9:22 | When at anchor in Pearl Harbor, Jesus Cepeda would attend mass on Sunday with his friend from back home in Guam. As he waited for him on deck, he heard a big rumbling noise, like hundreds of planes at once, but as he searched the sky, he could see nothing. Then he turned to the north.(This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
Keywords : Jesus Cepeda Guam mess attendant Pearl Harbor Jose Ramirez Honolulu HI Catholic torpedo bomber bomber fighter Japanese USS Honolulu (CL-48) USS Arizona (BB-39)
Following in the footsteps of his father, Guam native Jesus Cepeda eagerly joined the US Navy in 1939 when a sailor he befriended recommended him. All he could be was a mess attendant but it was still the best opportunity on the undeveloped island. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
Ten young men from Guam were recruited into the US Navy per month and in 1939, Jesus Cepeda was one of them. The training was simple, since they were only going to be mess attendants and personal assistants for officers. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
As a mess attendant, Jesus Cepeda's duty was to take care of the personal needs of officers aboard ship. This "lowest of the lowest" position, as he calls it, did not prevent him from having an informed opinion on the way commanders were relieved of duty in the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
Immediately after the Pearl Harbor attack, the top Army and Navy commanders in the Pacific were recalled to Washington and relieved of command. Jesus Cepeda was on the admiral's staff and followed the new commander to the southern Pacific, where the ANZAC force was being organized. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
Jesus Cepeda was a mess attendant who followed his officer from the Pacific to the Atlantic when he was promoted to rear admiral. It wasn't long before they were reassigned back to the Pacific aboard the USS Pasadena, a cruiser which was involved in every major naval engagement for the rest of the war. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
Guam native Jesus Cepeda had joined the US Navy before the war started. He was witness to nearly ever major battle in the Pacific from an unusual perspective, as a personal attendant to commanding officers. This gave him a front row seat to amphibious landings, kamikaze attacks and massive bombardments. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
Anchored off Iwo Jima, Jesus Cepeda heard the news about the atomic bomb on the ship's radio. He wondered, what is this? When he found out what it had done to an entire city, he knew it was the right thing to do, to bring the war to an end. After his release, he rushed home to Guam, to find out if his family had survived the Japanese occupation. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
Guam native Jesus Cepeda returned home after the war and began work as a government clerk, then he followed his brother into a business distributing alcohol to the stores on the island. It was in one of these that a pretty cashier caught his eye. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
Was joining the US Navy in 1939 the best choice for him as a young man on the island of Guam? Jesus Cepada responds to that question and then has some sharp words for Harry Truman's post war policy. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
What did he learn from his service in the US Navy? World War II veteran Jesus Cepeda lets you know in no uncertain terms. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
When at anchor in Pearl Harbor, Jesus Cepeda would attend mass on Sunday with his friend from back home in Guam. As he waited for him on deck, he heard a big rumbling noise, like hundreds of planes at once, but as he searched the sky, he could see nothing. Then he turned to the north.(This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
As he made his way through France in disguise, downed B-17 pilot George Starks encountered German troops, stole a bicycle and made friends with many locals. In one town he was sheltered by the chief of police, who had a very friendly daughter. Part 3 of 7. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
The second day at Iwo Jima, Navy signalman Winfield Baldwin readied himself to go ashore. His job was to land with Marines and do the ship to shore communications. When he got there, he saw a surreal landscape of wrecked machinery, vehicles and weapons. Then there were the casualties.
In Dachau, Rogers witnesses thousands of starving prisoners in a concentration camp. He remembers the many other displaced civilians, forced into labor, who suffered at the hands of the nazis. (This interview made possible with the support of TIMOTHY R. COLLINS.)
The Russians were close enough that the American POW's could hear the fire in the distance. Their guards roused them all and put them on the road in a forced march, leaving their camp in Poland and heading for Germany. It was seventy nine days of freezing cold out in the open, with very little food. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
After the surrender and signing ceremony, Winfield Baldwin's ship went to Manila where, for the first time since he went to sea, he had shore leave with real bars. Somehow this shore party had difficulty returning to the ship. Back home, he decided against a career in the Navy, opting to take advantage of the GI Bill.
Following his French contact at a discreet distance, George Starks parked his bicycle and watched the man enter a bakery. In the back of that bakery, he met Maurice, a member of the Free French Resistance. He was getting close to Switzerland, but he would need Maurice's help to get over the border. Part 4 of 7. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
Chan Rogers experiences a couple of close calls on the Siegfried Line. His unit stumbles upon a nest of sleeping Germans, suddenly finding themselves in a harrowing firefight. Later, when facing off against a group of German pillboxes, they are showered with deadly shrapnel from tree bursts. (This interview made possible with the support of TIMOTHY R. COLLINS.)
