John Ross
John Ross

Service Record

Enlisted • Navy • USS Selfridge • Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; South Pacific; Guam (Mariana Islands); Guadalcanal (Solomon Islands) • Pharmacist’s Mate First Class

Transcript

Unidentified Speaker1:
Just tell me your full name, where you live, where you were born, what year you were born, where you went — take me through, like, the early years, your parents, what they did, and just a little storytelling.

John Ross:
My name is John Ross. I was born in Philadelphia in 1922 and lived in and around that city until I was about 19 years old. Then — that was 1939, and we really hadn’t come out of the depression completely, and it was hard to find a good job, so I enlisted in the Navy in August of 19 — 1940. From there, I went up to Newport, Rhode Island for training and later took a cross-country training trip to San Diego, which was an enjoyable thing. I was stationed on a destroyer, the USS Selfridge, as a seaman; and life went pretty calmly after that. I was always in a learning mode, because I didn’t know the bow from the stern when I went aboard. And when was it? Actually, I think it was December 6. We returned from sea in the Pearl Harbor. We had been at sea several weeks, and we were all very happy to be there. The destroyers didn’t near the dockside place. We moored out in the harbor. We always moored just off the tip of Ford Island. Do you want me to continue?

Thomas Healy:
Oh, yeah. [Interview interrupted by conversation in background.]

Thomas Healy:
We’re now at Pearl Harbor. So you’re anchoring off. Tell me about — you’re going to anchor off Ford Island?

John Ross:
Yes. It’s a regular mooring spot for destroyers there. I’d say probably a few yards off the edge of Ford Island, which was, and I guess still is, a Naval air station. Early Sunday morning on the 7th of December, I get up quite early, and — because I was planning to go ashore with a friend. We were going to visit the Poly, the very high spot on the island of Oahu, where you can see — there’s a panoramic view of the entire north side. So we were standing there idly talking, and I noticed around the edge of the harbor a flight of low-flying aircraft, and I idly watched them as we were talking. I thought they were Army Air Force, because they were too far away to see any markings. Then they peeled off and made a run on some old ships moored alongside Ford Island. I watched more attentively then. Suddenly saw a torpedo drop out of the lead plane, so I turned to my friend and said, “These guys are nuts. Having torpedo practice right in the harbor, they’re going to hurt somebody.” And about that time, it blew up. So I said — I still didn’t catch on. I said, “Holy mackerel. Some fool put a warhead on that thing.” And he grabbed me and shook me, and his mouth was open, but he wasn’t talking and was pointing. And here, Ford Island was in flames. Suddenly it seemed as though all over the harbor there was smoke and flames, and it dawned on my dumb head that somebody was attacking us. So I ran to my battle station, which was a 50-caliber machine gun. The ammo was locked in a steel box, so we had to take a marlin spike to that and break the lock and load up. I wasn’t the regular gunner. I was the loader and backup gunner. Well, he arrived and we began to fire, but we weren’t hitting anything. A 50-caliber is not a very effective antiaircraft gun, but it was all we had, so . . . We couldn’t go anywhere. Since we had just come in from sea, we had very little fuel in the ship. Besides, in that chaos, we couldn’t get a fuel lighter to come alongside, so we just waited it out. A couple of times airplanes seemed right in the range to strafe us, but I think they decided to save their ammo for bigger game, because they were after big ships, not destroyers. That was one time I was glad to be on a destroyer. One thing — I often smile and laugh about it.

Thomas Healy:
Do you want some more water? Here. You can just hold that down.

John Ross:
Okay. Thank you.

Thomas Healy:
Take it when you want to.

John Ross:
Is that out of sight all right?

Unidentified Videographer:
Yeah, it’s good.

Thomas Healy:
Yeah. Is that okay?

Unidentified Videographer:
Sure.

Thomas Healy:
It’s good.

Unidentified Videographer:
If it’s comfortable for you —

Thomas Healy:
If it’s comfortable. Whatever’s — yeah.

