Enlisting in the Coast Guard

The Pacific and Returning Home

Postwar Life


Merle Jerome "Jerry" Pettis was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1921. His family moved to Los Angeles [Annotator's Note: Los Angeles, California]. He was an only child. His father worked for the United States Forestry Service. His family did well during the Depression [Annotator's Note: the Great Depression was a global economic depression that lasted from 1929 through 1939 in the United States]. Pettis was 20 years old when he heard about Pearl Harbor [Annotator's Note: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 December 1941] while sitting in church in Los Angeles. [Annotator's Note: Pettis gets emotional.] Pettis enlisted in the Coast Guard and was assigned to the Diligence [Annotator's Note: USS Diligence (WSC-135)] and did training in California. The Diligence was a small maintenance ship stationed out of San Pedro [Annotator's Note: San Pedro, California]. Pettis was able to go home most nights. He attended radio school in Atlantic City, New Jersey where he learned to transmit and receive, as well as Morse code. His unit built LORAN [Annotator's Note: long range navigation, was a hyperbolic radio navigation system] stations to guide planes into Japan. Iwo Jima [Annotator's Note: Iwo Jima, Japan] was just a stone's throw from where Pettis was stationed. They built three to four of these stations across the Pacific, including Guam [Annotator's Note: Guam, Mariana Islands] and French Frigate Shoals [Annotator's Note: in the Hawaiian Islands]. They had good food and not many health problems. His crew consisted of around twenty men. Once the stations were built, Navy crews would take over to man them.


After Iwo Jima [Annotator's Note: Iwo Jima, Japan], Merle Jerome "Jerry" Pettis was sent to Oregon. They did not get into any fighting, but heard it. One of his crew mates called him over because he has a B-29 [Annotator's Note: Boeing B-29 Superfortress very heavy bomber] pilot on the line who had been shot [Annotator's Nore: Pettis gets emotional] and was trying to land at Iwo Jima, but he was told he could not land there. They worked it out that he could land on the water. Everyone cheered and clapped when they landed. In Oregon, Pettis took part in building another LORAN [Annotator's Note: long range navigation, was a hyperbolic radio navigation system] station. He was then transferred to Long Beach [Annotator's Note: Long Beach, California], discharged and returned home. There was a band to welcome them, and Rudy Vallee [Annotator's Note: Rudy Vallee; American singer, musician, actor, and radio host who also served in the US Coast Guard] was the bandleader. While on the Diligence [Annotator's Note: USS Diligence (WSC-135)], Pettis was a yeoman. General quarters were sounded once and Pettis did not hear it. He is surprised he did not get in trouble for it.


Merle Jerome "Jerry" Pettis was on the Diligence [Annotator's Note: USS Diligence (WSC-135)] doing target practice with a 50mm gun. Pettis had never even fired a revolver before. Pettis hit the wire towing the target instead of the target itself. He was lucky during his time in the service. The personnel were good people, and the food was good. They never made it to Japan as they were intended to, as Okinawa [Annotator's Note: the Battle of Okinawa, codenamed Operation Iceberg; 1 April to 22 June 1945; Okinawa, Japan] was over before they arrived. His only bad experience was cleaning the head [Annotator's Note: naval slang for toilet or bathroom] on a ship after everyone aboard got sick. All in all, he had a good time during his service.

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