Marion C. Harris
Aboard the USS Inaugural: December 30,
1944 - June 04, 1946
Seaman 2nd class (Baker) (see
Buddies on the Inaugural:
Bunk location: Forward bunk room.
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
A LETTER TO HOME
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
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
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.
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
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
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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