BY JAMIE L. BRIDGES
For a group of veterans who live in the Watkins-Logan Texas State Veterans home in Tyler, walking past memorabilia from the Nazi regime, brought back memories, not all pleasant.
Recently, a handful of World War II veterans from all branches of service, toured the Historic Aviation Memorial Museum at Tyler Pounds Regional Airport. “That’s a potato masher,” one veteran said as the group looked at a hand grenade.
“That’s what it does, it mashes your potatoes. You won’t have anything left if that hits you.” While touring the more recent Cold War era airplanes on display, veteran Allen Brown, 87, remembered how he spent his days during the war not in the air, but in the water, hunting for submarines.
Brown, who was born in Panama, joined the U.S. Navy on Jan. 1, 1944 and served until April 1946, he said. His boat, an anti-submarine vessel, served in the waters of the South Pacific during the war.
“When we went down there, our ship had lost radar, sonar and our main generator,” he said. “We were supposed to be protecting barges, but without those things, we couldn’t tell where the subs were.”
Brown said he didn’t even know that his ship had passed Guadalcanal until about 60 years later when seeing the path his boat took on a world map.
George Martin, 88, was remembering his four invasions in the South Pacific as the tour guide explained the details of the planes.
“I was on a Higgins boat that carried 22 (troops) with a three-man crew,” he said. Martin has been named ambassador for the group of veterans who live in the state home, he added.
As their day at the museum quickly ended, their memories live long. “We are a quickly leaving group,” Martin said. “I think our history as a group is important.
There’s only 6 percent of World War II guys that are still alive, and they’re dying several hundred a day.” “But we all plan to live to 100,” he quipped. “That’s our goal.”