Veterans History Project: James Robinson - - Jackson, MS

Veterans History Project: James Robinson

By Jennifer Martin - email

"I think I had a unique time to be born and live, because I was born into a depression, the 1929 depression."

At 17 years old, James Robinson asked his mother if he could join the navy. She needed some convincing.

"She finally agreed to it once I told her they were gonna send me to school. I haven't gotten to that school yet."

After training, he was assigned to an LST, the USS Hickman County.

"It was a flat bottom ship with a 45 foot beam on it and that's what we went to war in. Nobody on the ship had ever been to sea, but the captain and the chief botswainsmate. There were about 150 of us.

We were all young boys. I don't think we had anyone in my group that was over 20 years old. That's what they wanted in the amphibious forces, real young boys, physically, and agile. Our job was to carry the troops to the beach and land them on the beach. We went on to Iwo Jima. To the Ulithian Islands first. 

That was our first introduction into war. Well, things changed considerably. The fun stopped. It wasn't a big adventure anymore. And it was 'let's get out of here'. And we'd go up on the beach, and put our cargo on the beach."

As the young men struggled to take the beach, not only did they have to fight to stay alive, they had to steel themselves against all the death surrounding them.

"It was just a killing field like no one's ever seen. These people were dug into caves and you didn't really see them that much. But you saw the Americans being killed. 

I was better prepared for it than most boys because I had worked in a funeral home since I was 15 years old. And I had seen a lot of people die. I was fairly prepared for it. I had no idea it was going to be quite that many people.

The next invasion wasn't until April. And we went into Okinawa."

And from there he went to a little island called IE Shima.

"That was the roughest beach I ever landed on. Instead of it going in bow first and opening the doors so the equipment could come out, a rogue wave sort of caught us and turned us sideways and pushed us up on the beach."

It was there he witnessed the death of war journalist Ernie Pyle.

"He and a colonel were riding in a jeep on the island there, right close to us. And a sniper got him, shot him right in the head."

The men aboard the LST rejoiced when they heard about the bombing of Hiroshima.

"Everybody thought they were going home. We're were all happy because we just knew any day, we'd get orders to go home to the United States. And I went to Japan then, we went to do some occupation duty.

But something happened to us before we got there. A hurricane, typhoon hit us. Typhoon Louise. And it was the biggest naval disaster in the history of the navy. We lost over 250 ships in the typhoon."

They fought the typhoon for 5 days but made it through. Robinson was discharged and went to college on the GI Bill. He moved to Mississippi, where he organized a life insurance company.

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