Pearl Harbor Day Remembrance…

Vernon H. Sparks, his shipmate, Doris “Dorie” Miller, and all veterans who served and perished aboard the USS West Virginia BB48 during all of WWII…

Doris “Dorie” Miller, served with my father Vernon aboard the USS West Virginia BB48

Doris “Dorie” Miller was an American Sailor in the United States Navy.

He manned anti-aircraft guns during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, for which he had no training, and tended to the wounded.

He was recognized by the Navy for his actions and awarded the Navy Cross. 

WikipediaBorn: October 12, 1919, Waco, TXDied: November 24, 1943 in the Battle of Gilbert Islands….

Gilbert Islands, KiribatiBattles/wars: World War IIPacific War > Attack on Pearl Harbor;Movies: The Liberators: Fighting on Two Fronts in World War IIAwards: Navy CrossPurple HeartAsiatic–Pacific Campaign MedalAmerican Defense Service MedalMoreSiblings: Selvia MillerArthur Miller

Earlier that morning around 6am Vernon was in the galley like every morning about the same time.

Vernon got back from liberty with his battle buddies just before midnight curfew. Vernon was already in deep shit for missing curfew a couple of times.

Vernon and Dorie became fast friends in the summer of 1941 when the USS West Virginia left Long Beach Harbor for Pearl Harbor.

“Hey Dorie!” Vernon would holler out with that loud bos’n low growling voice. “How about some of that shitty coffee you make. And don’t fuck up my easy over eggs this time.”

Sailors loved to to pick on each other a little. It was a little respite from all the monotony aboard ship. They weren’t thinking about war or fighting in that moment.

They thought about being at the ‘ol’ slop shoot’ in Honolulu. You know, a whiskey shooter in one hand and glass of beer in queue as a chaser, and the other arm around a beautiful young oriental girl. Sweet…indeed.

Life was good right then…before “all hell broke lose!” Vernon would say later.

They loved the way Dorie made bad food, cooking, and being away from home like, “back home in the kitchen with famiy.” They all talked about Dorie this way.

Christmas was coming and they wouldn’t be going home. Dorie would help them forget about that.

Dorie could turn a really bad day into a hell of a lot of laughs by all. Vernon loved Dorie. They all loved his huge smile, laughs, and stories from Waco.

It was this way on that Sunday morning on December 7, 1941. It was another beautiful sunny warm day in Pearl Harbor.

Vernon and Dorie talked of liberty that night. “Which ‘slop shoot’ should we go to tonight, Dorie?” Vernon would yell and laugh at the same time in a mischievous way.

Shortly after that, a little after 8am, Vernon was under the turret on the main deck, yelling as loud as he could at his buddy Dorie. “Dorie, Dorie, get the fuck down from that gun! Get down before you get killed. We are abandoning ship, Dorie! Can you hear me?

Dorie looked down at Vernon as if to say, I’m gonna shoot down another one of those Jap mother fuckers!”

Shortly later Vernon, Dorie and 100s of other shipments jumped overboard. They swam to Ford Island through burning oil, strafing and more bombs.

It didn’t look good for them in that moment. But survived they did… But many shipmates didn’t make it on that day.

Warriors never forget battle buddies who parish at sea or on land. “We will never ever forget them . ” Vernon would say in his mind over and over again the rest of his life.

Vernon would never forget his shipmates on that fateful day, December 7, 1941.

****

The National WWII Museum New Orleans

Doris Miller, USS West Virginia BB48 December 7, 1941, Awarded Navy Cross and Medal of Honor
Doris Miller
Nickname“Dorie”
BornOctober 12, 1919
WacoTexas
DiedNovember 24, 1943 (aged 24)
Gilbert IslandsGilbert and Ellice Islands
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branchUnited States Navy
Years of service1939-1943
RankCook 3rd Class
Battles/warsWorld War II
*Attack on Pearl Harbor
*Battle of Tarawa
*Operation Galvanic
AwardsNavy Cross
Purple Heart Medal[1]
Combat Action Ribbon

Doris “Dorie” Miller (October 12, 1919 – November 24, 1943)

http://www.pacificwarmuseum.org/index.asp

I was very moved and proud of America when visiting the National WWII Museum in New Orleans yesterday with Judy. I could not help holding back the deeply personal  and proud emotions of the personal connection with my Dad, who served on the USS West Virginia.

