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James gets wounded on the San Francisco during the battle of Savo Sound

James witnesses the USS Atlanta sink

James describes Pearl Harbor during the attack


James was born in North Texas in Aberdene. The town is no longer there. He lived there until he was 10 years old. His dad worked for the Gulf Oil pipeline. It was the day of the oil field booms. When a new field was found, his' dad would help to construct homes for the new workers. He ended up in Littlefield, Texas. His father had a spell with tuberculosis and could no longer work. James lived there during the dust bowl. They finally moved to a place where it was easy for his father to live, they ended up in El Paso.He lived in El Paso until he was 15, then they moved to New Mexico. In New Mexico, he got the nickname Tex. He recalls having a run down Ford truck. He would stack hay bales into the back of the truck. He and his brother did this and made money.James joined the Navy when he was 18 years old. He joined 2 June 1941. He and his brother had a pact to join, yet his brother could not go into the service because of his vision. James made him promise that he would run the business for his dad yet after being called a draft dodger he could not stand it.James went to sea around the 16 August 1941. He recalls going through a typhoon for 2 days out in the Pacific during his first deployment. The USS San Francisco [Annotator's Note: US Navy heavy cruiser USS San Francisco, CA38] would swell up and down during the typhoon. It was a pretty good size ship. They got to Pearl Harbor after the typhoon. Before the war started he got himself into trouble. 1 of the things they did aboard the ship was help out in the mess hall, doing the dirty dishes and things like that. James was standing in line to go to lunch 1 day. A petty officer stepped in front of him.James got upset and moved the guy out of his way [Annotator's Note: during mess line aboard the USS San Francisco]. The officer did not say anything and walked to the back of the line. In the morning the officer gathered everyone on deck and put them to work. Everyone except James. The officer asked James if he looked at the bulletin board. He said no. It listed him as dishwasher washing dished for 900 men for the next 3 months. After the 3 months was up, he met the officer and the man asked him, "do you still think you can shove me out of line?" James responded with, "I am going to do what I think is right." He said, "you have no business cutting the line, you're not better than anybody here." James went back down and for 3 months he had to do dishes again.


He was asleep in his bunk [Annotator's Note: aboard the heavy cruiser USS San Francisco, CA38] early in the morning of December 7th. When they loaded supplies on the ship they passed right by his bunk and left the hatch by him open. He figured that Hickam Field was having an early morning drill. He looked up and saw another plane and realized it had a big red ball on it. James did not have any duties at the time. He was topside looking at what was going on. They did not have anything to fight with because all of the guns and ammunition had been taken off of the ship. The ship was armed with 8 inch, 5 inch, 1.1 inch and all of the other caliber guns a heavy cruiser was armed with. All of the guns on the ship had been taken off for recalibration. He was 1 of the few men around who knew how to drive a big truck. He and a few guys drove and made 4 or 5 trips to the arms depot to get ammunition.They put out to sea about a week after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The first place James went after Pearl Harbor was Wake Island. They were to defend Wake but they showed up to late. At the time James was a loader on a 5 inch 25 caliber gun. After Wake they went to Midway and then headed south. They went through several skirmishes on their way south. The San Francisco was told to hit different islands on their way down to the Solomons in order to distract the Japanese into thinking that the fleet was bigger. They finally arrived at Guadalcanal in August of 1942. James took part in 2 night battles. The first battle was in October [Annotator's Note: the Battle of Cape Esperance which took place on 11-12 October 1942] and not much happened. 1 or 2 ships may have been hit but the USS San Francisco was not.On 12 November [Annotator's Note: 13 November 1942] the battle of Savo Sound began. During the day there were a few raids by Japanese planes. At night they were at generals quarters. James was fairly well trained at this point because of the action they faced on their way to Guadalcanal. He had transferred to the navigation department. He recalls a direct hit landing on the port side of the ship. There were 28 men on the deck when it was hit, 19 of them were wounded, 8 were killed, and 1 got away without a scratch. That is where James was injured.


James did not realize that he was shot right away. He knew he was hit but the pain did not register. He went down below deck to help out wherever he could. He bounced around and helped out at different guns. He and 1 of his buddies grabbed a couple wounded men and brought them down to the sick bay. When the 16 inch shell exploded, he did not realize he lost the use of his right arm. James was able to jam his shoulder back into the socket. He passed out after helping the 4 or 5 guys to the bottom of the ship because he had been shot in the back.James was put into the sick bay and bandaged up. He had 13 pieces of shrapnel in his body. He recalls watching the USS Atlanta [Annotator's Note: US Navy light cruiser USS Atlanta, CL51] go down with the 7 Sullivan brothers [Annotator's Note: the 5 Sullivan brothers served aboard the light cruiser USS Juneau, CL52 and were lost when the Juneau was hit by a torpedo launched by the Japanese submarine I26 and sank on 13 November 1942]. He watched Admiral Callaghan [Annotator's Note: US Navy Rear Admiral and Medal of Honor recipient Daniel Callaghan] go down [Annotator's Note: Admiral Callaghan was killed in action when a large caliber shell struck the bridge of the USS San Francisco] and was present for the admiral's burial at sea. He had a piece of shrapnel removed near his heart. There is also a piece of shrapnel still stuck in his neck. They shipped him back to the States from there. He went into the hospital in San Diego. James was there for about 2 months. He recalls getting a 38 day leave to go home.James met the woman he was going to marry on a train going back to San Diego. He went aboard the USS Mobile [Annotator's Note: US Navy light cruiser USS Mobile, CL63] in Norfolk, Virginia. He went back through the Panama Canal and back to the South Pacific. He remembers hitting Bougainville and about 16 other little islands and engagements. In the early part of 1944, he decided he wanted to make something out of himself. He had taken the test for coxswain but did not want the responsibility. All he wanted to do was pull the trigger on some guns. James took his exam for flight school and passed the test. He passed academically and physically yet he did not have enough education to become a navigator in the navy. He ended up learning how to fly on small aircraft.


