Week 9: March 1, 2014
Harold “Clayton” Bryan
My father was in the Navy when he first met my mother and after many letters and phone calls he came home on leave, bringing a ring to propose; they married on May 29, 1948 with their best friends. Henry and Willie Mae (Walker) Sisson, present. They were married by Rev. Louise M. Kerr, at her home just outside of Siloam. Mama remembers it pouring “cats and dogs” that night when they married.
Mama did not return to the base with my father, but instead lived with his parents, Paul and Evelyn Bryan, at their home in Union Point. Her father-in-law helped her to find employment at the local mill – where he also worked. She didn’t like working there and soon returned home to live with her parents until money was saved for her to join him at the Navy base in Memphis, Tenn.
Daddy joined the Navy on September 4, 1945 – actually this was the second time he joined. Before he was sixteen he joined with a fake ID, and when it was actually learned that he was under the age limit, his parents were notified to come and bring him home; they later signed for him to join when he turned sixteen, but he soon found that he wasn’t happy being there and asked his parents to come and get him. His father told him that now that he had joined, he was staying. He was soon sent to Ground Control Radar Approach School in Olathe, Kansas.
After leaving radar school he served on the USS Blue Ridge, a Flag Ship for the 7th Amphibian Force. He served onboard from March 22, 1946 – August 17, 1946. Daddy was in the gunnery division while on board; the USS Blue Ridge participated in the atom bomb tests and was eventually scrapped because it was radio active. His classification was of a radar-man when serving on board both ships.
I heard from my mother that while he was on this ship in Japan, after the atom bomb tests, that many of the sailors including himself jumped in the water. Later it was determined that the radioactive water affected their teeth and many had to have them pulled; my father was one of them that had to have them pulled and replaced with false teeth at a very young age.
The USS Blue Ridge was an amphibious communication and command flagship of the 7th Amphibious Force with a flag officer on board, and this was usually a Marine Brigadier General. There were only two ships in the Navy at that time designated as such, who had decks specially designed to accommodate the many types of communication antennas. They were needed so the general could stay in touch with all the troops he commanded.
After leaving the USS Blue Ridge, he boarded the USS Washburn on September 4, 1946 and served on board until November 9, 1946.
The USS Washburn was an attack cargo ship, a unit of the Pacific Fleet Amphibious Force. She conducted amphibious and fleet training in the Eastern Pacific before returning to the Far East to resume her support of missions for the occupation forces. Upon leaving the USS Washburn, he was stationed at the Navy base in Memphis, Tenn.
My father worked in radar and electronics in Memphis and Mama remembers him going to work everyday in his work “whites.” He worked in a small trailer and was involved in the process of guiding the planes to the landing strips.
While serving in the Navy he was awarded the WWII Victory Medal, American Theater Campaign Medal and the Good Conduct Medal. (I never saw his medals, or heard him talk of them. My mother told me that his mother kept them in her cedar chest, but they were not there after her death. I wrote to the Navy headquarters and asked for duplicates of his medals in 2007; they were sent to me)
His Navy records listed him as a radar man with a rating of S1RDM – which stood for Seaman, 1st Class Striking for the rate of a radar man. When he made RD2, he was a radar man, 2nd class.
The Naval bases he was stationed at during his enlistment were – NTC, San Diego, Calif,; NATTU, Clathe, Kansas, and NATTC in Memphis, Tenn, where he was honorably discharged on July 1, 1949.
My parent’s returned to Union Point and lived at 216 Binn’s St. for about five years before moving to Perry, where Daddy worked at Warner Robins Air Force Base.