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Veterans History Project

Veral N. Smedley, 1st Class Petty Officer, Radio technician, US Navy, World War II

 


The Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.

A father’s advice is often very useful and timely. Veral Smedley (Smed) was a twenty year old man, working construction jobs in Utah. In the World War II time line, his life is going well. He’s making money, has a roof over his head, there aren’t many fast food places so he eats well too.

His father, a rancher in SE Idaho, contacted his son and had a frank talk about the future. Smed had a chance to go to work in Mexico building facilities. His dad told him that if he went to Mexico, it would look to some that he was avoiding serving his country when it needed him, and the Selective Service System was going to draft Smed soon. If he wanted to be walking with the Infantry remain available. If he wanted a choice, think about being in a different branch!

Soon, he was traveling back to Idaho, going through Salt Lake City, Utah. On his way, he noticed a building that had a sign saying US Navy Recruiting Office. There was also a large, hand painted advertisement that was eye-catching. It had a picture of a happy sailor and a ship and some huge, beautiful water. There were three pretty girls drawn on the poster as well. The words on the poster: “Join the Navy, ride the waves!”

The 94-year-old Veteran said that he would carry a rifle if he had to, but really would have struggled to shoot another person. The Navy was his choice.

At the Salt Lake City office for the Navy, he was told to take some tests. He did well in the testing and thought he would be going to a radio repair school in that city. One of the testing people asked Smed if he knew about radar. The same individual conducted another evaluation. There was a critical need for young men who had some potential to work in the field. There was not school for it. He received a 96 on the test. He was quickly taken out of the Salt Lake City offices and sent to Camp Farragut, Idaho. He got all his shots and stuff he needed in ten days. (All his shots was an understatement. He got a LOT of shots!)

Smed and two other recruits were sent to Great Lakes Naval Training Station near Chicago. They were told where they would be staying and eating, but their training would take place in a commercial radio repair shop. The man who owned the shop lost his son in the war just months before. He was willing to do whatever he could do to help the war effort. At this ship they learned about radios and how to fix them for six months. The Navy needed trained people and were willing to forego boot camp for a few. They also got some hands-on training on early televisions.

The next stop in training was at Oklahoma A & M at Stillwater, OK. This was aimed at getting the young men an electronics education. They would be in classes for about 8 hours, and study at night to be ready for the next day. This was a four month stint.

There was more schooling at San Francisco, CA which was more about radar and long-range targeting. The on-job-training was aboard an aircraft carrier. They worked on radars with the ship moving. The antennae were positioned near the smoke stacks of the ship. They knew that if the reception on the radar wasn’t good, they had to go clean the antennae.

After advanced schooling, Smed was sent to Pearl Harbor. Here, he conducted training classes for Officers and technicians. They need to know some rudiments about radar as well.

Smed was then assigned to a ship. It is the USS Intrepid, CVA-11. The “Fighting I” was a wood-decked air craft carrier. There were about 3,000 men assigned to it. The carrier performed many missions and training tasks. In the radio repair shop, some of the work involved re-aligning the radios after the ship fired the 5-inch guns!

The Intrepid was a center of Naval activity. The aircraft flying off of and on to her were credited with several significant strikes. She was in the Battle of Leyte Gulf and was part of the fight that resulted in four Japanese Carriers being sunk. She was hit by a kamikaze flyer in late October 1944. The skilled men on the Intrepid fixed the damage and the carrier rejoined the fight.

Near Pelelieu, shortly after noon on the 25th of November, the Japanese struck back at the US Carriers. One kamikaze plane slammed into the rear of the Intrepid. Within five minutes, another kamikaze pilot dropped his bomb into the hanger deck, an opening on the side of the carrier. The resulting explosion killed 67 sailors. The blast went off two decks below the radio repair and operations rooms. There were several US planes on that deck which were loaded with ordnance and fuel. They too exploded - 15 of the dead were Smed’s co-workers.

Smed and a colleague (Jackson) were spared. Right away, they got to a nearby hallway. An Officer was staggering toward them. Smed knew the man, who had been hit. He did what he could as the man died in his arms. Smed and Jackson moved to the flight deck to get further instructions. The balance of the day, they cared for the dead and wounded men, carrying them to medical help on stretchers or bodily moving them. This was a tough time.

Things settled down somewhat. “The Fighting I” did not lose power. She maintained her place in the fleet formation. The damage was horrendous and loss of life, unforgettable, yet within a month, she arrived at San Francisco, CA for repairs.

The day following the attack, Admiral William “Bull” Halsey, 3rd Fleet Commander, came aboard the Intrepid. After inspecting the damage and complimented the men for the unbelievable clean up job they had done, he told the surviving men that because they had come through tough times, they would get thirty days R and R. When Smed and another sailor got back to their bunks, they were told to report to the ready deck at 1000 hrs the next day. They would probably not get the R and R.

The next morning, in a significant windstorm and high waves, a destroyer came alongside the Intrepid. The two men were placed in a small ship–to-ship container (like a tram) and rode it via a cable from one ship to the other. As the big ships rode the waves and swayed together, this was risky.

At a different location, another carrier the USS Lexington, CV-16, came alongside the destroyer the next day. The same procedure of transferring the men took place again. The wind had not died down. The transfer took place. After such a start, Smed would spend the rest of his career at sea on the Lexington. He worked on more radar equipment and long-range navigation equipment.

In August 1945, the Japanese signed the unconditional surrender on the USS Missouri. The USS Lexington was very close and Smed watched history take place. Afterwards, the Navy named a group of ships to help facilitate/ensure the peace. The USS Lexington was part of it. He and another radio man were taken ashore and told to establish a commo station on a particular elevated spot. They built an antennae system so that messages could be sent and received. Smed remained on duty in the Pacific another four months.

The stay-behind group got ordered to the US in February 1946. They went from Tokyo Bay to San Francisco. Yes, under the Golden Gate Bridge! Smed was offered the rank of Chief Petty Officer if he would stay in the Navy. He politely declined. He out-processed immediately and found bus transport to Salt Lake City. The bus moved along at 25 mph.

Back home, Smed turned down an opportunity to ranch with his father. He worked building homes and other buildings. He married and had started a family. When some of the work fell off, a friend suggested that he apply with the Union Pacific Railroad. They were looking for good experienced people. He was offered a job and became the western district construction supervisor. He worked all over the western half of the United States, moving some 40+ times in 31 years.

Smed earned several medals and ribbons including the Bronze Star, American Defense Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Medal, Good Conduct Medal, and the Victory Medal. He valued his time in the US Navy, serving from 1942 to 1946.

Petty Officer First Class Veral Smedley, you did a great job for your Country!

Thank You!

 

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