Veterans History Project: William Singletary - - Jackson, MS

Veterans History Project: William Singletary

By Jennifer Martin - email

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - William Singletary was a senior in high school when he was drafted in 1944.

"My dad had instructed me. You don't want to get in the army or the marines. Get into the navy if you get the chance."

He trained in Virginia before he was assigned to a ship.

"The USS Register was the ship. APD 92. I was a seaman first class. I did anything any of the higher, I mean, I was the lowest you could be. So anything anybody wanted done, I got to do it. It was mopping the deck. It was scraping the hull of the ship. It was just anything they wanted done."

From Virginia, the Register took the Panama Canal to San Diego, then set sail for Pearl Harbor.

"While we were en route between San Diego and Pearl Harbor... That's when Okinawa was invaded. I only controlled one gun, which was a twin-40. 40 millimeter shells that were about that long and that big around. And they put 5 of them in a clip and dropped them in 5 at a time into two guns on this mount.

It's just like bicycle handlebars turned upside down and you're looking through a gyroscope. And you keep that little round circle that floats... Every time you move those handlebars, the gun moves the same way. And the object is to keep the plane you are shooting at inside the circle. We shot down 3 suicide planes over Okinawa, the first night we were there. We was only attacked one time."

One of Singletary's most memorable missions aboard the Register was the rescue of the men aboard the USS Indianapolis which had just delivered critical parts for the first atomic bomb to the US air base in Tinian.

"We wasn't even aware of it being sunk. We were operating out of the Philippines at that time. Most of our times, we were escorting big ships. But the Indianapolis was sunk after it delivered the atomic bomb. And they was getting ready for the invasion of Japan at this time. We wasn't even aware of the atomic bomb at that time. But the crew of the Indianapolis did not report back to the Philippines where it was supposed to.  And they were sank not too far from the equator."

A plane overhead noticed the oil slick in the water. Men from the Register and nearly a dozen other ships searched for the survivors and pulled them from the water.

"The ones that we picked up were in real, real bad off. And most of em probably would have died in 24 hours, exposure to the sun and everything like that."

They returned to the Philippines and just a few weeks later, and got word of the atomic bomb. 

"I never felt happier in my life than to hear the war was over."

Singletary went home and married his sweetheart. He went on to run a business repairing TVs and appliances.

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