Dorie is recognized in the memorial and exhibit for his bravery while the USS West Virginia was torpedoed and sank in the harbor. 

The WWII museum is very powerful and includes a 4D  movie narrated by Tom Hanks, Beyond all Boundaries. http://www.nola.com/movies/index.ssf/2009/11/world_war_ii_museums_beyond_al.html It gave us the shocking reminder of the sacrifice world wide of  65,000,000,000 men, women, and children killed during the war. 

The number is staggering!  The 4D technology made us feel we were back in that terrible time and in the middle of WWII in every theater of the war.  Even the seats shook as various events occurred, including Pearl Harbor, Pacific and European theaters showing battles leading up to dropping the “bomb” and finally ending WWII.

I continue to feel grateful and personally touched on this journey while having the opportunity to visit America’s sacred places.  

These special moments provide a deeply spiritual and personal experience of the debt we owe to millions of people who died protecting liberty around the world.  If America had not come together as one to fight back, we would no doubt have a completely different world today. 

A world without democracy seems so remote and scary, but it is very clear to me that the Free World would not exist today if it had not been for the sacrifice and bravery of so many millions of men and women who in the military and in the private sector.

America built the most powerful fighting force in the world at the time.  My own “boomer” generation was especially blessed with peace and prosperity following WWII. 

I hope all of us born around the time of WWII have done our best to help preserve and protect our sacred liberties and freedoms we so enjoy to this day…

Now with 2021 on the near horizon, I ask, “have we done our best?” Have we?”

Steve Sparks
Author, US Navy 1963-65

Celebrating Democracy with Steve Sparks… Vernon’s Home Coming Christmas 1942… A love story…

Chrstmas 1942 Sparks Family WWII
https://www.navsource.org/archives/10/12/1202.htm USS Bellegrove LSD2 1943 Pacific War⁸
BMC Vernon H Sparks, Eight Pacific War Campaigns from 1943-45. Served as Chief Boatswains Mate (BMC) USS Bellegrove LSD2

In early May 1942, US and Japanese carrier forces clashed in the Battle of the Coral Sea. While both sides suffered major losses, the US Navy checked a major Japanese offensive for the first time.

Then, in the Battle of Midway the following month, US carrier aircraft dealt a devastating blow to the Japanese navy, destroying four aircraft carriers. The battle marked the first major US victory against Japan and was a turning point in the war. 


By shifting the balance of naval power in the Pacific, Midway allowed US forces to take the offensive for the first time. The Allies soon set their sights on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands and on New Guinea.”

Vernon was trained as a coxswain or steerman on a Landing Craft Mechanized — an amphibious landing craft also known as a Higgins Boat. This boat was designed to transport troops and equipment from ship to shore as necessary to conduct any military operation.

As many as 18 LCMs were carried by a Landing Ship Dock, a large “mother ship” loaded with all elements of a landing force necessary for a variety of expeditionary warfare missions. Coxswain’s were assigned to the LSD2 USS Belle Grove for the entire war.

Vernon’s next Pacific War duty, as a newly appointed Chief Boatswains Mate (BMC), would be the USS Bellegrove LSD2. Vernon dreamed, worked hard. Vernon proved himself as warrior, the best of the best at sea and on land.

Pearl Harbor Survivors, like Vernon, were treated with great respect and honor. Vernon never felt that way, though. He was serving America with pride, honor and duty. There was an enormous higher calling during that fateful time in history.

