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'We stopped dead in the water'

Veteran recalls 'seeing the world' as part of U.S. Navy

Posted: May 17, 2012 4:37 p.m.
Updated: May 18, 2012 5:00 a.m.
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Richard L. Schad

(Recognizing the valor of South Carolinians who fought in World War II, 19 electric cooperatives joined Honor Flight of South Carolina in April to fly 100 veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit the memorial built in their honor and other historic sites. This is the second of three stories on Kershaw County veterans who served in World War II and who were part of this Honor Flight.)

In August 1945, Richard L. Schad, then of Somerset, Ky., was a bosun’s mate on the USS Tonawanda (AN-89) a newly commissioned tender ship that had been custom built for laying anti-submarine nets and guarding strategic harbors.

En route to a duty station in the Pacific, the ship had passed through the Panama Canal and was steaming off the coast of Nicaragua when an announcement came over the loudspeaker that the Japanese had surrendered. The war was over.

“We stopped dead in the water and had five minutes of silence,” he recalls.

Later, the crew decided to celebrate in a livelier fashion. Each crewmember was normally issued one can of beer per day. Schad, a non-drinker, would save his cans and sell them. On that historic day, however, each man was issued two cans. “I sold them both,” he says, laughing at the memory.

Schad was drafted off his family’s farm in July 1944 at the age of 18, and found Navy life agreeable.

“I loved it,” he says. “I used to have to get up at four in the morning to feed the livestock. When I went into the Navy, I could sleep until six.”

Schad took basic training at a camp on the shores of Lake Seneca near Sampson, N.Y. There, the men were broken up into five or six companies of about 225 men per company. They were told that at the end of the training period the top company would win “the rooster” and get liberty -- rest and relaxation -- in a nearby resort town.

His company won.

“So they put us in boats, 16 men to a boat,” Schad says. “We rowed three hours … had one hour liberty, and then rowed three hours back. So we didn’t want to win the rooster anymore.”

When the war ended, Tonawanda was immediately ordered to the port at Long Beach, Calif.

“We took the submarine nets down, took them out to sea and dumped them,” Schad says.

He would stay in the Navy serving on minesweepers from America to the Mediterranean, until he retired from the Navy as chief bosun’s mate in 1965. He then took a civilian job at the Charleston Navy Yard.

Schad says he enjoyed every minute of his service in the Navy.

“It was all good,” he recalls. “But what I enjoyed most of all was seeing the world.”

-- Jeff Wilkinson

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