Dale served on Navy amphibious assault ships during World War II
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.
HUTTONSVILLE — Hurricane Isaias wreaking havoc on the eastern shoreline recently must have brought back memories of doing battle with the weather 76 years ago for retired Navy veteran Richard Dale.
After growing up in Rainelle, Dale served in the United States Navy for two years and six months, enlisting in January of 1944 at the age of 18.
After graduating from boot camp in Great Lakes, Illinois, Dale was sent to Little Creek, Virginia for Signal School.
He then went on to train for the LSM crew (Land Ship Medium), which were amphibious assault ships the U.S. Navy used during World War II.
“The physical training for LSM was tougher than boot camp,” said Dale. “After that training they sent us to the Philadelphia Navy Yard where we were waiting on our ship to be built out of Wilmington, Delaware.”
Dale’s first-ever mission in the water, which started with a trip from Virginia to Rhode Island to pick up an overseas load, began harmlessly enough as his vessel cruised through the Panama Canal up to Ocean View, California for repairs and refueling.
It was after that when the veteran had an experience with Mother Nature that not many people endure.
“We left California for Okinawa, Guam and Saipan,” he explained. “And that’s when we were in that typhoon off of Okinawa in October of 1945 that was pretty rough going. You could look down (from on top of a wave) and it was like you were looking down in a deep valley. But the captain knew his business, he kept it pointed into the waves at all times. If a wave would have ever caught us sideways it would have been all over.”
That same typhoon, named Louise, seriously damaged and sank 12 United State ships or boats during its wrath. It killed 36 Americans and seriously injured 100. Forty-seven others went missing.
After surviving the typhoon, Dale’s ship went on to be the first one to go into Nagasaki after the United States dropped the atomic bomb in August of 1945. Nagasaki is the last city in the world to experience a nuclear attack.
“We went on after the typhoon and were the first ship into Nagasaki after we dropped the atomic bomb,” he said. “There was nothing but just little stubbles from what had once been big trees there.”
After leaving Nagasaki, Dale says his ship was on shuttle service up and down the coasts of Japan.
“We were all over Japan during that time and we kept on with that until I was getting ready for discharge,” he said. “They put me on a big, nice ship to come home. It took 14 days and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. We came in under the Golden Gate Bridge and they had a big sign up on the hill that said ‘welcome home boys.'”
After his time with the Navy, Dale spent 32 years with the National Park Service in West Virginia. He said he started at Babcock State Park as a Park Ranger for $180 per month.
“Everything worked out pretty good,” Dale said. “By the time I retired I had gone from Babcock to Teter Creek, then to Holly River and then to Watoga for nine and a half years. Then I went to Audra and then to Cass Scenic Railroad.”
Dale said he enjoyed every minute he was on the water during his time in the Navy — except for when he and his crew battled Typhoon Louise.