WWII Navy veteran remembers August, 1945 in South Pacific
August 17, 2023
WAITSBURG–"Not too many kids from Prescott are able to say they spent their nineteenth birthday in Tokyo, Japan," Jack McCaw, 96, said recently in recalling where he was and what he was doing during those events at the conclusion of World War II in August, 1945.
McCaw joined the service upon reaching his eighteenth birthday in March, 1945, and found himself aboard an LSM (landing ship, medium), in the Pacific Theater. He and a couple classmates from the Prescott High School Class of 1945 missed graduation; Jack's mother Katherine McCaw collected his diploma in his absence.
His father, Jay McCaw, delivered him to the train depot in Walla Walla and he took basic training on Coronado Island, San Diego, Calif.
He attended engine school then was transported across the Pacific Ocean on a steamer, where he attached to LSM 368 in June or July of 1945. The Navy needed an engine man on LSM 159 for a spell, then he was transferred to LSM 80.
McCaw credits President Truman's decision to use the atom bomb as playing a large role in his future. "If we hadn't dropped the bomb and we'd invaded Japan," McCaw said, "the predicted 1.2 million American casualties and 8 million Japanese casualties. Truman saved a hell of a lot of people."
During the occupation, McCaw's LSM pulled alongside another ship and McCaw looked up to see Bobby Estes of Waitsburg looking down at him. "I said 'what the hell are you doing here?' and he said 'what the hell are you doing here?'"
On returning to the United States, McCaw's ship departed from Subic Bay, the Philippines, and sailed beneath the Golden Gate Bridge on its way into port.
McCaw is well known in the Touchet Valley and has been an annual fixture in the Touchet Valley Arts Council Fall musicals through the years. His trademark is breaking the "fourth wall" with a boisterous "Go Navy!" at some point in many of the plays.