World War II began on December 7, 1941, a day to be remembered. I recall the date vividly and can still hear the announcer on the radio saying that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. Bill Scheuer, my best friend, and I were hitchhiking home from attending a movie in Stanford, Kentucky. The driver of the car was listening to the radio and told us that the Japanese had just bombed Pearl Harbor.
I was sixteen years old at the time. Everything pointed toward a long war, and there was little doubt that the military draft would be lowered from twenty-one to eighteen. I just knew I would be off to the war at eighteen years of age.
Initially, I want to be a pilot. I can still remember walking to the backfields on our farm to bring the cows up for milking and watching the planes flying over our farm. I could visualize myself at the control of a powerful plane, wearing a leather helmet, my scarf flying in the wind.
A good friend of mine, Glen Faulkner, had researched aviation and talked about flying all the time. The fact that I did not have enough education to become a pilot was a problem, however, and therefore necessitated a reality check on my part about my future in the war effort.
At that time, one did not get to select a particular branch of service if he waited to be drafted; the government put draftees where they were most needed. With all this in mind, when I became seventeen, I convinced my mother that I should enlist in the Navy because I would then be allowed to finish high school. I therefore enlisted when I was seventeen but did not have to report for duty until I was eighteen, just after high school graduation, and my boot camp training was at Great Lakes, Illinois.
This book is not meant to be about me, however. (About me is a book titled The Power of a Mother’s Prayer.) This book is about all those Marines, soldiers, and sailors (which includes me) who fought in the Pacific and now, in my opinion, have been forgotten.
It seems that we celebrate the invasion of Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge, and the European Theatre of war every year, but missing from such recognitions are the invasions in Peleliu, Tarawa, and Tinian and so forth. Often we hear about VE Day but seldom hear about VJ Day. This indifference is further illustrated in the World War II Museum in New Orleans. Although the museum was founded in the year 2000, only now in 2015 has it started an exhibit entitled the Road to Tokyo, though an exhibit entitled the Road to Berlin has already been completed. Have those in charge forgotten who attacked us at Pearl Harbor? However, this museum is great to have and especially since it is dedicated to the memory Forgotten Warriors by D. Ralph Young with poetry by Timothy D. Churchill page xiii of 348 of World War II veterans. I did make the financial contribution requested to bring the Pacific Theatre up to equal status with the European Theatre. In addition, the museum is fast becoming number one for World War II history.
Since there are hundreds and hundreds of books that analyze World War II very well, this book is meant to summarize some of the major battles in the Pacific and to briefly answer the questions of what, where, when, and why. It is not intended to provide an in-depth analysis of every battle across the Pacific during World War II but rather to discuss only those major battles and the ones that applied to my ship, the USS J. Franklin Bell and me.