Prewar Life to VE-Day

VJ-Day to the Philippines

Postwar and Reflections


John Carruth was born in February 1927 in Jefferson, Georgia. He was raised on a farm. As soon as the school bus dropped him off, his father expected him to be in the fields. He was the oldest of three sisters and seven brothers. The Great Depression [Annotator's Note: the Great Depression was a global economic depression that lasted from 1929 through 1945] hit his family hard. His father stopped picking the cotton crop because it was not worth anything anymore. His father was very strict. Carruth does not remember the ongoing tension in Germany and Japan. He was riding in a pickup truck on his way to church when he heard over the radio about Pearl Harbor [Annotator's Note: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 December 1941]. Carruth graduated from high school at 16 years old in 1943. He then went to machine school and worked in a plant. In 1944, to his father's dismay, he quit school to join the service. His father eventually signed his enlistment papers, but not before Carruth went to Atlanta [Annotator's Note: Atlanta, Georgia] and found a job working in a factory. After his father signed the papers, Carruth enlisted in the Navy at Macon, Georgia in early January 1945. He liked the idea of going out to sea. He was sent to boot camp at Great Lakes [Annotator's Note: Naval Station Great Lakes in Lake County, Illinois]. He had never been so cold in his life as during boot camp. His instructor was mean and strict, but Carruth respected him. He said his instructor made him shovel snow and made sure his uniform was up to code. His instructor sent trainees to the Seabees [Annotator's Note: members of US naval construction battalions] if they could not follow the rules. After seven weeks, Carruth completed boot camp and was sent to Little Creek, Virginia for two weeks. On the train to Little Creek, he received the news that the war in Germany had concluded. Everyone was elated when they heard it was over on VE-Day [Annotator's Note: Victory in Europe Day, 8 May 1945]. Carruth felt sorry for many of the people in Europe because of all the destruction.


Towards the end of World War 2, John Carruth, serving in the Navy, was sent to Jacksonville [Annotator's Note: Jacksonville, Florida]. He was fond of President Truman [Annotator's Note: Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the United States] because he was very blunt. While his ship, USS Tantalus (ARL-27), was being fitted, he trained on shakedown [Annotator's Note: a cruise to evaluate the performance of a naval vessel and its crew] ships in Virginia. His ship was a converted LST [Annotator's Note: Landing Ship, Tank]. He was on this ship for almost a year. He went through the Panama Canal and was assigned to the engine room. He did not like being in the engine room, but he did what he was supposed to do. Carruth was in San Diego [Annotator's Note: San Diego, California] when he heard the news of VJ-Day [Annotator's Note: Victory Over Japan Day, 15 August 1945]. His ship set sail for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii the next day, and everyone on board thought they would be staying there. They were wrong. A week later, they received orders to sail to Eniwetok [Annotator's Note: Eniwetok Atoll, Marshall Islands], then to Guam [Annotator's Note: Guam, Marshall Islands]. His crew heard there was a hurricane [Annotator's Note: Typhoon Louise] at Okinawa [Annotator's Note: Okinawa, Japan]. Everyone was scared to death, but they still moved out of the port and headed to the Philippines. His ship remained in the Philippines for nine months. Carruth did not go ashore very much. A lot of his crew would go to shore to have sex with women, and one guy contracted a venereal disease. He attempted to go to shore one time, and as he was about to deboard the boat, he saw a large python snake. He decided to stay in the boat. The guy that slept in the hammock under Carruth enjoyed playing poker. His name was Fess Parker [Annotator's Note: Fess Elisha Parker Junior, American actor], who later became an actor for the television series, Gunsmoke [Annotator's Note: American television series, 1955 to 1975]. He used to tease Parker about his aspirations of becoming a Hollywood star. Carruth was placed on a hospital ship and sent home because he injured his leg and developed gangrene [Annotator's Note: tissue death caused by a lack of blood supply]. He injured his leg when he slipped while working on machinery. After three weeks his leg worsened so he was sent home. He then took a train from California to Georgia and was placed in a hospital. He then took a 30-day leave [Annotator's Note: an authorized absence for a short period of time]. He was discharged with the rate of Fireman First Class.


After his discharge, John Carruth went to Atlanta [Annotator's Note: Atlanta, Georgia] and worked for his uncle, who was a carpenter. He then met an old friend from machine school, who got him a job working in a plant. He eventually got into the roofing business and was very successful. He became part of a roofing association in Chicago [Annotator's Note: Chicago, Illinois] and became vice president. Carruth's bookkeeper was like his right arm. He depended on him for many years to make sure his business had enough money for payroll and more. Carruth once lost over 300,000 dollars and his bookkeeper soon quit not long after. His bookkeeper smoked a lot, got sick, and died. Carruth's most memorable experience of World War 2 was when he boarded his ship [Annotator's Note: the USS Tantalus (ARL-27)]. He served because he wanted to be in the Navy. When he was in the Philippines, he would sell cartons of cigarettes to make money. He never smoked. He enjoyed his overseas experience. He is glad the country won the war. World War 2 should wake up the younger generations. He believes there should be institutions like the National WWII Museum [Annotator's Note: The National WWII Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana], and they should continue to teach World War 2 to future generations.

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