Joe Rose, World War II Vet Turns 100


January 4, 2019

World War II Veteran Joe Rose celebrated his 100th Birthday on January 2, 2019 at the Rolling Hills Campus in Zion.

From his hometown of Ottawa, Ill. (near Starved Rock) Joe Rose joined the

Navy on July 3, 1940, where he gave 30 years of his life.

Here are some of his reflections:

"I was 21 when I joined. I was an old man. At that time, there were no jobs-nobody was hiring. The only people hiring was the military. There was a recruiter in town and several of us went. I had talked it over with my dad and he said, 'You're old enough to do what you want.' So, I joined, and came to Great Lakes for recruit training." Rose explained.

From there he went to San Pedro, CA., where he served aboard the USS Colorado.

"It had just been in port a couple days from being involved in the Amelia Earhart search," Rose quipped.

"I was a gunner's mate. Everything that could kill you or save your life, I had: the rifle and pistol, ammunition,

the medium and large sized guns and rockets for airplanes, though it would depend upon the ship. I have been on

everything but a submarine and a hospital ship. We were supposed to be on the Colorado temporarily before being

put aboard the destroyers that were at Pearl Harbor, but it's captain said he was short-handed and was going to keep us.

It was 600 feet long and about 50 feet wide with close to 2000 men aboard. I was on her two-and-a-half years, then put on a smaller ship of 160 feet long by about 20 or 25 feet wide with about 80 people. The largest gun we had on that small ship was a three-inch 50: three inches in diameter and 50 inches long. We had depth chargers in the back and a rocket launcher in front, but our main job on that was escorting ships."

Their first mission on the smaller ship was to join another ship to escort a convoy leaving for the South Pacific from San Francisco. They wound up in New Hebrides, about 1,000 miles northeast of Australia.

He tells of a Belgium priest who was first ordained in his parish in the Pacific islands. He traveled from island to island, one church to the next by paddling a canoe. But when WW II started and so many Americans were out there, he got a power boat for his travel back and forth.

"I had a brother, a medical corpsman, in the Army on the same island at that time too, but I didn't know it until after the war was over and we both got home and talked about where we had been and when, and eating at our same favorite restaurant there.

"My older brother went to radio school after boot camp, and was in Germany as a radioman. He knew before anyone else when the war was over because as a radioman, he heard it announced.

When Pearl Harbor happened, we were dry dock in Riverton, Washington. THe commanding officer had told them they would be in there until the work got finished. In dry dock, all the ammunitiois removed from the ship. But with the news of Pearl Harbor.

Someone asked the Admiral what he was going to do, and he told them, "If the Japs come this way, I'm going to get them." The reply was, "You can't fire in dry dock," to which the Admiral simply said, "Watch me."

"We were standing gun watches in dry dock, even though there's no water in there. Fortunately the enemy never came. And when we had all the work done that was needed, we left."

He said once a person makes a rank in the Navy, he is an educator, involved in teaching someone else. "I was a gunners' mate. We had the men in school on the beach for a week, then we went back out to sea for about a week. That was the purpose of it. We were always firing. There were about 20 of us. It was just a command.

Eventually the ship was taken out of commission and they had us shooting on the beach," Rose shared.

"I retired from the Navy in1970 as a Master Chief Petty Officer," says Joe Rose.

At 100 years of age, he reflects on what he liked most about the Navy. He always had money, even when jobs were scarce elsewhere. His first wife, Evelyn, a teacher, and family always had a house, food,

clothing and all they needed. After he became a widower, he remarried Helen and

attended Carthage College for two years, earned a degree in elementary education and taught complete fifth grade classes for about 20 years, then had his second retirement.

He says he had fun in the service and had a lot of friends, some with whom he still communicates around holidays. He advises anyone going into the military to study all they can so they can advance.

"If they offer you a chance to go to school, go!" Rose said.


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