John Ross:
To understand this, you have to know that on a destroyer, way down on the stern, on the very bottom, there’s what’s called an after-steering room, where a man is stationed there with his telephone on; and if the steering mechanisms get shot up, he can steer the ship from down there in response to telephone orders. Well, anyhow, he was in there, and somebody spotted one of those midget submarines and hollered, “submarine.” Well, just reflex action, somebody else pushed the button from the lever and rolled the depth charge off the stern. Well, here we were in about probably 35 feet of water; and that thing, had it exploded, would have taken our ship to Mars, I think. But the fuses on those are set for greater depth. But anyway, the poor guy in the after-steering room heard this report — a lot of cussing — that a torpedo just rolled off. All he knew was it’s right under me. So he went out on a dead run, came to the end of his tether, and flung his feet up in the air and crashed to the deck. He thought he had broken his neck, but he was okay. But anyway, we all had a good laugh out of that. We never did find out who caused that depth charge to roll off the stern. I’m sure it was just a reflex action. You hear “submarine,” and boom. Away it went.

Thomas Healy:
Did they actually find any subs inside the harbor?

John Ross:
One — one was found inside the harbor. That was — I think the men in it were dead. I don’t know how — what killed them. They were suicide —

Thomas Healy:
Maybe a depth charge.

John Ross:
Maybe something. But those little things were suicide boats anyway.

Thomas Healy:
Well, we talked to — we talked to — one of our other vets was on the . . . It was actually, I think, the destroyer that fired on the one.

John Ross:
Oh, yeah. Outside the harbor.

Thomas Healy:
Right.

John Ross:
That might have been — I’m not sure if that was the Helms. No. It wasn’t the Helms.

Thomas Healy:
No. It’s a short name.

John Ross:
I’ve forgotten.

Thomas Healy:
We have an interview where he was actually on that ship that day that they shot at the sub. They had done — National Geographic has been back to look for that sub. They actually found, I think, the sub and —

John Ross:
Yeah. I think I read that.

Thomas Healy:
Yeah. And they actually had a couple of the Japanese guys with some of the crew. What was the name of that boat? I forget, but . . . So tell me how that day went.

John Ross:
Well, as I say, there wasn’t much we could do. We were out of fuel. Our main battery wouldn’t elevate high enough to shoot at airplanes, and our 50-calibers were not very effective either. So mostly we just sat there and suffered it out. A lot of our crew was already ashore. Our skipper, captain, and the exec were ashore. We finally got — after a couple hours and the attack hadn’t let up, we got a fuel lighter alongside and got our tanks filled and started out of the harbor. I didn’t have any idea where we were going, but I figured, anyplace is better than this. As we were going out, it was a very sad sight too. The battleship — Nevada, I guess it was — had taken a lot of hits, but she was still going out of the harbor and took some more hits. And rather than sink and plug up the harbor, the skipper there beached it. And as we went by, here it sat on the bottom, holes all over it. Very sad sight. And I remember, at the time I thought — I don’t know why I thought this, but I thought, the whole damn Jap Navy is probably out there waiting for us. I thought, as soon as we hit the open sea, we’re done for. I wasn’t actually frightened as much as I was — I felt sort of sad. I thought, I’m pretty young to be killed, but I was pretty sure that was going to happen. I was still on the — by then I was on a sound-powered telephone relaying orders. And some of the guys on the phones were getting hysterical, was chattering, and finally I told them to pipe down. I said, “We can’t hear any orders if you guys keep hollering.” And the youngins standing there told me that, “That’s good men.” But anyway, they shut up. We went out, and it was an anticlimax. There was nothing out there except open sea. We proceeded to circle the island, I think, two or three days. Nothing happened. Then we went back in to get more fuel and ammo and await further orders. But if there’s one thing I remember about the mood of the crew — after that terrible disaster, it looked to us like the whole U.S. fleet was gone — not one of us, I think, ever doubted we were going to win the war. We didn’t care if it was going to take five years or 25. We knew we were going to win it. But those of us that were there on day one recognized that the odds didn’t look too good for us, because we had the whole war to go through. Well, that’s — that’s pretty much a short version of the Pearl Harbor story. I know that Ford Island, which was then Army Air Force, Army Air Corps, adjacent to Pearl Harbor, they were wiped out. Their airplanes had been parked out in the open in a row, because the commanding officer there felt that would discourage vandalism or something. Well, he got vandalism big time. They just wiped out the Air Force over there.

