WITH THE FAMILY OF
JOHN WILLIAM RANGER,
This is William G. Cox. The date is
Hilton Hotel on the campus of the
In memory of the individuals that served on board the USS HOUSTON in World War II
As well as those that were in the Lost Battalion group. So today I am visiting with the
Family of John William Ranger who served on boards the USS HOUSTON. His wife’s
Name Joyce and son is here, Jerry Ranger. Without further ado, I would like to introduce
Mrs. Ranger and she will tell us a little bit about the background of Mr. Ranger when he
Was growing up in his family.
MRS. RANGER: Johnny
was born in
School in the Gillespie area. His father was a coal miner of German descent, by the name
John James Ranger, and his mother was American born Lithuanian who’s name was Ann
Cwinski Ranger. He had a brother, Albert Ranger, who also was in the Navy during the
War. He was raised with his uncle, Charles Navikas who lived with them in his growing
Up years. He was an avid athletic person. He had track medals that he won at different
Schools. He was a football player and he joined the Navy right after he got out of high
school. He joined the Navy and was finally taken on
East. He was an aviation machinist’s mate and worked on the airplanes onboard the USS
In that position, he was a phone talker for the captain on the bridge. He was a great man.
He was very well liked by all the men in his outfit and he’d do anything he could to help
Them. We were married for fifty-three years before he passed away, and we had two
Children, Jerry Dale Ranger and Jolene Nalani. He stayed in the Navy for thirty years.
MR. COX: When did he retire?
MRS. RANGER: He retired on
MR. COX: And he was deceased on what date?
MRS. RANGER: He died on
MR. COX: so he had several years after he retired from the Navy. What type of life did?
He lead when he retired?
MRS. RANGER: He had several different jobs. H was a manager of a TV store, he was a
Manager in charge of a concrete block factory, he worked for Air Products until they had
A lay off and he went out on the oilrigs for a few weeks, and just generally, most of time
Was with Toppe TV.
MR. COX: He worked offshore in the
MRS. RANGER: Right. He went to
Was there he worked as a security guard at the mine. He worked the scale at the coalmine
On the surface at that point.
MR COX: Did he have any hobbies or anything?
MRS. RANGER: No, he really didn’t have any hobbies. He had kids and we took care of
Them. We did things with the kids all the time. While he did worked on cars, so I would
Say that was probably his main hobby, just working on cars.
MR. COX: probably because he worked on aircraft he had a mechanical aptitude.
MRS. RANGER: He was very mechanical.
JERRY: Mostly Volkswagens.
MR. COX: Volkswagens? No Japanese cars.
JERRY: I hate to say that we did have some.
MRS. RANGER: Yeh, we did.
JERRY: He didn’t hold resentment against the Japanese.
MRS. RANGER: No, we did three years shore duty in
MR. COX: While he was still in the Navy?
MRS. RANGER: While he was still in the Navy.
MR. COX: So you had several years that you were more or less moving with him.
MRS. RANGER: Oh, yes, it was about twenty two years.
MR. COX: Could you tell us a little bit about some of these experiences?
MRS. RANGER: We spent three years in
Married when he was at
Also in the service they’re during the Korean War and the Viet Nam War, but his duty was
Keeping the planes going that were doing the fighting overseas. He was leading chief of
MR. COX: Okay, I think that’s fine. I’m assuming that your husband didn’t talk too
Much about his war experiences.
MRS. RANGER: No, he was a very quiet person and he didn’t discuss it hardly at all.
Most of the things that we have learned have been in newspaper articles. He did receive
The Silver Star and they had him up for the Navy Cross at one time, but it had been too
Long a period of time, and most of the people were dead that could substantiate his story.
So he never got that medal. I learned most of it through the books and the articles and
Talking to the fellow survivors at the reunions.
MR. COX: He was not ashamed of his Naval experiences.
MRS. RANGER: Oh, no! Why would he be ashamed of defending his county?
MR. COX: But he also didn’t brag about them.
MRS. RANGER: No, he was a quiet person. After family, the Navy was the biggest and
Most important part of his life. You get him around other military men and he would
Really talk, but any other time he was quiet around most people.
MR. COX: He would exchange stories but not overwhelm the people that weren’t
MRS. RANGER: Right.