Vernon was already a highly trained and experienced coxswain. Vernon would man the LCM’s and lead coxswain’s on the Bellegrove during the 8 Pacific campaigns to follow.

Vernon was already a hardened warrior. Fighting was all he knew as a young man. A warrior, indeed. Vernon never recovered from too much war and trauma in his life.

Vernon didn’t see any of that back then. He thought about killing Japs who killed his best friend Roy Powers, and many of his shipmates on December 7, 1941.

*****

When Vernon finally arrived home with Marcella and little Jerry to their apartment on Scott Street in San Francisco he was so joyful. Marcella couldn’t believe her husband was finally home.


Vernon came home just after his 24th birthday. He was already a hardened combat veteran who survived the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor while serving on the USS West Virginia BB48.


Little Jerry kept saying repeatedly, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!” Marcella was busy in the kitchen while Vernon played with his son. He and Jerry seemed to enjoy each other. They laughed while Vernon talked to his son with love in his heart.

Vernon loved the Christmas tree and decorations. Marcella put a white blanket around the the table where the Christmas tree was.  This reminded him of Christmas in St Paul, but with sadness.


He missed his family in Minnesota but was happy not to be around them. Christmas was always a disaster back home, he mused with a smirk on his face, and said to Marcella, “I don’t want to go home to St. Paul, not now or ever.” 


Vernon was overwhelmed with tearful joy while hugging and kissing Marcella and little Jerry for a long time. It was a very special time that Christmas in 1942. The Sparks family was born.


Marcella had a little radio in the apartment too. That was special. They could listen to Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra singing favorite Christmas songs. Little Jerry loved “Jingle Bells with Gene Autry the most.


President FDR’s firm and reassuring voice on the radio was so important to all Americans during that time. 


America’s fighting men and families around the the world trusted their commander in chief. They knew President Roosevelt loved and cared about them and their families. 


“America would win WWII,” Vernon thought, as his mind was distracted from the brief joy of living in the moment during the holidays with his young family. 

Vernon couldn’t relax. He was full of anxiety. He couldn’t sleep. Marcella was worried about his nightmares and nervousness. He was soaked in sweat and shook uncontrollably at night.


The first night Vernon had one of his frequent nightmares, Marcella woke up scared and jumped out of bed. He was yelling, “close the hatch, close that hatch.” 

Vernon would be forever guilty about having to leave the men in the brig on board ship. The Marine with the keys was killed. Vernon would never forgive himself for that. 


Marcella tried to wake him with a hand on his chest and a hug, but he pushed her away. While she fell back on the floor, Vernon punched holes in the wall, and yelled as loud as he could, “Japs, the Japs are bombing us!” 


Marcella was frightened for the very first time while little Jerry was screaming with fear. She knew then what she already expected, Vernon was sick. 

Marcella then knew for sure her husband would be fighting a war with himself. She also knew she and the kids would be his shipmates fighting along side him. She knew this instinctively.

What she didn’t know though, is the entire family would be sick from WWII, for generations to come. It was the high cost of war.

Vernon was also drinking too much upon his return. Sailors could stay sober at sea, but stayed mostly drunk while on liberty. It was the only thing that could help keep the pain of war at a safe distance, for a little while at least.


But the the nightmares, anxiety, shaking, and sweating profusely returned every night while Vernon was home.

 
“It was no picnic at the beach,” Vernon thought, as he contemplated going back to sea. “My Country needs me,” he would say to Marcella with tears in his eyes.


It became very hard for Vernon to be home and around others who didn’t know much or understand his scary and troubling behavior.

It scared the “holy shit” out of me too,”he would say to Marcella.” “I don’t know what’s wrong with me, honey.” he would say with hands on his sweating face and shaking hands covering his face. Marcella didn’t understand panic attacks then.

 
“I’m so sorry,” he told Marcella with trepidation just about everyday while home on liberty that Christmas 1942.
Vernon’s mind was 24/7 locked and loaded. He would soon return to the Pacific on the USS Bellegrove LSD2 in Feb 1943. 


