The following interview of Mr. Graham Nelms was conducted at Clover Hill High School on Veterans Day, November 11, 2008:

 

Mr. Nelms: We chased those submarines all the way to the coast of Africa and supposedly we got credit with one sinking and assisting another sinking.My ship was involved of course [and] one of my jobs during general quarters was to man the K gun.

 

Q. What is a K gun?

 

Mr. Nelms: That is a gun that fires a depth charge up in the air and set up a pattern of the rollÖ. They just rolled off the fan tail of the ship, but these K guns and Y guns, the Y guns would fire two depth charges, the K gun would only fire one, and I would pull the [trigger] on the K gun. We have 2 Y guns and 2 K guns on each side [of the ship] so that would give us 4 depth charges going over each side at a time, 8 at a time, and 2 roller racks which would allow us to drop 10 depth charges at a time.

 

Q. Did you practice with live ammunition? Or did you feel like you couldnít waste the live ammunition?

 

Mr. Nelms: Well because depth charges were kind of expensive we just didnít throw them overboard just to practice but we would go through the drill, you know we would go through the dummy drills, but I was on this mine sweeping ship up on Solomonís Islands. It was a testing ground for mines that were going from the Aleutian Islands after we went in there that was around 1943. We went up with the mine sweeping sweeper to do some experimenting with what would happen ifwe were to explode these magnetic mines that the Japanese had put up there in the Aleutian Islands that was a little bit technical because we really didnít know what we were using. It was called a magnetic Springfield. You got a ďBĒ going over tech fans. They were shipped, then let off a long cable, electric cable, then you got this generator engine that I donít know what 88 it was, but you could charge these too. Then there was a magnetic mine between these pearls exploding and we went up there to experiment with that and that was Christmas of 1943

 

Q: Did you get to talk about Korea at all?

 

Mr. Nelms: I did mention the fact that during the Korean War, my ship did what we called __. Weíd go in and fire on the coast line, and cause the North Koreans to fire on us.We would go close into the beaches. And the U.S.S. Missouri, the U.S.S. New Jersey, and the U.S.S Helena, heavy cruisers, they would sit off out of range of the shore guns. And when they would fire, these shore guns, they would expose themselves, and then these ships would fire on them. It was more of a decoy thing, and we were the decoy.

 

Q. Did a lot of your friends join the army when they hit the age of 18?Were they excited and looking forward to it?

 

Mr. Nelms: I believe they were.This was something brand new when the Japanese suddenly bombed Pearl Harbor, everyone being patriotic and we were raised to salute the flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance.I think everybody was patriotic to a degree.It was something brand new.We didnít know what was going on, not by a stretch of their imagination.And of course they started to draft.Then you had to go if you were called up, and my intentions was do something that I wanted to do, not what somebody told me to do, and I think thatís a mentality of a lot of us, and thatís how I wound upÖwell I thought I was going to go to the Marine Corps, because I thought they were mean, and they were into fighting, and hey, Iím thinking thatís where I want to be.But this buddy of mine, the day that I went to the recruiting office, he asked me, ďWhere are you going?Ē and I told him and he said, ďIíll go with you.ĒSo, by the time we got to the recruiting office he had already made up his mind that he was going to the Navy and he talked me into going with him, and that was the best thing that ever happened to me, because like I said, if I had gone into the Marine Corps, I would have probably wound up on a Pacific Island somewhere. I ainít so sure I would be here today.

 

Q. Was the war what you expected it to be?

 

Mr. Nelms: No, I really didnít know what to expect.Iím a kid, I donít quit school.I wasnít even educated, like you guys are.You know, I was in about eighth or ninth grade when I was sixteen years old and I was not a good student, I really wasnít.Now, I got my education the hard way.I went to med school for seventeen years after I got out of the Navy. I was able to have a job and raise a family and now I can even support myself on a retirement income because of the education I got. This was after the war was over. To be absolutely truthful with you, I really didnít know what the war was all about until it was all over. After Iíd been there and experienced it I had some idea what it was all about, but I had no idea what it was all about.I just knew that my friends and people that I was raised up with were going in and Iím hearing all these stories and reading all these articles in the newspaper.I just wanted to be a part of it.It was more of a peer pressure type thing.But I wanted to be a part of it.And at that time, it was the thing to do.I know the Vietnam War was not very popular.This Iraq and Afghanistan is more popular now than the Vietnam War was. And there were a lot of people who are against whatís going on in the world today.Believe me; youíd rather be fighting them over there than fighting here in your back yard.

 

Q: Today thereís kind of a playful rivalry between the different branches of the armed services. Was there in your time?

 

Mr. Nelms: Oh yeah, how shall I put this?This island Mogma, there were soldiers who were in that area that would come over on the island, and course there was the Navy, and there might be a couple guys from the Marine Corps over there from Liberty. It was just a little recreation island that gave you an opportunity to leave the hum drum things you do all day for a few hours to change the scenery.You know, those guys, they played as hard as they could and we did too.

 

Q. Did you follow baseball on the radio, like the World Series?

 

Mr. Nelms: Yeah the World Series that year was the St. Louis Cardinals and the St. Louis Browns. That was two ball teams from the same city. But anyway that was a big thing to listen to the World Series on the radio.

 

Q. What was your favorite thing to listen on the radio?

 

Well, aboard ships, they had what was called Armed Services Radio. They would broadcast music. They would send you these long play albums, South Pacific, all of the Broadway shows. I donít remember all of them, but I used to listen to those things and I used to remember all the words to all the songs cause we heard them so often, but the armed forces radio, they would give us information of what was going on. We didnít get a whole lot of information. There was a lot of censors in those days. The radio people that were in the radio shack receiving communications from other ships and commands, they knew what going on and they would make a recording and then they would play it. But the armed forces radio was mostly what we listened to on the radio. And of course you guys know there was no such thing as a television in those days.

 

Q. Did you have any ways to get around the censor?Did you try to communicate with your family with a code or anything like that?

 

Mr. Nelms: Iím trying to think. Not really. When my mother would write to me or a girlfriend would write to me they would write to the Fleet Post Office in New York and that covered a whole lot of territory, and if you were in the Pacific, it was the Fleet Post Office in San Francisco, California.That was your address and you could be anywhere in the South Pacific.

 

To be continuedÖ.