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WWII Veteran, Lorne Alexander tells his gripping story in the East China Sea while sweeping for mines outside of Okinawa, Japan.
On March 28, 1945, just days ahead of the U.S. invasion of Okinawa, a young sailor from Larrabee, Iowa was onboard the USS Skylark. At nineteen years old, Lorne Alexander was at the helm of his ship in the East China Sea when it was hit by two mines. The first mine exploded and sent fire through the ship at 10:55 am. A second mine burst at 11:15 am, killing four men in the engine room. The USS Skylark sank 15 minutes later.
Alone At Sea
Lorne remembers signaling for help from the bow of the ship when the second mine exploded. The next thing he knew, he was in the water trying to swim away from his sinking ship. There had been reports that sailors would get sucked under from the sinking boat. Thankfully, Lorne and his boat crew managed to swim away from the ship. Lorne was eventually rescued by the USS Tolman, a destroyer which shot down many enemy planes during this assault. After taking a beating below the cannon gun Lorne was taken to a hospital ship named the USS Solace. He received multiple broken ribs, a damaged left elbow, and knee. Eleven days was spent on the USS Solace recovering from injuries. Alongside him were men who had lost arms and legs. Lorne is the recipient of the Purple Heart which was presented to him by Adm. Chester William Nimitz.
Lorne Alexander enlisted in the United States Navy when he was 17. Upon joining the Navy, Lorne enlisted by himself. Lorne was sworn in with no friends by his side. He then went to boot camp by himself, traveled to signal school alone, and boarded a ship knowing nobody. His willingness to sacrifice was pure and authentic. The 1943 Larrabee High School graduate was one of five boys in his high school class; all served in World War II. Lorne, who suffered a significant amount of hearing loss in the war, is the only surviving member of the class. Lorne met his wife 3 years after, and has been married for 69 years!
In Okinawa, 49,151 men were killed or injured. 36 ships were sunk, 368 ships damaged, and the Japanese suffered 110,000 deaths, 1900 by suicide bombers. The Japanese lost a total of 7800 planes and 16 capital ships.