But he couldn’t talk to Marcella about that, “not once, not anytime, not ever,” he thought with a sad smile while hugging and kissing Marcella and little Jerry.

Vernon loved Marcella and Little Jerry with all his heart and soul. He was afraid he wouldn’t come home again…

This would be an all too brief visit for every Sailor preparing for the Pacific War. It was this way back then. America was at war…


Vernon also knew there was a 50/50 chance he would return home alive. But he didn’t talk about that either.

Vernon H Sparks BMC USS Bellegrove LSD2 1943-45

Finding My Soul in Icicle Valley… Special Memories…

Sarah , dearest daughter…

Dad’s favorite memories of Sarah…c1990

Memories of a special time…Leavenworth 25 years ago.

I often think about walking up our snow covered road to Shore St. when we first moved to our new home in the mountains.  Sadie came with us jumping around and having fun in the powder…it was very cold that year. Sadie loved her new home too.  It was the first time in my life that I felt truly free and living in the moment.  As a family we were blessed to find this special spot in paradise to raise our little girl and discover a more simple life style closer to mother nature’s gifts.  We never looked back…

For the first week we slept together upstairs with sleeping bags in our unfinished home.  You liked to sleep near us anyway. All these memories stay close to my heart.  I hope you remember too…

My most special memory is taking you to UVCS your 1st day in kindergarten.  You really wanted to get to school…no crying… I remember being surprised and happy at the same time.  You made lots of new friends. Each year there after we had flowers delivered to you in your classroom on your 1st day of school.

Happy Valentines Day!

Love you a bunch,

Pop

Dad, right after moving to Leavenworth Wa in 1990

“The Arsenal of Democracy” San Francisco 1942

USS San Francisco 1943…
Palace of the Fine Arts, Marine District, San Francisco
Palace of the Fine Arts, Marina District, San Francisco

Marcella and little Jerry settle in San Francisco at 1501 Scott St. near the Marina District close to the Golden Gate Bridge.

It was a time of joy and hope for Vernon’s safe return from Pearl Harbor…

It was also a time of great stress and pain for America. WWII mobilized the United States and its allies like no other time in history.

“The Arsenal of Democracy.” Franklin D Roosevelt

https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/World-War-II-reshaped-the-Bay-Area-and-its-people-3589894.php

What was it like in the Bay Area during WWII?

“After Pearl Harbor was attacked, the Bay Area became a centerpiece of what President Franklin D. Roosevelt called “the arsenal of democracy.”

Shipyards went up with lightning speed to construct the ships that would take the war to the Japanese in the Pacific. In San Francisco, the executives of the Bechtel Corp. got a telegram from the government on March 2, 1942, asking if the company would be interested in building and operating a shipyard on San Francisco Bay.”

So, Little Jerry was 14 months old in November 1942. He loved hanging out with his mom, especially at the park.

While Marcella sat on the bench next to the small lake at the Palace of Fine Arts, she dreamed of Vernon coming home. Vernon was somewhere between Hawaii and San Francisco sailing home.

There was very little communication back then, Marcella thought, “maybe Vernon would be home for Christmas.” She was already planning for his home coming.

Little Jerry, under the watchful eye of mom, watched the birds fly around the lake. He would point to the birds, and tried to express his awe and joy at the birds.

Jerry would grow up and join the Navy too. He served on the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier during Vietnam. He would be a warrior someday just like his father.

Marcella had a few bread crumbs to feed the birds while they waited for a treat. Jerry would beg his mom with his little hand reaching for a few crumbs. He looked up at Marcella to say, “Mommy, feed the birds, feed the birds, please, mommy!”

Little Jerry was just learning how to say a few words then. He was a very curious little boy. He loved to tinker with things.

Jerry was a good boy. “He hardly cried,” his mommy would say to friends. He was a happy little boy.. They were close. Little Jerry felt loved ❤ He was hugged then and often.