Thomas Healy:
Well, you know, one of the guys that got up that day is from here?

John Ross:
Oh?

Thomas Healy:
Yeah, George Welch.

John Ross:
Is he from around here?

Thomas Healy:
Oh, George Welch was — went to St. Andrews, born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware. They actually have a school named after him. I think it’s up towards Smyrna.

John Ross:
Oh. I didn’t know that.

Thomas Healy:
Yeah. And I was — we were talking to some people about it, and the two guys that got up never got the Congressional Medal of Honor, because they were never ordered to go up.

John Ross:
Oh, that’s a dumb technicality.

Thomas Healy:
Isn’t it.

John Ross:
But it’s just interesting of how from — we’ve been doing this for a while, and I’ve been researching a lot. And I’m native here; and my dad was in World War II, along with a whole bunch of buddies. He was one of the ones that went to University of Delaware, and they all went over to Bora Bora, the 198th Coast Artillery from here. And so I’ve been around it all my life, but it’s just interesting talking to different people that weren’t even born here but are now here now of places that they sort of all were at the same time, didn’t even know each other, and it’s . . .

Thomas Healy:
What happened at — so when you got back into Pearl Harbor after a few days and then you fueled back up, where did you go after that?

John Ross:
Now, this is 60 years ago, so my memory —

Thomas Healy:
Oh, God, yes. Whatever you just think about.

John Ross:
I think that was when we joined the task force along with a carrier, the Saratoga, to go out and relieve Wake Island, I think it was. And we were about halfway there when the word came down that the island was captured, and the task force turned around back to Pearl.

Thomas Healy:
So you were more of a supporter — I mean, you were running with the task force?

John Ross:
Yes. And that was the — that night the Saratoga took two torpedos, but she didn’t sink, and she managed to limp back to port. In fact, I was out standing on deck that night, and we were abeam of the carrier. When I saw it, even though it was dark, you know — the water, you know, how it kind of fluoresces, I saw a torpedo track coming right at us. And I hollered as loud as I could, “torpedo” on the start of the beam, but I don’t know if anybody heard me. I remember thinking, well, that thing is going to hit right under me; so if I jump up and stand on these guy wires, maybe I won’t get the full brunt of the explosion. It might have flown me to kingdom come. But it was set for the carrier, not us. It went right under us and hit the Saratoga, and then another one came. So we raced over and dropped depth charges, but I don’t know whether we ever got the sub or not. But the Sara did limp back to port. And I don’t know how long you want me to continue this.

Thomas Healy:
I want you to talk about — let’s see. Oh, so you’ve had it fairly interesting. You got transferred back into the Marines?

John Ross:
Yeah. Well —

Thomas Healy:
Tell me about that — so you went — go ahead. Tell me. We get into —

John Ross:
Okay. Well, I was on — a deckhand on the gunners gang, but they wanted somebody to volunteer to work in the sick bay. So I thought, well, that’s easier than swabbing decks; so I volunteered, and they took me. And then that summer, our ship went down to Sidney, Australia, and while we were there, I got orders back to the States to Mare Island Naval Hospital in California for training. I went back and learned the various things a medic had to know, completed my training. And a chief warrant officer there interviewed me and said, “Well, son” — he said, “You’ve been over there in the middle of the war.” He said, “You’re not going to leave the States until I do. I guarantee you.” So I felt pretty good about that, but he was due to leave the States in a week. That was when they transferred me to the Marine Corps, and I went to Camp Pendleton and had to learn to be a Marine then. They taught us — we marched, and we fired weapons and did all sorts of things that Marines do, because they told us, in the Pacific, Japanese don’t respect medics. They said, “As a matter of fact, that red cross is a good target.” So they armed us and trained us just like the Marine. And I went down to New Caledonia to a field hospital for more training and then went to a Marine unit, an artillery battalion, on Guadalcanal; and I stayed with them, and we left the canal and then went back to New Zealand for a while. And then we went to Boogenville and Guam. And after Guam, it was by now late ’44. I was transferred again back to the States. I didn’t go overseas anymore. I got back to the States in December of ’44. But I enjoyed my time with the Marines. I didn’t enjoy being shot at, but I liked the Marine Corps.

