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7:15 AM Wed, Dec. 12th

Still ticking<BR>Nashville vet recalls a fateful day

Courtesy Photo

The American flag and a Japanese battle flag fly together on a Japanese ship in September 1945. The USS Nashville took control of the ship after the war ended and turned it over to the Chinese Nationalists. Jim Clark is the sailor in the background at right wearing the American Navy cap.

In 1941, she ferried Marines to Wake Island, escorted a convoy carrying Marines to Iceland, and patrolled the Central Atlantic.

In 1942, the USS Nashville sailed with the aircraft carrier Hornet under Admiral William Halsey with 16 B-25 bombers under the command of Lt. Col. James Doolittle. Doolittle and his pilots attacked Tokyo to prove to the Japanese early in the war that their country was not beyond the reaches of the United States.

Starting in 1942, the ship served in the North Pacific, the Fiji Islands, New Hebrides, Marcus Island, Guadalcanal, New Georgia, Wake, New Guinea, Bougainville, Leyte and the Admiralty Islands as the United States starting pushing the Japanese out of the Pacific islands they had held since the beginning of World War II. Clark joined the crew just before the Marcus Island action.

Three times the USS Nashville carried Gen. Douglas MacArthur and his staff to invasions of Pacific islands. In October 1944 she was the ship that took MacArthur back to the Philippines and helped him keep his promise to return to the Philippine people.

The Dewey man called MacArthur "a super nice guy, just the opposite of what you hear."

Once the general was aboard, Clark said, he made it known that the crew was to ignore him.

"He didn't want to interfere with normal operations or even be saluted. He told us just to go on with our duties if he walked by." He remembers MacArthur sitting down and making small talk with Clark's gun crew while they were on deck on watch. Fifty-eight years later, he can't remember what the group of sailors and MacArthur talked about.

"He really believed he couldn't be killed. He was something else," Clark remembered.

After the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, the newly repaired USS Nashville was the first U.S. cruiser to enter the Yangtze River and moor off Shanghai. It was the first time the Chinese had seen the Stars and Stripes since the Japanese had occupied their country in 1937.

The crew boarded two Japanese ships and prepared to turn them over to the Chinese Nationalists.

A couple of officers were anti-American, he remembers, but "the rest of them were congenial as heck. I think most of them were relieved that the war was over."

One of the Japanese petty officers was born in the United States, he said. "He had just graduated from the University of Washington in Seattle and his parents sent him to Japan to see his grandparents when war broke out."

"We had just been at Bremerton and whenever we talked about this certain fried chicken restaurant that he knew, he would start salivating," Clark said. The American-born Japanese officer, like most Japanese citizens, did not have enough to eat in the last year of the war.

"We would feed him peanut butter and jelly and bologna sandwiches. At that time he thought it was the greatest food he'd ever had."

In Shanghai, Clark said, there were hordes of hungry kids running around.

"If you helped one, they'd be all over you like ants. Things were so bad for them."

Clark was on shore patrol duty at a dance on the outskirts of Shanghai when he saw a chance to help some children. He grabbed a tray of sandwiches that waiters were distributing to sailors and made sure the children got some. Most of them spoke English because they had gone to missionary schools.

He was shocked when one girl, about 12, "a cute little innocent child," offered to sleep with him when she was old enough in exchange for a sandwich.

"They were bad off," he said, "and somebody else had made her feel obligated to pay for a sandwich.

"You don't know how lucky you are to be born" in the U.S.A., he added.

In January 1946 Clark finished his three-year hitch and the Navy discharged him. Clark and his two older brothers, who all served in the Navy during World War II, went home to West Virginia.

Contact Dorine Goss at dgoss@prescottaz.com or 445-8179, ext. 2036.