The USS Iowa

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Have you ever thought you had a bad day where nothing went right? A few weeks ago I met a veteran with an incredible story that made our bad days look like nothing compared to what he went through during World War II

I visited the battleship USS Iowa, which is now a museum in San Pedro, CA. This was the fourth floating museum that we’ve been to. The others were the USS Missouri and USS Bowfin in Hawaii and the aircraft carrier USS Midway in San Diego.

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While on board, I walked through the ship and looked at all of the exhibits on the self-guided tour. That’s where I saw  an elderly veteran sitting behind a table that had pictures and notebooks on it. He stood up as I walked by and pointed to the photos he was in. While he was showing me the pictures he said his ship was sunk off the coast of the Philippines in 1944. That’s when he said, “I spent three days in the water.”

“Wow. What about sharks?” I asked.

“I was a lifeguard in Long Beach (CA) before the war. I knew that you had to make yourself look big so we had to get close together. That way the shark would see something big instead of one person. There was oil in the water also. We rubbed oil all over our bodies because sharks don’t like that.”

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This was an amazing story to hear. I couldn’t imagine being in the ocean for three days while holding onto debris, hoping to be saved and not be attacked by sharks.

My mom was also listening and said, “You look great for your age.”

“I’m 50 years old,” he replied with a smile. He then said, “I’m 89 years old.”

After we were done, I shook his hand and told him, “Thank you for your service.”

The Japanese officially surrendered on board the USS Missouri to end World War II. The USS Iowa was right next to the USS Missouri in Tokyo Harbor for the ceremony.

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