Some men just have to serve the country. We learn during this interview of Gordon Fullerton he went to extraordinary lengths to join the service shortly after Pearl Harbor was bombed, then found opportunities, and a whole lot of luck. Once on the path he served not just in World War II, but also Korea, earning the Silver Star, in lieu of five bronze battle stars.
It is an extraordinary story of being assigned, reassigned, re-educated. Of course all men wanted to fly, and he did as a navigator, but eventually finds himself navigating ships, assigned to the USS Duluth, a light cruiser which lingered in the Western Pacific after the war and saw service up the Yangtze River and down to Hong Kong, and up to Tsingtau through the Yellow Sea.
Assigned to Japanese occupation thereafter, Mr. Fullerton was most struck by the remarkably different reception between the people there and where he had been in China. The reverse of what you would expect was true, given the enemy and allies during World War II, the Japanese were remarkably friendly, whereas he always felt threatened in China.
He visited the bomb sites at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1947, and found the country as a whole was in terrible shape. By the time of the Korean War he found himself aboard an aircraft carrier, the USS Philippine Sea, taking part in the Inchon invasion. He was on deck when attacked by North Korean MIG’S.
It wasn’t all bad. Stationed in Honolulu is a pretty good billet, and Hilo is pretty good too. Some disenchantment existed however, normally associated with the reduction in standards he has experienced in military and civilian life in general.
I asked him about the various ribbons on his hat, which illustrate in great relief the extensive service he has done for our country. Mr. Fullerton participated in the Alaska Airlines Honor Flight in May 2017, transporting men like him to Washington DC for a visit to the military there, saluting them as they arrived and traveled about the monuments.
Mr. Fullerton is now 91, his memory sometimes slips, but we were helped by his wife Lorraine in the podcast studio.