Jack Houston had just helped his buddy dress a wound when he volunteered to return to the Okinawa hilltop where they were getting the enemy cleared out. When he got the jump on three of them, his muzzle flash gave him away and he had to leave in a hurry. He flung himself off the hill where he came face to face with a rifle. Part 5 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
After a long trek across France, George Starks was finally next to the Swiss border. From the time he hid his parachute until the time he stepped across the creek that was the border, he had been helped by sympathetic locals. When he was finally out of occupied territory and free in Switzerland, he was surprised when someone else showed up. Part 5 of 7. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
Two engines were out, a third smoking, and they were were losing airspeed and altitude, but they were flying level and pointed home. Then time ran out for the B-17 and Don Scott had to slip down the hatch into the slipstream. Part 2 of 3.
It was their third mission over Berlin and they were heading home. Four German fighters pounced on the B-24 and it was engulfed in flame and going down. Clyde Burnette fought for consciousness as the other crew in the back of the plane bailed out. He woke in free fall with no idea how he had made it out, and soon he was in German custody. Everyone made it out of the plane except George "Danny" Daneau, the nose turret gunner, who went down with the aircraft.
George Starks had evaded capture all across France and was safe in Switzerland, where he had it easier than downed airmen who had actually come down in Switzerland. They were supposed to stay put and wait, but he had other ideas, which led to the liberation of Evian on the other side of Lake Geneva. Part 6 of 7. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
The first operation for the 4th Division was the landing on Roi-Namur. Lawrence Snowden remembers that, though it was an easy victory, valuable combat experience and important lessons were imparted on the Marines.
After a nerve-wracking mission to bomb Tokyo and a typhoon, B.E. Vaughan and the destroyer O'Brien suffered a second kamikaze attack which killed all three of his hometown pals who served with him on board. Then, began the grim task of collecting the personal belongings of the dead and preparing them for burial at sea.
After leaving his safe haven in Switzerland, downed B-17 pilot George Starks finally met up with American forces near Evian in France. Then began a long, sometimes pleasurable trip back to his unit in England. After debriefing, he was sent around to give lectures on evasion for other airmen, then back home to Florida. Part 7 of 7. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
Like all his friends who graduated high school in 1943, Winfield Baldwin was eager to get into the war. He grew up around the water so, naturally, he joined the Navy, where he became a signalman. On the USS Mellette, a troop transport, he was part of the beach battalion, men who landed with the troops and managed the activity on the beach.
On his fifth combat mission, his first as aircraft commander, B-17 pilot George Starks was on the outside edge of the formation when the plane was hit by German fighters. With a wing on fire, he gave the signal to bail out and he was soon in free fall from high altitude over France. He landed hard, hid his chute, and hid in the woods as he heard German troops approaching. Part 1 of 7. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
The dawn was beautiful that first day at Iwo Jima, recalls Winfield Baldwin, who was lucky he was not scheduled for the first wave. He was a signalman in the Navy's beach battalion and his turn would come soon. In the meantime, he had a front row seat from the signal bridge of the chaos and misery on shore.
After bailing out, evading German troops and hiding in the woods, B-17 Pilot George Starks was helped by French civilians and put on his way over land toward Switzerland. He had a broken bone in his foot, but he managed to make good time, with some help from locals. German troops were everywhere but his young looks and beret gave him a chance when he encountered them. Part 2 of 7. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
It was just the pilot and him when a storm hit the plane they were ferrying to India. George LaMar, who was the flight engineer, wound up bailing out and landing in utter darkness in shallow water. With his flashlight, all he could see around him was water. Part 2 of 4.
Charles Harris was very much interested in aviation, so he volunteered for the Army Air Corps during the patriotic wave that swept the country after Pearl Harbor. He never got to be a pilot because he suffered a freak accident during physical training in sub-zero weather. He endured, however, determined to contribute to the war effort.
Winfield Baldwin was glad to be relieved on the Iwo Jima beach and with a few dozen others on a landing craft, he headed out to return to his ship. Unable to board because of Japanese attack, they struggled to keep up with the ships heading further out to sea. After a queasy night, they woke to a startling sight.
The B-25 squadron had crossed into Burma when it was jumped by 25 enemy fighters. George LaMar was in the upper turret furiously raking them with fire, when the lead plane was hit and fell back. They watched as the Japanese planes pounced on the crippled bomber. Suddenly, the crew bailed out.
Navy signalman Winfield Baldwin would sleep on the signal bridge when he could. He was a little worried below the water line. During the run up to the invasion of Okinawa, he became a "shellback" during the equator crossing ceremony. At Okinawa, the threat from kamikazes was great and the shrapnel from the anti-aircraft fire fell like rain.
George LaMar was an Army Air Corps recruit in training when Pearl Harbor was attacked. The population of the west coast was immediately put on edge by the fear of further attacks. He was put into a squadron that consisted of old, slow bombers that went out on anti-submarine patrols with a curious payload.