Lafayette Marshall Sharp


Dad in World War II

On August 3, 1943, at the tender age of 17, my Dad enlisted in the Navy. He was living in Memphis at the time, and he signed up for a period of 2 years.

Dad was sent to the U.S. Naval Training Station, Great Lakes, Illinois. A physical on September 2, 1943, showed that Dad was qualified for submarine duty. On October 26, 1943 he completed his recruit training. Another physical on November 11 showed that Dad was healthy and physically qualified for transfer.

On November 13 Dad was transferred to the Armed Guard Training School in Gulfport, Mississippi. By December 9 he had completed this training, and was transferred to the Anti Aircraft Training Center in Shell Beach, New Orleans, Louisiana. By December 14th Dad had completed this training, too, and was again transferred, this time to the U.S. Navy Armed Guard Center in Brooklyn, New York.

On February 8th, 1944, Dad was given his first real assignment. He served as an Armed Guard on board the S.S. David Bushnell. The Bushnell was an armed merchant vessel carrying over 9.000 pounds of cargo, plus planes, tanks and locomotives lashed to itsí deck. The Bushnell was a Liberty ship, 441 feet long and 56 feet wide. It carried a crew of about 44 men, and between 12 and 25 Armed Guards. About 200 Libertys were lost to torpedoes, mines, explosions, kamikazes, etc. during World War II. While Dad was on board the Bushnell, it sailed to San Diego, and from there to the Pacific.

On February 18th, while still serving on the Bushnell, Dadís rating changed from Seaman Second Class to Seaman First Class.

On August 4th, 1944 Dad was treated for injuries sustained when a shell supposedly exploded in his hand while at sea. What actually happened was quite different. The Bushnell was under attack by enemy aircraft, and Dad was manning a 50 mm anti aircraft gun. One of the enemy planes that was strafing the Bushnell hit the bag containing expended shell casings, and one of the casings exploded up, leaving Dad with shrapnel permanently imbedded in his finger. On August 14th, after leaving the Bushnell, Dad's wounds were dressed, and the doctor documented that they were healing nicely.

September 23rd marked the beginning of a new assignment. Dad was now an Armed Guard on board the S.S. Benjamin Grierson. The Grierson was another Liberty ship, capable of carrying 2,840 jeeps, 440 tanks, or 230 million rounds of ammunition. During his time on the Grierson, the ship sailed to Naples, Africa, and Persia. Dad served on the Grierson until April 14th 1945.

At that time he was transferred to the S.S. Black Water, a T2 tanker. These ships were considered the workhorses of the tanker fleet. They were 523 feet long with a 68 foot beam, and carried a crew of 42, plus 17 Armed Guards.

The S.S. Cedar Mills was the next ship that Dad was assigned to guard, beginning on May 31st, 1945. This was a short tour of duty, during which time the Cedar Mills carried aviation fuel from San Diego to Hawaii.

On June 24th Dad was assigned to guard the S.S. Port Republic. The Port Republic was another T2 tanker and was designed to carry liquid cargo. During World War II tankers such as the Republic made 6,500 voyages to carry 65 million tons of oil and gas to the U.S and our allies in the war zone.

Dad's last tour was on the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Hancock. While Dad was on board, the Hancock sailed from the Panama Canal Zone to Guadacanal.

On December 20th 1945 Dad was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy.

NOTE: Of all the ships that Dad served on during the war, only the S.S. David Bushnell and the USS Hancock were not sunk.