My direct ancestors did not serve in any wars or military conflicts after the Civil War. They were either too old, or too young to serve. However, my uncles and great uncles did serve the nation honorably in every military conflict thereafter. Today I want to write about my great uncle Fred Ghee. Fred was born 16 April 1924 in Marshall County, TN. Like most southern boys of his age, he grew up on a farm with six brothers and sisters. His oldest brother was my grandfather, Grady.
Fred enlisted in the United States Navy on 29 May 1945. He was barely 21 years old. I can not imagine what that must have been like for my great grandmother. She was the sweetest lady I had ever met and loved her children greatly. As a child, I can remember going to her home and how I loved listening at a distance to her and my grandfather talking. Their laughter would ring out across her farmland and there was something comforting to me as a child knowing that there was such love between my great grandmother and her little boy as she called my grandfather, a man already in his 70s.
This picture was taken of my family sometime around 1945-1946. I am not sure if this was taken when Fred was ready to ship out, or if it was taken while he had shore leave. But every time I see it, I wonder how it must have been for my great grandparents who had lived their entire lives in Tennessee and who had most likely never traveled more than 50 miles from home their entire lives to know that their son was fighting in a World War on the other side of the world.
My Uncle was stationed on the USS Colorado from the time of his enlistment in May 1945 until he was transferred to the USS Bon Homme Richard in April 1946.
“Returning to occupied Okinawa on 6 August (1945), Colorado sailed from there for the occupation of Japan, covering the airborne landings at Atsugi Airfield, Tokyo on 27 August. Departing Tokyo Bay on 20 September, she arrived at San Francisco on 15 October, then steamed to Seattle, Washington, for the Navy-Day celebration on 27 October. Assigned to Operation Magic Carpet duty, she made three runs to Pearl Harbor to transport 6,357 veterans home before reporting to Bremerton Navy Yard for inactivation“-Wikipedia
How exciting this time must have been for a 21 year old farm boy, but at the same time I imagine he was incredibly homesick. His daughter said many letters went back and forth from him and his mother during this time period. According to his muster roll, Fred is transferred to the USS Bon Homme Richard in April 1946.
The “USS Bon Homme Richard went to the Pacific in March 1945, and in June joined the fast carriers in the combat zone and took part in the final raids on Japan. With the end of hostilities in mid-August, Bon Homme Richard continued operations off Japan until September, when she returned to the United States. Operation Magic Carpet personnel transportation service occupied her into 1946. She was thereafter generally inactive until decommissioning at Seattle, Washington in January 1947.”-Wikipedia
“Operation Magic Carpet was the post-World War II effort by the War Shipping Administration to repatriate over eight million American military personnel from the European, Pacific, and CBI theaters…With the final arrival of 29 troop transports carrying more than 200,000 soldiers and sailors from the China-Burma-India theater in April 1946, Operation “Magic Carpet” came to its end. The last of the troops to return from the Pacific war zone (127,300) would arrive home in September 1946.” -Wikipedia
My great uncle was discharged in Aug 1946. I can only imagine how exciting it must have been for the sailors on the USS Bon Homme Richard to have been involved in Operation Magic Carpet and know that they were bringing military personnel home to their families after the war. In 1943, more than 16 million Americans were in uniform, with more than half of those in theaters of war worldwide. It would take a year to repatriate those service men and women after the end of the war. I am so proud that my great uncle was a part of such and important part of our war effort in getting these brave men and women home after the war. I can imagine this was a time of great celebration for my great grandparents. The farm boy, who became a Navy man during the Second World War would come home safely and go on to live to be 69 years old. He would marry twice and have five beautiful children.