MR. COX: Okay. If you think of something as we go along. Now, Mr. Ranger’s son is
Here also and I think he’s studied his father’s war records and also spent some time in the
Navy, and I think it would be an appropriate time for his son to address some of the
Things that his mother has not addressed. You might want to sit up a little closer. I’ll
Introduce the son, Jerry Ranger. He’ll explain a little bit more what he knows about his
Father’s war records.
JERRY: My name is Jerry Ranger and I retired from the military after 20 years. My
Father did not talk too much about his career or his POW life with me. So he kind of
Prepared me for going into the military. He never said to into the military, but through
My life, my discipline, and sports he made sure that I got discipline and I did everything
All Through my life until I went into the service, he basically wouldn’t talk about his
POW time. I’d only hear about it through the POW’s that did come by the house. I’d
listen in and get a little bit from them, and there were stories over the years that I didn’t
have names to go with but I had areas and things that he had done through the war.
There was a couple of things that he told me prior to me going into the Navy that stuck in
my mind and I try to pass on to my sons but they didn’t listen to me. One was if I was to
go into the service, not to get any tattoos’ cause they were identifying marks and who
ever took you as a POW could keep an eye on you because you were identified by your
tattoos. The other was that he had seen tattoos removed by the Japanese, they would
removed the tattoos off of the POW’s arms, backs and other parts of the body. Later I
found out that they were used for lampshades or wild decorations. The other one was
that if I had to abandon ships, since I did go into the Navy, to make sure that I took my
shoes when I went over the side, that a lot of the POW’s that went into the water, after
hours in the water or before they went into the water, discarded there shoes and they
went three years, and a half years barefoot and were really scarred up or lame from that
type of incident. the third was that I need to learn how to eat rutabaga, and I’ve never had
one, never tried one, but he told me I’d need to learn how to eat rutabaga.
MR. COX: Did he tell you why?
JERRY: He said that that was one of his main staples for a long period of time.
When they got out of one camp, toward the later part of his POW experience they got
Moved to an island where they grew rutabaga to eat.
MR. COX: Did your father visit with or tell you to anything at all about, you were aware
that he was given a silver star and other awards, did he ever relate any of those
experiences to you?
JERRY: Not really, but I did do some research and talking with POW’s at different
Reunions and reading. One of the officers that flew off the ship wrote a story about the
day he got his Silver Star which was February the 4th, a mile north of java, when the
Japanese re-attacked the USS HOUSTON in the straits and that they had just called away
the general alarm or air alert for the pilots to get the airplanes into the water. My father
was in the Aviation Division and he was responsible for the maintenance of the aircraft
and to help launch ’em and get ‘em off the side. They had an aircraft on the catapults that
was getting ready to fly off.
MR. COX: What was this pilot’s name?
MR. COX: Would you spell that, please?
JERRY: L A M A D E, I think it is. Lamade, Commander John d. He was in the catapult
Ready to leave. Well, the Japanese broke through the sky, and they couldn’t launch his
So he sat on the catapults waiting to be launched and the guns on the USS HOUTON
Started firing to keep the Japanese away. In the process of firing the guns on the aft part
Of the ship, it stripped the aircraft. The aircraft at that time were made out of cloth and
The Concussions from the guns going off stripped the aircraft of all of its cloth leaving a
Skeleton. At that time Mr. Lamade said for them to take the aircraft and put it in the
Hangar so that they could at least salvage the last two aircrafts they had onboard. In the
Process of getting the aircraft into the hangar, Japanese aircraft flew over and dropped a
Bomb, which went down the main mast hitting just behind turret three, putting a twenty-
Foot hole into the deck.
MR. COX: Now that would be in the forward section?
JERRY: No, this is the aft gun, Turret one is the first gun, second turret and then turret
three is the aft gun, which protects the back of the ship. The alarm sounded all over the
ship, which everybody hates to hear, that there is a fire onboard (turret three).