But that would change when his Daddy came home. Vernon would be joyful at times but upset and angry once he got home. Vernon wanted to return to the Pacific and fight the Japanese. Pearl Harbor changed Vernon forever.

Vernon was on a mission like no other in his young life. Vernon was a a fighting man, warrior first. America was at war!

Little Jerry thought every big tall man in a Sailor hat and uniform was his daddy. Mom showed him pictures often and talked about his Daddy.

There were many Navy and Marine military men strolling with friends in the the park. Jerry would look up as the young sailors walked by, reach out to them and yell out with his toddler cute voice and say, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!”

“Jerry wouldn’t remember this first visit after Vernon came home,” Marcella thought with sadness. It would not be until June of 1945 when WWII ended.

As Marcella gently put little Jerry back in the stroller to head back to their new apartment on Scott St., she looked lovingly at her son to say, “Daddy will be home soon, son, he will be home for Christmas.

So, the Christmas preparations were in full swing.

A little Christmas tree on a stand in the corner of the apartment was decorated. Candles glowed at night. “Santa is coming soon,” she would say to little Jerry. Jerry was just learning about Santa and the joy of Christmas then.

Little Jerry loved his 1st Christmas in San Francisco. He even met Santa at the Naval Base near home. He sat on Santa’s lap looking up with some speculation. Then pulled Santa’s long white beard.

Jerry loved to tinker with things. He wanted to know things. He also loved to be hugged. Little Jerry felt loved and secure with his mom back then.

Jerry would grow up and join the Navy too. He would be a warrior just like his father, Vernon. Jerry served on the USS Enterprise (CVN-65), during the Vietnam War.

Marcella still didn’t know if Vernon would come home. She and other Navy wives would gather often with little ones and pray their husbands would make it home safely for Christmas.

Marcella attended Saints Peter and Paul Church every morning and prayed that she would see Vernon’s ship sail under the Golden Gate Bridge any day.

But she didn’t no if or when… It was a hopeful but scary wait, a long long wait, Marcella said the rosary and prayed each day. Marcella’s faith kept her going.

Marcella knew Vernon would come home for Christmas to meet his first born son. She prayed and prayed, and said the rosary again, until Vernon returned home for Christmas on his birthday December 10, 1942…

Steve Sparks, Author, US Navy vet

Celebrating Democracy with Steve Sparks… USS Tennessee BB43, San Diego 1937

I imagine my father, Vernon, following bootcamp 1937, standing next to the big guns of the USS Tennessee Battleship. The young Seaman Sparks was preparing for his 1st sea duty. The Tennessee would sail off in March 1937 to the Philippines with a stop at Pearl Harbor. This would be the beginning of Vernon’s Naval career and WWII on the horizon, unbeknownst to him in that moment.

Seaman is a military rank used in many navies around the world. It is considered a junior enlisted rank and, depending on the navy, it may be a single rank on its own or a name shared by several similarly-junior ranks.”

Vernon was a rugged teen in St Paul. At 17 he was more than ready to get the hell out of the “shit hole” neighborhood where he grew up.

Vernon dreamed of “joining the Navy to see the world.” He thought of freedom. Freedom from being poor and hungry everyday. Freedom from hate and anger. Freedom from fighting to survive as a kid.

Vernon was tired of feeling trapped in a family preoccupied with so much emotional pain that there was little time for love at home. “Walking into his home was like stepping into a mine field,” he imagined.

America was in a deep depression. It was a very tough time. But for Vernon, he was a fighter, a warrior. Vernon found his calling. He would serve America!

There were no hugs or a welcome voice to be found. Only sadness and anger. Usually his sisters and mother were were yelling and complaining about his fathe. Al was all too often drunk in bar after his daily job painting some where near by in town.

Al didn’t know from one day to the next if he could work to put food on the table after spending much of his pay at the local bar. Sometimes he wouldn’t get home for a couple of days.

