The North Bend Eagle


 

War helped Linwood native see the world before age 21

by Milo Shavlik
Published 1/7/15

Milo Shavlik graduated from Linwood High School in 1944 at the tail end of World War II. As was expected, he was soon drafted but he joined the Navy. In 2014, at the age of 89, he sat down and wrote of his military experience. The Eagle is happy to share an abbreviated version of this story, encouraging others of the “Greatest Generation” to write their history and share their experience with the younger generation so they can appreciate our nation’s history that their ancestors lived and the freedom they fought for.

Shavlik begins his story on June 6, 1944. It was D-Day, the day the Allies invaded Normandy in northern France to put an end to the war in Europe and defeat the German Armies:

My father drove me to the induction Center in Wahoo. We talked little on the way, each of us lost in our own thoughts of the future. Then a bus took me to Omaha, then onto the train to Chicago, Illinois, and Great Lakes Naval Training Center. This was a new adventure and experience for me, never having been more than 120 miles from home. Boot camp was very confined and restricted for six weeks of regimen that began at 5 a.m. with running, exercise, discipline and marching most of the morning.

Milo ShavlikMilo Shavlik poses at the age of 18 in his Navy uniform.

Afternoon classes were followed by marching drills till evening. Then it was back to the barracks, very tired. Occasionally a midnight inspection brought us to attention. If something was not right, the entire group would be called out to the “grinder” and all would run the course until we starting to drop. Reveille sounded again at 5 a.m. We soon got the routine and looked for some new training each day. This included rifle range, fire drills in confined burning buildings, rope lockers, enemy-aircraft identification, heavy machine gun training, etc. We graduated and were assigned to other Navy bases and ships around the coasts.

I was assigned to the Electrical School at this same base for six months more, which I enjoyed. We were now allowed to leave the base for “liberty.” Every other weekend we rode the North Shore Line to Milwaukee or Chicago with small groups enjoying the big cities and recreation at USOs, dance halls and parties. Most of our group chose Milwaukee as the local businesses and people were very outgoing to us Navy boys. Drinks would be set up, meals paid for. At times I would go to downtown Chicago by myself without any worry of getting lost. There was always an adventure in this.

In December I completed my courses and was assigned to Seattle, Washington, Naval Air Station at Sand Point, over halfway across the United States! I got on the train at Chicago on one of the coldest days of my life. It was zero or below
as I walked between stations with the wind blowing off Lake Michigan. I did get to stop for several days at home in Linwood and celebrated an early birthday. I boarded the train to Seattle with a stop briefly at North Platte depot toward evening where we were told to get off and were treated for 15 minutes to free sandwiches, pies and coffee by the canteen ladies with big smiles and greetings. What a treat after all those miles of terrible food and cramped rail cars. Seats were filled on every car, so I had to stand much of the time or “camp” out on a pile of duffle bags at the end of the car.

We pulled into Seattle around first of the year. It was raining and cloudy, and I lost all sense of direction. A bus took us to the Naval Air Station, and what a surprise – modern brick three-story apartments! No more leaky, cold tarpaper shacks. Wow! Tile floors and bathrooms, wow! Large rooms and a lounge. This was a country club! And the Navy Waves girls were’ right across the street in their own quarters!

Here we enjoyed the good life. I was briefly assigned to base security, issued side arms and a Jeep. Our group would secure hangars, buildings and grounds at night. Later I was assigned to aircraft repair and maintenance. These were prop engine type fighters and dive bombers. I did electrical work on engines, voltage regulators, generators, etc. Later I mounted experimental rocket launchers under the wings with associated firing mechanism in the cockpit.
Seattle was a great city, we easily found our way around. Some of us were periodically invited to private homes for a good dinner and to experience family living again. The USO was always a welcome place. Along with several friends we would do the town, see shows, hit the bars and cantina to further our “education.” The University of Washington was walking distance to the Naval Station and we would get free passes to the football games.

In August 1945, the Japanese surrendered after we dropped the “big one” on Japan. This was destruction almost incomprehensible, unbelievable. At news of the war ending, the town of Seattle went wild with thousands of sailors, Marines and Army milling around downtown celebrating. At this time I ran into two sailors, both classmates from Linwood High School: Frank “Junior” Scnremek and Larry Gaskill, whose ships came into Seattle at the end of the war. Think of the odds finding these classmates on this day!

