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Joe attended boot camp at Farragut Naval Training Station, Idaho. He was assigned as a seaman aboard the USS Aulick, DD569, a Fletcher class destroyer. He caught his ship at Bremerton, WA. The Ship was part of a task group (battleships and cruisers), protecting and guarding the waters in the South Pacific. There were 350 sailors on board. The ship earned 5 battle stars for her WWII service.

On November 29, 1944, at 1750, the USS Aulick was attacked by six Japanese kamikaze planes in Leyte Gulf, Philippines. One of the planes struck the starboard side of the bridge with its wingtip, continued forward and downward, and exploded near the bow just above the main deck. The explosion set the number 2 gun and handling room on fire. Metal fragments killed several men on the bridge and flying bridge. During the action, thirty one crew members were killed, 64 were wounded, and 1 was missing.

One of the planes that hit the ship exploded near Joe, and he was blown off the ship and into the water. Joe was hit with a lot of shrapnel. To this day he still has shrapnel in his back. He was bleeding a lot and was concerned about being shark food. He was pulled into a raft where he spent several days with a few other sailors. Hope and prayer got him through those days while waiting to be rescued. “I was praying up a storm. Hoping we were not going to be shot by Japanese fighter planes or ships and if so, hoping we would survive the attack,” recalls Joe.

They were rescued by American ships and taken to the U.S. Naval hospital in Guam. Eventually Joe was transferred stateside. Joe received the Purple Heart for his injuries suffered in that engagement.

Joe is a member of the VFW Post 5061, Denver, CO.

Side Note: The USS Aulick survived the attack and proceeded to San Pedro Bay to transfer the wounded and make emergency repairs.

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