John Callahan , of Punta Gorda Isles, Fla., was the coxswain of a Higgins Boat, a plywood and steel landing craft built in the New Orleans area. He and his wooden boat played a part in the Battle of Okinawa, the biggest battle in the Pacific during the Second World War.
When the Japanese surrendered abroad the Battleship Missouri on Sept. 2, 1945 America’s airborne military might was on display. An armada of U.S. fighters and bombers flew low and slow over the “Mighty Mo” to hammer home to the Japanese they had been vanquished.
It was Jan. 22, 1945 and Americans forces were already making air strikes on Okinawa. The captain of the battleship USS South Dakota got word a carrier plane had crashed into the sea off the Pacific island.
There’s not much Nick Gassera remembers about serving as a seaman aboard the destroyer USS Collett, DD-730, during World War II. But three images still vividly stick out in his mind about World War II after more than six decades—Okinawa, the typhoon and being aboard the first American ship to sail into Tokyo Bay when the Japanese surrendered.
World War II for Hank Chiminello only lasted four months. He ended up in Honolulu as a radioman aboard a troop transport ship in April 1945. “We were taking boys and supplies over to the islands on a 426-foot ship, the USS Medean (AKA-31),” the 88-year-old North Port resident explained. “We were sent to all the islands over there – the Philippines, Guam, Saipan, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.”
The Battleship USS Missouri, flagship of Fleet Adm. William F. “Bull” Halsey’s Task Force 58, steamed into Tokyo Bay 150 ships-strong on the morning of Aug. 29, 1945. Quartermaster 3rd Class Ed Kalanta of Port Charlotte, Fla., was at the wheel of the 45,000 ton leviathan.
Andy Knef joined the Navy in 1942 at 17 with his parent’s permission. Trained as an aviation machinist mate, he spent most of his time as a tail-gunner on a Martin Mariner (PBM) twin-engine seaplane flying combat missions in the Atlantic and Pacific.