Aftermath of Pearl Harbor and Transfer to the USS Rehobath (AVP-50)
Postwar and Reflection
James Thomas Womack was born in January 1921 in Naples, Texas. He was one of six children. During the Great Depression, his family moved when his father went to work for an oil company. His father made a garden to have food nearby. Womack graduated high school in 1938 and the Navy appealed to him because of the pay and because he was influenced to join by a former high school friend. He went to Norfolk, Virginia for seven weeks of basic training, then had two weeks of leave, and returned to Norfolk where he was assigned to the USS St. Louis (CL-49). Womack and his platoon had to wait in Norfolk until the ship was commissioned in the Portsmouth Navy Yard [Annotator's Note: Portsmouth, New Hampshire] on 16 May 1939. Womack had a cousin who also joined the Navy and was assigned to the USS Vincennes (CA-44), which sank in 1942. Womack was assigned to the Deck Division, 6th Division, on the USS St. Louis (CL-49).
James Thomas Womack arrived in Pearl Harbor [Annotator's Note: Pearl Harbor, Hawaii] around 1941. He was on patrol duty and in training exercises [Annotator's Note: aboard the USS St. Louis (CL-49)]. He recalled that he could go on liberty while he was stationed there. On 7 December 1941, Womack was the butcher for the ship at that time and he had slept in that morning because he was not on duty until a little later. As he was brushing his teeth in the bathroom, an announcement came over the intercom to go to their battle stations. He was on the deck by the number four antiaircraft gun when he saw a Japanese torpedo bomber come so close that he was able to see the whites of the enemy pilot's eyes. The captain on his ship was given permission to head out to the channel, so after a bit of maneuvering, the St. Louis was on its way behind the USS Nevada (BB-36) until that ship was torpedoed and had to beach itself. The St. Louis was attacked by a miniature submarine, but the torpedoes missed them and hit a reef. Womack claimed that the St. Louis shot at least one Japanese plane down during the attack. His battle station job was to prepare and deliver food to the men that were manning the guns and could not get to the mess hall to eat. They stayed out of Pearl Harbor until Wednesday [Annotator's Note: 10 December 1941], then returned for provisions and headed back to the United States. Womack never thought the Japanese could do anything like they did to Pearl Harbor. He did not expect to witness an attack of this stature.
James Thomas Womack's ship [Annotator's Note: USS St. Louis (CL-49)] was on patrol duty until they were able to get back into the bay for fuel and provisions. On Wednesday, 10 December 1941, they headed into the bay. Womack saw pine boxes for all the dead Americans. They stayed for one day and then headed back to the United States. They sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge [Annotator's Note: San Francisco, California] and picked up 100 recruits from a tugboat and headed to the Midway Island. In February 1942, the St. Louis was part of the task force bombing the Marshalls [Annotator's Note: Marshall Islands] and Kiska Island [Annotator's Note: Aleutian Islands]. Womack recalled that the weather was foggy, but when a break came that is when they decided to strike Kiska. From Alaska, they returned to the Navy yard for the month of November 1942. They set sail for Guadalcanal [Annotator's Note: Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands] in mid-December and bombarded New Georgia [Annotator's Note: New Georgia Island, Solomon Islands] a couple of times. He was then transferred from the USS St. Louis to the USS Rehobath (AVP-50), but before graduating from Commissary Steward School and moving up to the rank of Chief in 1943. While he was home to attend school, he met his wife-to-be. The USS Rehobath was a small seaplane tender that was built to maintain a squadron of PBYs [Annotator's Note: Consolidated PBY Catalina flying boat] for anti-submarine patrols in the South Pacific. The USS Rehobath was not needed very much because the Americans were building bases that planes could operate from at a rapid rate. He believed that the rest of his service was a picnic compared to what other guys had to go through. The USS Rehobath made trips to Brazil for patrol duty and then to England as a cargo ship.
At the end of the war, James Thomas Womack was in the process of being transferred off the USS Rehobath (AVP-50) to shore duty in Sampson, New York. As he was on a train coming home, the porter started yelling "The war is over!" Womack's shore duty was cancelled and he was discharged. When Womack was chief on the USS Rehobath, his duties were to prepare the menu, order supplies, and make sure the food was prepared and served correctly. After the war, he used the G.I. Bill to go to trade school for air conditioning and refrigeration. He eventually went to work for Freeport Sulfur Company and retired from them in 1985. Being in World War 2 made him appreciate God more. He thinks the war made America a believing nation and taught Americans to get by on things they thought they never could. Having The National WWII Museum [Annotator's Note: in New Orleans, Louisiana] is one of the greatest things they could have done as far as keeping the memory of World War 2 alive.
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