Thomas Healy:
What did you go in the Marines as? Were you E4 yet or E5?

John Ross:
It would have been the equivalent of a seaman first class, which would be the third pay grade up from the bottom.

Thomas Healy:
E3.

John Ross:
I guess that’s — yeah. Then I —

Thomas Healy:
And were you actually in the — in some of these battles in Guadalcanal?

John Ross:
No. The canal was pretty well secured when I got there, but I went in the first wave landing on Boogenville and on Guam.

Thomas Healy:
How was that?

John Ross:
Well, again, I always thought I would be scared to death, but really, I was more concerned about just getting in. One of the islands — now, again, my memory is getting kind of vague about which island, but I think it was Boogenville, where we couldn’t go to the beach. There was a reef that extended out about maybe a half mile or a mile, and the ships had to dump us off in water about chest deep; and all the vehicles had been waterproof, so we drove in over the reef. The only problem is, reefs have holes in them. I was driving a Jeep ambulance, and I went in a hole, and down it went. So it was now water up a little bit over the windshield, so I stood on top and was thumbing to some guy with an amphibious tank, and he yanked out and pulled me in, because there was — they were firing on us out there, so you didn’t want to stay out there. It was too far to swim. But that was — Boogenville was the muddiest damn place I ever saw. Thick, sticky mud where we were camped, but . . .

Thomas Healy:
How long did that — when you were first assaulted there and made that beach run, how long did a battle usually take? I mean, was it . . .

John Ross:
That’s really hard to say, again. It seemed to me it was sporadic for hours. They didn’t make a full bonsai charge, but they were firing on us for hours. And as night fall — fell, we set up our camp. And one poor guy caught a round right under the chin and took the whole face off, so it was not a comfortable place. Excuse me.

Thomas Healy:
So you were — now, were you a Navy medic?

John Ross:
Yeah.

Thomas Healy:
Assigned to the Marine Corps?

John Ross:
Yes. And what they did then — I don’t know if they do it now — they put us through Marine training —

Thomas Healy:
Right.

John Ross:
— and issued us Marine uniforms and everything. So I was indistinguishable from any Marine, except I had a little cross on my sleeve. But as I said before, I rather enjoyed being with the Marines, got to fire all kinds of weapons I never fired before, and I was enough of a kid to enjoy all that.

Thomas Healy:
How tough was it moving the wounded and stuff in some of those first waves? I mean, what could you possibly do with them?

John Ross:
Well, we try to get them off to a hospital ship, and we did immediate first aid: stop bleeding, that sort thing, and then try to get them on a ladder on the way out to a hospital ship. We didn’t have too many casualties on Boogenville. We had two on Guadalcanal, even though it was pretty well secured, but there was still Jap soldiers out in the boondocks. We had two young guys who went out there one day and caught a hand grenade that killed both of them. They brought them into the sick bay. That was my first experience with dead people. I immediately started first aid, and then it dawned on me that these poor guys are dead, because they were peppered with shrapnel from grenades. So actually, we had more casualties on Guadalcanal than we did on Boogenville, even though the canal was secured. Then we had another young Marine — to this day, I don’t know if it was accidental or deliberate. But he came walking into our tent at night with a .45 and pointed it at his chest and said, “Hey, you guys, look. I’m going to kill myself.” And I think he was just playing. There was a round in it, and he shot himself right through the chest.

Thomas Healy:
One of our guys told the story of — they were on some beach. I don’t know whether it was D-day or whatever, and one of the lieutenants came up to him or whatever and — anyway, he goes over, puts the gun to his head and kills himself right there on the beach.

John Ross:
Some — some people react in odd ways. To this day, I don’t know whether that young Marine meant to kill himself or he was just doing something stupid, but it was stupid. We all had been trained to handle firearms, and one of the first things we were told was, never point that at anything unless you’re going to shoot it, unless you intend to.

