Connellsville veteran recalls Navy service during WWII
Every veteran has a story to tell. Harry Porter of Connellsville is no exception. The World War II veteran recently shared his experiences about serving from 1943-46 with the Navy in the South Pacific.
“I initially wanted to join the Coast Guard, when I was drafted,” Porter said. “I reported to Greensburg and learned that the Coast Guard was full. I was sent to the Navy instead.”
After completing boot camp in Great Lakes, Ill., Porter went to National Tube Co. in McKeesport, where he trained to be an electrician. He continued his training at Hadley Electrical Institute in St. Louis. He soon put his skills to use in San Pedro, Calif., where he worked in a prison for Navy men who had deserted.
Porter soon moved on to the Small Craft Training Center, where he trained in minesweeping operations.
“There were two types of mines,” Porter recalled. “Magnetic and acoustic. We went over the magnetic mines to explode them.
“To detonate the acoustic mines, we had to hook a tube onto them and drag them. We never knew what we were getting until we got it.”
In 1944, Porter boarded the Yard Oiler Compel for his next assignment in Honolulu, which was to protect the destroyed ships that still lay in Pearl Harbor.
“Pearl Harbor still was a mess when I arrived there,” Porter said. “It took years to rebuild Pearl Harbor, because America was fighting against the Japanese and the Germans. We didn't have the resources for restoration.”
Porter remembers that the mast of the USS Arizona still was above water.
“We still raised the flag every day,” he said.
For the duration of the war, Porter helped to fuel ships.
Coming home was an adjustment.
His parents had moved during his service, which meant that Porter had to return to a home that he had never seen.
“I had changed a lot during my time away,” Porter said. “My mother hardly recognized me.”
He recalled getting off the train at the former Youghiogheny station.
“I arrived late at night. There were no buses or taxis,” he said. “I had to carry my bags nearly two miles to my home.”
Porter's service still remains a formative experience for him.
“I believe we should stay out of any war unless it's necessary to protect the mainland,” he said.
Porter is an active volunteer with the Connellsville Historical Society.
Barbara Starn is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.