USS Inaugural Shipmate

Marion C. Harris




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Dates Aboard the USS Inaugural:  December 30, 1944 - June 04, 1946


1944 Rank:  Seaman 2nd class (Baker) (see ranks section)


Buddies on the Inaugural:  Donald Berberet


Bunk location:  Forward bunk room.


Free-time activities while at sea:  "Read.  I read westerns, all of them in the library."


Songs that bring back AM-242 memories:  Time Waits For No One.


Life After WWII:  




--These two articles describe a letter that Marion wrote to his parents while he was at sea with the USS Inaugural.--


(Thank you Jeanette Isbell)


The Sweetwater Reporter

May 26, 2001



The following letter was written by Marion C. Harris to his parents, while he was serving on the USS Inaugural in the Yellow Sea. He is the son of Mr. and Mrs J.C. Harris. It tells of experiences of an extremely young boy in the service.


Mr. Harris went to school in Sweetwater and his uncle, Dabner Harris, lived all of his life in Sweetwater. Mr. Harris now lives in Comanche with his family. He has been married to Iva L. Harris for 53 years and they have four children, Richard and Harlon Harris, Jeanette Isbell and Belinda. Mr. Harris says he still has many fond memories of Sweetwater.


The letter follows in part:


Since I left the States, I've been to Enetweth, Guam, Saipan, and I was in on the invasion of Okinawa and our ship was stationed there for patrol duty. We have been in the air raids up to 34 in one night. Japanese suicide planes have missed us by yards. We have had attacks with subs and won with depth charge attacks.


You feel funny when you know the next few minutes will tell if you float or sink. One torpedo missed our fantail about six yards. We have, and are sweeping right now Japan and China shores. You can see China right now. We are in the Yellow Sea. We stay topside with life jackets on while sweeping. I have mine on now. I've seen ships that have had two suicide planes in them and missed us and hit them.


The fighting of Okinawa was bloody and I watched through field glasses at the advance of Marines on the shore take one hill while our shops powered heavy bombardment on it. None if it was pretty; you could feel the blood on the water if you couldn't see it, of the boys who died. God bless them all. You don't know how sweet freedom is until you fight for it. God was the one and only protection of us. We're all looking forward now to when this voyage will be over and maybe we get back to the states.


So you see when I say I miss it all back there that I wasn't just saying a few words to let you know I missed you.


This letter was printed in the Sweetwater Reporter in the 1940s, according to Jeanette Isbell.


The Brownwood Bulletin

May 28, 2001

Vet’s daughter moved by dad’s wartime letter
By Steve Nash


M.C. Harris was barely 18 when he penned a poignant letter to his parents about his combat experiences aboard a Navy minesweeper in the Pacific during World War II.

Nearly 60 years later after Harris penned the letter, his daughter, Jeanette Isbell, of Brownwood, becomes emotional when she reads some of the words her father penned while serving aboard a minesweeper in the Yellow Sea.

“... you don’t know how sweet freedom is until you fight for it,” Isbell quoted from the letter, her voice breaking.

Isbell said as Memorial Day approached she thought it was appropriate to talk about her father’s letter, which she discovered in a family trunk in the early ‘90s, and the understanding it has given her into the sacrifices of soldiers.

She said the letter have her insight into her father’s experiences as a World War II combatant and helped her understand how the war has affected him to this day.

“We take our freedom for granted,” she said, noting that her father’s letter has helped her have a greater understanding “of war, and fear, and suffering.”

The letter, she said, is important to her “because it’s my dad ... it’s everybody else’s dad.”

Isbell, 44, said it was only recently that her father began to talk much about the war.

“He was pretty closed about it when he was younger,” she said.

In the letter, the 18-year-old Harris describes harrowing suicide attacks against his ship by Japanese pilots and torpedo attacks from submarines.

Harris, 74, who lives in Comanche, said in a telephone interview that he remembers writing that letter. Harris said he was a cook and a baker aboard the minesweeper, but when combat started, everyone manned a weapon.

Harris said he dueled with Japanese planes with a 20 millimeter antiaircraft gun. He said he didn’t knock any down but set some of them on fire.

“Everybody aboard that ship saw all the action there was,” he said.

Isbell said her father enlisted at age 16. She speculated he joined for a combination of reasons — to make a better life for himself and see the world, to serve his country, to pursue what he thought would be the glory of combat.

“You know how young boys have this fairy-tale illusion of what the military is like,” Isbell said.
“I imagine they had to grow up pretty fast.”

After the war, Harris got married. Isbell said she realized at an early age that her father was a veteran. He had his Navy uniform and a lot of war memorabilia, and Isbell once wore his uniform to school. “I was always trying it on until I got big enough to wear it,” she said.

When she found her father’s shipboard letter in a trunk, though, she understood more fully the significance of his experiences. And her father was starting to talk more about the war. She started to understand how important it was to him.

Isbell said after finding the letter, she got the idea of taking some of the memorabilia and making a collage as a Father’s Day present around 1993 or ‘94. “I just wanted to do something special for him. I didn’t want to buy him a shirt,” she said.

“I was proud of him. I was overwhelmed,” Isbell said. “I had such a great pride in my father. It really gave me a better understanding of my dad.”

Isbell said she saw the movie “Saving Private Ryan” and thought about her father’s letter. She said she plans to see the movie “Pearl Harbor.” Her father, she said, refused to see “Private Ryan” and she knows he won’t see “Pearl Harbor.”

“I’m sorry I’ve been so emotional,” Isbell said. “It’s something that touches my heart.”



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