A Rememberance on Veterans Day

This is a repeat. I ran it last year. But I think it's worth remembering again.

The following is from a letter my grandfather wrote in the 1960s, describing his wartime experience for my mother's school project. At the time, he was a supply officer on a seaplane tender, stationed off of Okinawa:

One night I took one of our small boats to another seaplane tender that I was responsible for as aviation supply officer. While I was gone, a kamikaze dove into the side of the ship right through my room. My roommate was in the room at the time and very badly hurt. The room was full of sea water and the furniture was upside down. The pictures of Judy [ed: my mother], Mother [ed: my grandmother] and Saucy [ed: the dog] had been on my desk in a red leather portfolio. In my safe were two bottles of whiskey which I used for trading purposes and they were both broken with checks and cash floating in the liquid.

After we secured Okinawa we brought in land based bombers instead of seaplanes. Our mission was to search in case the Japanese counterattacked either by planes or ship and find them before they arrived. We had a small detachment in a tent on the airstrip. Once a week I used to take a plane over and wade ashore and bring them two bottles of whiskey that they would mix with orange powder and water to keep themselves going. I had the only key to a locker on our ship which contained a liquor supply from an officer's club wing when they were land-based. They Navy men were not going to leave that behind for the "dog faces"! [ed: the Army, naturally]

Our next expedition was the Japanese landing. While we were underway, the atomic bombs were dropped in Hiroshima and the Japanese sued for peace. Meanwhile, we were bombing the Japanese cities with our planes and the air force planes. Then they signed the peace agreement. Our admiral was an Annapolis graduate and didn't want to be left out, so we took off for Japan without any orders. We got halfway there when the orders came to "knock it off." So we went to Tsingtao and finally to Shanghai. I remember going ashore there and ordering a martini in a hotel.

Grandpa got the Bronze Star for being a particularly effective supply officer — it wasn't easy keeping everything adequately supplied. With typical humility, he generally said he won it in a beer drinking contest.

Thanks, Grandpa. And thanks to all who have served our country in uniform.

While I'm at it, I spare a thought for everyone who supported our troops in uniform, sometimes in ways that we can now scarcely believe. From my grandmother's writings, describing the birth of my mother while my grandfather was completing Navy supply school at Harvard Business School. She was a young bride, in Boston for the first time, living with in-laws she had just met.

Judy was born at the Chelsea Naval Hospital on January 14, 1943. When labor pains began a week early, I didn't want Paul [ed: my grandfather, staying at school at nearby Harvard] to know, because he had a major test in the morning that would influence his assignment in the Navy. There was a blizzard going on, so I sent Mother D [grandpa's mother] home from the hospital in the taxi we came in. I always prided myself on my independence, but having a baby alone was something else. It was worth the struggle though — Paul got a good assignment, and we named Judy after St. Jude, the patron saint of the impossible.


Last 5 posts by Ken White


  1. Sparkylong says

    Ken, human cloning must absolutely begin with your grandmother & grandfather. Send me an old brush or comb, I'll shake out any residual DNA, & begin the process, immediately.

    Thanks for the stories.

  2. Chris Berez says

    I missed this last year when it ran, so thank you for running it again. I really appreciate you sharing this.