At this time the Aviation Division ran to the back part of the ship, to the stern, to see
what they could do to help in putting the fire out. As my dad was running, he noticed that
the ensign was not flying on the main mast, so he took it upon himself to run back to one
of the motor launch (ordinarily used when the launch carried liberty parties ashore),
around the poop deck where the motor launches launch away from the ship. He lashed it
to the stern stanchion of the ship so that the Japanese and sailors could see that the USS
HOUSTON was still a fighting ship. And if she was going to go down, she was going to
go down fighting with her colors showing. At this time, they found out that the repair
party two had been killed, so there was no action going on, nobody to put out any fires in
the aft part of the ship. My father ran and got into turret number three. Smoke was
coming out. He went in without protected clothing to see if his buddy, Russell Shelton
from Illinois, was okay. Everybody inside the turret was already killed and his or her
bodies were just laying around. My dad, with the help of lamade, who was handing him
the carbon dioxide flask that they break on top of the shells to put out the fire. Lamade
was outside handling the flask to my dad as the smoke was bellowing out. They write in
the book that the shells, the grease on the shells, were so hot that they were setting there
bubbling and hissing. My dad kept coming out and he kept getting flasks, he kept
breaking the flasks in there trying to suffocate the flames. He said that the powder bags
had just started to burn through. When some people brought a hose to the turret and
Lamabe handed the hose to my dad and they say just before the shells where getting so hot
that they where going to cook off and the ship was going to go down. The water came on
and he was able to cool all the shells down and flood it, which put the fire out. And that is
why he got the Silver Star. I think he was the only enlisted one to get a medal, and some
of the officers that assisted him were given the Silver Star, too. The surviving officer that
came back put him in for the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross, at
which time they gave him the Bronze Star which was later upgraded to the Silver star.
MR. COC: That’s wonderful. He had to be a very brave man to stand and do that
repeatedly and good training also.
JERRY: He acted just on instinct to do all this. Some of this we’ve gotten from the
research we did talking to one of the men that was in the crow’s nest above turret three
that was hit by the concussion. He watched the whole thing, my dad fighting the fire, the
officer telling him to get out of the turret just before they was supposed to cook off, and
they finally got him a hose to put it out.
MR. COX: Was your father, to your knowledge, injured in doing any of that?
JERRY: Not at that time, He was never hurt; he came out with just a lot of smoke. I don’t
believe he was hurt at that time.
MR. COX: It is my understanding that this was the first engagement with larger Japanese
JERRY: Yes, this is the first time that, well the Japanese had previously tried to sink the
USS HOUSTON, but Captain Rook did an outstanding job with his weaving through the
area that the bombs were missing the USS HOUSTON. But this is the first time that they
were overwhelmed by the Japanese air force that they couldn’t. The way they set up the
bombing run on’em, they were six hundred feet across and they were every so many feet
apart and they were dropping bombs right down the strait. There was no way that the
USS HOUSTON could get out of its way, and one of the bombs hit the main mast.
MR. COX: Were any of the Dutch ships still working at that time to your knowledge?
JERRY: I noticed that the MARBLEHEAD and one of the other ships, the EXETER,
were basically moved out of the area just in time.
MR. COX: The PERTH was still in the area?
JERRY: The PERTH was with them on February the 28th.
MR. COX: Yeh, that’s what I was trying to get a little time line as to which one was…
JERRY: On February 28th, which was the last night the USS HOUSTON was sailing, the
PERTH and EVERTSERN were with her when they went to the strait and ran into the
MR. COX: The third turret operation that was daylight or night?
JERRY: That was daylight. After that battle was over with, they went back to Australia
where they were trying to fix the ship but they were called back out to look for the
Japanese fleet again on February 28th. Turret three was totally out of commission, all the
shells and ammo had been moved up forward to turret one and two. Turret three had been
welded with its barrel up so it looked like it was working. When they went into the Strait,
they were not supposed to meet the enemy. There was no enemy supposed to be around
for two hundred miles. They were caught off guard when they went into the Strait at
night. They were trying to get through the Strait and up farther north but ran into the
Japanese fleet and a destroyer came around the rear of them, boxing them All they could
do was figure eights trying to get the torpedoes that were being fired from the Japanese
ship to miss them, and sink their Japanese fleet that was next to the shore. I believe, from
my reading, that there was twenty-two Japanese ships destroyed that night by the USS
HOUSTON and HMS PERETH.
MR. COX: That was the final engagement.
JERY: The final encounter was on February 28th; it was at night when they went into the
Strait. My father was a phone talker for Captain Rook and that night he was passing the
word down to the engine department and damage control.
When turret two took a hit, they moved from the coning tower. Captain Rook and his
crew moved to the starboard side of the ship to keep running the controls of the ship. My
father lagged behind to undo his phone cable, when a shell hit the starboard side of the
ship blowing up and killing Captain Rook and the sailor with him. My dad told us, that if
he hadn’t had trouble with his phones, he would have been killed too, that night. When
the Xo found out that Captain Rook had died, they abandoned ship. I was told that he
went down to the quarterdeck and there was nobody around. He decided to abandon ship.
