Today is a day set aside to honor all the men and women who have served our country over the years, and to let them know how much their service is appreciated. I’d like to extend a special thanks to my father-in-law, Robert Bishop, who served aboard the battleship USS New Jersey during World War II.
|Robert Bishop, Musician 3rd Class, U.S. Navy|
Nineteen-year-old Bob was drafted into the U.S. Naval Reserves for a two-year enlistment in December 1943. He was sent to boot camp for six snowy, bitter cold weeks in Great Lakes, Illinois. At the end, he was offered a choice between staying in the Reserves or joining the regular Navy for a six-year tour of duty as a musician. He chose the latter, and was sent to the Navy's school of music in Washington, D.C. His band shipped out a few weeks later, traveling on a jam-packed train to San Francisco, then boarding a troop ship bound for Pearl Harbor. The passage was so rough that he felt lucky to keep a Hershey bar down by the end of the week.
From Pearl Harbor, a tanker took them to Ulithi, a naval staging area in the western Pacific. Boarding the USS New Jersey, he found a hanging canvas bunk that would be his home for the next several months. Besides performing for official functions and occasional entertainment, the musicians had regular and combat duty assignments. Bob was usually stationed inside one of the turrets when the ship was idle. During battles, he helped load the 42mm anti-aircraft guns on the starboard side. The battleship gunners did their best to shoot Japanese planes out of the air before the bombs could hit the aircraft carriers and other nearby vessels. Bob saw action at the battles of Luzon, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and Formosa, among others.
The New Jersey had to go into port for necessary repairs just before the war ended. Bob was enjoying some well-deserved R & R at the naval convalescent hospital in Sun Valley, Idaho, when the news came in. He received an honorable discharge on October 11, 1945, and returned home to his parents and sweetheart in Garrettsville, Ohio. He didn’t see his old battleship again until 65 years later, touring her where she rests in the Camden, New Jersey harbor and adding his signature to her veterans' wall.
Thank you, Dad. Hope you have a relaxing Veteran’s Day.
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