Veteran of two wars recalls time in the Pacific |

Veteran of two wars recalls time in the Pacific

Photos by Wheeler Cowperthwaite / Nevada AppealRight: Rex Jennings, right, talks to Bud Harris, with Christmas cards to be sent to troops overseas.

Four years after Japan surrendered in 1945 and ended World War II in the Pacific, Bud Harris enlisted in the Navy and remained there for the next 21 years, retiring as a lieutenant after fighting through America’s next two wars.Harris, 82, served on a 164-foot-long Navy net tender during the Korean War. He and 29 shipmates on their reverse wheelbarrow-looking ship laid down antisubmarine nets in the harbor of Yokosuka, Japan, he said.On Nov. 1, 1952, Harris said he participated in the first hydrogen bomb test on Eniwetok, an atoll in the Pacific Ocean. After that, Harris moved to Albuquerque, N.M., to a weapons testing unit, followed by stints on a Navy ammunition ship, at Travis Air Force Base, near Fairfield, Calif. , and then the Philippines.By the time Harris landed in the Philippines, he was a master chief. Shortly thereafter, he was commissioned as an ensign and went aboard the Coral Sea aircraft carrier. He recalled that while on the Coral Sea “the old girl was a shaking and a rattling,” and he went on deck to see what was going on. To get there he went through an airplane hangar, he said, adding, “It was obvious, we were going into battle.” More than that, no one could say. The ship ran at full speed to join in the initial Rolling Thunder attack in which North Korean military targets were bombed.The captain and executive officer of the Coral Sea were both heavily involved in planning and so Harris picked up the administrative slack on the ship of 5,000. The ship’s officers were assigned to regular deck watches, and Harris said, “It seemed like everything happened when I was on watch.”On one occasion, a destroyer crossed the Coral Sea’s bow and the much-larger carrier had to come to a full stop to avoid ramming the other ship. Many times, helicopters crashed on the carrier’s deck, and a mail plane nosed its way into the ocean.For his efforts, Harris earned the Navy Achievement Medal. If the medal weren’t enough, one sight clinched Harris’ love of the ocean and Navy, forming a cherished memories: The sight of other aircraft carriers on a bright, early morning silhouetted against the ocean and the sun.In November 1969, Harris retired as a lieutenant because had made a promise to his children early on that when they reached high school, he wouldn’t move them.“I was Navy all the way,” he said. “I had a wonderful career.”