Thomas Healy:
Right. How about Guam, how was that?

John Ross:
That was — that was different. I enjoyed Guam, in a way, because it was a former American possession, as I’m sure you know. As a matter of fact, one of the sergeants in our battalion was married, and his wife was a nurse on Guam. So he was quite anxious to get there, and he did find her, and she was okay. But anyway, Guam was better than most of the islands, because the people there were friendly to Americans, had been, as you know, an American possession. I thought it was sort of cute, too, because these little children would come into the sick bay tent sometimes. And this little girl came in there, pretty little black-haired girl, probably about 10 years old. I asked her her name, and she rattled off a string of Spanish names. It struck me funny, a little teeny girl. And one night we were there, I was in the sick bay tent, and a teenage girl came in and asked if we would help her sister, and it turned out her sister was way out in the boondocks somewhere. She said her sister was sick, so I said okay. I got the Jeep ambulance, got a guy to go with me, and this little girl to show us and drove out in the middle of the night all over the place, up and downhill, and finally found her sister, who was, indeed, very ill. Young one. I guess about in her twenties. So we brought her back, and I wrestled out the doctor. And she had a very bad case of pneumonia, and she did die the next day, which is kind of sad, but . . . Years later, when I was out of the Navy and back in the Philadelphia area, I received a letter in very childish writing on the envelope. All it said was, “John Ross, U.S. Navy, Philadelphia”; and somehow it got to me, and it was that little girl just thanking me for trying to help her sister. And to my regret, I’ve lost that letter. I don’t know what happened to it. But it was an awfully nice letter she wrote. So you get a chance sometimes, even in a war, to do something nice.

Thomas Healy:
How about — you went from Guam to the Marianas?

John Ross:
Well, from Guam, we went back to — I think our battalion went on to — it might have been Iwo Jima or one of those. I was then — after Guam settled down, I was transferred back to the States. As I said before, that was in December 1944 and —

Thomas Healy:
Yeah, because — Iwo Jima was in February ’45, right?

John Ross:
Yeah. I’m not sure of the date, but —

Thomas Healy:
February 23 is when they raised the flag.

John Ross:
Oh, okay.

Thomas Healy:
That was interesting, because the guy’s son that just wrote a book about Flag of Our Fathers, Tom Bradley, his father was a medic.

John Ross:
I think I read —

Thomas Healy:
And he was one of the flag-raisers.

John Ross:
Yeah.

Thomas Healy:
And it was very interesting.

John Ross:
Well, medics were very well treated by the Marines. They liked us and —

Thomas Healy:
I guess they did.

John Ross:
Yeah. I remember I met a Marine up here about a year ago, former Marine. And he asked what service I had been in, and when I told him I was a medic, he all but hugged me. It turned out he was on Iwo Jima and got shot through the stomach and an Italian medic dragged him in and really saved his life.

Thomas Healy:
From here?

John Ross:
Yeah. He’s from Seaford. I cannot remember his name now. But I never knew him before. Just met him one time. But the Marines generally were — treated the medics very well.

Thomas Healy:
So you missed Iwo Jima?

John Ross:
Yep. And I was happy to.

Thomas Healy:
Now, you came back. Where did you go back to, ______ or some place?

John Ross:
No. I came back to Mare Island — I’m sure you know where Mare Island is.

Thomas Healy:
Um-hum.

John Ross:
— from reassignment. I was assigned to the Naval air station in Wildwood, New Jersey, which I thought was great. As a matter of fact, that’s how I met my wife, indirectly. Because Wildwood had a little satellite airport in Georgetown, Delaware, where pilots came to practice landings; and we had maybe 15 or 20 people there. And they sent me from Wildwood over there, where I was the one and only medic, I guess. And that’s where I met my wife, who grew up on a farm near Concord, Delaware, and we’re still married. In fact, a lot of us Navy guys in Georgetown got married there.

Thomas Healy:
Did — now, that was at the Cape May Airport — which is now the Cape May Airport, was Wildwood, right?

John Ross:
I think it’s the same one.

Thomas Healy:
Yeah. Because Cape May Airport is actually west of Wildwood.

