By Jennifer Martin - email
JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - At Christmastime in 1943, Buddy Wilson was a senior in high school.
"I went home from school and I had a letter from Franklin Delano Roosevelt asking me to come see him. That's how they drafted me."
He joined the Navy and was assigned to the USS Conyngham.
"It was an old two stacker destroyer, what you call a Mahan type class. It was a good ship. I'd say, a lucky ship."
Shortly after Wilson boarded, the crew set sail for Hawaii. Before they got there, they were redirected to the Mariana Islands to get their orders.
"When we got there, you never seen so many ships in your life. I didn't realize we had a Navy that size."
They left with a mission, although the crew wasn't informed until they were already underway.
"The skipper come on the loudspeaker and told us, 'I know you men are wondering where we're going. I can tell you now because you can't get off and you can't do nothing about it. We're underway to attack, assault, and capture Saipan, Tinian, and Guam.' So that's where we went."
The Conyngham hit Saipan first.
"We bombarded all day. Battleships, cruisers and planes. Airplanes taking off, dropping a few bombs around. That went on for two or three days."
Then they got word the Japanese fleet was coming.
"We found them in the Phillipines Sea. That was the 1st naval battle of the Phillipines Sea. We shot down over 600 Japanese planes that one day. They were falling like flies. We hit two or three of their big ships and they started sneaking out."
They went back to Saipan and once it was secure, moved on to Tinian, then Guam. They remained in the Marianas offering fire support, escort, and patrol services. The Conyngham also helped cover the landings at Ormoc bay.
"One of the worst days of the war I ever experienced. It was dark, cloudy & raining. When we landed the troops, we got everybody ashore before the (Japanese) hit us and when they hit, we could hear the planes up above but we couldn't see 'em. I mean we were really lucky. There was planes over us from the time they hit until it got so dark, you couldn't see."
Wilson left the service in January 1946. He went to work for a telephone company --where he'd stay 33 years until he retired. He was married 56 years and had three children.
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