By Jennifer Martin - email
JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Carlos Corley was a senior in high school when he got the draft call for World War II.
"I was in English class and someone knocked at the door and my dad came to give me a letter. Went to Birmingham as soon as I could and joined the Navy."
He opted to join the Seebees.
"They paid a little more money. 3 or 4 dollars a month was a lot of money. Got a raise before I went in, even."
He was assigned to the 47th Naval Construction Battalion.
"Everywhere we went, we were attached to a group of combat marines. Anytime we hit a beach head, they'd hit first and when it was sort of secure, they'd create a perimeter while we built the docks, airfield, whatever we built."
Their first mission would be the invasion at Guadalcanal.
"In the middle of the night we set sail. We didn't know where we were going. 6500 miles later, we cross the equator. After that we didn't have time to do anything. It got pretty hot after that. We were met by some bombers."
The marines fought the Japanese on Guadalcanal for four months. After it was secure, the seebees and marines headed for the Russell Islands, also part of the Solomon Islands.
"That's where we really got bombed at night mostly. Ran into some snipers on that island. They'd snipe people out in line for chow."
While working covertly on an airstrip there, the seebees had a close call with the Japanese.
"Got a message a ship was coming in toward us. We had a bombing group went up, bombed Munda. On the way back they had a bomb left over. So they came in very low and let that bomb go and hit it.
Every night, just as sure as you went to sleep, you'd hear the drone of those engines coming. We didn't have sirens but we had a little dog barking. That was our air raid signal."
Next, they went to help with the invasion of the Munda air base. That was a major Japanese airfield in the Solomon Islands. Once it was secure, they went north to Seghe Point, to help build another airstrip.
"The group I was with carved out a little landing strip. I think it holds the world record today the time we built it."
Corley's service would soon be over. 600 had all of our equipment and had the ship loaded for New Caledonia. And we got orders. I heard this cheer going up and went up to headquarters and we got our orders to go home."
When he returned to Mississippi, Corley continued his education, working first as a teacher and then as principal, until he retired.
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