Early Life

Becoming a Sailor on a Destroyer

Postwar Life and Reflections


Robert Perry was born in Ebenezer, Louisiana, near Crowley [Annotator's Note: Crowley, Louisiana], in November 1926. He grew up on a rice farm there. The family had cows and grew their own vegetables. He attended grammar school in Ebenezer and high school in Crowley. He had one brother and four nephews. In December 1941, he heard of the attack on Pearl Harbor [Annotator's Note: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 December 1941] over the radio. He trained for the invasion of Japan. He registered for the draft after he turned 18 years of age and was called up in January [Annotator's Note: January 1945] two months later. A friend he registered with was sent to the Marines. Another friend had joined the Navy before Perry was drafted. They reunited in San Diego [Annotator's Note: San Diego, California] while Perry was training for the invasion of Japan.


Robert Perry did his Navy boot camp in San Diego [Annotator's Note: San Diego, California]. He was then sent to amphibious invasion training with LCVPs [Annotator's Note: Landing Craft Vehicle, Personnel or LCVP; also known as the Higgins boat]. The LCVP hit the beach and dropped the ramp to discharge the troops onboard. Perry was an operator on an LCVP. He was going to take a transport ship overseas from San Francisco [Annotator's Note: San Francisco, California] when the bomb [Annotator's Note: nuclear weapons dropped on Hiroshima, Japan on 6 August 1945 and Nagasaki, Japan on 9 August 1945] was dropped ending the war. He was lucky that happened before he went to war. He deployed to the Philippines and then to an island close to Japan and later to China. He was there before joining his destroyer. He experienced a typhoon during that time prior to joining the ship. The men had to go to the mountains and the native huts. Perry still got wet during the storm. After it passed, he had to dry out all his clothes. He later joined the Fred T. Barry destroyer [Annotator's Note: USS Fred T. Barry (DD-858)] as a Seaman 1st Class gunner. The destroyer was operating around Japan when he boarded it. He left before the occupation of Japan. He ended up in China delivering food to the population. He sailed on a main river in China to one of the main ports. He had liberty [Annotator's Note: an authorized absence for a short period of time] there with a three-day pass. He visited the capital of China. He took a train to return to his ship. The food sent to China had to be guarded so it would not be taken. The populace was glad to see the Americans. Now, China owns us. He never figured that to happen. Perry stayed in the Navy after the war. He got out of the Navy after returning home. He was discharged in New Orleans [Annotator's Note: New Orleans, Louisiana].


After the war, Robert Perry found employment as a painter and as a lumber yard worker. He never used 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] to attend college. Seeing China made a lasting impression on him. He was struck by how poor the populace was. After a storm passed through, he was reunited with his grammar school professor, J.W. Folke [Annotator's Note: phonetic spelling; unable to identify]. Folke had gotten into trouble at home with the school board and been drafted as a consequence. Perry had no contact with Japanese soldiers but he saw some in prison camps. He was admonished not to go in the hills where holdout Japanese remained. He was told that the enemy who had not surrendered would cut the heads off Americans they found. World War 2 maintained our country's freedom. Perry was glad he went in when he did. An invasion of Japan in the LCVPs [Annotator's Note: Landing Craft Vehicle, Personnel or LCVP; also known as the Higgins boat] would have been murder. World War 2 gave us [Annotator's Note: Americans] freedom we did not have. The National WWII Museum [Annotator's Note: in New Orleans, Louisiana] is needed to educate the younger generation on what the war means to them. War is rough. There was war in Korea [Annotator's Note: Korean War, 25 June 1950 to 27 July 1953] and one of Perry's nephews was drafted and volunteered for service in South Korea. The enemy knew when the Americans left, the roads would belong to them. When the nephew had liberty [Annotator's Note: an authorized absence for a short period of time] in Australia, he visited a Perry farm there. China was a poor country. The main streets in China reminded Perry of the old streets in New Orleans [Annotator's Note: New Orleans, Louisiana]. In China, he used a rickshaw as a taxi. While Perry was on the Fred T. Barry [Annotator's Note: USS Fred T. Barry (DD-858)], he was on guard duty when another destroyer moored next to him. His uncle hailed him from the other ship calling him by his nickname, Tootie. Perry retired at 62 years of age in 1988.

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