By Jennifer Martin - email
Emmett Skeen joined the Navy in 1944.
"I was about to become 18 years-old," Skeen recalled. "When you got 18 back then, another month or two, you was going. And I didn't want to go in the Army or Marines or nothing. So my parents finally signed for me to go to the Navy and I had my 18th birthday in boot camp."
After four weeks of training, they sent him off to the Pacific. He was assigned to Navy battleship, the USS Idaho.
Skeen describes his tour: "I was assigned to a 20 mm gun. I was just really a loader on that 20 mm anti-aircraft gun. We went to Pelilu and bombarded that thing. Shelled it, whatever you want to call it for three days and nights and then they landed troops on it. Marines, Army and some Navy lands on those things. Ff course I stayed on that ship. We didn't hang around there much. We come back to the states after that. Stayed in the states about three months. Put the ship in dry dock in Washington.
We went back out in the Pacific. Went out to Iwo Jima. And we shelled, bombarded Iwo Jima for three days & nights and landed troops. And of course, we saw them raise the flag on Suribachi and we stayed around there a little while and went to Okinowa. Shelled and bombarded Okinowa seven days and nights. We had 20 mm guns. We had 40 mm guns. Five inch 38's and 14-inch guns. We had 12 of those 14-inch guns. And we pulled in close enough at Okinowa, we set some grass huts on fire with those 40 mm's. So we was in close enough, we could see a lot of stuff," Skeen explained.
They were on duty almost 24 hours a day, getting little sleep and eating only when other crewmen brought food to the guns.
"They'd bring sandwiches up to us or a can of Spam and some loaf bread. One night they put a smoke screen around us and said if you want to keep your heads, keep them below the shields of the gun. So we just laid down on the deck. You could hear planes buzzing, shells going off, but you couldn't see nothing. But we made it. The aircraft carriers are supposed to take care of these suicide planes coming in. But there is so many of them coming in, couldn't no way get'em all. One day there was six of'em coming in at one time. See alot of them hit ships, miss the ships. One of em hit us, just knocked a little hole in... Didn't really hurt anybody on the ship."
From Okinowa, they went to a staging area in Leyte Gulf in the Philippines.
"We was fixing to go to Japan. And they dropped those two atomic bombs. And you never heard such a shout when they hollered the war's over. We was sitting right beside the Missouri when they signed the peace with Japan. You could see McArthur Admiral Nemitz. We might have been 50 yards from'em. I doubt there is many people living now that could say that," Skeen said.
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