He tied his shoes around his neck and the ship was listing to the starboard so bad that he
walked down the port side on the ship and into the water. Then he was in the water and I
just found out that he tried to avoid the Japanese when they tried to pick him up in the
liberty launch and one of the Japanese reached down with a boat gaffe and tried to gaffe
him. It went into his belt buckle and stopped it from going into his stomach, but it stuck
in his belt buckle. They pulled him from underneath the boat into the boat and that is how
the Japanese captured him. They took him to the shore and they gathered all the USS
HOUSTON and HMS PERTH survivors up and they lined them all up on the beach. He
mentioned that they had a jeep with a machine gun on it. He made sure that he was on the
rear of the lines away from the gun. He said as soon as they pulled on the trigger, he was
running. He said he was at least going to give them a fight and run away. But luckily, a
Japanese on a motorcycle came up and told them that they needed them to unload the
freighters. They took all the survivors and had them unload the ships. Then they put the
survivors on a ship for Burma, he worked on the death railroad. I’d always heard that
during the march, from camp to camp, that my dad had carried somebody. It wasn’t until
three year ago that I found out from Mr. Reas, that Mr. Reas was the man he carried. Mr.
Reas told me in his own words that he wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for my father.
MR. COX: Is that John?
JERRY: Yes. He’s a good man, but every time we get around him, he cries and I can’t
get too much out of him.
MR. COX: I did his oral history about a year ago an he was a nice man.
JERRY: He was the one my father carried during that march.
MR. COX: He had ingested oil in his lungs.
JERRY: And dad took care of him. While in prison camp, there were other people that
had come forward and said that my dad had assisted them and helped them from dying,
saving their lives. One of them was Mr. Johnson, Wayne Johnson. He was a good friend
of my father, and his daughter told me that he had pulled her dad off of the death piles.
The death piles were when the Americans or anybody couldn’t work, they were too weak
too work or they had died, the Japanese would just throw them in this pile, and you had to
work to eat. What little you got, you had to work to eat and if you didn’t work or what
ever, they’d would throw you into this pile to die. My dad went over to him and told him,
“Don’t give them the satisfaction, don’t give those Japanese the satisfaction of them
winning.” He talked him back out of the pile, and I think he gave him his portions of
rations to get him back in health, and they both came home together.
MR. COX: To do that particular effort probably endangered his life just coming over
there. The Japanese probably didn’t really like that.
JERRY: Well, true. They didn’t like a lot of things that he did. But there was another
incident where they played jokes on the Japanese. I think he told me that sometimes they
prepared their food for them. Later on in the last parts when they were in different camps
where they were better treated in a way. They would put bamboo shoots into the Japanese
salads, bean sprouts; they would mix bamboo with their bean sprouts, white slithers so
they would not know the different. Then the Japanese would drink sake or water or
whatever, they would swell up and give them a bellyache. Then there was another time
that they stole from the Japanese; the Japanese would get their Red Cross packages,
which they never gave to the POW’s so they stole some carnation milk. The Japanese
were so short, so when they’d line them all up, they would put their hands behind their
heads and they passed this can of milk while they searched them. When it got to the end,
the guy threw it over the fence to the Japanese guard and he didn’t want to get in trouble,
so he kicked it into the brushes because they would say that he stole it. So that was some
of the jokes that they played on the Japanese.
MR. COX: Did your dad ever talk to you about construction procedures or work
JERRY: “Bridge over Kwai” film cane on and he basically shook his head the whole time
saying, “No, that’s not the way it is.” The British built the wooden portion of the bridge
and they went and reconstructed it into the (change of tape). While the tape was changing
you asked me about the destruction of it? He did tell me that when they were building the
railroad through the jungles and to the mountains, that they didn’t get to use dynamite or
anything. Everything was done by hand. They chiseled through mountains, one of those
was the “Hell Fire Pass” which they lost a lot of men doing it because of the malaria and
beriberi and lack of food. But it was all done by hand. Everything was constructed by
moving big heavy iron and everything was done by rope and poles nothing basically as
we could do it today with machinery.
MR. COX: Did they ever use any powder of any kind in blasting?
JERRY: I have no knowledge of any powder. Everything he mentioned was by hand.
