Birthday: August 22, 1924
Birthplace: Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin
Family: Beatrice and Frank DuPree
Occupation: worked one year at Prentice Waber and then went to work at the Wisconsin Rapids post office in 1947
Branch: US Navy
Unit: USS Anchor AR13
Post: Machinist Mate on board a salvage ship
George DuPree chose to enlist in the Navy after leaving high school in January of 1942. However, he wasn't officially a member of United States Navy until February 13, 1942. He went to the Great Lakes Training Station, along with several other training camps. Afterwards, he was sent to the West Coast. It was here that George recalls his first ship, "The first one I was on was a sailing ship. That was the summer of 1942. They had very few ships on the West Coast at that time because they had given them to Russia and England. So they took the big yachts away from the rich people." These ships would "patrol to see if any ships or planes were around since we didn't have radar then. They also sent weather reports to the mainland."
Next, George was transferred to a small salvage ship called an ARS13, which left the U.S. in January 1943. "On these salvage ships we raised wrecks off the bottom (of the harbor) with divers and dynamite and cranes would pull them up from the bottom. We would go in after an invasion and then clear the harbor of sunken ships so they could use the harbor again. Then we would take it out into deep water and drop it down where it wouldn't bother anyone. Sometimes when we blasted, it would knock dead bodies from the bottom and they would float to the top." Sometimes they also "had to tow great barges from one island to another and we could only go about eight to nine knots, that's about ten miles per hour. They wouldn't send anybody with us because no one wanted to go that slow."
Onboard the ship, "I would be in the engine room for hours watching the engine and machines. Then you'd have eight hours off. In the daytime when you had your eight hours off you had to do other things. I was in the machine shop where I did machine work."
Living onboard ship meant living without the comforts of home. He missed fresh milk and ice cream the most. Onboard ship you had either condensed or powdered milk. However, he said, "We had good food. We had ham and sweet potatoes every Saturday night and beans every Wednesday and Saturday morning for breakfast." Although everytime they could, "we made sure we had something good to eat in a restaurant (on liberty)." He also recalls, "One year we crossed the International Date Line on Thanksgiving, so I had two Thanksgiving dinners." George would also receive food from back home. "The best tasting thing I ever got was when my mother sent me a big sausage." He also had to adjust to a very small income. "My pay when I went in the Navy was $21 per month. I took out five dollars for insurance and I smoked back then, so that took care of the rest of it!"
During the early summer of 1945, George's unit was working on Okinawa. "They were still fighting on it when we were there. Everytime they took an island they just blew all the trees off so there were no trees left. They were still fighting and bombing when we were there doing salvage work. That was the worst part."
While being at sea, George remembers being on the ship for long periods of time. "There were times we didn't get off the ship to go ashore for six months at a time." This made it difficult for the sailors to attend church services. "The only time you got to go was when you were by an island and they had a priest there. He would say mass on the back end of a truck."
George's ship and crewmembers were very fortunate to seldom be attacked or bombed. He said, "Small ships didn't have to worry about being bombed. The whole time, we only had one guy wounded on our ship."
During the war, George was able to contact his brother. "I saw my older brother three times, in Honolulu and Okinawa." Their mother would write to the boys and tell them where the other one was stationed. He remembers going out to a bar in San Francisco with his older brother. Even though George was younger, "they asked my brother for his ID, but he never asked me!"
"When the war was over, I recall that they would bring these Japanese ships that were around there and bring them into the docks. We were on this one with cockroaches this big!" (He indicated they were the size of a corn of cob.) "We never saw cockroaches that big before!"
"I got out on December 10, 1945 The last time we left the States was New Year's Day in 1943 and we didn't get back `til December 1945. That was a two-year stretch. Out of forty-seven months that I was in, I had thirty-six months at sea." George was relieved and very happy that the war was over. After the war, there was no housing for veterans, so he helped build apartments for veterans and later worked for the U.S. Postal Service.
under Learn and Serve American Grant #00LSFWI104