Vernon’s last Christmas at home in December 1936 was a “fuckin’ disaster!,” he mused with a little sadness, but with excitement about his future as as a Seaman aboard the USS Tennessee. Vernon was a Navy man now. He loved it from the get go.

“Why would I ever go back to St Paul,” he told his buddy Striker, as they downed a few beers and shooters at a popular water front bar, “The Sailor’s Hole,” where sailors and marines hung out. It was near the Tennessee and other war ships. They wouldn’t dare miss curfew!

After all, San Diego was beautiful in March. On this afternoon it was 70 degrees and sunny. The sail boats were out in the bay. The ladies of San Diego wore shorts and tops in the warm balmy weather.

Vernon and Striker could only gaze and dream of Hawaii and the Philippines.

Later in the evening before liberty curfew, at 12 midnight, Vernon and Striker walked up nthe bridge and asked, “permission to come aboard sir,” and Sparks and Sricker salauted at attention, so proudly, and walked aboard.

Both men would make America and the world proud, so proud forever… Honor and duty so important to both as they served America.

The USS Tennessee BB43 sailed away early that morning. Destination Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. They would cross the equator en route. This was a special Navy ritual, a right of passage.

Vernon never looked back. He and Striker would learn to be the best of the best Seaman and hardened warriors at sea when America needed them the most.

*****

Crossing the Equator

It was a way for sailors to be tested for their seaworthiness. When a ship crosses the equator, King Neptune comes aboard to exercise authority over his domain and to judge charges brought against Pollywogs that they are only posing as sailors and haven’t paid proper homage to the god of the sea.

Happy Thanksgiving! Sarah, Judy and Steve

Politics and Bible Thumping Ain’t Gonna Solve No Problems!

https://www.wbur.org/cognoscenti/2016/03/25/religion-in-politics-john-winters

“I’m about the furthest thing from devout, but even I have to admit that Jesus said some pretty amazing things. His main message, if I may be so bold as to summarize, was love and take care of each other.”

*****

I’m sick and tired of politics and the bible! They don’t mix and they don’t solve a single problem.

But that’s where we are in America and it’s getting worse not better.

Everytime I try to have a conversation about “loving each other and taking care of each other, it’s the same fucking stupid response.

“Trump is a fool and racist!” “Biden is a pedophile!” “Trump hates America!” Biden hates America!” “A good democrate is a dead democrate!” Or worse yet, things I don’t care to discuss any further, especially right now.

I think we are all fools if we don’t start talking about how to talk to each other again.

Stop it right now!

Stop thinking about us and them!

Stop whining, complaining and blaming everyone and everything.

Stop being judgemental. Stop being “holier-than-thou!”

Just stop this shit and start talking to each other about solutions. Leave Trump, Biden, religion, politics and other stupid shit at the door.

And, most importantly, leave your ego at the door to conversation out in the hallway…

Just stop it!!!

Steve Sparks

Steve Sparks, Depoe Bay Oregon

The Hawaiian Nation…Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941…

Ed and Carmen Clark, Little Whale Cove, Oregon

The Hawaiian People served too!

Meet our dear neighbors, Ed and Carmen Clark! Judy and I so appreciate their interest in contributing to our “Celebrating Democracy” series.

Both Ed and Carmen Clark were born in 1946 like me. We are proud members of the 46ers Club of Boomers.

Ed and Carmen were born and raised in Hawaii. They share a rich history and Hawaiian Nation heritage.

We both share a post WWII legacy as well. Our fathers, uncles & grandfathers served in the Pacific well before WWII and the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor.

Well before WWII, the South China Sea was a war front line. The Japanese invaded China during the 2nd Sino-Japanese War starting in 1937.

http://www.combinedfleet.com/SouthChinaSea_t.htm

The US Navy Pacific Fleet was out in force helping China fight back the powerful Japanese Navy at the time.

