Duane Vern Shipley
1st Class Seaman

Navy - U.S.S. Enterprise

February 1944 - June 1946

First Class Seaman Duane Shipley in uniform          
               
               
Shipley's Background            
 

Duane Shipley began his life in Ridgeland, WI (Dunn County). His grandmother was the midwife that came to the farmhouse he was born on February 4, 1926 to George and Helen Shipley. Even as an only child, he did not lack in regards to playmates; both his parents were one of 11 and cousins abounded. Nicknamed "Stub", he biked all over the area with his cousins. One day they went to the river near the Washburn farm to cool off; Shipley learned the hard way how to swim. Challenging each other, the boys biked across a big log that laid across the stream, but Stub lost his balance and fell into seven feet of water. Fortunately, one of his friends was able to holler instructions to doggy-paddle. From this point on, he learned to be a terrific swimmer.

Because many of the young men of his community has already enlisted or were drafted, Shipley kept track of his friends, especially one who served on a submarine. Eager to enlist, he had wanted to be a pilot, mainly because he always had an interest in aviation and had taken a pre-flight class at Colfax High School. However, he also wanted the ability to come back to a dry, warm place. His uncle and future wife's brothers told him stories of war and sleeping in the tents or on the ground. This prompted him to decide on the Navy.

Nevertheless, as an only child, it was understandable why his parents were reluctant to allow him. Shipley enlisted at age 17, but his mother would not permit him, but finally gave him his birth certificate to complete the forms for enlistment. However, the name listed on the birth certificate did not match the spelling he had grown up using in school. It took six weeks to correct his birth certificate so that his enrollment into the Navy could be completed. Shipley formally enlisted in the Navy on his 18th birthday, February 4, 1944. The day he enlisted, he stopped at his uncle's house to tell his cousin (who was one and a half years older); then and there, Eldon Shipley went into town to enlist.

Mr. Shipley easily passed the swimming test- one of the main requirements of the Navy. He was one of 37 men accepted by the Navy. On May 25, he was called to active duty and boarded a bus in Menomine for Great Lakes, IL. His cousin, Eldon, was also with him all the way through basic training.

               
               
Training - Shipley's Timeline          
Gunner Certificate
May 25, 1944 - He was sent to boot camp in Great Lakes, IL. Eldon was always in line right behind him ("D", "E"). Here they were given multiple immunization shots, which did not thrill either of them; as well as, basics and commando training. Constant competition, calistenics (meaning high repetition of squats, lunges, pull-ups, pushups, sit-ups, and other abdominal exercises), and marching were included in their daily schedule. His first month's pay equaled $2.00, all that was left after removing the cost of his uniforms.

July 12, 1944 - After completing boot camp, he was given a five-day leave.

 
 

August & September 1944 - Shipley was one of sixteen of his group selected to go to school based on a series of aptitude tests. The rest went directly to sea. He was sent to the Naval Air Training Center in Memphis, TN where ordnance, mechanic, and radio communication were covered. They had to pass a Morse Code test and were trained to identify approaching planes (both American and Japanese).

October 1944 - He was sent to Jacksonville Florida Air Station. He was selected to work on SB2C single engine Curtiss Helldriver planes, attaching rocket launchers and changing guns on the planes (removing 50 calibers and replacing them with 20mm cannons in the wings and 50mm in the turret).Shipley also had the opportunity to go out on the range and fly; he also enjoyed the 50% flight pay increase.

November 1944 - He was then relocated to Corpus Christi Air Station, TX. Again working on SB2C planes, they were given a graduation ceremony and diplomas.

December 20, 1944 - Shipley graduated from aviation gunner school. At Whidbey Island, WA, he learned to shot with shotguns and turrent guns at moving clay targets at the U.S. Naval Air Station. They also shoot from small planes at a 30-foot "sleeve" pulled behind a tow plane on a long cable. Here he experienced his first tragedy. On a routine training mission, five planes were completing the shot at the "sleeve." Shipley’s group accomplished their target. He knew his buddy Verne, from Upper Michigan, was in the aircraft behind, so he looked back and watched Verne's plane hit the water.  Shipley's crew called it in but the bodies were never recovered. They never did find out what went wrong. Verne and Duane had made a pact that if anything happened to the other, the surviving one would visit the other’s parents.  It took a few years after the war ended, but finally Duane went to Michigan to visit Verne's family and was glad he did.