MR. COX: Did your father ever relate anything related to when they found out the war
JERRY: I believe, I’m not too sure, but I believe he said that they were in the last camp
and it was just like the Japanese just kind of deserted, you know, that they knew it was
coming to an end and they were more or less letting them do their own thing and that was
MRS. RANGER: Well, the papers were there for them to be executed when the war was
over, but the thing that stopped them was the atomic bomb. When that went off that
ended everything. The guards deserted.
MR. COX: Was your father, since he was earlier with John Reas, was he up there
working on the airstrip? John indicated to me that his last position when the war was over
they was completing an airstrip some place in there for the Japanese?
JERRY: you didn’t bring that, did you?
MRS. RANGER: No.
JERRY: He was in eleven different POW camps, and I don’t have it width me to let you
know which one was the last one. I don’t know where he was. Basically, he was in a
camp that was not as much torture and I assume was a little bit better.
MR. COX: I was kind of leading up to the point as how he got out of the remote area and
when he was rescued.
JERRY: well, once the railroad was completed, they moved them on to a different area,
to a different camp, and I don’t know if it was the airstrip.
MR.COX: Some of them came back to Singapore and they were there in the British
MRS. RANGER: I don’t think he was.
MR. COX: He probably flew. They probably evacuated them with aircraft someway.
That’s what I was trying to see if he related…
JERRY: they brought him to Calcutta, India, and toward the end’ cause that ‘s where he
survived the HOUSTON, ex prisoner, and he was treated at the nearest naval station in
Calcutta and then sent back to Albany, New York.
MR.COX: Mrs. Ranger, when did he return back to his hometown?
MRS. RANGER: He was given sixty days leave when he came back from the hospital,
and he was back about October’ 45. He came back on my birthday weekend.
MR.COX: well, what a nice birthday present! How long was it until you were married?
MRS. RANGER: we got engaged on my 18th birthday, October 1946.
MR.COX: many fond memories there?
MRS.RANGER: We got married in January 1947, but he came back off his POW leave
in October 1945, then they sent him to St. Louis for a while so that he would be close to
his own area. St. Louis is pretty close to his hometown. they tried toget them all back
where they could visit with their families and still be in the service.
MR. COX: did he spend quite a bit of time in and out of the hospital after he came back?
MRS. RANGER: No, he came back fairly healthy. He didn’t spend a whole lot of time in
the hospital. They all went through an examination and treatment and de-bugging and all
the things you would have to do with a person who had been in the jungle for all that period of the time.
MR. COX: Did he have any malaria?
MRS. RANGER: Oh, he had malaria; he had ulcers on his legs and feet. They all had that
when they came back.
JERRY: he got beriberi.
MR.COX: I understand none of them had any shoes at the point and time and worked in
loincloth more or less.
MRS. RANGER: Yes, they worked in loincloths. He brought some of those little
MR. COX: do you still have them?
MRS. RANGER: Uh huh, I got one, I know I found the other day. Actually all they are is
a little piece of material that is so long with a little string at the top of each one. They just
tied the string around their waist and that is all there was to it.
MR. COX: Horrible conditions. Do either of you have any other memories that you
would like to relate?
JERRY: No not really. He basically, well, he always stood there for me. He was a strong
man and we kidded him about being the John Wayne type figure. We would always buy
him some John Wayne items, but he was always there. Like I say, he pushed me in high
school and kept me in sports. There was couple of times I wanted to give up on sports
and he wouldn’t let me do it. He just stood by all through, and he didn’t want his career to
overshadow my career in the Navy. So when I went in, he told me this is your career, you
do your things. Don’t try to be like me, you do your own thing. And I had a very good
career in the Navy.
MR. COX: You consider him to be a real good role model?
JERRY: Yes. When he passed away, I didn’t really know how touched my sons had been
over him. They go up and spoke at his funeral.
MR. COX: And how old were they at that time?
JERRY: twenty-one, he’s twenty-three now. Twenty-one and twenty-four.
MR. COX: Young adults. What careers have they taken off on?
JERRY: Well, one of them has tried to get into the military, but the military, he left
school early and got his GED, and the military doesn’t look at the GED like everybody
else. So they basically haven’t really worked with him getting in. now, he resigned to
being a plumber, both of them are plumbers. They both were electricians and both of
them are now plumbers. And they’re doing fairly good.
MR. COX: Are they in business for themselves?
JERRY: No, they both work for different companies.
MR. COX: How many years did you spend in the Navy?
JERRY: I spend twenty years.
