HM1 John Peck U.S. Navy (Ret) (1942-1966)
HM1 John Peck
U.S. Navy (Ret)
WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE MILITARY?
My father was a Submariner in WWI, he served aboard the first submarine to transit the Atlantic under its own power (USS-E-1), left US SubBase, New London, CT and transited to the Azores and was on patrol in the North Atlantic.
My desire was to follow in his career, but I could not make the SubForce due to health restrictions. My service was all that I desired and it taught me all of my life’s memories. I will pass this Navy life to my grandchildren. I met many fine shipmates and made friends from all over the world. My service during WWII was a great experience, I married a Navy Lady (WAVE) and learned more from her in many years of marriage.
I served with many fine Doctors and Nurses and learned a great deal of life experience, they trained me well and I went out on retirement with a lot more of schooling than I would have received in a learning facility.
WHAT WAS YOUR SERVICE CAREER PATH?
In August 1942, I joined the US Navy. After awaiting a call, I had signed up in May of 1942, but they were only taking Reserves at the time and I was told to wait until my draft notice had been assigned. After being sworn in at the Main Recruiting Center in New York City, we were told to report to Grand Central Station for transport to NTS, Newport, RI for basic training. After basic training, an Officer Interviewer assigned me to Hospital Corps School at Great Lakes, IL (eight weeks of basic school, plus one week of nursing). My next Command was at USNH at Portsmouth, NH (the one in New England, not VA). I spent six months at that command and was promoted to PhM 3rd class within a four month training period. I reported to US Naval Recruiting Station in Portland, ME (Casco Bay Section Base Command).
While on leave in Nov 1943, I got married to a WAVE at NavSection Base, Portland, ME. She was a translator (French) for the Navy of Canada. On returning to my command, my duty chief told me my orders came in to report to USS Refuge (AH-11) at Philadelphia, PA. We sailed for Oran, North Africa after a shake down and sea trials.
DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN COMBAT OPERATIONS? IF SO, COULD YOU DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE SIGNIFICANT TO YOU?
Yes, the USS Refuge was assigned as a HosShip to transport POW’s (German and Italian) from the North Africa Campaign to hospitals in CONUS. Our first trip was from Tangier to Charleston, SC (US Army Base). At sea we traveled along without an escort and our crew was Med personnel, Nurses (55) female and Red Cross Women. Entering and leaving a port the ship always streamed for mines.Our CAPT was an ex-merchant skipper and he always wanted to be at sea.Three other trips from Southern France and Med ports to Norfolk, VA. My final cruise on Refuge was from France (1944) to Belfast, North Ireland. We were awarded three campaign awards for service.
Assigned to USS Rehoboth (AVP-50) in the South Atlantic, we carried ammo, hi-octane gas for blimps, stores and personnel for air bases in the Southern Atlantic region. We always traveled alone, making ports in the Caribbean and South America, and always on the look out for wolf packs (German submarines) that were present in the Southern Atlantic. The German Navy had merchant ships that were actually gun-boats (Q-Ships) and flew flags of various nations, ie: Spain, Swiss, Portugal, then would open fire on Allied ships from concealed gun ports. Awarded Atlantic Campaign with battle stars.
FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?
Meeting and marrying my wife of 67 years and the following:
FEB 1962: USS Randolph (CVS-15) was assigned to become flag ship for the Recovery Force (Atlantic) for the NASA project of LtCol John Glenn, Astronaut. Randolph was sent on station in the Caribbean to await the “splash down” of the Mercury Capsule. NASA asked for Corpsman to assist in the medical issues concerning the project. As the only AVT aboard the recovery vessel this writer was TAD to NASA. My assignment was in the isolation chamber aboard the carrier. The capsule of the Mercury Flight was dunked in the sea after entering the area. USS Noe picked up on radar and made speed to his landing. LtCol John Glenn was transferred to Randolph for examination and Isolation. President Kennedy awarded the Recovery Force the Presidential Unit Citation.
OF THE MEDALS, AWARDS AND QUALIFICATION BADGES OR DEVICES YOU RECEIVED, WHAT IS THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?
During the Korean Conflict, on board USS Leyte (CV-32) the entire ship was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation and the Navy Unit Citation for action against the North Korean Forces, (Sep 1950-May 1951). I served with the Seventh Fleet after transit from Norfolk, VA to Japan, under a record speed for transit through the Panama Canal.
We lost the first black aviator in Action, LT Jesse Brown. He was shot down by a MIG and his wing man attempted to go to his rescue, crashing his plane in a snow bank, and then awaiting for a helo. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. I was assigned as Flight Deck Corpsman in Repair Eight. For action in Korea, we were awarded three combat stars.
The USS Leyte covered the battle for Chosin and the Yalu crossing of the Chinese.
WHICH INDIVIDUAL PERSON FROM YOUR SERVICE STANDS OUT AS THE ONE WHO HAD THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?
My mentor was an MSC Officer (LT Carl Simmons). He was my division officer on the USS Randolph (CVS-15). He taught me many ways of approaching a problem: never drop your sense of direction and always look it up. Admit it if you think there is a problem and find a way to solve it. When it was time for Quals he always explained your good and bad points. I thank him for his good insight.
CAN YOU RECOUNT A PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM YOUR SERVICE THAT WAS FUNNY AT THE TIME AND STILL MAKES YOU LAUGH?
At the time of the final days of WWII, all hands looked forward to being released from active duty. The USNR personnel needed points to get to the top of the list, all hands would discuss their points and try to out guess a shipmate.
As I was a USN (regular Navy) this did not apply to my status, most of division personnel would kid me, and call me a “Lifer”. I took it in stride and still laugh when I think how these people served and “won the war for us”. These points were assigned for time in service, time overseas and/or sea duty, medals awarded, basic good conduct and rank or rating if needed at the conclusion of WWII.
WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER THE SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT JOB?
Computers were just advancing when my time for retirement was close and I made arrangements to go back to school and learn this new way of communicating. IBM gave me a four months course in the “old IBM punch card system”, then I went to work for Sears.
HOW HAS MILITARY SERVICE INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND CAREER?
My life changed for the better, as a young man I had very little education and worked prior to my Navy service. All of my life experience was given to me along with a GED, many college courses and Navy Training Schools. I had grown up through the depression years and had to forgo all training or education. When applying for work, the Navy Discharge was held in high esteem.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR THOSE THAT ARE STILL SERVING?
Stay the course. How many times I have heard, “Only if I had stayed in the service”.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU MAINTAIN A BOND WITH YOUR SERVICE AND THOSE YOU SERVED WITH?
I enjoy reading and seeing young men and women experience a service career. The system has changed, the pay now is great and advancement is outstanding. We did not have the Senior and Master rates. To Together We Served I say “Well Done”.