By Jennifer Martin - email
John Means was just 17 year-old when he decided to leave high school and the family farm behind to join the Navy Reserves.
"I didn't know what patriotic meant. I joined to get away from them plow handles," said Means.
He planned initially to serve on a submarine, but changed his mind during training.
"I passed everything until the last part where they take your air away. I'm sitting there and I can feel the air leaving. I wised up. I said, 'no, Means, you won't be sitting on the bottom of the ocean in a broken down submarine without air,' so I punched the button and walked out. And they put me in the amphibious force and right away I was on the last 1084," said Means.
The primary mission of the LST, to load, transport, and land, men and materials, like tanks, vehicles, and weapons in support of amphibious operations in the pacific.
"Every island we come to the war was over. We caught up with the war in Okinawa. They were fighting 30 miles on the other side of the island. We were on this side. We went ahead and landed and off loaded our cargo. We didn't know what they were loading on but when we got back to Guam it was body bags and some of those soldiers and some injured people and medics and everything. We were just little old 17 year-old kids over there, having fun, cutting up, but that's when the war hit us and it was serious from then on," Means recalled.
They continued support missions until the end of the war.
"About 10 days after the war, the Japanese boats followed us out there a little bit. So they sent a submarine and people to board that boat. They were starving, nasty and they were sick. Didn't have no drinking water, no food. So we got two on our LST and when this guy was crawling on, he was crawling on with this gun. So I reached and got his gun to hold it for him until he got on. When he got on he just walked off. I've had it ever since," added Means.
The Navy approached means to switch from the reserves to regular navy after the war. He took two months leave in the states, then returned to duty. First on a goodwill tour in Halifax on the Cruiser Denver and later on the Battleship South Dakota, which was part of the dry deck fleet.
He left the Navy in 1947 working first in the cotton fields and later drilling oil wells. He worked for the Elder George Bush before the future president began his political career. With that job, means traveled the world before returning to Mississippi with his wife and children.
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