Sam Stansell tells his story of serving on the USS Saratoga in WWII
Sam Stansell spent some of the major battles in the Pacific Theater of WWII in the engine room on the USS Saratoga. He was at the battle of Guadacanal, the Solomans, the Gilberts and Marshalls, and Battle of Iwo Jima.
"The war broke out in December, and I joined the Navy in August," Mr. Stansell said.
He was born on Signal Mountain, and went to Red Bank high school. Mr. Stansell was seventeen went the war started.
"My country was being attacked," he said. "I just wanted to defend my country."
He went from Chattanooga to California and then to Pearl Harbor. He arrived in Hawaii ten months after the attack.
"We went through that harbor and you see ships," Mr. Stansell said. "The bow of them sticking out of the water and over on the side. We saw all of the damage."
It was October 1942.
"It was scary. I was just a kid. I thought in my mind what have you done?" he said.
He was assigned to the USS Saratoga, and spent 1942-1945 on that ship in the South Pacific. He was at the battle of Iwo Jima. Mr. Stansell said, "That's a battle I'll never forget."
The job of the Saratoga was to bomb the beaches to push the Japanese soldiers back so that the U.S. Marines could make their landing. After the beach landing the job of the Saratoga was to stay in the area in support of the battle. A coulple days into that mission they got the alert to man their battle stations ...
"First you hear the five inch guns go off," Mr. Stansell said. "Then you hear the three inch guns go off. Then you hear the forty millimeters. By the time the twenty millimeters went off the planes were right there on you, and they would dive into the ship."
The ship was hit 8 times. Some hits were from bombs and other hits from planes.
After five hours of fighting more than three hundred members of the crew had either been killed or wounded, and the Saratoga was severely damaged. The ship had to go back to San Francisco for repairs, and that was the last major battle for Sam Stansell.
He got out of the Navy after the war. He came home, and one day he walked into a drug store in downtown Chattanooga. He met a young lady working behind the counter.
"I went in there one day and I ordered me a ham sandwich and a milk shake. She made it for me and brought it to me," Mr. Stansell said. "We got to talking, and we had two or three dates, got together, fell in love I guess, and got married."
Mr. Stansell was called back into service for the Korean War. He was sent to Virginia, and stayed there for the entire war.
His wife passed away a couple years ago. They were married for seventy-two years.