Growing Up on a Farm

Navy Service



Richard Welch was born in November 1927 in Perry, Michigan. His father, a sharecropper, moved the family to various farms on that part of Michigan during Welch's childhood. He attended a one room country school for his first five years of education. His family then moved to an orchard farm for a while until the owner sold the property. When he was a sophomore in high school, he began working on the railroad as a timekeeper. He also helped in the upkeep of the railroad. He moved to West Virginia for a little while to work on a railroad project. By this time, World War 2 had started. When he returned to Michigan, school had already commenced and he missed the first half of his junior year, so he got a job hauling limes in a truck. The government wanted the production of limes and other produce due to the war. He was aware of America's involvement in the war early on when his father quit farming to work in a defense plant making propellers for bomber planes. When World War 2 started, three of his cousins joined the service. He collected scrap iron and rubber while in high school to aid in the war effort. On 7 December 1941, Welch was home listening to the radio when news of the attack on Pearl Harbor [Annotator's Note: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 December 1941] was broadcast. He was awestruck that such a thing could happen and remembers President Roosevelt [Annotator's Note: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States] declaring war the next day. There was a lot of rationing. They were only allowed four gallons of gas a week. Since his family was in the farming business, they were given C-cards [Annotator's Note: Gasoline Ration Card; "C" cards were issued to workers essential to the war allowing eight gallons of gas each week]. Everything from shoes to gas was rationed. Neighbors often traded goods with each other. They would trade eggs for flour and sugar.


Richard Welch joined the Navy in November 1944 and was sent to the Great Lakes Naval Training [Annotator's Note: Naval Station Great Lakes in Lake County, Illinois] after he was sworn in at Detroit [Annotator's Note: Detroit, Michigan]. He joined the Navy because he liked the branch and was convinced by a recruiter who came to his school. His three cousins enlisted in the Army. During his boot camp training he was asked to join the choir, which he did. Because he was in the choir, he was not assigned to any KP [Annotator's Note: kitchen patrol] or other details. Upon completion of the training, he was offered a chance at OCS [Annotator's Note: officer candidate school] but turned it down as he wanted to get out into the active fleet and do his part in the war. He then took engineering courses and was sent to Camp Shoemaker [Annotator's Note: in Dublin, California] to await assignment. He was out on liberty [Annotator's Note: an authorized absence for a short period of time] when his assignment came through and missed his ship. He later learned that that ship was lost. He received new orders and boarded the USS Radford (DD-446) in Oakland while it was in dry dock getting repairs from a mine [Annotator's Note: stationary explosive device triggered by physical contact] hit suffered in the Philippines. He served as a fireman in the ship's boiler room. He spent the remainder of the war aboard the ship patrolling along the West Coast in search of Japanese super submarines. When the war ended, the ship was decommissioned in San Diego [Annotator's Note: San Diego, California]. During this time, Welch developed a rash from the Cosmoline [Annotator's Note: name for petroleum-based corrosion inhibitors]. After 30 days of sick leave and liberty, Welch was sent to Seattle [Annotator's Note: Seattle, Washington] on shore patrol for several weeks before being assigned to the USS Breckinridge (AP-176) for several cross-Pacific trips as part of Operation Magic Carpet [Annotator's Note: Operation Magic Carpet; Europe, June 1945 to February 1946; Pacific, October 1945 to September 1946]. The USS Breckinridge was a "big sucker" and carried thousands of military personnel. He enjoyed his service on the ship and he got along with many of his shipmates, He served as a third-class water tender aboard ship even though he received a lower rate for his rank because President Truman [Annotator's Note: Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the United States] froze the rate after the war ended. Welch was on liberty [Annotator's Note: an authorized absence for a short period of time] when he found out about the atomic bombs [Annotator's Note: nuclear weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, 6 and 9 August 1945] and then the Japanese surrender. The Japanese were preparing their own atomic bomb but surrendered after America dropped two of them. During his service on the USS Breckinridge, he went to Shanghai, China, the Korean peninsula, the Philippines, and Guam [Annotator's Note: Guam, Mariana Islands]. The ship was fast. His friend ran the PX [Annotator's Note: post exchange] on the ship, so he got all the ice cream he wanted. He was discharged in November 1948 as a water tender third class. He took advantage of the G.I. Bill [Annotator's Note: the G.I. Bill, or Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, was enacted by the United States Congress to aid United States veterans of World War 2 in transitioning back to civilian life and included financial aid for education, mortgages, business starts and unemployment] after the war by taking sales courses and he bought his first house with the G.I. loan.


Richard Welch's most memorable experience of World War 2 was being on patrol off the West Coast looking for Japanese submarines. Sometimes they would do target practice of the coast as well which was fun. He served because he loved his country and many of his family went into to service. He is very patriotic. The war changed his life because he would have had a different career path. Because of his service, he knows other veterans and meets with them occasionally. He feels the country today does not have values or a vision. He feels that America needs to find a goal, and that goal should be world peace. When he wears his veteran hat out in public, many people stop and thank him for his service. He believes that World War 2 should be taught in schools. He came in at the tail end of the war. The men that sacrificed their lives should be thanked, not him. Veterans should be treated well, and Americans should be taking care of them. 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 so we can understand the emergence of totalitarian government and how to defeat them. He hopes America does not become a socialist government.

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