Vol. 10


Clearing the Way

1945; southern Japan

In 1944 my grandfather was an eighteen-year-old young man from the coal mining regions of Pennsylvania. For the first seventeen years of his life he had never been more than twenty miles away from the town where he was born. After taking his first train ride to the big city of Philadelphia, he was shipped to boot camp* in Maryland. Despite having aspirations of being a fighter pilot, given his proficiency in electronics he was designated to be a radio operator. Instead of fulfilling his dream of being stationed aboard an aircraft carrier or a mighty battleship, he was assigned to one of the tiniest ships in the United States Navy, USS YMS 467 — a minesweeper whose job it was to clear enemy mines before they could damage the larger ships of the American fleet.

Before he knew it, my grandfather was sailing through the Panama Canal toward Hawaii and then Guam. He saw his first combat action off the island of Okinawa. It was there that his ship began clearing mines to prepare for the amphibious landing onto that island. His ship had a wooden hull to avoid the magnetic mines that lay in wait. The ship was 168 feet long and drew a draft of only six feet of water. This small wake helped to avoid detonation of contact mines that floated dangerously below the surface. The sailors also learned how to counteract a third type of mine, known as an “acoustic mine,” by transmitting special sonic waves. After overcoming his initial disappointment at being stationed aboard a minesweeper, my grandfather came to appreciate the small but important role he played in the Allied war effort.

After victory at Okinawa, his ship moved to its next assignment, Operation Olympic, the planned American invasion of the southern Japanese island of Kyushu. While his ship was performing its duties there, my grandfather, serving as the ship’s radio operator, received a coded message that said to break off all operations and return to Okinawa! Little did he know that Japan had just surrendered and that the world had entered the atomic age.

A few weeks later a Japanese harbor pilot was on board my grandfather’s ship, pointing out where the mines were hidden in Kure Harbor. My grandfather told me that it sure was easier finding enemy mines when you knew where they were. An advantage of being aboard a minesweeper was that it was one of the first ships to enter the enemy’s harbor and you’d be one of the first to step onto foreign soil.

In September 1945, after clearing the mines from Kure Harbor, my grandfather was asked to escort a senior officer to a town about fifteen miles away called Hiroshima.** My grandfather does not like to talk about what he saw that day, but he tells me that what he saw that day he could never forget, no matter how hard he has tried for the past seventy years.

My grandfather is my hero, whom I love very much.

Molly Kuzma; North Carolina, USA


* Boot camp is the place where new members of the military receive their first training.

** Hiroshima is the city where the first atomic bomb was dropped, on August 6, 1945.


This copyrighted story may be copied for limited classroom use or reprinted in an article about The Grannie Annie.


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