I got into the war late because I was needed in Modesto as a firefighter. Finally I left for boot camp in Farragut, Idaho on D-day and was shipped to Camp Ward, one of five camps. We were close to Lake Pend Orelle and at the end of three months my crew had won the whaleboat rowing pennant.
I had the choice of staying in Farragut as a fireman or going to radar school. Looking for adventure, I guess, I chose radar school and reported to Point Loma at San Diego. After three weeks I was on my way to Pearl Harbor on a mine sweeper, YMS 323 and was transferred to the USS Fixity, a bigger steel mine sweeper.
Just before Christmas I bumped into a friend from Modesto who invited me to Christmas dinner at Kaneohe Naval Air Station. There were 12 sailors from Modesto there! We had dinner together and a baseball game.
Late in April my ship left for the forward area, escorting convoys and stopping at Eniwetok, Ulithi and finally Okinawa.
We were at sea when word came of President Roosevelt's death. That was a very quiet time.
Shortly after the Okinawa invasion, we joined the anti-submarine and kamikaze patrol between Naha and Ie Shima, the 11 ships each having a 2000-yard sector to patrol.
THE NAVY lost more ships and men at Okinawa than in the entire rest of the war. Many nights we would have over 100 raids and it's a wonder anyone survived.
One morning at dawn we could see we were the only ship that had not been hit or even sunk during a long night.
About the 25 of August we heard that the first atomic bomb had been dropped.
Shortly after that the Japanese peace delegation went to the Philippines, and had to refuel on Ie Shima. We were on picket duty when they took off. The Japanese Betty-type bomber, painted white with green meatballs on the wings, went right over our heads.
The night of the surrender I went up on deck to witness the greatest display of fireworks I have ever seen, nothing since to equal it. I ducked back in, telling myself this is no time to get killed. As a matter of fact, seven men were killed.
Every fifth bullet was a tracer and those were the only ones you saw.
We were ordered to Korea to sweep mines for Seventh Fleet to land there. Then on to southern Japan to sweep more mines and ride out a typhoon in Sasebo harbor, one of Japan's largest naval bases. We were the first American fighting ship to enter a Japanese harbor -- even before the treaty was signed. It was uneventful.
The next week while sweeping, a mine blew up in our gear and damaged one of our propellers and rudder, so we were the first American ship in a Japanese dry dock.
After repairs we went to sweep mines clear of what was to have been the invasion beach on the main island of Honshu.
I can tell you that if the atomic bombs had not been dropped on Japan, many thousands of people would have been killed on both sides.
Every day I thank God for those bombs.
Sometimes you have to sacrifice a few to save a lot. Or I probably would not be here to tell this story.