My father, Vernon, was serving on the USS Tennessee (BB43) in 1937-39, long before Pearl Harbor.

And this takes us to Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Now, the Sparks/Clark famlies team up to share the stories that need to be told.

We ‘Celebrate Democracy’ together.

This is a highlight from our conversation from the YouTube video above.

From Ed Clark…

“WWII was a time to learn and build our nation to protect our freedom.
But … during that time after Pearl Harbor, it was terror to the civilian population. No one tells the stories of the after effect of that terrible day, December 7, 1941.

Everyone was frightened with the unknown after effects – is there going to be an invasion?

My mother was in downtown Honolulu when the attack started. She didn’t know what to make of all the noise until she saw the planes over head.

Why she thought? Maybe it was for training. No one was running or hiding. It wasn’t until she got home was she told what happened.

Everyone was afraid of an invasion.

My father-in-law was hired to help pick up the dead for 50 cents a day. His stories of what he had to do made me cry and sooo sorry for the loss of lives.

I visited Haleiwa airfield where the two fighter planes took off. Off shore there is a trench that probably to this day holds the wreckage of a Japanese plane.

Edmond Clark, Depoe Bay Oregon

Veterans Day 2020

*****

Thanks again to Ed and Carmen! Telling the stories we have not told before is so healing…

Judy and Steve Sparks

Celebrating Democracy with Steve Sparks… Marcella Sparks, the train north to San Francisco fall 1942

While little Jerry slept in her arms, Marcella was transfixed on the beauty of southern California. She so enjoyed traveling the country on a train. Marcella remembered the fun ‘caboose’ stories as a kid growing up in St Paul.

Ohhh! “The orange groves,” she thought while smiling. Marcella loved fresh fruit…

Marcella always had strong faith and hope for her new family. “Vernon was coming home,” she screamed with tears of joy, but silently as her little precious boy was asleep. 

Jerry was smiling as he was held close and lovingly by his mom. He knew he was safe and secure. Little Jerry knew he was loved.

“After all,” Marcella thought. “I can’t imagine Vernon going back to war after Pearl Harbor!”

Little did she know that Vernon was already assigned to the newly commissioned USS Bellegrove LSD2. The Bellegrove would be commissioned in Feb1943. 

Vernon would be promoted to BMC in April 1943. A secret mission to Pacific was already in the making, and for many months starting right after the Pearl Harbor bombing.

Vernon could not share any of this with Marcella. And she knew it.

It didn’t take Marcella long to refocus back then and stand on her own. She’s a mom, a military mom and spouse. She had a WWII mission too… Keeping the home fires burning.

Marcella beleived she served too. Her family served. And grandparents served in WWI. She and Vernon toughed it out during the Greatest Depression as poor families.

Marcella looked out the window. She looked up and observed the tallest mountain peaks near Fresno, Ca.

Someone a couple of seats up yelled with excitement, “Yosemite National Park is up there.”

It was at that moment, Marcella, looked down at little Jerry, and said softly but firmly, “we can do this son!” We can do this!” As the tears flowed down her face. 

Marcella could cry back then… But that would change once there were no more tears to share…or shed.

From this moment of reflection, Marcella knew she was heading into fighting a war herself. 

Marcella would come to know hard combat as a warrior spouse.  The war would come home to the kitchen table every night for dinner. Vernon would be at war with himself. 

But she had no awareness or training on what she heard as “Battle Fatigue.” Vernon was diagnosed with this condition we didn’t understand back then. 

Battle Fatigue sounded like, she thought, “Vernon would need lots of rest before going back to sea.

Maybe the Navy Command would keep her husband home for awhile. Little Jerry needed to know his Daddy.

Marcella again tried to put those worries aside. She had to think about caring for her husband and young son.

Marcella knew Vernon would come home a different man. “Will I even know him?” She thought.

Marcella returned to more hopeful and positive thoughts. She dreamed of getting their new larger 2 bedroom apartment on Scott Street ready near the Marine District in San Francisco.

