I just ran across this thread, don't know how I missed it before. These folks truly deserve the title "greatest generation" for what they went through, how they conducted themselves, and their near universal modesty. I never met one who complained.
As a teenager, I read a book on the Bataan death march by one of the survivors. It was a good book, but the story was horrific! These soldiers, sailors and marines truly experienced hell on earth at the hands of their Japanese captors. I look forward to getting "Hell's Guest" by Col Frazier, and I salute his service.
In the late 1970's, I was over at my then in-laws house on a Sunday afternoon. I sat down with my father-in-law, turned on the TV, and the movie "Midway" had just started. I knew he was retired from the Air Force, and that he had been in the Navy during WWII, but not much else. In the course of watching the movie, I found out that he had been in the battle of Midway, serving on the USS Hornet (CV-8). He was so modest about his service that he just never talked much about it before. I found out he graduated from Navy boot camp the day Hitler invaded Poland, and was initially stationed on another ship. He was transferred to the USS Hornet when it was commissioned, serving it until it was sunk. In an incredible one year and 6 days, he was a part of:
1. The launch of Doolittle's Raiders mission (April 1942), in which 16 B-25 Army Air Corps bombers were launched from the Hornet's deck in a daring and successful surprise attack on Tokyo and other Japanese cities. Up until that raid, the Japanese population had not experienced an attack on their mainland, and it really rattled the population. This event alone was monumental, but much more was to come. A book (and subsequent movie) was written by Ted Lawson about the mission, "30 seconds Over Tokyo", which is a great read. There is a two page wide picture inside the book showing the bombers being launched, and the Hornet crew cheering them on. My ex Father-in-law is in the picture clear enough to be identified by his sister when the photo was published.
2. The greatest Naval battle in history, the battle of Midway (June 1942). the Hornet lost all it's aircraft and 29 of the 30 aircrew in the battle. Another carrier, the Yorktown, was sunk, and it's aircraft landed on the Hornet. The battle crippled the Japanese fleet, changing the course of the war. The 1976 movie has a lot of actual film footage from the battle, including gun camera film on the aircraft and the fierce attack on our ships, up close and personal. The Japanese lost 3,057 men, 4 aircraft carriers, a cruiser and 228 aircraft. We lost 340 men, 1 aircraft carrier, 1 destroyer, and 145 aircraft. Much more to the story of this battle... The movie was very good, and lots of books have been written, of course.
3. In the Solomon Islands Campaign (August to October 1942), the Hornet's mission was to guard the sea lanes during the battle of Guadalcanal. As a result of battle damage to the other ships, the Hornet was the only operational aircraft carrier in the south Pacific for 6 weeks. On October 26, 1942, she became the last carrier in the US fleet to be sunk in the war.
He finished out the war, being discharged to civilian life. He was then recruited by the Air Force, along with other Navy carrier vets, for their newly created crash boat program. He was the skipper of an Air Force boat! Over the years he witnessed H-Bomb tests in the Pacific, recovered crashed aircraft, and patrolled off Cape Canaveral, Florida during missile tests and space launches. He attended an annual gathering of USS Hornet survivors nearly every year, until his health would no longer allow it. His daughter and I divorced several years ago, but we maintained a friendly relationship afterwards. We lost this hero three years ago, and I really miss him.