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90-year-old veteran survived five major beach invasions

Paul Glover

Paul Glover

CONYERS -- Born in 1921, Paul Glover weathered the Great Depression better than most kids his age.

"My father was a railroad man in Spartanburg, S.C., so we had food on the table and a roof over our heads," he recalled.

Glover attended Spartanburg Junior College for a year after high school graduation, but Pearl Harbor delayed further education. Glover joined the Navy in 1942.

"I knew about radios," he said. "So I was sent to Bainbridge, Md., after basic to become a radio operator."

His next port-of-call would be Coronado, Calif., to learn the ropes on amphibious warfare before sailing on a cruiser to the amphibious base in Hawaii.

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Paul Glover

"I trained for radio duty on the LCCs (Landing Craft, Control). The LCCs were 56 feet long and mounted twin 50-calibre machine guns. They led the Higgins boats to the beaches. I stayed in contact by radio with the men already on the beach to get the Higgins boats to within 50 yards of the correctly numbered beach. Then we'd return to the mother ship for more fully loaded Higgins boats."

Glover survived five major invasions on the LCCs: Guam, Leyte Gulf, Luzon, Subic Bay, and Okinawa.

"I was lucky," he said. "We lost LCCs and a lot of Higgins boats on those invasions."

First assigned to the attack cargo ship, USS Alcyone AKA-7, the LCCs would be launched from the bigger cargo ships to escort the vulnerable Higgins boats loaded down with even more vulnerable soldiers.

"It was rough," Glover recalled. "We could hear the Japanese coastal artillery shells whiz over our heads like a big whistle, then sometimes one of our boats would disappear."

After a return trip to Pearl Harbor, Glover was assigned to the attack transport, USS Alpine APA-92. During the well-known sea battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944, the USS Alpine received its first battle scars. On Nov. 18 the crew of the Alpine spotted a Japanese plane heading right at their ship. The gunners opened fire and crippled the oncoming enemy plane. It veered right and splashed off the starboard quarter.

"That wasn't the last one," Glover stated. "A second plane headed our way. Our gunners opened up again and black smoke trailed from the plane. It banked left and flew on at full power toward our bridge, but burst into flames at about 1,200 feet. It still hit the port side of the ship, killing five and wounding 12."

Glover recalled the noise of battle.

"The noise was loud and constant. Japanese coastal guns, their planes strafing our ships, our gunners trying to knock them out of the sky, and the cruisers and big battleships firing their massive guns at the beaches. Those huge shells from the battleships sounded like freight trains screaming over our heads."

The USS Alpine was sent back to Pearl Harbor for repairs and refitting.

"I didn't drink much in the Navy, but I did that time," Glover recalled. "I don't know how much beer we consumed, but I know we ended up at a pineapple plantation drinking ice cold pineapple juice. Beer and pineapple juice isn't a great combination. I've never been so sick in my life!"

Once again ready for action, the USS Alpine sailed for an island called Okinawa.

"The only good thing about Okinawa was the absence of enemy resistance at the beaches," Glover said. "The Japanese had melted away into the countryside. We landed unopposed, but Japan had invented a new way to kill us."

The "new way" was the Japanese Kamikaze suicide plane. On April 1, 1945, the USS Alpine was in the process of lowering LCCs and Higgins boats when a kamikaze came in on the port quarter. Already damaged from a bomb hit on the starboard side of the main deck, the suicide plane slammed into the Alpine, inflicting major damage and additional casualties.

"We had 16 killed and 19 wounded. Two of my best friends were in sick bay. I lost both of them." Glover said.

One of Glover's friends lost his life when an enemy shell hit the ship.

"You never knew," he said. "You just never knew."

With fires blazing and the ship listing 7 degrees to port, most of the crew from the Alpine were transferred to the attack cargo ship, USS Alshain. The Alshain returned to Pearl Harbor, where Glover boarded a naval cruiser to return stateside. Training again at the Coronado, Calif., amphibious base, in all probability for the invasion of Japan, two atom bombs ended the war for Paul Glover and the United States of America.

"Man, did we celebrate!" Glover recalled.

When asked to elaborate, Glover stated with a smile, "My wife is sitting on the couch behind me. I'm 90 years old and don't feel like going through a divorce."

Whether or not he would tell his story was up for debate.

"I worried about telling my story, but in the end I decided to say what I could. Some places I can't go to, but I am glad I revisited the war. It's like a closure, it helps ease the pain, but we ... we lost so many, so many," he said.

Pete Mecca is a Vietnam veteran and author of "A Veteran's Story," a regular feature of the Citizen. Contact him at petemecca@gmail.com.