Sunday, June 24, 2012
Happy birthday: Robert Jaggers is 90 years old
Beatriz and I had a chance to attend Bob's 90th birthday party.
It was great.
Bob is a World War II veteran and wrote a book about his experiences.
We had a chance to meet his brother, also a WW2 veteran, and so many in his big family that flew in from all over the country.
The party theme was the 1920's and I ended up as "Irving Berlin".
The food was great and so was the atmosphere.
A few years ago, I wrote a post about Bob's experience during D-Day.
Let me repeat: It is always a pleasure to say hello to Bob at the 11am mass at St Catherine of Sienna.
He is one of the most popular parishioners. Bob is also a popular guest at area schools where kids have a lot of fun asking questions about his past.
A few years ago, Bob Jagers was interviewed about the book and his amazing life. This is a bit of that interview:
"“I was born in 1922 in Chicago, Illinois, and later moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan. I graduated high school in Grand Rapids. I went to two years of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids before entering the war. I enlisted in the Navy in April of 1942. But they permitted me to finish my term. In June of 1942 I was sent to Great Lakes naval training center, for my boot camp. After boot camp, I went to quatermaster signaling school . Upon completion, we were asked what kind of ship we wanted to be on, and I said I wanted to be on a submarine. They interviewed me and gave me some exhaustive tests for submarine duty, and they said I was number 21. The next complement of sub sailors needed was of 20. If any of the previous 20 were rejected, or refused to go for some reason, then I would be selected. Looking back 50 years, I was quite fortunate in that all 20 of them were selected. The next thing I knew I was on a train for amphibious training at Solomons Maryland. I spent several months there, went aboard a training vessel, a LST training vessel on the Chesapeake Bay. While aboard this training vessel, we had some cases of spinal meningitis. Since we were out in the bay, and spinal meningitis is very contagious, they sent one man that was ill ashore in what we called a small boat or a LCBD. As we were out in the bay, they discovered a second sailor that was ill, so they put him in a second LCBD and took him to the hospital. Well on the small boat, it required an officer, a signalman, plus the small boat crew. So we went aboard and I was the signalman. This is wartime so there were no lights, you have to feel your way and it was midnight or dark. And our officer said, “well I wanna take a shortcut”. Instead of heading along the shore and going back to Solomons, he took a shortcut, but we got lost. We ended up into a tributary of the Patuxen, at a farmer’s dock, and we went to the farmer’ house, and we found that we were close to the Patuxen naval air base. So they called the air base and they sent an ambulance and the sick patient plus the officer went in the ambulance. The boat crew and ourselves had the ship for ourselves. Well we followed the river up to the naval base. We spent the night at the naval base, had breakfast, and returned to our ship. Aboard this training vessel, we had some powdered milk, and the powdered milk was about the size of a coffee can. Later on, when we received our own ship, we had to sail to New York, and we were given a list of things of things we had to order, and on this list was ten cans of powdered milk. The storekeeper thought that ten cans of powdered milk would not be enough, so he changed the manifest to read one hundred cans. When the cans came they were huge, like a thousand pounds instead of ten pounds. So two years later when we decommissioned that ship, we still had some of that original powdered milk. We put that powdered milk in every available place we could find. It was down in the engine room, it was down in the flag locker which was part of my responsibility, that was rather an unusual story. We sailed from New York to Bermuda, where we gathered a convoy to sail towards North Africa. It took us 36 days to go from New York to Bermuda to North Africa. An LST is the slowest ship in the convoy. It travels maybe four or five knots, about six miles an hour. Not only do you travel from Bermuda to North Africa, but you have to zig zag. So I’m sure that the destroyers and destroyer escorts that were accompanying us really didn’t like to see the LST’s come along because the convoy moved very slowly. We went to the straits of Gibraltar, landed at the naval base of Oran. And at the naval base, it’s a French base, there were some French battle ships, they were some ships that had been shelled, had been bombed by the British fleet. When the Germans had taken over France, they assumed they were taking over the French fleets. There was an order passed to the French sailors that if they wanted to join the allies, they were to turn on their search lights and point them towards the sky. Well this wasn’t done in every case, and as a result of it some of the British warships fired on the French ships. And these British warships had some of the French sailors onboard, and