Lee Elmore entered the World War II Memorial the same way he entered WWII â€” through the Pacific.
The word â€œPacificâ€ was overhead and â€œVictory at Seaâ€ was inscribed in the ground. Elmore wanted to lie down and take a picture with those words above him.
â€œThatâ€™s where I was when the war ended,â€ he said.
Elmore served from 1943 to 1945. He started out helping to put a ship in commission in Virginia. Eventually, the ship traveled through the Panama Canal to the Pacific.
Elmore served on a destroyer escort. He started out as a Seamen, then moved up to Under Boatsman. His first job was to load the number three gun. A pointer and a trainer would tell them where to fire. Elmore would load the gun and another person would catch the shells as they fell.
â€œI told the old boatsman mate that the shells were too hot as they were coming out,â€ Elmore said. â€œSo we locked the breach so that the gun would fire as soon as I loaded it and then the boy could catch the shells.â€
Later on, his job was to drive the whale boat.
â€œIf we thought we had sunk a Japanese submarine, my engineer, boatsman, and I would go out and pick up the stuff on the water and send it back to Washington,â€ he said.
Elmore said he is thankful to be alive today. â€œWhen you see a ship beside you go down in 20 seconds with about 200 men on it, that upsets you,â€ he said.
â€œOne night, I was going up to my number two gun,â€ he recalled, â€œand I had just caught hold of the ladder when the ship rolled me and a wave hit me and knocked me down on the deck on the rail of the ship. It knocked the tar out of me and I lost a shoe, but I could have fell overboard. Iâ€™m lucky to be here.â€
Serving on a Destroyer Escort, Elmore never got to visit any cities.
â€œWe were maneuvering the battleship when they were bombing the islands,â€ he said.
â€œWhen I go to my conventions, I see these new sailors that got on after I left, and they got to go to California and live it up a bit.â€
Elmore was impressed by the WWII memorial.
â€œYou see those 4,000 stars there and they each represent 1,000 military personnel. Itâ€™s beautiful,â€ he said.
â€œI didnâ€™t see anything wrong with it. I loved how all 50 states were honored.â€
â€œIt took them a long time to finish this,â€ Elmore said about the Memorial and the people who built it. â€œIt honors the military personnel â€”the ones that didnâ€™t get back home.â€
by Caleb Hawkins