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WWII Veteran Luther Riddle’s Story

I was thinking about our veterans when I remembered this story related to me by Luther Riddle, a friend of mine who lives in the Lynnville area. 

I think this story is just amazing and wanted to share it with you in remembrance and appreciation of our veterans and members of the armed forces.

“We crossed the equator on my 18th birthday.  In March 1945, we were anchored twelve miles from one of the islands in the Philippines preparing for the invasion of Okinawa.”

“The orders came down for me to paint the numbers 1070 on the bow of the ship, which involved hanging off the side of the ship in a boatswain’s chair.  It was extremely hot, and the ocean was very calm. 

After about three hours, the job was completed.  I stood up in my boatswain’s chair and looked up at the sailor who was assigned to watch me. He took my picture and then went inside the ship thinking his job was done.”

“Suddenly a very strong wind hit the side of the ship and knocked me into the ocean.  At first it was a pleasant feeling as the water was cold enough to be refreshing.  But, then the wind blew the ship about 200 yards from me.

All the time I was frantically trying to catch it, knowing my life lay in the balance. After about half an hour the wind suddenly changed and brought the ship back toward me.  I caught the skinny rope that had been put in place while I was doing the job and pulled myself up the side of the ship to the gun deck exhausted.  I’ve always thought the change of the wind was the providence of God.  And, I never told the story, knowing that the sailor assigned to watch me would have faced court martial.”

Left: Carlos; Right: Luther (Photo taken at Yokosuka, Japan)

“We invaded Okinawa on Sunday morning, April 1, 1945.  The first two planes knocked down were our own, a Kingfisher and a Corvair.  Because of the large number of kamikaze planes from Tokyo, we lost about 5,000 sailors in the lengthy battle of Okinawa.  A total of 12,500 Americans lost their lives along with some 100,000 Japanese during the 90 days we were engaged.  We decommissioned our ship at Galveston, Texas.”

                                                                                Luther W. Riddle – 86 Years

                                                                                              2-25-1927

Row 1: George and Luther

Row 2: William K. and William L.

“The four of us went into service together.” – Luther

And, as they say, the rest is history.  The allies were victorious but at great cost in human life.  The Battle of Okinawa turned out to be the final major Pacific Island battle of WWII with the surrender of the Japanese in September ’45.  But, on that day in 1945 a young man fought to survive on the open sea and lived to tell the story.  He went on to survive the battle and made it home to Tennessee.  We salute Luther and all the brave men and women of that great generation who ensured our freedom and way of life.

Company 891 A-9 Camp Peary, VA September 1944