it was a pretty bad feeling for some of these French sailors to be firing at their own French sailors on the French ships. From Oran, we stopped at Arzoo, and from Arzoo, we went to a place called Bougie. The pharmacist mate onboard our ship, we didn’t have a doctor, he decided that I had appendicitis. So they dropped me off at Bougie and sent me to a British field hospital. I spent five weeks at this British field hospital, and I did have an appendectomy. A British field hospital is all tents, they had scheduled my operation for 4:30 Thursday afternoon, and while I’m laying there on the guerney, the nurse comes in and tells me your operation is being delayed so the doctor can have his tea. The British really loved their tea, it seemed to be more important than anything else. I had tea eight times a day. While I was at the British field hospital, I was the only American sailor among 3000 patients. They told me that there was an American soldier that had been very badly burned. They wanted to know if I, since I was up and walking around, if I would go and talk to him. This soldier had third degree burns over seventy to eighty percent of his body. In the IV’s they couldn’t give him any liquids, he just couldn’t keep them down. Some doctor decided, well, maybe we could give some beer. It’ll be the proteins and the liquids, which they did. They fed him nothing but beer for many many days. I would go in to talk to him, and he had his perpetual high. He was glad to see me everyday. It came time for me to be discharged from the hospital, and he was kinda sad to see me go. I was his only connection. While we were at the hospital, we were strafed and divebombed by Silka divebombers almost every night, sometimes even during the day. They just ignored the big redcross that was painted on the tents. They were not supposed to bomb hospitals. The Geneva Convention says no hospital ships or hospitals, but anyway we were bombed almost every night, some times during the day. So they were ready to discharge me from the hospital, I just had an appendix operation. I had my seed bag my hammock and my mattress, it weighed between eighty and one hundred pounds, and they gave me some railroad tickets and seven days rations and said don’t do any lifting for several weeks. Well how do I get my seed bag from here to there without lifting it? They gave me seven days rations, which was seven packages of hard-tac, seven tins of bullied beef, somewhat like spam, a package of tropical butter, which you couldn’t melt with a blow torch I don’t think, and they gave me some tropical cheese, which was extremely hard to cut. They put me on a train near Bougie and I had to go into – this is in the summer, May – and I had to go to Benemensure, where I had to change trains. When I left the ship for the hospital, my white uniform was in the bottom of my seed bag. And I wasn’t about to unload my seed bag to get to my white uniform. So I had my blue pants, and I confiscated a British army shirt from a soldier at the hospital, and my white hat. Benemensure is approximately 150 - 200 miles from the nearest water. So I had traded a packet of hard-tac for some fresh eggs, and I‘m outside of the railroad station building a fire ready to have lunch. And the SP’s pick me up. I had British orders, a British shirt, and I was an American sailor. And 200 miles to the nearest water. So they picked me up, and took me to their base. Well the captain looked at my orders and he finally decided that what I was saying was the truth. He says well I don’t have much to offer you since you were in the middle of eating lunch, all I can offer you is some pork and beans and some pineapple. Well after five weeks of British food, that was like a gourmet meal to me. I finally boarded the train from Benemensure to Algiers. Riding from Bougie to Benemensure I was riding first class. First class meant that you sat with pigs, goats, and chickens. So when I went from Benemensure to Algiers, I rode in the baggage car. And for me it was more enjoyable, more comfortable, less odiferous, and there were some French soldiers in there, I didn’t speak French and they didn’t speak English, but they would point things to me as we passed. I got to Algiers, and I was to look up the British road transportation officer, the RTO. I looked and I looked, and I couldn’t find him. So I went aboard an LST that was in the harbor, and I said can I spend the night here, and they said yes, and so I was thinking to myself well I’ll spend the night here and wake up and have a good breakfast. Well about 3 in the morning they were shaking me and they said well you gotta get up, we have sailing orders. So I had to pack my gear, and get off the ship. I went to a park and stayed there for a night. Woke up the next morning at I’m still looking for this RTO, and couldn’t find him. Well, I knew there was a naval base at Oran, and that was really where I was supposed to go. So I went down to one of the gates coming into the city. And there was an SP on duty there and I said I need to get a ride to Oran, see if you can fix me up with one of the people going by."
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