Thursday, June 11, 2009

Profile in Courage: Jim Kennedy, Last Surviving WWII Deep Sea Diver

We recently came across this terrific write-up on the last surviving WWII deep sea diver.

At 19 years old, Colorado native Jim Kennedy joined an elite team of Army deep sea divers. The year was 1942, and with World War II in full swing following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Kennedy was eager to serve his country.

"I went into the army out at Fort Logan," Kennedy said.

A year prior, Kennedy gained experience that would make him an ideal candidate for the Army Corp of Engineers new diving team. After the CCCs disbanded, Kennedy hitchhiked to Washington, D.C. to work in a naval yard as an overhead crane operator and met a rigger who happened to be a diver. Kennedy would soon become the diver's assistant when the Navy needed help taking bodies off the carrier Saratoga after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

"The Saratoga had a hole blow through it, so big you could drive your car through and they wanted him to go down and recover all the dead bodies before the ship was put in the dry dock," Kennedy explained.

"It was the first time I saw a body bag," he said.

Before, going into the Army, Kennedy enlisted in the Merchant Marines. He had to memorize the eye chart to get in. He went through boot camp and graduated, but a short time later he transferred to the Navy. However, he but didn't make it far when he realized the eye chart changed.

"This lieutenant said, 'How in the hell did you ever get into the Navy with your eyesight so bad?'" chuckled Kennedy.

He told the truth and was honorably discharged only to find out two weeks later the Navy lowered the eye standards.

Kennedy's pursuit to serve could have ended there, but he gave the Army a try. Kennedy would soon learn they'd have a job that suited him perfect.

"The next thing I know they said, 'We're sending you to diving school,'" Kennedy said.

"I said, 'Hey that's going to be neat,'" he added.

Continue reading...

Our masks off to you, sir.

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