January 1945 - He was assigned to the Aircraft Carrier U.S.S. Enterprise, nicknamed the "Big E."

 
               
               
Shipley's Service Time            
 

Shipley was assigned to the U.S.S. Enterprise, one of the seven aircraft carriers that the United States commissioned. During war-time, the massive vessel carried a working crew of 5600 men. It was a floating city; all the conveniences found at home were contained on this moving island- a barbershop, movie theater, laundry, stores, infirmary and well-equipped kitchens. Parts of the “Big E”, as it was affectionately nicknamed, went down six to seven stories. It took a while to figure out their way around the ship until they realized that each side, the starboard (the right side) and port (left), had its own set of numbers.

As good as most of the food was, the dehydrated eggs left much to be desired. His usual breakfast on board consisted of fruit juice and cheese. Most of the time, the carrier supplied fresh food to the men; as Shipley put it “we ate damn good,” but they must have also ran off most of the calories with the physical tasks of loading ammunition. Though tight quarters, the men made due, but not without a few fights here and there. Shipley admits to being a hot-head and trouble started over a foot print on his bed. A commanding officer caught them and took them down to the gym. The whole upper barracks were invited to watch as the two put on 16-oz gloves before going in the boxing ring. What Shipley did not know that that his opponent had been in the Golden Gloves amateur boxing matches in Great Lakes, IL for 2 years! That night he was beaten soundly and in pain the next day (especially as the two were punished with having to run the obstacle course), but Shipley ultimately gained a great friend, the boxer.

 
 
Plan coming in to land on carrier
Planes constantly came and went on the flight deck. The ship carried F6F Hellcats and TBM Avengers bombers plus a complement of Corsair and Bearcat fighter planes. There were three elevators on deck that went into the hold store or retrieve their load of planes and ammunition; these elevators could go up and down the 70 feet in three (3) seconds. A total of 55 flightier planes could be house beneath deck (few were left above deck if possible as they were the main targets of enemy fleets). A railing enclosed the elevator shaft; however, there was no way to protect the men from the invisible rotating propellers. Ever profession had a different color helmet so that the men knew and could identify what each individual’s job on deck entailed; red helmets for ordinance men, yellow for fuelers, etc.  Because of all the noise and although all the seamen knew the danger on deck, there were multiple casualties from backing or walking into the moving plane propellers. One of Shipley’s buddies was fortunate in that the one time he walked back into the fast moving propeller; he was able to jump away and able to recover from his injuries. Many of the injuries and casualties were results to accidents on board the ship in routine duties or due to actual “hits” on the carrier, many from their own planes.  
 

As ordnance man, Shipley was in charge of loading bombs, torpedo,and rockets onto the aircrafts. His job was to reload the guns so they were ready for the next flight. Most of the time the guns had to be pulled out and the burnt-out barrels changed. He remembers when an aircraft landed roughly and one fell off, and one of the men tossed it over board. Usually once a rocket is released, it is timed to explode; fortunately, it exploded as it went over board. Whereas one man did the unthinkable, everyone else hit the ground. 

 

Load Bomber
Loading the TBM Avenger bombers
 
  TBM Bomber takeoff
TBM Bomber readying for take off- propellers close to invisible

However, when officers found out that Shipley was also qualified as an air crewman as a gunner and able to also run the radar gear (though he claims today’s fish-finders are probably better than what they had for radar equipment), he filled in for anyone that was ill or unable to fly.  As an aircraft gunner, Shipley was seated behind the pilot, manning the guns in the bomber. He was a good shot and enjoyed being in the sky.   The first take-off from the carrier is an unsettling experience; the aircrafts take-off from the deck at full throttle, brakes locked. The wheel chocks are pulled out at the last second before the planes were shot off with one of the two catapult.  The initial thrust gives a big bust, but then you loose your stomach once that energy is absorbed.  At the same time, about five other planes would be revving up.  When approaching for landing, the tail hook was released, hoping to catch one of the several arresting cables stretched across the deck at intervals. During landing, full throttle is maintained in case the hooks do not catch a cable; then the plane takes off and attempts to land again. It was said that landings on a carrier were nothing but controlled crashes! After the planes landed, they were either parked at an angle on the flight deck or stored below deck with the wings neatly folded up manually or hydraulically.

