A Boy In Men’s Boots

As told to me by my dad; John E. Roberts, USS LANG 1942-1944

For every young man there is certain to be a path, chosen or otherwise, in which the truth of their nature and beliefs, strengths and weaknesses, are tested in such a way that all familiar seems beyond grasp. And for the boy anxious to become a man, W.W.II would provide such a journey. Fortunately for many, that journey would include special men whose demand for discipline was surpassed only by their ability to lead as compassionate teachers.

dadMy dad died in 1936 leaving me to begin my search for manhood on my own at the age of twelve. Coupled with the sudden death of my sister two years later, what was once a family of four suddenly became a desperate two amidst the turbulence of the depression. It’s no wonder that the adventurous dreams of a boy escaping loss seemed possible five years later in the glamour of military service. The sights, the experience, the camaraderie, were mine to own the day after my seventeenth birthday as I became one with the Navy.

In 1942, aboard the USS Lang DD399, a restless crew began a four-day search for German submarines known to be in the waters of Bermuda. The calm of each passing moment would fall hostage to the unknown, the hills of my Tennessee youth a lifetime away. I was the baby of the ship and had arrived only three months earlier, my naval career a total of five months old. It’s not easy for a boy of seventeen to become a man among men overnight, but he does so with the help of others, those whose experience and reputation outweigh his own fear. One in particular would forever frame my memories. Continue reading “A Boy In Men’s Boots”

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