John Ross:
Yeah. That’s where this was.

Thomas Healy:
Yeah. Yeah, they call it Georgetown Naval Air Station.

John Ross:
Um-hum.

Thomas Healy:
And that was at the airstrip; is that where it is? It’s there now, right?

John Ross:
Yeah. The same place. It’s build up quite a bit now. They have a nice little restaurant there, and they’re attracting more and more traffic.

Thomas Healy:
Now, do you keep up with your buddies? Is there any guys over there?

John Ross:
Never did. I belonged for a while to the Pearl Harbor Survivor’s Association in Delaware, but — in fact, I was the president. But we went inactive, because everybody got so old. Nobody got to meetings anymore. But I — I did have one old friend from the Navy turn up who had served with me on the Selfridge, the destroyer, guy named Barney. His last name slips my mind. But he lived down in Louisiana somewhere, and he was a wonderful guy. I just thought the world of him. And one day, a couple, three years ago, there was a knock on the door. I opened it, and there stood Barney. And how he ever found me, I don’t know; but there he was, and he didn’t say a word. He handed me $10. I asked him, “What’s this for?” He said, “Don’t you remember, I borrowed 10 from you.” And I said, “Well, wait till I compute the interest, Barney.” He died a couple years ago. But he was a real good friend, and I thought the world of him. But other than that, I don’t think I’ve ever seen any old shipmates.

Thomas Healy:
Did — do you know of any others in Delaware right now that are alive from Pearl Harbor?

John Ross:
There are a few, not many. Last year or so, when we tried to have a meeting, maybe one or two would straggle in, and I got to be president of the chapter by default, really, because I was one of the few left still walking around. And I presided over the dissolution. Well, we didn’t — yeah, I guess we did dissolve. We’re still members at large in the National Pearl Harbor —

Thomas Healy:
Right.

John Ross:
But Delaware is not active anymore.

Thomas Healy:
Actually, the only other — oh, the Ward was the name of the destroyer — the Ward — that fired on the sub.

John Ross:
A familiar name too.

Thomas Healy:
Other than that guy, there was only one other guy that we’ve interviewed so far, and it was Jack Freebery, who was actually on the Wisconsin, right alongside the Arizona, or right . . .

John Ross:
I don’t remember. I remember some of them but —

Unidentified Speaker1:
Was it the Wisconsin?

Unidentified Speaker2:
I’m not sure.

John Ross:
I don’t remember the Wisconsin. I used to envy those battleship sailors until Pearl Harbor day.

Thomas Healy:
Well, he was right up on the bridge when the captain got killed.

John Ross:
Oh, was he?

Thomas Healy:
He was a Navy diver and communications, and he was a fairly, you know — I’ll tell you what’s interesting, and there’s probably a report. Online right now in the Navy records, there actually — I guess, all the officers of the ships that were in Pearl Harbor on the 7th apparently had to do a full report, their own report.

John Ross:
Oh.

Thomas Healy:
And it was interesting when I interviewed him to go back and really read what happened, you know, the actual what happened. And I bet if I go back, I’ll find some of the officers of the Selfridge that would have had to write a report of what happened to them while they were in Pearl Harbor.

John Ross:
I’m sure — as a matter of fact, I didn’t tell you this. Our officers — the captain and the exec were ashore, and the officer left onboard and in charge was an young ______ named Dasteel.

Thomas Healy:
Dash?

John Ross:
Dasteel, D-a-s-t —

Thomas Healy:
Oh, Dast.

John Ross:
— e-e-l, I think. But he was an academy graduate; and, boy, he showed the results of academy training. He took over that ship just like it belonged to him and really whipped things into shape, so I recall he was the guy in charge when we left the harbor.

Thomas Healy:
How did the XO and the CO get back?

John Ross:
The executive officer — now, I remember — he caught us on the way out on a motor launch, came speeding after us, and he hopped aboard. The captain didn’t get back aboard until we returned.

Thomas Healy:
Let me see.

John Ross:
It’s —

Thomas Healy:
Go ahead. I’m sorry.

