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Memorial brings memories for vet

Lee Elmore entered the World War II Memorial the same way he entered WWII — through the Pacific.
The word “Pacific” was overhead and “Victory at Sea” was inscribed in the ground. Elmore wanted to lie down and take a picture with those words above him.
“That’s where I was when the war ended,” 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.
“I told the old boatsman mate that the shells were too hot as they were coming out,” Elmore said. “So we locked the breach so that the gun would fire as soon as I loaded it and then the boy could catch the shells.”
Later on, his job was to drive the whale boat.
“If 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,” he said.
Elmore said he is thankful to be alive today. “When you see a ship beside you go down in 20 seconds with about 200 men on it, that upsets you,” he said.
“One night, I was going up to my number two gun,” he recalled, “and 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. I’m lucky to be here.”
Serving on a Destroyer Escort, Elmore never got to visit any cities.
“We were maneuvering the battleship when they were bombing the islands,” he said.
“When 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.”
Elmore was impressed by the WWII memorial.
“You see those 4,000 stars there and they each represent 1,000 military personnel. It’s beautiful,” he said.
“I didn’t see anything wrong with it. I loved how all 50 states were honored.”
“It took them a long time to finish this,” Elmore said about the Memorial and the people who built it. “It honors the military personnel —the ones that didn’t get back home.”
by Caleb Hawkins

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