Whenever we meet a veteran, we respectfully thank them for their service. But what do we truly know of what they experienced?
Recently, my brother-in-law passed away. Francis Grogan was a World War II-era Navy veteran. I wanted to find out more of what he encountered while serving aboard the USS Terror. It was a minelayer – a 5,875-ton ship, 453 feet long and 60 feet wide, with 481 men well-trained in gunnery and damage control. It carried cargo, mines, ammunition, bombs and supplies to our troops on Pearl Harbor, Tarawa, the Marshall Islands and Iwo Jima. The ship was fired upon by the Japanese from the cliffs of Iwo Jima, but the Terror continued to evacuate wounded to transport to Saipan.
While anchored off Kerama-retto Island to take on supplies, massive attacks kept the gunners busy, but the ship stayed and took on wounded from other ships in the harbor.
In May 1945, a kamikaze crashed into the ship’s communication platform. One of the bombs exploded and the other penetrated the main deck, through the bulkhead to land in the wardroom. Fire flared and took two hours to extinguish. The kamikaze attack exacted a toll of 171 casualties: 41 dead, seven missing and 123 wounded.
Now, with better understanding of what some veterans suffered, I say to Francis and all veterans, “We thank you for the sacrifices you made to keep our country safe and free from the horror of war.”