In honor of the birthday of the U.S. Navy which was founded 246 years ago today (1775), I’m sharing a story from my book, We Defended Freedom: Adventures of World War II Veterans (2020). This book has a lot of Navy stories so if that’s your branch of choice, you may want to consider purchasing it. Hey, Christmas is coming up – perfect item for your wish list!
Thanks to all of our men & women who have served in the Navy for your service!
On December 7, 1941, Nicholas Loren of Alexandria, Virginia, was sitting in a movie house in New York City when the movie stopped mid-scene. Theater owners announced the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.
Many of Loren’s friends wanted to enlist in the military to defend the United States. At age 17 he was too young to join (the legal age was 18). He remained at Queens Vocational High School until graduating.
Loren completed basic training at Sampson Naval Training Base in New York. He was assigned as a fire control man to the heavy cruiser, USS Boston. At battle stations the crew of 1,700 manned the ship’s 8-inch and 40-mm guns.
In January 1944, the ship sailed to the Marshall Islands where it joined the invasion there. During the next year and a half, the Boston’s crew took part in conflicts at the Palaus, Carolines, Western New Guinea, Truk, Saipan, Bonin Islands, Guam, Ulithi, and the Philippines. “We were in every major engagement in the Pacific,” said Loren.
The Allies were not always victors. During one invasion, they lost three destroyers. Thankfully, the Boston was never hit by a kamikaze.
Invasions and Japanese suicide planes were not the only threats to survival at sea. The crew of the Boston endured two typhoons.
Spending time at sea during the holidays proved a challenge. The mess staff did the best they could by serving turkey at Thanksgiving. At Christmas sailors with singing and acting skills performed shows for the rest of the crew. When food supplies ran low, they were forced to survive on Spam. Loren couldn’t tolerate the canned meat substitute. “It was served a lot, but I never ate it,” he said.
When the Japanese signed the surrender in September 1945, Allied troops occupied the country to ensure the military’s intent to lay down arms. Loren was assigned shore patrol. “It seemed strange to see Japanese police bow to us,” he said. “We carried an arm band and night stick but never had to use them.”
Fire Controlman 3rd Class Loren was discharged in December 1945. During his service in combat at sea, Loren earned $50 a month.
After returning to New York City, Loren worked in a factory and later for Northrop Grumman. He and Helen married and became parents to a son. Donald Loren followed his father’s military path and joined the Navy, reaching the rank of Admiral.
Nick Loren attended many military reunions. “Nothing came easy during the war,” he said. “But I’m still glad I did it.”
After the war, the Boston was decommissioned, though its duties were not yet completed. In the early 1950s it was converted to a guided missile ship with service in Vietnam. By the time the Boston was scrapped in 1976, she had received numerous commendations for military service, including 10 battle stars for World War II.
What memories do you have of military service?