My dad was never one for telling old war stories and that’s probably just as well because we kids wouldn’t have listened much. Like other World War II vets, he came home, finished college on the G.I. bill, got married and did his best to forget what it was like to be on a submarine in the Pacific.
Glimpses of it were revealed when we kids watched an old war film on TV and Dad would say, “See the guy next to the periscope? That’s where I was stationed,” or he’d make a comment like, “I guess I’m sensitive to smell because of all those months on the submarine in the war” (what was he talking about?) or when I actually walked through a sub like his and couldn’t get out of those cramped claustrophobic quarters fast enough.
Dad’s war stories, if they got told, were quick anecdotes about sweltering in the desert during boot camp or spotting a pair of giant tortoises through that periscope and being relieved they weren’t enemy craft.
Only recently, in his 80s, did Dad actually explain what his submarine had done in combat and how grueling it was. A researcher working on an oral history project taped an hour-long interview with him and made copies of it.
Wow, I thought as I listened to it, this is a part of Dad that I never knew. I’m glad in a way that Dad never felt he had to prove anything to us with dramatic war stories at the dinner table, but I sure am glad I got to hear them. Finally.
So Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Thanks for having four raucous children and an even louder bunch now with spouses and grandchildren. But you didn’t have to take so long to speak up!
Rick Hamlin is the executive editor at GUIDEPOSTS.
Watch Rick’s special Father’s Day message, along with other staff members’ dad stories.