Harry McCauley was born in October 1926 in Eunice, Louisiana. His family was poor and worked a small farm during the Great Depression. Everyone was poor in the area. His oldest brother joined the Navy as soon as the war began. McCauley looked up to his brother and was determined to join the Navy as soon as he became of age. McCauley was 15 years old when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. It shocked him. Shortly afterward, the Louisiana Maneuvers occurred near his home. On his 17th birthday, his parent signed for him to enlist in the Navy. He left Louisiana for the first time when he was sent to the West Coast for training.
Harry McCauley joined the Navy and was sent to San Diego, California for his basic training. It was tough but easier for him because he knew how to swim and was used to hard work. The discipline he learned at home was an additional benefit during basic. When he completed his basic training, he was sent to small boat advanced training in in San Pedro. Afterward, he was sent to Portland, Oregon where he waited for the construction of Patrol Craft 800 to be completed. He enjoyed the local folks in Portland as well as the USO activities. He was the sonar and radar man for the patrol craft. Once PC-800 was completed, he boarded the ship and set sail for Hawaii. The ship served as an escort ship for a convoy. The largest gun on the ship was a 3” gun mounted forward. McCauley served as a loader on the gun during battle stations. The ship had two 40mm mounts as well as .50 caliber machine guns and depth charges. The patrol craft was designed to seek out enemy submarines. It was also capable of performing anti-aircraft duty. PC-800 had a small crew consisting of 62 enlisted men and 5 officers. The ship was new but very crowded. The officers and crew bonded with few incidents.
Harry McCauley and PC-800 stayed in Hawaii for about a month after their initial deployment to the Pacific. McCauley loved Hawaii. From Hawaii the patrol craft escorted a convoy to Australia. In Australia they became part of the invasion force which landed on Iwo Jima. McCauley's ship was expedited ahead of the invasion force along with some minesweepers. Their task was to search for mines off shore of the island prior to the commencement of the invasion. Few mines were found. He was able to watch the invasion of the island from the bridge of the ship and was very impressed with the Marines who landed on the island. He saw the flag atop Mount Suribachi after it was raised. PC-800 was assigned anti-submarine and antiaircraft watch. The main concern during Iwo Jima was incoming enemy aircraft. McCauley was in a relatively safe position on his small ship. The enemy planes were seeking major ships as targets. He witnessed kamikaze and torpedo attacks on other ships. The patrol craft had encountered a submarine at one point and released depth charges with the outcome undetermined. Under normal conditions, McCauley operated radar and sonar equipment. During battle stations, he was a crewman on the three inch gun on the bow. He serviced the gun as a loader. From Iwo Jima, PC-800 joined the armada which became the invasion force destined to assault Okinawa. The kamikaze attacks were heavier at Okinawa. PC-800 provided antiaircraft fire against the incoming enemy planes. At night, the ship provided smoke screen protection to help defend other ships. After Okinawa was secure, PC-800 left.
Harry McCauley and PC-800 steamed through a terrible typhoon after Okinawa. The crew had it rough in the small ship. Many did not think they would make it. They rode the typhoon out and sailed back to Hawaii. The ship was between Okinawa and Hawaii when word was received about the atomic bombs. He strongly believes that the war could have been lost had the bombs not been deployed against Japan. Truman [Annotator's Note: President Harry S. Truman] did the right thing. The Japanese would have lost more lives if the bombs had not been used. In Hawaii, the ship was assigned a new captain. His name was Leroy Jones from Monroe, Louisiana. McCauley and Jones became good friends. The ship returned to California and was decommissioned there. McCauley was a plank owner [Annotator's Note: plank owner is the designation given to a member of a ship's original crew]. He was discharged in April 1946 and returned home to Eunice, Louisiana. He worked in several businesses including property fencing, oilfields and insurance. He moved to New Orleans and then to Lafayette. He retired in 1988. He was a member of a reunion group of Iwo Jima veterans. The large group diminished in size over the years until reunions were discontinued in 2016. He has maintained an active life after retirement.
Harry McCauley finds the portrayal of the events of the war as presented by The National WWII Museum in New Orleans and the World War II Memorial in Washington to be very impressive. People recognize his service as an important thing when they see that he is a veteran. He worries about the veterans of later wars such as Korea and Vietnam. They do not want to become part of veteran organizations. The aging of those organizations concerns him. Younger veterans do not bother to attend and actively participate in veteran organizations. Those organizations do help promote benefits for all veterans with the Veterans Administration.
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