Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

Local News

June 6, 2014

Joining Navy was James Edwards' ambition

GLASGOW — James Edwards wanted to join the U.S. Navy from the moment he saw his first sailor, a young man who lived up the street. That was in 1937.

He had been told he could join the Navy at the age of 17 if his parents signed for him.

Edwards of Louisville did his best to persuade his parents to let him join, and they finally gave in. He wound up dropping out of high school to enlist.

“In those days, it was hard to get into the Navy,” Edwards said Friday during a press conference for the Midway Island Reunion at First United Methodist Church in Glasgow. “It took me about a month to get into the Navy.”

He needed some dental work and was about a half inch too short.

After getting his teeth fixed and  “stretching” a quarter of an inch, Edwards was finally enlisted.

“I joined in January of 1941,” he said. “They issued us all rifles. I was a smart aleck kid. I said, ‘What am I supposed to do with this?’ I said, ‘I joined the Navy so I wouldn’t have to carry a rifle.’ He explained to me that (I) couldn’t make a sailor up there. ‘You’ve got to go to sea. We will make a soldier out of you first.’ “

From the Great Lakes, Edwards went to Pearl Harbor aboard the USS New Orleans.

“That ship saw a lot of action during the war,” he said.

Before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the USS New Orleans transported Marines to and from Midway Island. It was the first time he had seen Midway.

“I tell you it didn’t look like much,” he said.

When Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese, Edwards was in the navy yard.

The ship was cut away from the dock, but lost all of its power, causing sailors to form an ammunition line and pass shells from man to man.

When the USS Yorktown was torpedoed, the USS New Orleans towed it back to Pearl Harbor.

“We came in that morning and sailed that afternoon with the Enterprise for Midway,” he said.

Edwards managed to get off the USS Enterprise at Guam. He returned to the mainland to attend hydraulic school and was assigned to a destroyer escort and set sail.

From there, he went back to Pearl Harbor and was readying for the invasion of Japan when the Germans surrendered and the war ended.

The war ended on his 22nd birthday. He still had two years to serve when the war ended. Edwards was discharged from the Navy while stationed in Seattle.

“I wouldn’t take nothing for my Navy experience, but I sure don’t want to do it again,” he said.

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