During the Japanese bombing of Manila Bay, Jack’s sub spent the entire day on the bottom of the bay, and that night, they left in such a hurry for Australia that the only clothes he had for the next 40 days were a pair of shorts and one shirt. His clothes were at the laundry in Manila.
Short on fuel, they refueled on the way at New Guinea and pulled away under artillery fire from shore, managing later to torpedo two Japanese ships on the way.
After two patrols on the sub, where he was depth-charged at least twice, he was assigned to a LSD, a huge repair ship that pulled up to the beach, took in damaged vehicles, trucks or tanks during an invasion, fixed them while under fire and put them back into service. His ship was attacked twice by Kamikaze aircraft, but he escaped injury.
Jack served on the LSD during 11 of the 12 invasions in the Pacific. The only battle he missed was Iwo Jima. That put him in a very select group of Navy personnel, and his pride for having served in such a vital capacity was obvious whenever he spoke about it.
He also served on an oiler in the Korean War, and during one frigid storm, he fell down a flight of icy stairs and injured his back, which bothered him for the rest of his career. He often mentioned to us how much he hated the cold after that Korean winter.
Other duty included flying over the North and South Poles on separate resupply flights and, a few years later, directing a burial detachment in Oklahoma for the servicemen who were brought back to the state after being disinterred on foreign battlefields.
When I asked how he felt each Friday, he’d answer, “I’m still here.” In my imagination, Jack is still here every time I sip coffee at the Y. A participant in two of America’s greatest wars, he wasn’t just another old man reminiscing to unconcerned strangers. He gave us stories that will always remind us how lucky we were to know Cmdr. Thomas J. Bedford, a Navy veteran whose lineage goes back to relatives on the Mayflower.
If you know any veteran, please sit and listen to them and enrich your life.
Roger Gallagher, a Norman resident, is a veteran.