Early Life

Becoming a Sailor and Traveling the World

Postwar Service and Heading to Bikini Atoll

Bikini Atoll Atomic Bomb Tests

Reflections

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Joseph Daquarna was born in Plaquemine, Louisiana in May 1928. His father owned a grocery store and barroom. The family moved to Port Allen where similar businesses were operated. A business was also started in Baton Rouge. Daquarna had five sisters and a brother. His brother served with General George Patton in Europe and came back sick from what he saw in the stalags and prison camps. Daquarna grew up in a disciplined household. He was still in school when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. He was determined to do his part after hearing about it. He wanted to be in the Navy and enlisted in that service at 17 years of age.

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Joseph Daquarna enlisted in early 1945 and went to boot camp in San Diego. Afterward, he was assigned to a submarine tender, the USS Fulton (AS-11). He shipped to Pearl Harbor where he reported aboard the Fulton. His tender replenished submarines with provisions and torpedoes. He wanted to go into the service; while his mother wanted him to go to LSU, Louisiana State University. His first job was to take care of ship's maintenance and help other crewmen. He took a cruise on the submarine USS Skate (SS-305). It aided with his training for the work on the tender. He worked on war damages to submarines on occasion. He also worked aboard the tender Sperry [Annotator's Note: USS Sperry (AS-12)]. Daquarna traveled to Hong Kong. It was beautiful. He also voyaged to Shanghai and Tsingtao and then Tientsin in China. Weather conditions varied considerably in China. When the war ended, Daquarna was in Subic Bay in the Philippines. The Fulton's Captain made the announcement to his crew. MacArthur [Annotator's Note: US Army General Douglas MacArthur] had returned to the Philippines with the help of the United States Marine Corps and they did not let him forget it. Daquarna did his job and progressed from a Seaman 1st Class to Metalsmith 1st Class. He eventually reached 1st Class Petty Officer.

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Joseph Daquarna learned about the USS Missouri (BB-63) going to Tokyo Bay for the surrender ceremony following the end of the war with Japan. The Missouri is now at Pearl Harbor watching over the USS Arizona (BB-39). What happened to the Arizona and the USS Indianapolis (CA-35) made Daquarna sick. So many lives lost. When the war ended, Daquarna was on the USS Fulton (AS-11) in Subic Bay. He was proud to have taken part in the effort to win the war. The Fulton shuttled between various bases including Pearl Harbor between the end of the war and the mission at Bikini Atoll [Annotator's Note: Daquarna is referring to the 1946 Operation Crossroads atomic bomb tests]. The ship was told to depart from Pearl Harbor and head to the Marshall Islands. They were bound for Bikini Atoll. They were destined to be guinea pigs involved in the detonation of two atomic bombs. One would be dropped from the air and the other would be in the lagoon. He had no choice but to voyage on to the destination.

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Joseph Daquarna and the USS Fulton (AS-11) went to Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands to participate in the atomic bomb tests. There were numerous ships gathered there for the tests. Animals were put onboard the vessels as part of the testing procedures. After the first bomb, "Abel," was detonated, the Fulton rocked in the sea. The animals were burned beyond recognition. Ships were ordered to stay clear of the site so that radioactivity did not impact them. When personnel boarded the affected ships, they had to leave quickly and get washed down upon their return to their original vessel. When the second bomb, "Baker," went off, it blew a battleship out of the water and sunk it. Daquarna and the Fulton were 25 miles away and wearing protective gear. It was nerve wracking to see all those ships sunk in that lagoon. It is still hot in that lagoon today. The inhabitants have not been allowed to return from their relocations. Dead fish were everywhere. It was awesome. The bomb crater still exists. Daquarna had a chance to return but refused to do so. Daquarna was assigned to go aboard a Japanese cruiser after the bombing and check the animal remains on the ship. The Fulton was on location a week or two before the event. The scientists really knew what they were doing. Daquarna had encountered survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki and knew of some of the implications of living through that type of bombing. He did not feel so bad because it was the Japanese. Paul Tibbets [Annotator's Note: later US Air Force Brigadier General Paul Tibbets] dropped the bomb from the Enola Gay and told Larry King in an interview that three times that many people would have died during an invasion of the Japanese home islands. It was either them or you and that was what they trained for. Daquarna had not seen any film of the Hiroshima or Nagasaki bombs so he did not know what to expect. He peaked at the explosion at Bikini despite being told not to do so.

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Joseph Daquarna sailed the small submarine tender USS Greenlet (ASR-10) to China and then to the West Coast where he was separated from the Navy in 1949. He was offered a promotion to reenlist but, due to his father's illness, he refused. Daquarna went to work in the Gulf of Mexico. Some of his friends who did not heed the warnings at the Bikini Atoll atomic bomb tests died a horrible death. Protective gear that was worn had to be destroyed by burning. The second bomb raised everything out of the water. He imagined the bombs going off in Japan. Daquarna had no physical problems after the experience. He takes thyroid medication. He has shared experiences with his brother who was a captive of the Germans. He saw some of the graves that were dug for the Jews after they were gassed by the Nazis. The whole thing got to him. Human remains on the hot Pacific islands smell bad. The ship's captain wanted his crew to know what was going on. After the war, Daquarna followed his father's course in business. He received medals for the Victory, Good Conduct, and the World War 2 medal. He lost them all in Hurricane Betsy. Daquarna feels The National WWII Museum is an important place for teaching the young what happened during that time. The Daquarna family is proud of his service.

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