Columnist King Harris

Growing Up in a Post War World

Good to be King

By King Harris

I remember growing up as a kid that my parents had a lot friends. Most of the men had served in World War II but some managed to have children during that time, usually in 1941, 1946, and 1948. 

Post-war had lured them to the suburbs, in this case from San Francisco to Woodside, which was at that time a small country town on the peninsula about 40 miles south of the City. 

I found it peculiar that most of the dad’s worked in the City and chose to trek back to the country but that’s what you did in those days I guess. Another peculiarity I noticed was that very few of these soldiers and sailors talked about or mentioned their wartime experiences — at least not to their children. 

My father, for example, after graduating from Stanford, joined the Navy Reserves after the war broke out. But little did he realize, it was the reserves that did much of the fighting in both theaters. 

Dad’s first duty was an Ensign for a “landing ship tank” or LST, which brought supplies to the islands in the Pacific. 

His next tour of duty was during the waning part of the war, when the desperate Japanese started using Kamikazes, which as a commander he told me later was the most frightening part of war. I learned, as he got older, when he was ready to share his experiences, of the crisis he faced during this period. 

As his ship was approaching Mindoro, his fleet was attacked by a wing of Kamikazes. His best gunner, who happened to be in the brig at the time for some indiscretion, was immediately called to quarters, manned a gunnery detail, and shot two Japanese out of the sky, saving dad’s ship. 

He always told de me that it wasn’t he who was a great leader, but that he had surrounded himself with really great people. That’s a pretty heady thing to admit. Being in the Vietnam War myself, I understood exactly what he meant.

Later on, as kids we all knew what service men like my dad were in, but we rarely knew of the horrors they endured. If we asked, they didn’t want to talk about it much. As a matter of fact, nobody ever did, to me anyway. 

When all of the parents and us kids got together, which was often, the last thing anybody thought about was the war. No wonder. It was finally over after years of struggle. Time to forget and put the past behind. Look ahead to the future. 

The gatherings were great. While all the kids spent time playing Marco Polo in the local watering hole, the parents picnicked nearby. We’re talking about 30 parents here, and all of their offspring. 

I don’t like saying this, but most if not all have passed. Which is a shame, because they were all such fine and caring people. And the sacrifices they managed to accomplish were enormous. 

The war notwithstanding, raising a family is difficult enough. My dad eventually entered the advertising world. He and mom raised three kids who to this day still share stories with each other. That is more than a blessing. 

Just as much, I get to talk to all those kids I grew up with. Those stories are amazing. And for that, I have to thank their parents. And mine.

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