James was there for about 2 or 3 months for ground school. He was then shipped to Lafayette. He did not make his first flight. He was on a training mission and missed his ship by 15 miles. He washed out.Before this he had helped to rescue downed airman. James ended up being shipped to Algiers outside of New Orleans. He was then sent to a school in Williamsburg, Virginia. It was a landing craft training school. He learned more about how to handle small boats in Williamsburg. From Williamsburg, he was sent back to San Diego. He joined a small attack transport. They had a shakedown cruise and returned to San Francisco. He went back to sea on the Mobile [Annotator's Note: US Navy light cruiser USS Mobile, CL63] and hit Bougainville and then went on to Saipan and Tinian.James recalls that after he washed out of flight school he was deployed to the west coast and then eventually headed to Iwo Jima. That was his first experience with getting men to shore. At Iwo Jima he was using the landing craft with a bow ramp [Annotator's Note: LCVP landing craft vehicle, personnel]. They would take the men in then they would collect wounded and bring them back to a hospital ship. He did that on Iwo Jima and then did the same on Okinawa. He brought men ashore on Okinawa but was not at Okinawa when the war ended. He went back to the states before the battle was over.James went on a 3 day leave and flew to Long Beach with a friend who was staying with his girlfriend. He found out aboard ship that the Japanese had surrendered.The first occupational troops went in to Hokkaido and James brought those some men in. He made 3 trips back to the Philippines picking men up from there and other islands to bring them back after the war was over.They made 7 trips. On the last trip the boilers on the transport blew out and the ship had to be towed to San Francisco. After repairs they took the transport from San Francisco back to Pearl Harbor where it all began. They tied up by the fantail of the Arizona [Annotator's Note: US Navy battleship USS Arizona, BB39]. At Pearl Harbor they decommissioned the transport ship.James then went to the Marshall Islands to Eniwetok. He was helping to deliver 35 brig rats [Annotator's Note: prisoners] from the prison in Pearl to a water tanker at Eniwetok.


James witnessed one of the atomic bomb blasts at Bikini Atoll after the war. That is how he realized how the war really ended in Japan. After Bikini Atoll James went back to the States through the Panama Canal. The ship he was on was put out of commission in Philadelphia. Public Law 16 was passed and he was able to be discharged early because of his combat record. He was shipped to Corpus Christi, Texas for discharge, but not before he was asked to rejoin and serve. James hates war, and was about to reenlist at some point because of a domestic problem but never was sworn in for a second time. He still hurts from the war but is at peace with it because it’s what he did for his country.James chose the Navy because he had never seen the ocean and he had never seen the world. He did not like the idea of infantry. He has a great respect for combat infantry today. He went in to have a good time and he did have a good time. He believes that men who were already serving in the Pacific wer already suspicious of war. He recalls knowing that submarines were near Pearl Harbor. They tried to depth charge those submarines. James felt that Admiral Kimmel was an upstanding man. It hurt a lot of sailors when Kimmel was discharged, because someone had to take the blame for Pearl Harbor. They knew war was coming but had no idea when or where it was coming from. He went up topside when the attack happened. They wanted to shoot at the Japanese but they did not have anything to shoot back with.


The USS New Orleans [Annotator's Note: US Navy heavy cruiser USS New Orleans, CA32] was a sister ship to the San Francisco [Annotator's Note: US Navy heavy cruiser USS San Francisco, CA38]. The crews from the San Francisco went to the New Orleans to help out their gunners. James watched several planes come down during the attack [Annotator’s Note: on Pearl Harbor]. He watched the Arizona [Annotator's Note: US Navy battleship USS Arizona, BB39] and the West Virginia [Annotator's Note: US Nav battleship USS West Virginia, BB48] burn and sink. He saw the crude oil fill up the harbor. It is hard for him to remember everything but he does recall being told to go below deck because Japanese fighters were strafing men on the ground. The Japanese made 2 or 3 more strafing runs and then turned around and flew back to their carriers. James feels that Washington knew the attack was going to happen. He believes that a lot of people grew up in the 3 hours during the attack.He did not run to help the crew of the New Orleans. He ended up in the mess hall when the Japanese came back around to strafe. He stared out at what was happening and his legs would not move; there were nearly a hundred men staring at what was going on from the ship. James did help to pull some of the people out of the water. They put their boats in the water and paddled around and picked people up. He did not have a wartime crew on the ship; at the time of the attack they had roughly 900 men. A full complement of men for war consisted of 1200 men. The 300 men needed for the San Francisco to go to war were gathered from the pool of men who now had no ship to call home. James does not remember exactly what his impressions were at the time.James was manning a phone during the night battles on Guadalcanal. When the battle started he was on the front part of the deck. He was instructed to call out whatever the officers said on the phone. He recalls something dropping near him; it was a lanyard that had been cut in 2 by a shell. The lanyards held the flags in place. James recalls being able to see where the shells were coming from and where they were going to land because they were glowing red hot in the dark of the night.


