‘I was glad I was on that ship’: 5 N.J. vets recount WWII service

You’re out at sea on a vessel, while Japanese Kamikaze planes flew themselves onto ships. On top of having to worry about enemy aircraft, a typhoon with waves as tall as 60 feet and winds that peaked at 130-plus miles per hour pushed the boat around and caused damages.

Those were just some of the situations that Navy veterans during World War II endured. More than 70 years after serving in the Pacific theater, five Naval veterans met at the Millville Army Airfield Museum Friday to reminisce about their time serving in the United States Navy.

On the frigid Friday sitting, Owen Garrison, Richard “Dick” Young, Bob Wescott, Jack William and Ed Turner sat at a table and casually shared their experiences as if they were drinking coffee in a New Jersey diner.

Westcott, 96, of Upper Deerfield, is one of the last surviving crew members of the famed battleship USS New Jersey.

“It was great,” Westcott said. “I had never been on anything bigger than a rowboat before joining the Navy. It was great and I was doing what I wanted to do as a radio repairman.”

Garrison repaired radios before enlisting.

“I’m glad that I served in the service and I was glad I was on that ship,” added Westcott. “She would let the enemy have it with those cannons.” World War II Navy vets gather in Millville to share stories

Ed Turner just wanted to be a hero. The former Turnersville resident who now lives in Leesburg was 17 and in high school when he went to sign up with the Navy. He witnessed some of the Kamikaze attacks that were aimed at the fleet.

“The only good thing about being on a smaller boat was when a Kamikaze came to us, they would look and see a bigger boat and head for it,” Turner said. “Only two came for us and missed both times.”

Retired Upper Deerfield Township Police Chief Owen Garrison is the only surviving member that served on the USS Monterey, a Navy cruiser. While serving, former U.S. President Gerald R. Ford was his division officer in the gunnery department.

Garrison, Ford, Westcott and many other men were a part of a major meteorological event that almost reshaped the Pacific war. In Dec. 1944, Typhoon Cobra, also known as Halsey’s Typhoon after Admiral William Halsey killed close to 800 men and damaged a number of ships. According to the Washington Post, Admiral Halsey had received information that the storm was going to take a track away from the path of the fleet. Instead, he led ships right into the typhoon .

“I went through it,” Garrison said. “I was on an aircraft carrier and we had a fire on three decks because of it.”

“It was an eerie mess because all of the hatches were locked and you couldn’t go topside,” Westcott said. “There were so many kids that were trying to get through to see it from the outside. It was a wild storm.”The five do see some differences in the Navy from […]