During war time, sailors in the U.S. Navy evidently were not only quick on their feet but also resourceful.
As evidence of that, J.C. Campbell of Granbury once found shoeprints on the back of his T-shirt after a frightful incident during the Korean War.
A fellow sailor on board the USS Frank E. Evans evidently used him as a stepstool after two projectiles fired from shore in North Korea’s Wonsan Harbor landed in the water near the 2,200-ton destroyer.
About 15 sailors were on deck lounging around on what they thought was going to be a nice Sunday off from the action. The oh-so-close attack from onshore enemy batteries sent them scrambling toward a narrow hatch leading to safer confines below deck.
That shoeprint may have explained a lot about what happened, although Campbell couldn’t remember falling down.
The sailors later had some laughs about it, but four of them suffered minor wounds from shrapnel.
“It could have done some damage. It could have killed some people,” Campbell said. “They were probably 3-inch guns. You get a direct hit, and it’s going to do some damage. We had a number of times been fired upon, but (those weren’t) that close.”
Campbell and a friend, World War II veteran Phil Faletto, will be Hood County representatives headed to Washington, D.C. on May 30-31, courtesy of Honor Flight Dallas. Seven World War II veterans from Hood County flew to Washington on May 6 after applying with Honor Flight Fort Worth.
Honor Flight Dallas and Honor Flight Fort Worth are both hubs of the nationwide Honor Flight organization, which began in Ohio in 2005.
Honor Flight takes applications from military veterans for the trip.
Those who qualify are flown, free of charge, on a sightseeing tour of the most famous war memorials and landmarks in the nation’s capital.
“That’s probably one of the greatest honors I could receive,” said Campbell, who was the grand marshal in Granbury’s 2008 Fourth of July parade. “I’ve been to the World War II memorial, and I’ve seen the Vietnam memorial. But I’ve never seen the Korean (memorial).”
Campbell said a full crew on his ship would have been about 300 men, but there were usually closer to 275.
“We would provide gun support for the Army and Marines on land,” Campbell said. “It had 40-mm guns on it. The first place we went to was Wonsan Harbor.”
The U.S. blockade of Wonsan was the longest in modern Naval history, starting in February 1951 and lasting 861 days.
Campbell, 81, joined the Navy in 1950 while still a senior in high school in Irving. He served in active duty 22 months before ending his four-year military stint in the Navy Reserves. Campbell’s now-deceased brother, Jerry Campbell, was in the Navy and stationed in Grand Prairie.
Campbell was a BT – boiler tender – situated underneath one of the two smokestacks on board the ship.
“It was quite a growing up experience for me, and it probably gave me some direction on what I did in my life,” Campbell said. “It was good for me. It made me understand that there were other people in this world. I really learned to appreciate my country then.”
He said another memorable moment was when the ship sailed into San Francisco Bay, and he saw a large American flag hanging on the Golden Gate Bridge.
“That makes you proud to be an American,” said Campbell, who worked for the telephone company in Irving until starting college as an art major at North Texas in Denton.
He married Sylvia Carmichael in 1958. The following year he began using his drafting design skills for his primary post-war career as a graphics illustrator.
He was a member of the Granbury City Council from 1971-1992. He became a member of the Granbury Volunteer Fire Department in 1978, but is no longer active in firefighting.
Faletto, 92, enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1942 and was a B-29 aircraft navigator. He served five years in active duty and four in the Reserves. He finished his service as a 1st lieutenant, but never made it into combat.
“They had more trainees than they could train,” said Faletto, who has lived in Granbury about 20 years.
He was first sent to Reading, Penn., to learn to fly PT-19s and Cub planes. Later he graduated as a navigator from Selman Field in Louisiana, then sent to gunnery school.
“Then, finally, Honolulu,” Faletto said. “That’s as far as we got. It looked like I was going to have to go to Korea. My class was already firebombing Japan.”
After the war ended, Faletto was assigned to the Sunset Project – returning aircraft back to the states to be destroyed and turned into scrap metal. Then he was a ground safety officer at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth. He left active duty in late 1947 and was in the Army Reserves until 1951.
Faletto has been married to Dixie Peters, from the Arlington Heights section of Fort Worth, since 1947. He retired from a lengthy career with Fireman’s Fund Insurance.
He said he felt relieved that he wasn’t sent into the deadly hotspots of World War II – even though it could easily have happened.
“I lost so many college buddies,” said Faletto, a charter member of the Military Officers Association of America. “I lost my roommate. I lost him over Japan. I lost several others I was fairly close to. I think about all those boys.”
But, Faletto said, “Basically it was all worth it.”
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