As I was speaking to the guys / gals at the veteran's home over the weekend, I told them that I would love to document any and all stories that they wanted to tell. I guess I was overheard by one of the other residents and he left the room. Anyway, the next day when I was down there, he grabbed me by the arm and told me "I have my life story written down for you to publish". I was a bit shocked, because this patient who is close to 90 years old and is a retired MCPO, has alzheimers. I run into him all the time and he has good days and bad days, so I'm wondering what I was going to get.(so he sometimes repeats himself and towards the end it doesn't make alot of sense) He had previously shared his story of his "60 hour bath" which he included in his story, so I sat down and did my best to decipher the 10 pages of hand written notes that he gave me. I kept the spelling exactly as he had it, but did put in some occasional punctuation since there isn't a single comma or period thru the entire 10 pages. His story "One Sailor's Survial" was typed up for him last year, so it is included in here verbatim. Some of the dates / time he served aboard ships doesn't match up, but to honor my promise to him, I am "publishing" it for him in thanks for his long military service. He says at the end he was discharged on 28 July, but cannot remember the year he retired from the Navy. I think that his time line is a little off and that he was on the USS La Valett first and the USS Gannett second.
My name is John O. Bacon Jr., named after my father, John O. Bacon Sr. I was born on 17 March 1919 on the outskirts of Plaucheville, La. My mother, Evelie Ardion, died 3 months after my birth. I was the 9th child in my family. My father remarried 3 years later to a woman ½ his age and started his second family of 6 boys in 8 years for a total of 15 children. My 4 sisters left home and got married, except for the 2 younger sisters who went to New York to live with one of the older sisters. They have never returned to La. When I was 12 years old and could spell and write my name and count to 100, my step-mother took me out of school and told me to get a job. I was very sick, spitting out puss and running a high fever, she threw my plate out the door, into the yard and told me to get a job. Our next door neighbors, Ralph and Lylon Grenaillion, gave me a place to sleep and put me on a bus to Charity Hospital in New Orleans which became my home for 2 months before I returned to my neighbors home and the next day he enlisted me in the C.C.C. Civilian Conservation Corps, a pet project of F.D.R. who had just been elected president and was trying to give a home to the thousand boys age 12 to 17 who was out in the street, hungry and no place to live. The project was re-forestation of the country. We planted trees in the forest that had been clear cut for lumber to build homes for the thousands of people migrating from other countrys and also for trade goods. I made CCC my home for 4 years. 30.00 per month and room and board. School for those like I was, second grade education when I started and at the end of four years, the equliviant of high school. The WWII draft had just started and I didnt want to go in the Army so I voulunteered for the Navy. I went to N.O.B. Norfolk, Va. 12 weeks of learning then the next 2 years on U.S.S. St Louis. Then 2 years on the air carrier Wasp where I was the ships messenger on a 3 wheel motor cycle device. When we were in port our 3 squadrons of aircraft would be on airfields close to where the ships berth. I would taxi the pilots to the airfield and back to the ship. I also took the chaplin to meetings. I stayed on the Wasp for 1 year, then went to school, as a aircraft sheet metal school. At the end of school, I was assigned to the sea plane tender U.S.S. Garnet as a fireman 2/c. We surveyed lend-lease base which we had got from England for 50 WWI Navy destroyers. One of these bases was 80 miles up the Escambia River in So. America. A small country in So. America, the same place where Jim Jones murdered his whole religious order then committed suicide. The country British Guiana. From there we were sent to Bermuda with a squadron of B-55 sea planes to fight the German U-Boats that was sinking our ships in the Atlantic Ocean. Our planes would go out and fly over the convoys of merchant ships and when the U-Boats would attack the ships, our planes would attack the U-Boats with depth charges, very successful way to sink the subs. We were sent out to help the planes with our depth charges and also fuel the planes if they needed fuel. We were sent on a mission in the North Sea, north of England in June 1945. Read the article I wrote One Sailors Survival
One Sailors Survial
In order to protect my friends privacy, he will be referred to as Mr. X.
At 88 years old, Mr. X is definitely an American Hero. When Mr. X was in the Navy in WWII, he had two ships blown out from under him, and lived through them both, and is here to tell us about it today.
1. When was the first attack?
The first attack was On June 6th, 1945 at 2:00 A.M. in the North Atlantic Ocean. We were looking for a German submarine. They found us before we found them.
2. What happened during the first attack?
We had been looking for this submarine for a long time, because they had sunk some of our other ships. The ship I was assigned to was called the U.S.S. Gannett. That was a real old ship. It was built in 1914 for WWI. It was real small. Anyway, they torpedoed us.
3. How long did it take for the ship to sink?
Since the ship was old and small, it didnt take but two minutes for it to go down, then, the captain told us to abandon the ship.so we did.
4. How many people were able to get into lifeboats?
We only had one life raft aboard, and for the number of men we had, that was inadequate. I wasnt lucky enough to get into the life raft, so I held on to the side for as long as I could. We started out with 64 men, including me, and only about 34 fit on the lifeboat, so we lost about 30 men. Youd probably think that was a funny picture, grown men sitting on each others laps.
5. How did you stay above water without the raft? What happened?
I got hold of a life jacket. Whenever it got daylight, I saw that I was all alone. I couldnt find any of my ship-mates. I stayed there all alone, all day.
6. How did you eventually get out?
Every boat that went by, every plane that went by, I waved at them trying to get their attention. Nighttime came, and I was still out there by myself. All I had on were my skivvies, my undershirt, and a life preserver. It was so cold, you get numb in just a few hours, and you think youre going to freeze to death. God was on my side. The next morning, a little after daylight, I saw one of our sea-planes. They saw me waving my shirt. Figuring that was where we had abandoned ship, they made a couple circles and landed in the ocean. They put out a lifeboat and paddled to where I was, then the plane picked me up.
7. Where did they take you after they picked you up?
They interrogated me to find out who I was and what ship I was stationed on. They took me to hospital #1 in Bermuda where we were based.
8. How long did you stay in the hospital? The water?
I stayed in the hospital a month. They figured I had been in the water about 60 hours.
9. Did the Navy put you on another ship?
Yes. They put me on the U.S.S. Lavalett.
10. Where were you stationed?
They put me in battle in New Guinea in the North Pacific. That ship got shot out from under me too. But that time, I was only in the water for 5 hours.
Mr. X received a purple heart for his bravery!
Upon review of this interview, my friend smiles and says Thats not bad at all. That story is 62 years old, and I dont think I left too much out.
Recorded by J. Joyner 20 Dec 2007
On or about 28 of July, I was discharged from the Navy with my retirement and pension. Served my active duty in the Navy and Federal employment give me 61 years Fed employment. I dont know how much money paid year, but enough to live on. I gave my daughter power of attorney over my money to buy me whatever I need. At present, I am in a WWII vets home. I pay $1600 for meals, room, laundry and doctors. Not enough freedom, have to have an escort where I go. I love to dance, my sisters dance when I was very young. I love to sing. I can remember all the old songs. I have a good time singing with the band. Maybe that was married and divorced and if a canteen lady would say yes we would tye the knot tomorrow.
This message has been edited by robwade87 on Nov 13, 2008 9:54 PM