Duane Waterman, who lives south of Punta Gorda, Fla. served aboard a minesweeper, USS YMS-200, at the end of World War II. He was a seaman 1st class and she was a wooden boat about 20 feet wide and 100-feet long.
“It was our job to sweep up the mines the Japanese dumped into the harbors just before they surrendered in August 1945,” the 90-year-old former sailor said. “We cleaned the harbors in the southernmost main Japanese island before our fleet sailed in.
“The minesweepers worked in pairs. They were connected by a cable charged with 10,000 volts of electricity. When the cables we towed got near one of those drifting mines they exploded,” he said.
Waterman said it took the crew of his boat about three weeks to clear the harbors on the southern most island of enemy mines. We decommissioned the boat after that and I sailed for the USA.
“I served for one-year, six-months and nine-days. I was discharged from the Navy on July 12, 1946 at Lido Beach, Long Island, N.Y.”
A year or so earlier he decided to become a Navy man. At 17 he got his folks to sign him in.
“I was sworn in Feb. 3, 1945. I took basic at Sampson, NY. I was immediately put on the USS Natchez, a destroyer escort out of Norfolk, Va. They had been chasing German submarines up and down the east coast of the U.S.”
He went aboard the ship while she was in dry-dock being repaired. While dropping depth charges on enemy subs the Natchez blew a hole in her bottom. She was up on the ways when Waterman arrived to board her.
Shortly afterwards V-E Day (Victor in Europe) was declared and his destroyer escort was put in mothballs near Norfolk. It was at this point he was shipped to the Pacific Theater of Operations and went aboard the minesweeper that headed for Japan.
Just before Waterman left the Navy he received a letter from his father. His dad said he was going sell the family dairy farm back in Watertown unless Duane wanted it. He did and went from sailor to farmer in a few short weeks.
“We had a 250 acre farm with 30 head of dairy cows,” he explained.
He and his wife, Elsie, farmed the land for 20 years until they sold in 1968. Then he went to work as a ticket agent for Eastern Airlines. Finally he worked in the post office until he retired and they moved to Florida in 1995.
The couple has been married 70 years. They have two daughters: Diane and Julie, nine grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.
Name: Duane Charles Waterman
D.O.B: 26 Jan. 1927
Hometown: Watertown, N.Y.
Currently: Punta Gorda, Fla.
Entered Service: 3 Jan. 1945
Discharged: 11 July 1946
Rank: Seaman 1/C
Unit: USS YMS 200
Commendations: American Theater Medal, Asiatic Pacific Theater Medal, Occupation Medal, World War II Victory Medal
Battles/Campaigns: Occupation of Japan
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, Feb. 27, 2017 and is republished with permission.
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