My Dad's Boot Camp Cohort - Great Lakes
John Henry Neas, Jr.
My Dad survived WWII, returning home after the Japanese signed the surrender. He saw service in both sides of the globe. First, in Normandy, and then in the South Pacific.
Dad didn't talk much about the war. Like most veterans of his generation, the stories didn't come to light until their elder years, and then, usually when around their shipmates and comrades in arms.
I've written before of the stories Dad told me. Some tear at your heart and others make you laugh. The photos below are of his last ship, the USS Hyman. This was the ship that he was aboard during the kamikaze attack in which he barely escaped death. This is the ship where the surrender was signed for the small Pacific island of Pohnpei.
Pohnpei is where the missionary wife sewed an American flag under the noses of her Japanese captors, believing with all her heart that the allies would liberate the island. The flag was presented to the sailors of the USS Hyman when they came ashore in 1945 after liberating the island.
The USS Hyman - Destroyer, South Pacific
Signing of the surrender of Pohnpei aboard the USS Hyman
September 11, 1945
Raising of the US flag over Pohnpei September, 1945
USS Hyman off Pohnpei in the Pacific
Dad - Petty Officer First Class - San Diego 1945
After the war, Dad, like many veterans, had a difficult time returning to "normal" life. He battled alcoholism and disease for many years. PTSD was not recognized as a product of war at that time. Those who returned had to find their own way of coping. In addition, the men who worked on the engines and below decks on the ships developed asbestosis, another illness not recognized at the time. Dad's lungs were full of the fine threads of asbestos. But, that never stopped him from his helping his family and others. Few people knew the pain Dad struggled with daily.
In the late 70's, Dad grabbed onto sobriety and never let go. He turned his life around and became the man that I remember today. He was a loving and generous father, grandfather, and friend. I am so grateful that my girls got to know him. He was their Papa and they were, along with all his grandchildren, his pride and joy.
When Dad died in 2008, he left behind a legacy of hard work, tenacity, and a love for this country. I remember this. I remember that he was my first hero. He was a hero in the hearts of many!
Dad's grave marker