MR. COX: So you are retired from the Navy?
JERRY: Yes sir.
MR. COX: And you currently have a profession.
JERRY: Yes sir, I work for the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s department in the jail
division. It would have been about thirty years if I had stayed in. Thirty years this year.
MR. COX: So you’re working on your second retirement?
JERRY: Yes, I can retire now from the sheriff’s department now because the state of
Florida has six years in high risk retirement, but I can’t collect it until I’m fifty-five. So
I’m going to give another four years.
MR. COX: And if you did retire, would you consider another career?
JERRY: My wife and I have thought this out and planned for us to see the world or see
the United States. I think there was one regret that my father had was that he never made
it to Alaska. But there’s Australia and some other places throughout the United States
that I haven’t been yet. My wife and I are going to travel for two years in a RV and come
back, and she’s pushing me to work. She’s a Disney nut and we have found some jobs at
Disney that we could start now. It’s more or less in my field, which Disney does not
announce that they have these job because they’re under cover as family members to
catch the shoplifters.
MR. COX: You obviously like to work with people.
JERRY: Yes, I would like to work with a better group of people (laughter) if they made a
better inmate then I would stay. Yes, I would like to work on the other side of the fence
and be in relationships. One year I had three jobs. I worked with the sheriffs department
in the jail, I worked with the sheriff’s department or FEMA during Opal, the hurricane
that hit the Gulf Coast, and my third job was working Auto Zone and I really loved that
one because I was helping people.
MR. COX: If your father were somewhere ready to communicate, what do you think your
father would think of you today as what you’ve done with your boys?
MRS. RANGER: His father was very proud of him. The fact that he did the twenty years
in the service and he came out and working for the sheriff’s department. He’s always
been very very proud of him.
MR. COX: Did your father have a religious background of any kind?
MRS. RANGER: No.
JERRY: Speaking of that, you just brought something up that while they were POWs he
believed in God but did not go to church. He would debate with preachers that came to
the door trying to push it on him. This came from his POWs days. My father smoked
while he was a POW and for them to have paper to roll their cigarettes up with, they
would memorize a page of the Bible. I believe there were five in their little group with
Dad who would memorize; they wouldn’t use the piece of paper until everybody had
memorized that page of the bible. Then they would roll it up and smoke it. He learned the
Bible through that method.
MR. COX: Did he say how they got their tobacco?
JERRY: No. That’s why I hesitated because I couldn’t remember if it was tobacco or
could have even been from bananas, or orange rinds and all other sorts of stuff that was
around that they could make into tobacco.
MR. COX: Maybe there was some pot over there in the jungles, who knows?
JERRY: I wouldn’t go so far as that, but pot grows everywhere. They would smoke and
when he came back he smoked. But he told me that he did roll the paper from the Bible
and that he did learn the Bible. He could sight verse by verse to anybody that came to the
door. I thought that it was hilarious.
MR. COX: It’s interesting that they managed to have a Bible.
JERRY: Well, somehow they had one and they memorized it.
MRS. RANGER: They had a lot of thing like that. They even had little radios that they
put together, so they knew what was happening in the outside world. They built them in a
little bamboo pole. They assembled them inside and the Japes didn’t know they had them.
MR. COX: How ingenious those people had to be. Of course, they had some experience
in electronics to some degree. They had some principles but in order to get the materials
to do it with.
JERRY: When I was growing up, one of my projects for Boy Scouts was to build a radio
and my father showed me how to do it by just using a cardboard cylinder and wrapping
wire around it and sticking it up and taking another piece of metal and a little transformer
that I could get and it was only made from four different pieces. I could pick up one
station in our local area with that radio. And I just threw that radio away the other day
when I was cleaning out the down stair area.
MR. COX: Did your father help make it?
JERRY: He helped me make it. He showed me how to make it and I made it for the Boy
Scout and got my merit badge in that field. Anything can be made from just minimum
stuff and he showed me how to do that. He also was big into the Boy Scout but he didn’t
like to camp. Once out of the POW camp he didn’t like to camp but he did once or twice
go camping with us.
MRS. RANGER: There’s another thing. He would never let me put a fence up when my
kids were little. He would not have a fence around the house because of his prisoner of
war days. And you would never touch him to wake him up. If you reached over and
touched him on the shoulder to wake him up, he was at the end of the bed standing
straight up because that was how they alerted each other when they were in prison camp.