     
 

One time after returning from several raids, worn and tired, Shipley reached in the cockpit to make sure the armament switch was turned off. However, he accidentally ran a burst of 20 mm bullets. The guns pointed downward when the wings of the bomber were folded, so the bullets went into the flight deck, right over the officer's ready room. As horrifying noise was heard below, the officers came running out. Fortunately the armor plate under the wooden deck kept the bullets from penetrating. He was never questioned or received a word of reprimand.

Holidays on board were non-existent other than meals may be more elaborate. Calling home was a treat; because of the “party line” telephone at the time, six-eight people would answer to chat before he finally could talk with his family.  He waited eagerly for mail call; His mom wrote at least twice a week and aunts just as often. The letters from relatives, neighbors, and friends were important to him.

 
 

Soon, the U.S.S. Enterprise was at the center of the most powerful naval striking force that the world had ever known. She was sometimes called the "galloping ghost of the Oahu coast" as she was so elusive. 

U.S.S. Enterprise (U.S. Aircraft Carrier)
U.S.S. Enterprise
 
               
               
1945 - Kyushu, Japan            
  Kyushu (ki-ū'-shoo) became the target for American raids in an attempt to stop the suicide planes. This location placed them closer to their targets; Japan’s traveling airfield made it possible to carry less fuel, assisting in Japan’s warfare survival at this point of the war. However, the rocket launchers on the American planes did not always work.  For Shipley, as an ordnance man, it was frustrating to fly that distance and not have reliable fire power. The planes took off from the carrier at midnight to strike their targets at the break of day; at dawn, there was less chance of return fire. Once in the air, there was no radio contact was allowed. The aircraft would then return to the carrier by early morning. Shipley made three trips into Japan on a Grumman TBM Avenger, which had a total crew of three. On these missions, crews would have to watch fuel consumption to make sure there was enough to get back to the carrier. Many did not make it back. Shipley personally lost two of his buddies because of the lack of fuel on such trips.    
               
               
May 14, 1945 - Enterprise Hit            
  From January 1945 until May 1945, Shipley states that for him the war heated up.  Japan was running out of fuel and finding any means to destroy the carriers, especially the U.S.S. Enterprise as it protected the troops stationed on the beach of Okinawa from Japanese air attack. On May 14th, Japan and the war made its most lasting impact on 1st Class Seaman Duane Shipley. 

A Kamikaze pilot, a Japanese pilot to honor to his country gives his plane and life, rammed his "Zeke" fighter into the aircraft carrier.  The one bomb he carried along with his tank of gas provided a deadly explosion.  The explosion blasted the 15-ton forward elevator (the plane elevators on deck) more than 400 feet into the air. A total of thirteen men were killed and 68 men wounded. The casualties would have been more, but the seamen were at their battle stations, watertight doors closed and equipment ready for possible on deck fire.  Those killed were buried at sea and memorial services were held on deck. Shipley is still bothered by this event as he felt the bodies could have been taken back to Pearl Harbor for burial.

The U.S.S. Enterprise was sent in for repairs and the men given a 30-day survivor's leave. Not knowing how he would get home, he hopped a train from Seattle to Minneapolis. Spying a bus labeled Menomonie, he hopped on; the driver opened the door and allowed him on with a ticket.

 
   
               
               
Back on Duty - U.S.S. Enterprise & Panama Canal          
 

After leave, Shipley reported to Bremerton, WA when the A-Bomb was dropped in August. The repairs had been completed and the ship left Puget Sound, Washington on September 1, 1945, returning to Pearl Harbor where they joined the 6th Fleet. Once the war was official over, the U.S.S. Enterprise, along with 28 other warships, sailed through the Panama Canal (the shortest route) for New York and other Eastern ports. She was one of three surviving aircraft carriers (remember at the start of the war there were seven-the remaining four were destroyed by suicide bombers).

The aircraft carriers were designed to barely fit through the locks.  Most of the planes flew off the ship in formation before the ship entered the Panama Canal.  The seaman were given permission to leave the ship in Panama, but many sailors got into trouble. They were all called back. The carrier was packed with veterans, but all could only think about getting back home.