James recalls not having enough sense to be scared. He focused on doing his job and getting it done correctly. He recalls the communications being moved down below deck for protection [Annotator’s Note: during the attack on Pearl Harbor]. He went down to help on the 5 inch guns. James recalls that he was never afraid because he did not have the chance to be afraid. He saw the other ships going down by the light of the moon. He was about 300 yards from all of the ships that were going down and sinking. He could almost feel the ships next to him because they were so close.The Japanese were not able to hit below the deck of the American ships because the Japanese guns could not aim far enough down to hit them near the water line. He recalls feeling angry towards the Japanese. He hated the way he felt towards the Japanese. At any given point James felt like he was ready to kill. When they went into Eniwetok, he recalls seeing dead Marines floating around in the water. James became a different man after the war started. After it was over he made himself forget the bad things that he saw. A man told him once that he did not do anything wrong and that he should just forget it. James was wounded at about 2:00 o’clock in the morning during the gunfight between the ships. He was about 40 feet from the explosion that wounded him.


James had his back to the explosion when it occurred. 1 shell that went all the way through the armor and came near the magazine. If it had exploded it would have ignited the magazine and sunk the ship. The Japanese were able to kill a lot of people on the ships. They were still fighting after the shooting had stopped. James was trained to load the 5 inch .25's [Annotator’s Note: 5 inch 25 caliber guns aboard ships]. He was the man who shoved the ammo into the gun. He recalls a young kid running around and asking, "When are we going to abandon ship?" James punched the kid and knocked him out. The abandon ship talk angered him.James fired guns in support of the Bougainville operation. He was a porter on the 5 inch gun. He worked with a kid named Troop [Annotator's Note: unsure of spelling] from Kentucky. The Japanese were shooting back at him. The Japanese were zeroing in and it frightened Troop. James recalls yelling up at him and telling him to stay in his damn seat. They never did get hit but it was close. James saw a lot of gun emplacements blown up from the work they were doing on their guns. The first kamikaze plane he saw hit the side of the San Francisco [Annotator's Note: US Navy heavy cruiser USS San Francisco, CA38] and killed about 35 men near Guadalcanal. After that they were constantly aware of the kamikaze threat. He saw kamikazes a lot towards the end of the war. He saw kamikazes at Iwo Jima and Okinawa. James saw most of the planes go down at Okinawa; at that point he had a lot of experience and knew where and when to shoot.


James notes that when he shot the 5 inch guns they did not have to hit the planes directly because of the amount of shrapnel that they created. He made direct hits on planes. He was on the USS Mobile [Annotator's Note: US Navy light cruiser USS Mobile, CL63] when they hit Tarawa.Iwo Jima was bad because it was hard to get on the beach. James recalls having to hold the boat against land with the motor running. He would then drop the front of the boat to let the men out, and then he sat there and waited for the wounded to be piled into his boat.James recalls a situation on the north end of Guadalcanal. They bombarded the island then the next day the Marines hit the beach. The Japanese were able to trap the Marines. James and his men were tasked with going to get the men. They were able to secure the Marines.Later on during the war James ended up on the crew of a transport with the guy. James told the skipper of the transport about what the man had done and the man ended up getting a commendation for his role in rescuing the stranded Marines.James has some problems remembering everything that happened because of the amount of landings he participated in and the amount of time that has passed.After the war James delivered a load of Marines to the beach on Hokkaido. After dropping them off he went ashore. Everything was closed. If a shop was open when he got to it the shop owner would close. He stays away from war films to this day. He has a copy of the movie Saving Private Ryan but can't get past the first few minutes of it.


James understands that movies are made so people think they are interesting. He understands that Hollywood adds its own touch. James also does not like watching present day coverage of the Iraq war because in his words “the media is there to sell”.James believes that it is important that we study World War 2 and basically every war that America has been in. He feels that we have to know history. James expressed his interest in going to The World War II Museum. He has been asked about his experiences during the war and he used to give the response, "You were not there, I do not have to tell you and you would never know." Looking back, he realizes that most people were very sincere in asking about the war, but he was also sincere in his resolve to not glorify himself.James did have nightmares after the war. In his words James, "Fought numerous battles in his bedroom that scared his wife." He is very proud of the guys who are serving today. He does not like war but understands that people need to do it. James believes that we need to stay with the countries were in now to make sure these things do not happen again. His nightmares were an event, he never had 1 repeating dream but the themes of being scared were the same.

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