Ninety plus year old, Robert C. Acton, “Acting Mayor Dover, Indiana”, population 6 people and two cats, or so I was told, joined the U.S. Navy when he was 22.
“I was just a farm boy and figured my draft number was about to come up and around November 1950, when I checked, she told me I was number 6. They did not take anyone that month but in January I would be drafted.”
“It had been a wet fall so my mind was made up. “I did not want any more mud so I decided to just join the Navy. At least there would be no more crawling around in the stuff.” In January 1951 my dad took me to Indianapolis to the induction center where I was in a group of about 25. We took the oath and then it was off to Great Lakes for boot camp.”
“After that was over they asked me what I wanted to do and I told them whatever you want, Sir, and they said, alright, you will go learn to become an engineer. And I learned to become an engineer.”
“After that schooling was over I was sent to the West Coast and boarded a troop ship for the Far East. I was sick for the whole trip over.”
In Japan he met up with the USS Whetstone ( LSD27) in Sasebo. The Whetstone‘s designation is not a drug. It is “Landing Ship Dock,” It was large enough to contain a small destroyer or 3 Landing Craft Tank with 5 medium tanks or 14 Landing Craft Medium, each with 1 medium tank. Or it could carry 1,500 tons of cargo or 47 DUKW (Ducks) and a full complement of officers and men. (At this point I must digress — I believe that all of the personnel on board in the 1950’s wore trousers rather than skirts. I can be corrected.)
The Whetstone’s mission was two-fold. They could carry the above mentioned smaller craft and unload them into the battle zone or they could and did function as a repair facility for those same craft. They could submerge the hull enough to float the craft onboard and then blow the ballast and work as a “dry dock” and effect necessary repairs. Then they could re-flood the well deck and refloat the repaired craft.
For the whole time he was in country Acton stated that he was below deck at work repairing damaged or broken landing craft and seldom was topside and totally unaware of what was going on in the world around him.
“When I did come topside I was totally unaware that we were in a war.”
When asked about his service his response was that of many. “I should have gone back and stayed in.” However, what he did was come back to Boone County and the farm.