I have a deep respect for the military. During my teen years I was fascinated with war and military tactics. It started with Civil War battles and graduated to WW2 encounters. I loved old war movies, played all sorts of WW2 based games and read whatever I could get. Naval battles and POW stories were tops on my list. I even entertained the thought of joining upon graduation but when the Navy said that because of my (poor) eyesight that I would never fly jets off of a carrier, I got soured of that idea for a while but I still read whatever I could and even tried to get stories out of vets that I knew.
Strangely, most of the WW2 vets I knew really didn’t want to talk of their service. Even vets of later ‘wars’ didn’t feel like talking much. My father and father in law both declined to elaborate on their time other that they were there and got out when they were able. I had one uncle that was in the Marines who would occasionally tell me a Vietnam story, but that was about it. My one grandfather was in the Navy during WW2, and as par for the course, didn’t talk much. He talked so little about it that my mom was under the impression that he served on a submarine. All she knew for sure is that he was a Radarman Third Class and that he had eye damage from a battle during the war. When talking with my mother not too long ago I had asked again about my grandfather and mom told me that she had his discharge papers if I wanted them. Well yes I do! So now I have them and with a little researching I would like to tell you of the history of my grandfather and the ship he served on, as best can be told from available links and sources:
My grandfather, hereafter referred to as Bill, enlisted as an Apprentice Seaman on September 25, 1943. After his basic training he was assigned to the USS Hall (DD583), a Fletcher-Class Destroyer. The USS Hall was launched in 1942 and commissioned in July of 1943. It was named after Elijah Hall who served in the Continental navy under John Paul Jones. In November that year it rendezvoused at sea with the battleship Iowa carrying President Franklin D. Roosevelt and other dignitaries to the Teheran Conference. According to records Bill did not make that voyage but joined up with the ship immediately afterwards as the ship was then reassigned to Pacific Duty.
After that the ship was engaged in many conflicts. After reporting to Pearl Harbor in January, 1944, it joined an Expeditionary Force bound for the capture and occupation of the Marshall Islands. The Hall, along with 3 other destroyers and three Cruisers were tasked on a special mission to wreck the airfields on Tarao Island during the invasion. They reportedly did that to a great degree, completely erasing every gun encampment and airfield there. Then they joined the main assault on the Marshalls.
After the month long battle at the Marshall Islands, the Hall continued its run by supporting the amphibious landings on Burnet Island in the Battle of Kwajalein, supplied gun support for the troops in February during the Battle of Eniwetok, Engebi Island and Parry Island. Then it was back to Pearl harbor as an escort for returning transports and to restock.
In April of that year the Hall returned to the Kwajalein area for patrol duty where she took on major gunfire from a shore battery that has survived, taking 2 hits. Surprisingly only 1 sailor was reported killed while the Hall managed to take out the guns as well as rescue a downed pilot. In May the Hall returned to Pearl Harbor yet again for repairs.
The USS Hall next joined the escort for a group of 12 fleet oilers whose job it was to supply fuel to units of the 5th fleet during the Marianas operations. She made two fuelling voyages from Majuro to the Marianas, then shifted to the Admiralty islands in August to assist in the capture of the Carolines. November saw the USS Hall join the 7th fleet where it was to be part of the force for the invasion of the Phillipines. While navigating the Surigao Strait they came under intense arial attacks but managed to survive relatively unscathed while downing several aircraft. In December the USS Hall supported the landings at Mangarin bay unleashing a fury of gunfire to support the landings while also downing several aircraft.
1945 saw even more intense action. In January she saw action in Luzon. Air strikes were frequent and heavy. During those battles many ships were sunk or severely damaged, including the escort carrier Ommaney Bay and the battleships California and New Mexico. In February she joined a fire support unit featuring the Texas and set course for Iwo Jima. There the USS Hall provided shore bombardment as well as coverage for the minesweepers in the area. March of that year had the Hall joining the fleet for Okinawa. There the USS Hall, caught alone, fought off 2 Japanese torpedo boats as well as shot down 2 aircraft. Late in June the USS Hall was detached from duty at Okinawa. Worn down from a constant state of battle readiness and littered with damage from its encounters, she was dispatched back to the United States for a major overhaul. While in repairs news of the Japanese surrender came .
In October, 1945, Bill was granted his Honorable Discharge from service. He suffered partial blindness in one of his eyes from an injury sustained during the battle at the Kwajalein area, but he kept that a secret until his eventual discharge. Bill went on to get married and have 2 children while enjoying a career at the US Postal Service. There were a few visits to the VA Hospital due to the war injuries but all in all he led a healthy life. Bill passed from this earth on April 25, 1998, survived by a wife, a son and daughter and at the time 5 grandkids and 3 great grandkids. The USS Hall, meanwhile, was decommissioned in December of 1946 and entered the Pacific Reserve Fleet. In 1959 she was taken out of reserve and loaned to Greece. In 1990 she was finally decommissoned and sold for scrap in 1997.
Bill rarely mentioned his naval service. From all accounts that I can verify the ship he was on saw a large amount of gunfire and action. Once when I asked him about it when I was about 13, he gave me a tie clasp shaped like a SHIP. He said ‘that was mine, I looked out for her’. I thought that was pretty cool, but what 13 year old wants to wear a tie? So I kept it. Now I wear it on occasion to keep his memory going and I thank him for his service every time. I never served in the military. I would like to think I would have served honorably if I had, but until you are IN that type of situation, you just don’t know. For Bill, and every other veteran out there who did your duty to the fullest, I thank you. I know Veterans Day is a ways away, but this is fresh in my mind, and I want to thank you now.