I avoided death three times in World War II.
The ship I was serving aboard during the spring of 1945 was operating with a taskforce off the coast of Japan.
Because the air was so stale in our sleeping compartment, I sometimes slept in a hammock on the forecastle where the air was fresh. As I crawled into my hammock one night, little did I realize that we were headed into a typhoon where the waves would grow to a height of 100 feet.
Luckily, before the waves grew that high, the spray woke me up -- and when I put my hand down beside my makeshift bed, I discovered two feet of water beneath me.
Wide awake, I moved at maximum speed to the nearest hatch and scampered inside. The next wave would have washed me overboard as it did some 20 men sleeping on the catwalks around the flight deck, which is 90 feet to the waterline.
On another occasion I contracted what the old salts referred to as “cat fever,” which results in a temperature of about 101, accompanied by a general nauseous and achy feeling.
I knew the sick bay area was in a fairly restricting location, which led me to believe it might be difficult to get out of in case of emergency. Deciding not to turn myself in, as did the drummer of our band, I stood my midnight to 4 a.m. communications watch after which I hit the sack.
That morning we were hit with the 500 lb. armor-piercing bombs from the Japanese. When the first bomb exploded, I bounced up in the air about a foot from my bunk. And the first breath I took smelled of explosives and burning steel.
I made a mad dash toward my battle station to discover it in blackness and filling with smoke. We called damage control only to learn they were trapped by fire and smoke. We then formed a human chain and made it to an area where we could breathe.
Because I had opted to skip breakfast that A.M. -- didn’t have much appetite and wasn’t feeling well -- I missed getting killed by one of the bombs which exploded right next to the chow line.
Later on I learned that all the patients in sick bay died due to suffocation. In all, more than 700 lost their lives that fateful morning.
God must have been listening to all those prayers going up to bring me through it safely and decided to answer them affirmatively.
I thank Him every day and don’t take any of His blessings for granted.