He was 25 years-old and on a ship, a destroyer to be specific. The Sullivans was a “Fletcher-class” destroyer that saw action during World War II and the Korean War. I know these things, not only because I read them, but because my Daddy told me.
“I fired the gun, the one on the front.” I suppose he did, I had no reason to question my Daddy – he was a bit rough around the edges, but he was honest and you wanted him on your side when there were situations which called for tough sailors.
On Christmas Day in 1952, The Sullivans scored direct hits on an important railroad bridge in North Korea. Enemy guns failed to hit the destroyer, yet “showered the warship’s decks with shell fragments.” Daddy had told me once, “Yes, they shot at us.” I suppose they did.
Early in 1953, The Sullivans was ordered home and reached Newport, Rhode Island in April, where she operated out of her home port well into the summer of that year.
The letter was dated July 28, 1953 and it was addressed to my Mama, or “Dearest Alice,” as he began his letter. The armistice formally ending the war in Korea was signed the day before on July 27th.
Finding the letter in a stash of my Mama’s things, I was anxious to see what my Daddy had to say about the war ending, the mood of his fellow sailors and life in general through the eyes of a fellow in his early 20’s in the 1950’s.
In the first page of the letter which was in the handwriting I knew so well, he said nothing of the war ending, coming home or anything of the sort. That was the way he was, and the way many in the military were and continue to be. It was his job and he was proud of it, but he would rather be writing love letters I think or what he thought was love letters.
He spent the whole first page telling his girlfriend, my Mama, “how proud he was that she hadn’t forgotten how to fuss, especially when it comes to me.” She never forgot, she did a pretty good job for many years to come. They wouldn’t be married until a few years later, and she continued not to forget how to fuss, especially at him. However, it kept him in line at times and at times it didn’t.
On page 2, Daddy does note, “I guess you heard the news, the war is supposed to be over.” Evidently his fellow sailors tied one on and had a big party – can you blame them? He went on to say “Nearly everybody got drunk.” He underlined the word nearly, insinuating that he wasn’t one of them. Daddy’s been gone 15 years, I was around him for close to 40, I hope he got to live it up a little with his sailor buddies when they got the good news. If I had to bet and Daddy told me never to bet on anything other than a sure thing, I’d bet he was including himself with the “everybody,” rather than the “nearly.”
And that’s fine by me…
It seems we are living in a time when some people forget those who serve our country so bravely. There are even folks that make those who protect us out to be the bad guys. I don’t understand it. Daddy used to say, “It’s got to get done and somebody’s got to do it,” about everything from cutting the grass to putting out a daily newspaper in Anniston, Alabama.
What would happen if there were no service men and women to protect us and others around the world? Would evil just go away? That would be nice, but it is something I would never ever bet on.
So to my family members and yours, who served and continue to serve to protect us all, thank you. Not only for me, but for my children and grandchildren to come.
Daddy’s last line to “Dearest Alice”? “Remember I still love you.”
That’s one thing, I will bet on forever, even though he’s gone.
Cranks My Tractor
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I'm BN Heard and I like semicolons, dogs and Daddy's handwriting.