By Jennifer Martin - email
C. L. Mason was 18-years-old when he was drafted into the Navy. It was 1943. He would serve aboard a destroyer called the Shannon DM25.
"This type ship I was on, they called em Destroyer Mine Layers. They took the torpedo tubes off, and put mine tracks on us. They were going to use us to lay mines in the enemy harbors, but they decided to do it with the planes with the anti-magnetic mines so they put us, escorting the mine sweeps that swept the mines out ahead of the fleet," said Mason.
They headed to the Pacific.
"They didn't tell us where we were going. The first night out, though, Toyko Rose, come on and says 'Greetings my American friends. We know you're on the way to Iwo Jima.' said, 'There's going to be alot of American boys home for Christmas,'" said Mason.
The Americans referred to the woman's voice on the radio as Tokyo Rose. But there were actually several English speaking women the Japanese used to broadcast messages to the allies. They would identify ships and their missions, hoping to unnerve the troops.
"Make your hair kind of stand up. They knew we were coming, you know?" said Mason.
Once at Iwo Jima, the Shannon fired illumination shells for the Marines and shot at the Japanese guns.
"And they had a gun upside of Mt. Suribachi, they'd roll it out on a track and they'd fire and then roll it back. And some of us destroyers, we'd bait him to shoot at us. So that morning, it was our turn. We baited. One officer looked and said 'They're some crazy circus going up Mt Suribachi. We were laying eight to five. They weren't going to make it and we watched them raise the first flag and then they raised the big one after that. We stopped what we was doing and we watched 'em," said Mason.
"That had been the first time an American flag had been raised on Japanese soil and it gave them a real boost... And we went from the there to Ulithee in the Carolines. We picked up about 30 minesweeps, and took off. We didn't know where we were going. That first night out Toyko Rose come on told us where we were going."
They were going to Okinowa.
"There was nobody but us and destroyers that was screening the sweeps. We had no air support, nothing, for eight days before the invasion," said Mason.
One of those nights would be especially grueling.
"We come under attack a little before midnight. And when daylight come, we were still fighting. We were just about plumb out of ammunition and I was a paddleman on a 5-inch gun and when the mount would turn it would turn to brass. There was so much brass... We had a torpedo come approximately 10 yards off our bow and we were doing 30 knots so that's how close we come. It sure was nice seeing that relief coming that next morning," Mason recalled.
Once the war ended, the Shannon escorted a hospital ship to Nagasaki to pick up prisoners of war.
"Most of em had mines... Pitiful sight, mister. Had one guy get right to the rail and he got to crying 'Am I really going home? Am I really going home?' Had to carry him up on the ship," said Mason.
After the war, Mason went back to school and went to work for the railroad.
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