Mathews served in, saw combat

It was early 1942, Pearl Harbor was smoldering, as was a fire in every American's belly; they wanted revenge.

Fifteen-year-old Robert “Bud” Mathews and five of his friends felt no different. They lied about their ages, joined the Army, and soon found themselves in Camp Roberts, Calif.

“There were six of us that ran around together,” Mathews grinned. “We got into basic training and one of them got homesick, and turned us all in; the colonel kicked us all out of the Army.

“When I turned 17, I joined the Navy; but they sure checked me closer that time,” Mathews laughed.

He trained for two months at Faurragat, Idaho and then became an Armed Guard on Merchant Ship tankers picking up fuel oil at the Caribbean Island of Aruba, and passing through the Panama Canal to fuel fleets in the Pacific Ocean.

The ships on which Mathews served dodged hurricanes and torpedoes.

“That ship, in a hurricane, would stand up on its tail going up a swell; and then just crash back into the ocean,” Mathews grimaced.

As a Seaman First class, Mathews, like any other sailor who crossed the Equator, was initiated, going in a “pollywog” and coming out a “crusty shellback.”

“They shaved my head and other things, but it wasn't so bad,” Mathews recalled.

By the war's end, Mathews was serving aboard troop ships delivering soldiers to various ports in the Pacific, including the occupation of Japan.

‘We got to tour some of the bombed out cities; they [the Japanese citizens] didn't bother us; we never worried about our safety,” Mathews remembered.

“I think we all thought about staying in; but I had started a family, had a bouncing baby boy, so I got out.

Mathews later worked at the Navajo, [Shiprock, New Mexico] Exell, [Masterson, Texas] and Keyes Helium Plants.

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