John Ross:
I’ll comment, it’s interesting to me, some of the things I remember best is the funny things that happened during those days. I remember on the canal I was — one day things had sort of quieted down, and a Marine and I decided to take a half-track and go out and explore in Guadalcanal a little bit. We always carried riffles. I carried a little carbine. And as we were way out somewhere, we saw some kind of a huge bird flying across, and just as a joke, I said, “Now, watch me get that guy.” And I led him a little bit and fired, and the bird went . . . Pure luck. That Marine, his eyebrows went up like that. He said, “Man, you’re wasted as a medic,” and he told everybody what a dead shot I was. But I’m sure it was just flat out luck.

Thomas Healy:
How close were the planes to you, the Japs?

John Ross:
One flew over — I don’t think he was more than 20 yards away, very low. That’s when we saw the big red circle on the side, and our gunner couldn’t get his 50-caliber turned around in time to shoot him, but . . . So that was — but most of them were quite high. And then those torpedo planes that I saw start the attack, of course they were flying very low. The Americans were really fooled, because doctrine had it that the torpedos couldn’t be used in Pearl Harbor, too shallow. It’s about 40 feet. But the Japanese modified their torpedoes so they certainly could be used in Pearl Harbor. And the result was — I think this is true. I think the — the (brass) had not yet ordered torpedo nets to be put around. He says, “Torpedos won’t work in here anyhow.” But the Japanese showed us they did work. They were awfully skillful people. And I, for one, never bought into this dirty rotten Jap talk, because I thought, if you’re going to attack a country 20 times your size, you might as well try to surprise them. Although they were horribly cruel to prisoners. That, I do know. In fact, our Marines learned that on Guadalcanal. If a Jap came running up to surrender, you best shoot him, because he probably was carrying a grenade with him. So they were fierce fighters. As a matter of fact, on one of those islands, I think it was in Guam, several years after the war had ended, they found a Japanese soldier still out in the wild, thinking the war — he thought the war was still on.

Thomas Healy:
They just actually — I don’t know how many years ago. It wasn’t too many years ago. They found two of them. Actually, one was still alive. There was two of them that survived, and they kept killing the townspeople. Going out on — they were snipers, and they kept going out on these raids for God knows how many years and killing these — killing these island people, and it was just — I think it was just on 20/20 not too long ago they were talking about that.

John Ross:
They were — Japanese were very, very cruel on Guam.

Thomas Healy:
They finally had to get this guy’s brother or sister to come out —

John Ross:
And tell him.

Thomas Healy:
— and tell him, and they didn’t believe it the first time when his — his father or something, and then it was years later they finally talked his sister into it and finally figured it out, but it was — they wouldn’t surrender.

John Ross:
They were not only fierce fighters, but they were pretty darn mean. Everybody knows the story of the death march from Corregidor. Some of the people in Guam told me stories too that indicated they were very — very cruel people, the Japanese. They seemed to be very decent people as long as they’re all in Japan, but get them far from home and under a war, and they turn nasty. I talked to one — we treated a few civilians on Guam in the sick bay in the early days. And I remember talking to one girl, who was about I guess — I don’t know — 15 or 16 years old. And she had a big scar right in here, in the crotch, and she was sort of bashful to let me see it. I told her, “I’m a doctor. I can’t help you if I don’t see it,” because it was infected. So I had to clean her up a little bit and get her some dressings and ointment to put on it. But anyway, she told me a Japanese soldier had done that, because he wanted her to have sex with him; and she refused, and he cut her with some kind of sword. So they weren’t nice people.

Thomas Healy:
Now, when you came back — you got out and you went back where? You came back —

John Ross:
Well, had I not been married, I probably would have stayed in the service, because I liked it. But there was the GI bill available, and I was now married. And I thought, well, if I stay in the Navy, they’ll ship me off somewhere. And I just got married. So I got out in August of ’46 and went to the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School. And from there, I always resisted any blandishments to join the Naval Reserve, because I knew if I did, they could yank me back in anytime. So I did not join the reserve, but I went on and graduated from Penn and went to work at Ford Motor Company out in Michigan. But that’s — that GI bill was a wonderful thing.

Thomas Healy:
And you retired from Ford Motor Company?

