid-March.
After the island was secured, the men loaded and distributed supplies and helped fish bomber crews out of the seas after they bailed from their damaged aircraft on bombing runs to Japan. The rest of the time they waited for what everybody agreed was coming–the invasion of Japan and fighting the enemy on his own turf.
Then in August of '46, plans changed for good. The USA dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. No invastion of Allied troops would be necessary. The Japanese surrendered.
About which Dud says simply, “Thank God for Harry Truman.”
|Wives & widows of SLCU #38: Grace Shepherd, SC; Bernie Wilson, TX;
Cleta Casey, TX; Melba Morris, TX; Rita Banes, MS;
Geraldine Parkel, AK; Shirley Cedotal, LA
After the war, the men returned home, dispersed to the various parts of the country they'd come from and took up their lives again. If the others were like Dud, they didn't talk much about what they'd experienced.
In 1976 some of them got together and planned a reunion. Over 200 men and officers had been in Unit #38, and 60 came to the first reunion. They've gotten together every year since.
|Dud and wife Melba at reunion|
Today we were honored to host the five remaining members of SLCU #38, their families, and some of the widows of those who have passed on. It was a time of laughter and of joshing and remembering, with quite a lot of tears and red eyes mixed in.
It wasn't too hard to see the 17, 18 and 19 year-old men they were in those days of remembrance. For men they were.