Bennett served in the Navy in Japan during WWII
Editor’s note: This article is part of The Inter-Mountain’s Unsung Heroes series for 2020, which features veterans in our area sharing first-hand accounts of their military service. The series will be published through Veterans Day.
ELKINS — Elkins resident Calvin Bennett spent two years serving in the United States Navy and fondly remembers his time in the service learning the ins and outs of the Landing Ship Medium and its 20mm gun.
Bennett, who grew up in Tucker County, said he enlisted in the service in 1944 during World War II and was granted a deferment until a week after his high school graduation. He said at the time the war was on everyone’s mind.
“I joined two bus loads, 30 to 40 young men, who were instructed to meet on the Parson’s courthouse steps,” he said. “We left Parsons at 8 a.m. heading to Great Lakes Naval Training Center, Illinois.”
After the two-day trip to the training center, Bennett was signed into barracks that housed several platoons, issued his seaman uniform and dog tags. He said those in need of a hair cut stopped in at one of the barber shop building on the base.
“We were at this basic training center for four to five weeks, divided into platoons, learning to march as a platoon and to operate as a unit,” he said. “After the basics were learned, we were sent to Brown Shipyard in Texas to pick up the ship, which had been built there and which we were to call home for the duration.”
Bennett said the newly built ship was a LSM 104 (Landing Ship Medium) that housed around 60 sailors. He said over the course of the next six weeks, the ship’s crew was taught about the ship before they were sent to Little Creek, Virginia to help train other crews.
“A very interesting exercise was learning how to pull a ship back off the land which had just deposited men for battle as well as delivering tanks, truck and supplies,” he said. “This was accomplished by dropping anchor, running the ship up on dry land, then pulling itself (the ship) back down into the water.”
Bennett said his main base was at Little Creek, but the crew had training exercises up and down the coastline from South America to Canada.
“I remember one amusing exercise in target practice from the ship,” he said. “We were given ‘socks’ which were actually made to resemble socks, silk material, about 20 feet long. The material was tied to a cable, pulled by an airplane. The object was to shoot it down. I was an instructor and in charge of the guns for this operation, and it came my turn to shoot.
“I was strapped into my 20mm gun and when the plane flew by, I shot the cable in two that was pulling the sock. This was rare. Afterward, the guys came back to my station to watch me shoot. That made this youngster from Tucker County very proud.”
He said one of his most memorable experiences was when the ship struck a mine.
“We were pulling an experimental barge when we hit a mine,” he said. “It exploded and blew a hole in the barge, splitting the welded seams on the ship. So, we had to go back to Brown Shipyard for repairs, which took two to three weeks, and we sat in dry dock for that time.”
Bennett said after all the training was complete the crews were sent to Japan.
“This was my life for two years, and I felt proud to be one of those representing my country,” he said. “I remember the loud celebration when the war was finally over. Fireworks were abundant.”