Marcella would wait for Vernon’s arrival. She dreamed of Christmas with her new family. It would be a beautiful time of love, and prayers. “Maybe we could go to midnight mass.” as she smiled.

When Jerry saw any sailor in uniform, he would yell out a sweat version of “daddy, daddy” to every sailor he saw while on errands with his mom.

Jerry would not get to know his father on this time. That would come much later. In fact, it would not be until June 1945, the very end of WWII. 

It was just like that for 10s of 1000s of men and woman who fought around the world for our freedoms. Vernon’s story repeats itself for 1000s of military families all over the globe who’s loved ones served years in hard combat. 

How can the human mind survive this kind of torture? We know more now but not then. 

I believe America won WWII because we fought together as one community of people. We fought for all of us, not just some of us.

Jerry, Marcella, Vernon and Stephen in mom’s arms summer 1946

Celebrating Democracy with Steve Sparks… Bishop Point Harbor Patrol, Pearl Harbor September 1942

While Marcella and Jerry were making arrangements to make a move to San Francisco, Vernon, was having a difficult time staying grounded.

The bombing of Pearl Harbor and ensuing weeks and months of Marshall Law, took its toll.


One night while out on the town near Waikiki Beach with his shipmates, Vernon got smashed. He and his buddies were already up tight from too much fighting, collateral damage, and stressful patrols around the islands. 


Vernon was loud and boisterous. He was tall 6’3″ with long arms and huge hands. He was mean and scary. No one dare fuck with Bos’n Sparks. He was known for beating the holy shit out of people who pissed him off. Think of “Popeye the Sailor Man.” 

There were a few other rowdy sailors and marines  in the club drinking and raising hell. It really looked and smelled like a fight would be inevitable before midnight. All lived with a midnight curfew during the war. Liberty was no more than 12 hours at a time, not everyday either.

About the time Vernon was tuned up for a fight, a marine he didn’t like came behind him with a sucker punch to the side of his head. Vernon fell off the bar stool to the floor. He was pissed off!

Vernon was so angry and drunk that everybody started clearing out while ‘boogy woogy’ tunes played loud.
Vernon got up yelling and chasing the marine antagonist asshole out the door.

A huge fight ensued between the two meanest warriors from the US Pacific Fleet. 


It was an ugly fight outside on the street next to the old Wang Poo Club in Honolulu, not far from Ft DeRussy (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_DeRussy_Military_Reservation on Waikiki Beach.)

The fighting warriors beat the holy shit out of each for at least 5 minutes before the Marine MPs arrived at the scene.


Both men were arrested and taken to the brig. They were also AWOL because the midnight hour curfew was missed by at least 10 hours. 


You are probably worried like me that Vernon would be in so much trouble that he might be confined to the brig and unable to go home.

This would be the final nail in the coffin for Vernon, he thought with hands shaking and severe anxiety.


But this was a time for kindness and empathy for the US Navy. Many marines and sailors as well as the locals were deeply traumatized.


Following is a quote from Vernon’s Naval record from that time. It was a God’s send…


“Section Base, Bishop Point, Harbor Patrol, 14th Naval District, Pearl Harbor, Oahu AWOL from 2000, 2 July 1942 to 0600, 3 July 1942, 10 hours. Tried on July 6, 1942 and confined for a period of twenty (20) days and $20/month loss of pay for a period of four (4) months per Deck Court-Martial.

On April 2, 1942, he was appointed BM1st class. On September 30, 1942, JAG remitted entirely that part of the sentence involving confinement because he “PARTICIPATED IN THE BATTLE OF PEARL HARBOR ON DECEMBER 7, 1941.”

In the meantime, Marcella and Jerry packed up and caught a train from Long Beach to San Francisco. 


The new family home would be 501 Scott St., San Francisco, Ca

Bro, Jerry, Mom and Dad and me July 1946