In October 1945, several of us were assigned to the aircraft carrier Ticonderoga CV-14 due to leave for the Pacific after extensive repair after a Japanese Kamikaze attack in January 1945 in the China Sea. Many sailors lost their lives at that attack. This again was a new adventure. We came aboard in Bremerton, assigned to quarters and were soon underway up Puget Sound and out to the Pacific.

USS Ticonderoga CV-14Shavlik was stationed abourd the USS Ticonderoga CV-14, shown here in September 1944.

Several members of the original crew chose to remain aboard to finish these voyages for old times’ sake, and it was certainly interesting visiting with them and learning. I was assigned to the electrical department with several new friends. Soon we were getting used to the steady rumble, new routines and new types of equipment. I was assigned to the master generators and switchboards below-decks at the engine room.

Duty was four hours on and eight hours off. We had two of these steam powered generators running in sync most of the time and when more power was required, two more diesel generators were available to go on line. Looking back, here I was 19-years-old, assigned the responsibility for all the electricity aboard the carrier during four-hour shifts!

We picked up several fighters that landed on the flight deck to be off-laded at Hawaii. In little over a week, we reached Hawaii where the fighters all took off and landed at Hickam Field. We then docked there for several weeks. Bunks were welded on the hangar deck to accommodate some 3,000 or more military men we were to pick up at Okinawa. During the time in Hawaii, several of us got to tour the big island, to see mountains, go swimming off Diamond Head and enjoy the warm climate. Things were slowly getting back to normal on the Islands.

In November, we left Hawaii. After 19 days, we anchored off Okinawa, and a few of us at a time were allowed to go ashore, swim and poke around the beaches. We saw much destruction inland: wrecked aircraft, parts, bomb craters and all signs of war. I found and salvaged a clip of 50 caliber live ammo from a wrecked U.S. aircraft that I brought home for a souvenir.

The war was over, but inland some Japanese refused to surrender, or didn’t know war was over, so there were still pockets of fighting.

Milo ShavlikU.S. Navy veteran Milo Shavlik in 2014.

Soon we started loading Army personnel by the boatload. When bunks were full, our carrier moved north just ahead of a typhoon that was bearing down on us. Trying to evade the storm, the skipper headed north past Japan for the Aleutians where the storm caught up with us. Our 960-foot long aircraft carrier, bobbing up in waves 70 feet high, was rocking and rolling. Waves crashed over the flight deck 75 feet above the waterline of ship! Needless to say, those poor Army and Marine guys were all seasick top side on the hangar deck. We, the ship’s company, stayed below decks. We had our responsibilities. I was assigned earlier to the main generator watch, four hours on, eight hours off, around the clock. Here I was, a 19-year-old farmer, manning a steam-powered main generator, putting out 1.5 megawatts of electricity for the entire ship. It was a good experience.

Our ship made it to San Francisco about Christmas time. Coming into the bay under the Golden Gate Bridge was another experience with most of our ship company at parade rest on the flight deck. We docked at Alameda and off-loaded all the passengers who were glad to be back in the USA after fighting these long years in the Orient.

In two weeks we were underway again, this time to the Philippines to pick up another group of Army folks. This trip out took three weeks with no stopovers. We anchored off the Island of Samar, way out, as fighting was still going on in some areas of the Philippines. After loading the Army personnel, off we went on a more direct, uneventful route back to Seattle.

The carrier anchored out in the sound where provisions were made to off load all the ship’s ammo. The skipper backed up to the end of the sound and full steam ahead. We were doing 35 knots up the sound and produced a wake that broke slips and piers along the shore. Then quietly moved into dry dock at Bremerton where the “Old Girl” was put into mothballs.

I took my discharge there at Bremerton, bought a set of civilian clothes and took the train home. It was June 1946.

I was glad to be back home with my family and familiar surroundings, but after seeing much of this world before I was 21, things around home seemed slow now.

All my Navy buddies, where did they all go after the war? Showalter, Hokensen, Summers, Bach, Jetton, Pond, Lewis, Schantz and more I cannot remember from many areas of the United States. I wish them all well.

The aircraft carrier Ticonderoga was recommissioned with a new angled flight deck and sent out into the Korean War in 1952. Then in 1960s, telemetering equipment was added and this ship was assigned to pick up astronauts returning from space in the West Pacific. What a history! Subsequently there were several Ticonderogas built, but none had the history that CV-14 did.

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