If a plane was going over and was bombing the area, our planes going over bombing the
Japanese, they would just reach over and touch the shoulder of whoever was next to
them, and they’d all go wherever they needed to go to be protected. For years he was like
that at home, you could not touch him when he was asleep.
MR. COX: Four year under the condition they lived under, you’d have to be absolutely
emotionally destroyed almost. You’d just have to create a whole new way of thinking
about survival, I would think. Is there anything else you would like to add?
JERRY: We, the grandson and us miss him and wish he was still here.
MRS. RANGER: He loved his grandsons.
MR. COX: Is there anyway that you commemorate his memories as a family? Do you
ever discuss it as a family group?
JERRY: He didn’t ever apply for his Purple Heart while he was alive. I pursued it after
his death and we just received it. The grandkids have come over to mother’s house,
where we have an “ I love me” wall with all his stuff on it from his boot camp pictures.
My boot camp picture and his boot camp picture are right above each other, and the
picture of the HOUSTON, with all the officers and enlisted men.
MRS. RANGER: His boot camp picture is up over the door with all the guys in their blue
JERRY: There’s two picture of his boot camp. And they have one when he retired form
the Navy, where all the officers and chiefs donated an emblem from their collar devices
and a gentleman etched every name in the squadron on the board, and a picture of him in
boot camp and a picture of him retiring on it from VT3. Yes, I think the kids still, every
time they come over, there’s no way of missing the area that we have set up. The reason
we’re here today is to make sure he isn’t forgotten, that he did receive several medals, the
Silver Star, which we’re still trying to upgrade to the Navy Cross or higher.
MR. COX: Since you have that written down, would you like to read them. That’s quite a
list by memory.
JERRY: Like I say, he received the Silver Star. For what he did on February 4th, 1942.
He was given the Bronze Star at first, and they rescinded it and upped it to the Silver
He was given the Air medal for actions from December 8th through March of 1942. He
was given the Presidential Unit Citation award to the HOUSTON for actions from
December 7th, 1941 to February 28th, 1942, assorted Good Conduct medals, the Asiatic
Fleet campaign medal, American Defense service medal with fleet class, WWII Victory
medal. He was just given the Korean medal, he was given the Chinese medal that we
received the paper but they have run out of the medal so he will not received the medal,
and he just got his, after fifty eight years after the sinking of the HOUSTON, he received
his Purple Heart medal.
MRS. RANGER: He also got the Prisoner of War Medal.
JERRY” Prisoner of War medal, too.
MR. COX: Since you mentioned the Korean War, did he serve on board a ship during the
MRS. RANGER: No, he was on shore during that time. He was working on the planes
that were going out.
MR. COX” He served during that period?
MRS. RANGER: He served during that period; He’s classified as being in the Korean
JERRY: He was in Guam during the Korean War. He was still in the theater. What I
was told was once you have a ship shot out from underneath you, you don’t go back
aboard. And being an aviation rating, he went to bases close to the campaign but was
never really in Korean. He was in Guam, Wake, and Hawaii during the Korean War.
MRS. RANGER: During the German Berlin airlift, he was at Moffitt Field in California
sending the plane from there. He was supposed to go on those planes but for some reason
he didn’t make the flight himself. But he was sending the planes that were going out
MR. COX: Probably his war experiences more or less honored him in a way that he
wasn’t potentially subjected to a similar type of treatment.
JERRY: They basically kept him away from being captured again.
MR. COX: Not openly, but they did.
JERRY: Yes, The same way they don’t send two brothers to the same ship or war zone.
MR. COX: Four years of prison camp, you certainly wouldn’t want a man like that
captured and subjected to it again.
JERRY: Basically, since he did stay in thirty years, made a career out of it, in fact, he was
kicked out. He wanted to do more. He didn’t want to retire. The Navy has been his life
since high school, and that ‘s all he really knew, and he didn’t want to leave it.
MRS. RANGER: He loved it. But it was mandatory that they get out at thirty years at that
MR. COX: We’re about ready to kick off here, I’m going to thank you on behalf of the
National Museum of the Pacific War, I would like to thank both of you for taking the
time to come in here and relate Mr. Ranger Experiences. Also on behalf of myself,
because at my age if it hadn’t been for people like him I’d probably have wound up in a
Japanese invasion. So I’d have to salute him for his efforts, and thank you again.
Transcribed January 30, 2003 by Eunice Gary.