Ken Beaton: Anonymous sailor deserves special thanks for service
For the Nevada Appeal
When I wrote a column recently on VJ Day, my goal was to touch one or more of the reader’s emotions. I wanted each reader to mark the 65th anniversary of VJ Day, while imagining the utter joy in the hearts of everyone celebrating in the Allied countries.
My commentary was printed in the Nevada Appeal on Aug. 11, three days before the 65th anniversary. My wife and I were attending the First Special Service Force Association reunion in Helena, Mont. We returned to Carson City mid-afternoon on Aug. 17. The light was blinking on our message machine. The third message had the raspy voice of a man in his 90s who spoke from his heart.
“I read your article, Ken, in the paper, and I was at Buckner Bay, Okinawa, waiting to invade Japan. It’s so good to read your article. I’m 92 years old and still alive. I swept mines in Kobe, Akashi, Nagoya and all them harbors after the war was over. I didn’t get back to the states until Dec. 25th (1945). I just thought I’d like to let you know that there were a few vets left (from) over there ready to invade Japan and that’s what they told us, that there’d be about a million of us die. I was on Mine Sweeper 386. Thank you for your article.”
My heart was touched. I hit the play button again because I thought I had missed the caller’s name. He did not leave his name or phone number. I wanted to call and thank him for his story and kind words.
Having listened to his message 15 to 20 times for all the details, I used Google to research Japan and Okinawa to correctly spell and locate the three cities south of Tokyo and Buckner Bay in Okinawa. I learned a mine sweeper had a crew of 119, officers and enlisted men.
Thanks, sailor, for clearing the mines from Kobe, Akashi and Nagoya harbors and for your phone call. When you returned to the states on Christmas Day 1945, and stepped off the gangplank, did you kiss the ground? Were there tears of joy running down your cheeks because you were home?
Sixteen million men and women served in WWII; 405,000 men and 12 women made the supreme sacrifice for our country. Unfortunately, we are losing hundreds of thousands of WWII veterans each year to old age. The WWII sections of most cemeteries have had to expand to accommodate our fallen veterans. We owe a debt of gratitude to all our veterans. Each veteran has a story which needs to be shared.
• Ken Beaton is a Carson City resident.