John Ross:
No. I worked there five years, and then I went to Boroughs Corporation, which later became Unisys, and I retired from there.

Thomas Healy:
Here in Delaware?

John Ross:
Actually, Pennsylvania.

Thomas Healy:
Pennsylvania. But you were living in Georgetown?

John Ross:
No. We were then living up in Malvern, Pennsylvania. But my wife is from right around Sussex County there, and she wanted to return here when I retired, so we did. She had — at one time, she had five sisters and four brothers down here, but three sisters is all that’s left now.

Thomas Healy:
You guys live over in Georgetown?

John Ross:
Just south of town, yeah.

Thomas Healy:
All right.

Unidentified Speaker2:
I didn’t catch this. Where were you actually on the ship when — you were planning to go to the peak on the island. Where were you exactly when the airplanes came?

John Ross:
I didn’t quite understand.

Thomas Healy:
Where were you exactly when you saw the airplanes?

John Ross:
Standing on the deck of the ship. We had just had breakfast and were standing out there ready to go on Liberty. So it was a good vantage point to see everything, anyhow.

Unidentified Speaker2:
Did you seek cover, or were you just standing, just looking?

John Ross:
No. I ran to my battle station. To seek cover in a battle, you know, that gets you in big trouble. We had a job to do.

Thomas Healy:
Was there pandemonium on the ship?

John Ross:
Not too much. We were a pretty well-disciplined crew. When general quarters sounded, everybody knew where to go and what to do, so there was no disorganization or panic at all. But the trouble was, most people couldn’t do a thing. No fuel. The engineering crew couldn’t do anything. The main gun batteries were useless, because they wouldn’t elevate more than so far. So the two 50-caliber machine guns were the only armament we had. I had been sent to school on the 50-caliber, and I was pretty good at maintaining and repairing them.

Thomas Healy:
I’m just going to do some quiet stuff now. We’re just going to pan you.

John Ross:
Oh, I see. So I don’t have to do anything?

Thomas Healy:
No.

Unidentified Speaker2:
Would you do me a favor and just look at —

Thomas Healy:
Look at me.

Unidentified Speaker2:
I have another question.

John Ross:
Yes.

Unidentified Speaker2:
Before you went to Hawaii, did you have time before the attack happened? Were you in Hawaii already before —

John Ross:
Yes. We had been there — let’s see. About a year.

Unidentified Speaker2:
And when you had — when you were on leave, did you have all these Hawaii shirts, and was there —

John Ross:
No.

Unidentified Speaker2:
What did you do?

John Ross:
At that time, you’re required to stay in uniforms.

Unidentified Speaker2:
At all times?

John Ross:
All times.

Unidentified Speaker2:
Because in the movies, you always see the soldiers having a good time and —

John Ross:
They can do it now.

Unidentified Speaker2:
— wearing Hawaii shirts and all that.

John Ross:
They can do it now. But during war, at that time, you wore nothing but uniform, whether you were on the post or on the ship or ashore.

Thomas Healy:
So you were actually operating out of Pearl Harbor?

John Ross:
Yes.

Thomas Healy:
Go out and come back.

John Ross:
Well —

Thomas Healy:
What were your missions when you left Pearl Harbor? I mean, before the war started.

John Ross:
Before the war, it was mainly practicing various maneuvers. It was a real thrill to be in a destroyer formation, making a flank attack. They could do better than 30 knots. On a big ship, that’s _____.

Thomas Healy:
Do me one more favor. I want you to say your name again. You’re not actually in Georgetown. You’re in . . .

John Ross:
It’s outside of Georgetown. It’s south of Georgetown.

Thomas Healy:
What’s it called?

John Ross:
It’s just Sussex County.

Thomas Healy:
Okay. So just say — tell me your name and say, “Georgetown, Delaware.”

John Ross:
I’m George — “I’m George”? My name is John Ross, and I live with my wife in Georgetown, Delaware.

Thomas Healy:
Great. Okay.

Unidentified Speaker2:
_______+

John Ross:
In case they all — lose an arm, they’d know whose it was, but I never did it.

Thomas Healy:
Okay. Good.

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