By Jennifer Martin - email
Bill Minor grew up in Hammond, Louisiana. He joined the naval ROTC in his freshman year at Tulane in 1939. The program kept him exempt from the draft until he graduated.
"I was able to get my degree & my commission. I got orders to ship to the destroyer, Stephen Potter, that was about to be commissioned out in San Francisco. We commissioned it and joined the fleet. We joined and formed up Task Force 58 which proved to be the great offensive naval battle force in the Pacific."
Minor served as a gunnery on the Potter.
"I was in control of all of the 5-inch battery. That was our biggest gun, a 5 inch 38. And that was an anti-aircraft gun."
Their first mission was an assault on the Marshall Islands.
"That was like in January of '44. But then we went straight from there to truck. The Japanese built this out in the middle of the Pacific as a naval stronghold. Our main job was to be the plane guards for the fast carriers and protect them and our submarines and our aircraft. Lots of pilots who came in, they went off the flight deck, they went in the water, so we picked up dozens of pilots.
After we went in on the first raid on Truk, the Japanese started giving us a message they weren't going to give up. One thing, we sank a Japanese sub, a Japanese submarine, and then we had a very close call with a Japanese torpedo plane. And it was coming right for us and by some miracle it missed us and hit the Intrepid."
The Potter would escort the damaged carrier back to the Marshall Islands. It was just one of many times the destroyer would protect other ships, that had been attacked in the Pacific.
"Anytime while you're afloat, you're subject to something happening. Subs prowl the whole area, and we knew that. But then these kamikazes started coming after destroyers, mind you."
In addition to Japanese attacks, the ships in the Pacific also had to contend with mother nature. During a fueling operation in December 1944, a typhoon hit the third fleet --about 500 miles east of Luzon.
"The navy didn't think destroyers would go down, capsize, in weather. Three of our fellow destroyers went down. Almost a thousand men, just lost. "
The Potter made it through.
As the war drew to a close, the destroyer was sent back to the United States for an overhaul.
"And then the a-bomb drops, while we.. see we already had orders to go back for the invasion of Japan."
With word that the war was over, the Potter was placed in reserve.
Bill Minor went on to have a long career in journalism. He still writes a newspaper column.
WLBT 3 - Fox 40
715 South Jefferson Street