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Parsons enlisted in Navy after Dec. 7 radio report on Pearl Harbor
James R. Parsons, during his tour in the Navy.

VJ-Day Parsons

James Parsons interview

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The radio news report on Dec. 7, 1941, motivated James R. Parsons into the military.

"It was Sunday morning and we went home from church and turned on the Philco radio and found out that Pearl Harbor had been attacked," said the Gainesville man, who lived on an Ohio farm at the time.

"The patriotism was outstanding - everybody rushed in to do something," Parsons said.

Two weeks later, he enlisted in the Navy, beginning his service in World War II.

He went to Newport, R.I., for basic training. He later was sent to a naval torpedo station in Newport, where he stayed about 16 months. He ended up at midshipman school in Chicago and then a torpedo school in San Diego for a couple of weeks.

Then, he got orders to go on the USS Izard, a destroyer, and ended up in the Pacific Ocean.

Parsons wore many hats aboard the Izard. He was torpedo officer, assistant communications officer and assistant gunnery officer.

"There were 13 officers and 47 jobs," he said.

The ship traveled along the western side of Philippines to the Japanese island of Iwo Jima.

Before V-J Day, Parsons' ship arrived in Seattle for an overhaul.

The ship and crew then headed first to Alaska and met up with a task group of squadron destroyers and other ships.
"We were headed for Japan and on the 15th of August, we were at sea," he said.

The captain had brought with him plans for what have been the invasion of Japan, including projected costs of the fight in lives and military equipment.

"We got a chance to read that, which was quite sickening," Parsons said.

The job would have been "to go up north and go in there bombarding and softening up in the attempt to make (the Japanese) think maybe that's where we were making landings, to draw some of the forces out of the area where the actual landings were to be," he said.

Instead, the Japanese surrendered Aug. 15 after the U.S. had dropped atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

"So, we turned around in the middle of the ocean. Three days later was my birthday and I said, ‘Thanks, Lord,' " he said, chuckling.

"I appreciate the grace of God and the luck I had in coming back."

He returned to the U.S., getting a promotion to lieutenant junior grade from ensign.

"The (Navy) offered me another half-stripe and shore duty if I would stay," Parsons said. "I said, ‘No, I'm a farm boy. I've got plowing to do.'"

Parsons, who turns 90 on Wednesday, was working in house and boat moving when he married. Ten years later, he and his wife, Jeannie, went into real estate.

"We were very successful in Ohio for about 15 years and then came down here (eight years ago)," he said.

"I'm sorry I didn't come here sooner. I love the local weather - I got tired of shoveling snow."