By Catherine Ellerton
Moapa Valley Progress
During WWII, the Seabees, a Navy Construction Battalion, was 315,000 men strong. They fought and built on 6 continents and more than 300 islands. An important part of that organization was the Stevedores – those seamen that were responsible for loading and unloading the ships – many times from landing crafts to the beach. Representative of that group was the 32nd Special Seabees Battalion. Local veteran, Charles Jensen was a member of this prestigious group – in Company B, Platoon 2.
When Pearl Harbor was bombed, Jensen was working on the family farm in South Dakota. A neighbor had come by to let them know of the bombing. When he turned 18 in 1943, he was drafted into the Navy Seabees where he trained in Heavy Equipment Maintenance and Repair; Automotive and as a Stevedore.
After training in Camp Peary, Virginia he was sent to the Oakland Docks and then found himself aboard a converted Dutch freighter with 2800 other seamen headed across the Pacific.
Chuck remembers going through Pearl Harbor four years after it had been attacked. The devastation was still evident – the docks were gone – only floating docks were being used, he said.
In convoy they proceeded on to southern Samar in the Philippine Islands. They were there several months building a work site. Company B was then attached to the 103rd Construction Battalion and the group headed to northern Samar in a landing craft.
It took them 12 hours to go through the Leyte Gulf. They unloaded supplies and ammunition on an approximately five month deployment in that area. Jensen still remembers the many holes in the runway caused by the Kamikaze pilots.
Jensen contracted Jungle Rot on his legs and ended up in the hospital in Samar. He was there on VJ Day. He remembers that the attitude of all was one of celebration. Going home was tops in everyone’s plans.
They flew to Tinien, then to Guam and on to Pearl Harbor where he was in the hospital for about four months.
Jensen was then assigned to the Replacement Center in San Diego and then sent on another Carrier which went thru the Panama Canal and on to Norfolk, Virginia. Chuck eventually ended up in Forty Snelling, Minnesota where he was discharged.
Jensen returned to the farm in Coleman, So. Dakota. He also worked in the construction field and in auto body repair. Following retirement, he and his wife came to the Moapa Valley in 1998.