GATE CITY, Va. - It's a familiar story -- a young man from the Southwest Virginia coal camps finding his way into the far Pacific Ocean, tens of thousands of miles from home.
That was World War II, and the stories that those young men brought back are disappearing far too quickly.
We sat down with a 94-year-old World War II veteran who remembers those times on this Memorial Day.
Carl Newman has a lot of his Navy memories neatly placed in several picture albums. Lots of pictures are of his ship the Colohan. "I was on a destroyer, that's a relatively small ship. It's actually one of the smallest regular warships but it was the fastest ships in the navy except for the
PT boats," Carl bragged.
After finishing Berea College in Kentucky he joined the Navy and headed west; way west.
He went through all kinds of battles for all kinds of little-known islands as a gunfire control officer. "In other words, they could not fire any of our five-inch guns or any of our 40mm guns unless I pushed a button. I controlled all that," he said of his responsibilities.
He was trained to know if an approaching plane was friend or foe, which saved a friendly plane and almost got him in trouble with his captain. "All the other ships fired, and he hollered, 'Commence firing!' I just sat there. I wasn't going to fire on a friendly plane," Carl laughed.
After a year and eleven months in the Pacific, he found himself in the harbor of Tokyo. "Some of us officers off the Colohan, we went into Tokyo and walked around a little. Boy, that place was really bombed out. You couldn't see a building standing anywhere," Carl remembered of the damage.
A defeated Japan was ready to surrender, and he was a witness to the signing of a peace. "I wasn't on the Missouri, but I was on my ship right nearby. We sat there and watched them signing it, and that ended the war," he said.
But not the memories of his historic journey, and knowing he's lucky to be alive and still able to remember those days.
He worries, however, if anyone else will remember. It's one of those words you seem to hear on Memorial Day.
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