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Topic: Father (as in paternal parent, not God) (04/10/08)
TITLE: Another Day of Infamy
By Judy Doyle
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It wasn’t the first time the Isherwood fought off attacks. However, this would be a deadly attack. The pilot, trained only to take off not to land, flew his plane into the #3 gun mount of the destroyer. Fires broke out. All but one were quickly extinguished. The fire in the depth charge rack in the aft engine room could not be snuffed out. After fighting the fire for more than twenty-five minutes, the charge exploded. The ship’s metal was twisted and blackened from the fires. Chaos reigned. Sailors desperately tried to escape the unbearable heat of the fires. Acrid smoke stifled their ability to breathe. The stench of burning flesh filled their nostrils. Sailors were writhing in pain as shrapnel ripped open their skin. Following the attack, some eighty men were either killed, injured or missing. Norman, a machinist mate and only twenty-five years old, was assigned to the aft engine room. He was wounded by shrapnel. The scars in his neck and shrapnel fragments in his head which caused his migraine headaches would always remind him of that day.
April 22, 1945 was as significant for Norman’s family as was December 7, 1941 for the nation. His family, like so many families, was affected by that date and World War II. Four months before the end of the war in Japan, his family received word of his injuries. One can only imagine their heartache. His mother, wanted to protect her child, yet she was forced to gaze at his photo. Norman’s wife of three and one-half years, separated by thousands of miles, longed to stroke his red hair and whisper, “I love you.” His siblings prayed he would return. Without a doubt, it was a terrifying time for his family. He defied all the odds and survived. The family reported that Norman was the only survivor in the aft engine room. More than five hundred thousand military deaths were recorded during World War II.
Most veterans of World War II never spoke of what they saw during their military career. The memories were too painful. Only once do I recall Norman, my dad, speak of his ship’s location during the war. We tugged the world atlas from the top shelf of the closet. Spreading it on the diningroom table, a small speck in the Pacific Ocean was the location. The USS Isherwood saw action near Ie Shima, as well as Okinawa, and Leyte Gulf. I cannot recall the subject being mentioned again, ever.
One would think after surviving the attack at Ie Shima, Norman would welcome discharge from the Navy. But, no, he would become a thirty-year veteran of the United States Navy and the United States Naval Reserves. He always looked sharp in his uniform. It didn’t matter if he was wearing his dress blues or his dress whites. He was handsome. His military hat was slightly cocked to the side. My dad was a patriot and taught his children to love this country.
While doing genealogy, I requested copies of Dad’s military records. I received replicas of Dad’s medals. Although I knew Dad had been injured during the war, I was surprised he’d been awarded the Purple Heart. That knowledge sent me on another expedition. Curious minds want to know: what were the circumstances of the award? The history of the Isherwood provided basic information. However, verification came in a ream of paper received from the Military Personnel Records. It read, “Awarded the Purple Heart Medal for wounds received against an organized enemy on 22, April 1945.” With that information, I had pieced together all the details.
A shadow box with Dad’s photo and medals hangs in my office. My dad was a hero, at least he was my hero.
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