I had the honor of interviewing my father-in-law, Ned Wright about his experiences in the Navy during the Korean War. This is his interview, what he saw and the world he got to experience.
Were you drafted or did you enlist?
Where were you living at the time?
Columbus, Ohio with my mom and dad.
Why did you join?
I didn’t want to go to college so I thought I’d join the Navy and have an experience that I would never have before. I wanted to see the world because I’ve never been out of Franklin County.
Why did you pick the Navy?
I didn’t want to be an Army guy.
What dates did you serve?
I went to boot camp July 18, 1949 and worked the USS WA Mann AP112 for one year. Then I was called back into service November 23, 1950 to December 22, 1952. That’s when I went up to Great Lakes, IL to the naval shipyard. On January 20, I was assigned to the USS Jarvis DD-799, which needed to be put into commission, and was finished March 7, 1952.
Do you recall your first days in the service?
The day I left Columbus, we took a train clear across the country to San Diego, CA. It took us about three days to get there. Once we got there, we got our hair cuts, got all our clothes, and were told where we were going to sleep. In boot camp, we had to learn how to roll our clothes and tie a square knot on both ends, then we had to lay our clothes out on our bunk with all the knots lined up in a row for inspection. Of course, our beds had to be made up properly. I never had to wash my clothes before then I had to start washing my own clothes. We had to use wash racks outside and hang them up to dry. After boot camp, I was assigned to a transport ship called the USS WA Mann AP112. November 23rd, we were on our way to Pearl Harbor and Guam. We got back January 8, 1950. We took trips back and forth, taking troops over to Pearl Harbor and Guam.
How was the food?
I had never eaten in a chow hall before. The food wasn’t bad, not a lot of variety. You got used to it. Some days were better than others. Sometimes we would get butter, potatoes, and milk and make soup and cook it up in a can.
What did it feel like to be in the Navy?
The company that I was in consisted of about 50 men. We had to march, learn to take care of our clothes, do chores in the barracks, clean, and do KP duty. We did not get to go off base at all. Our first liberty was getting on our first ship. We were not allowed phone calls but we could receive mail. We were pretty much locked into that camp.
Once I was assigned to the USS Jarvis DD-799, life was much different. It was a much smaller ship so our bunks were three high and our storage trunks were under the bunks. If the guy on the bottom bunk was sleeping, it was very difficult to get into your trunk and put your clothes away. The chow hall was much different. Because it was such a small ship, we were up and down in the water so much, you had to hold onto your tray or you’d lose your food. To stand in line to go to chow, you stood on the side of the deck and many times, water would come inside and get you wet while you were waiting on your chow.
How did you get through all these changes?
You just learned to make the adjustments. I was with a group of men that took care of the torpedoes and the depth charges and there were about 6 or 7 of us. We were like a unit by ourselves so being on Jarvis was a different experience than being on the WA Mann. We were peons on the WA Mann.
Did you serve in any wars?
Where did you go?
Our first trip on the Jarvis was to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, January 14, 1952. We did this on several trips. Then on May 15, 1952, we departed from Norfolk, VA and moved to Panama and that was the beginning of our World Cruise. It took six hours to pass through the Panama Canal. We arrived in Panama May 21, 1952 and departed from there and moved to San Diego, CA. From there to Pearl Harbor, then to Midway Island, then to Yokosuka, Japan, then crossed over the International Date Line, there we lost a day. Then we left Yokosuka and went to Sasebo, Japan then went to Korea. In Sonojin (Sunjn), Korea, was where we started firing our guns in the war.
What did you do?
We had to refuel at sea from tankers, which had to pull up fairly close to us. They would pass a hose line over and we would receive oil to keep us going. We would also receive ammunition by sending crates over on high lines. It was interesting to see.
While we were in Sonojin (Sunjin), we joined the USS Bremerton Cruiser 130 at San Woon Jaun and that’s where we did most of the shooting during the war.
What was your job assignment?
Did you see combat?
I didn’t get on shore so the only combat we ever saw was launching shells and torpedoes at the enemy. They fired back but they never hit us. That was the most I ever saw. We would turn the ship parallel to the shore of Korea and launch our shells and torpedoes. The force of the shell would rock the ship hard and the sound was shattering.
Were there many casualties in your unit?
Tell me a couple of your most memorable experiences.
At the International Date Line, there’s a navy process that any Navy man who never crossed that line, is called a Pollywog. Then you become a Shellback. But before you do that, you have to go through an initiation. This is where the men had to do some crazy things like paint you red, white and blue, had to do some calisthenics, or they would soak you down with a hose, or something crazy. Then they would give you a certificate that says you became a Shellback.
Were you awarded any medals or citations?
Ribbon for being in the Korean War
What did you do when on leave?
Went to museums, bars and amusement centers. Earlier on in my service, I was impressed with the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. While I was on the WA Mann, we went in and out of California and passed under the Golden Gate Bridge about 12 times. But never went over it until my wife and I went on a trip out west.
I also went to china and saw some beautiful paintings and shops along the town.
One of the most discouraging things I saw was poor people begging for anything. We went to one of the shipyards and while we were there we hired Chinese people to paint our ship. All they asked from us was to stand near our chow line and take the garbage that we threw away. That’s all they asked. You could stand on the deck and see kids swimming around in the water wanting you to throw coins in so they could dive for them. That was when I realized how fortunate I was living in America.
Some of the places we stopped at:
Hong Kong, China
Subic Bay, Philippians
Ras Tanura, Saudia Arabia
Passed through the Suze canal
The Rock of Gibraltar
Some of these places I got to get off the ship and see, but not all the places.
And that completed our World Cruise.
Once we got back, I was discharged.
What did you do after your service?
I got a job at Kimball Glass. We made television picture tubes. I was on the packing line, but I didn’t stay there very long. I didn’t like the job because it was clear across town. Then I went to work for the gas company digging pipe trenches. I didn’t like that job either. Then I went to work for Ag-Lab Products. I was in the shipping department and then they built a new facility on the west side of town and transferred me over there. One night, a friend of mine called and offered me a job at Western Electric. They had to take my vitals in order to hire me and make sure I was healthy but they found out I had high blood pressure. They gave me three months to get it under control. Obviously I made it happen because I was there for 34 years.
I met my wife, Linda in 1957 and married her that same year.
Did you make any close friendships while in the service?
Oh yeah, unfortunately I didn’t keep in touch with any of them. The 6 or 7 of us on the torpedo unit became very close.
Anything else you would like to share in this interview?
I really enjoyed my experience in the Navy. For somebody who was born and raised in Franklin County and never left home, I got to see so many places around the world.
Pearl Harbor 1941
International Date Line
YouTube video of International Date Line