For Don Hummel, joining the Navy during WWII was a good and a bad thing. He still remembers the day Pearl Harbor was bombed. Hummel was playing a basketball game with his friend.
“We were shooting baskets,” Hummel explained. He placed a friendly wager that his friend could not make the same shot. “He made the sucker. We get inside there and we find out the Japanese are bombing Pearl Harbor.”
Hummel joined the Navy in January 1944. Many of his friends were joining the Army that day.
“I was the only guy to go in the Navy that day,” Hummel said. “They said we aren’t taking any Navy, but there was a Navy officer sitting there. All of a sudden, the Navy officer said ‘Sit down. We will take one off of tomorrow’s roster. That was a good time. After that it went downhill.”
When he first went to Pearl Harbor he thought it was going to be OK.
“They had hula dancers and all that jazz,” Hummel said. “I thought, ‘Hey, this is a place for me’ until I got to see what happened to the place. They raised the Oklahoma (a ship) and hulled it out. You talk about quiet, and you look at that thing. What could have they dropped at that sucker?”
One of his jobs was to retrieve and repair aircraft. It kept him busy. While aboard ships, he admitted the days were long.
“One thing I do remember about that is you do anything to get off the ship. Cause it’s seven days to Pearl (Harbor), 10 days to Guam,” Hummel said. “You spend half a month just to get where you were going. They asked guys who want to go on burial detail. That was a bad mistake. I put bodies in body bags. I think Newton lost two guys there. The smell. I can’t get that out of my mind.”
Another day he recalls was the day he worked on a captured Japanese airplane.
“You could stand back and punch a hole right through it,” Hummel said. “It didn’t have any fire protection. It was so light weight.”
He did have some good times while in the Navy. He is grateful he came back, but wonders about some of his fellow soldiers he met through the years. He made some good friends and even some celebrities.
“Who knows how many of them didn’t come back,” Hummel said. “I got to meet some of the neatest guys. I remember my friend Joe from Brooklyn. The only guy who got a bottle of wine in the mail. His mother cut out the center of the loaf of bread and put it in there.”
Out of all the celebrities, one was his favorite.
“My favorite was Joe Louis,” Hummel said. “He was such a gentle individual. They put on an exhibition for us.”
Another celebrity made his day by using a gag gift Hummel had given him.
“Jerry Colonna was with Bob Hope and his group and I went on the beach and found a little squid and put it in as a joke,” Hummel explained. “I took it up there and he carried that sucker all around.”
Hummel has served under many men, but one man stood out above the rest.
“One of the finest gentleman I ever knew, Capt. Walker,” Hummel said. “He met you once, he knew you from then on. I was on the bridge on lookout; he said, ‘We will remember this day.’ He was referring to the A-bomb.”
Capt. Walker even helped Hummel out more than a few times. One time Hummel got in a skirmish with some foreign officers over a dog on board. The foreign officers kicked the dog and Hummel was outraged and said some things. He ended up in the captain’s office. Hummel explained his actions, and Capt. Walker said to strike his incident from the record.
Other commanding officers were not as nice. Once, Hummel bought a monkey and a dog to take home, and his commanding officer found out. He was not pleased.
“He took them on the flight deck and shot them both,” Hummel said. “I didn’t think that was the way to do it.”
After the war, he worked for Maytag. While working for Maytag, he went through a number of jobs.
“They gave me seniority for the time I was in the service,” Hummel said. “They had good jobs. I worked in advertising. The second place I worked I think was parts in service, but I quit. I didn’t want to stay down in the hole. My last job was area supervisor. That was the best job I ever had.”
Hummel credits his wife of 62 years, Betty, for his blessed life. They had seven children together, three daughters and four sons. He even won Maytag’s Father of the Year award.
Matthew Shepard can be contacted at (641) 792-3121 ext. 425 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.