 
               
               
October 27, 1945 - Navy Day & Presidential Review          
  Shipley cannot describe the relief he felt as fog rolled around the  Statue of Liberty as the carrier passed by it (article describing the "Old Lady" as she came into the harbor). On October 17, 1945, the U.S. Enterprise came into port, one of the first to line up for Navy Day on October 27.  Shipley remembers a few select words fellow seamen stated as they awaited “liberty”- approved leave. Because President Harry Truman was eating breakfast on the "Missouri" at Pier 9, they were ordered to remain on board, dressed in their whites as a show of seamen on the flight deck to salute the President. After the President reviewed the 50 warships lined along the Hudson River, they were permitted to join the Victory Parade down New York City's Avenue of the Americas. It is still considered the greatest naval show in the history of New York.  
               
               
Waiting for Discharge            
 

The aircraft carrier left port without aircraft or airmen, but as an Ordnance Man, Shipley stayed on to help unload all ammunition and bombs. At this time, he had enough points to be honorable discharged, but his records had been lost. Due to the lost records, he was assigned to Norfolk Air Base were he worked as a  fireman. Bored at the Fire station, he signed up again with his ship. The U.S.S. Enterprise had become a part of "Operation Magic Carpet"- mission: return U.S. troops from Europe. Shipley was participated in two trips, one to Southampton England and another to Marseilles, France. Without the planes, parts and extra aviation fuel, there was plenty of room in the hold of the ship; it was outfitted with tiers of bunks, enough to house 5000 passengers in addition to her skeleton crew of 1250. After tropical conditions of the South Atlantic, he found the rough, cold North Atlantic Ocean not to his liking. Returning to Shelton, VA, First Class Seaman Duane Shipley was finally discharged and received his severance pay in June of 1946.

Plans for preserving the "Big E" as a museum and memorial failed due to lack of funds and it was later sold for scrap

 
               
               
Life After Serving His Country            
 

Knowing many of the pilots, Shipley saved his $65 travel allowance on his return to home by hitching plane rides. He didn't care where they went as long as he eventually got home. He hitchhiked between planes, visiting relatives and friends along the way. His uniform plus his "Ruptured Duck" (honorable discharge pin) were his tickets when he was not able to hitch a ride with friends or family. 

Once Shipley came back home, the Navy wanted his to re-enlist. However, he was not interested in continuing his service career. He had difficulties sleeping due to reoccurring nightmares of the fires and casualties he witnessed aboard ship. He came home restless and attempted to make the transition back home. He had to decide what to do with his life and signed up for a Forestry Class at the University of Minnesota, but the first class he had to work with fire, the smell reminded him of his service experiences causing him to loose interest. He credits his wife, Shirley (Hinzman), and family for assisting him in staying on the right path. Shipley settled onto the farm and raised a family with Shirley- three girls and four boys. Along with farming, he drove school bus for a total of fifty-seven years.

As Millie Link wrote in an article entitled the Memories of a Navy Man for the Hay River Review, a local Prairie Farm/Ridgeland, WI newspaper: "He [Shipley] was proud to have done his bit in defending his country, although he maintains that the real heroes were the ground troops who went for weeks and months without a bed or decent meals.  He felt it was a privilege to have served on a ship that had taken part in nearly every Pacific naval battle and was the most decorated ship of WWII."

Shipley in 2007
Duane Shipley - April 2007

 
               
               
  Links for more information:
United States Navy: http://www.navy.mil/
U.S. Military Aircraft Designations (Aircraft information): http://www.driko.org/usdes.html
USS Enterprise:
http://www.chinfo.navy.mil/navpalib/ships/carriers/histories/cv06-enterprise/cv06-enterprise.html
http://www.navy.mil/midway/ussenterprise.html

World War II Stories: In Their Own Words: http://carol_fus.tripod.com/
         
               
               
 

First Class Seaman Shipley was Interviewed by Melissa Eggen, Library Media Specialist (maeggen@gmail.com).
Additional Information from Memories of a Navy Man by Millie Link, published by the Hay River Review.

     
               
  Images: all images were provided by the veteran through his personal collection, photographed by M. Eggen, or used with permission from the http://historylink101.com/ww2-planes.htm.

Background Border: http://www.grsites.com
     
   
 
 
 
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