Lawrence E. (Larry) Hess turned seventeen on September 5, 1943. With his father’s relectant permission, he enlisted in the Navy. He was 5 ‘2″ tall and weighed 118 pounds. When he took his physical, one of the doctors told him that if he would tell him how old he really was, he “would get him out of this.”. Larry went to boot camp at Farragut, Idaho. After boot camp, he was sent to radio school on the USS Boston, an old battleship that was tied up on Yerba Buena Island, which is located right under the Oakland-Bayview Bridge in San Francisco. Upon completion of radio school, he was sent to San Diego for gunnery and firefighting school. He was then assigned to an amphibious ship, LCI 550.
The ship left San Diego, stopped in Hawaii and proceeded to Guadalcanal, then Saipan and Guam. On Guadalcanal, the natives would shinny up the coconut trees and throw coconuts down to the sailors and the sailors would give them Clorox to bleach their hair.
Larry’s ship participated in the invasion of the Palau Islands, going in before the first wave of marines, shooting rockets to clear the landing area. The Americans took control of two of the islands but the Japanese still controlled the big island of Babelthuap. After the invasion, Larry’s ship patrolled between the islands to keep the Japanese from retaking the captured islands. Sometime, at night, the Japanese would throw grappling hooks up on the ship and try to board. That’s why the sailors were taught to shoot anything in the water, especially at night.
After leaving the Palau Islands, the ship was making its way to China for river patrol when a typhoon hit and beached and damaged the ship. The sailors remained on the ship while it was in dry dock being repaired. Later the ship was sent to Shanghai, but by then, the Japanese had surrendered and the ship made its way to Hawaii and on to San Francisco. Larry took the train from San Francisco to Norman Oklahoma, where after two years, five months and twenty-two days, he was discharged. His parents came to Norman to pick him up, and his dad hardly recognized him because he had grown and changed so much.
After returning home, Larry completed his GED, worked for Cities Service Oil Company for over twenty years, then went in business for himself, owning Hess Building and Supply, Larry’s Car Wash and the first storage units in El Dorado. He died December 2, 2015, leaving his wife, Jo, sons Sam and Chuck, and four grandchildren.