The best stories come from those who have experienced the most. I recently had the pleasure to talk to a World War II veteran. This veteran wasn’t just anyone, he’s the one that will never give up, fight for what he wants, and the one that will do anything for his country.

    The best stories come from those who have experienced the most. I recently had the pleasure to talk to a World War II veteran. This veteran wasn’t just anyone, he’s the one that will never give up, fight for what he wants, and the one that will do anything for his country.   

     I’m lucky enough to say that this courageous, strong, loving man is my grandpa, John Ralph Johnson. I’m always interested in my family and everything they have done. Knowing that grandpa was in the military, I was very fascinated by that and wanted to learn more about it.

    Two months before graduating from Wahpeton High School in North Dakota, 6’4”, 18 year old blue eyed, blondie, J. Ralph Johnson volunteered himself to join the Navy. He was like every other young boy from North Dakota; he was very athletic playing football and hockey. He lived on a farm and was a hard working kid yet he had a bigger dream than just going to college. Before entering college, he knew he needed to do something for his country because he cared so much and thought it was the right thing to do. He admitted, “I volunteered because if you volunteered yourself then you could choose where you wanted to go.” He added, “My father fought in World War I and was in the Navy, so I thought it was necessary for me to follow in his footsteps and join the Navy as well.”

    The military life wasn’t anything like going to school or working on the farm. Even though the farm work was hard, being in the military was far worse. “Boot camp was one of the hardest things I’ve been through.      

    There were many early mornings and late nights but to this day I don’t regret any of it. I’m glad I did it and I believe everyone should experience it,” J. Ralph stated.  He was in boot camp for about four months then finally he was able to choose where he wanted to go and headed out to sea for World War II.

    Fighting in WWII was a big deal because the battles were not only on land but also at sea. There was always a possibility something could happen to him. He was put on a large ship on the coast of California that left the U.S. into the South Pacific Ocean with a destination to the Russian coast. The ship was big enough to hold two air crafts, three ships, five cruisers, and fifty destroyers. Even with all of those large air and water crafts, it still was able to hold about 500 Navy men, many large weapons, and a few small automobiles to help the men get from one side of the ship to the other quickly.

    One important thing involved my grandpa and his job on the ship. “The job wasn’t a very tough one, you just needed to know how to climb stairs and be able to count,” J. Ralph announced with a little chuckle at the end.

    He was a store keeper and kept track of inventory on the ship. The inventory consisted of making sure there was always enough food for men on the ship and extra for the ones out in the crafts. He also had to go up and down three flights of stairs to a cold, dark cellar full of ammunition, bombs, under water bombs, and nuclear missiles. With a show of a little pain on his face towards the end he said, “I might have been in an office on the ship most of the time, but those stairs are probably the reason why my knees are so bad today.”

    After giving me a little history lesson on what happened in the war, he brought up his favorite memory of the war.

    With his job he was in charge of fueling the ship. While he was on the dock waiting, he noticed a cruiser that had a familiar name on it and knew that his buddy from boot camp was on it. A man came over and began fueling the cruiser, while he was doing that J. Ralph asked if Jack Olson was still a part of the crew. The man looked confused but then out from the cruiser John “Jack” Olson announced, “Did someone ask for Jack Olson?” The two were happy to catch up a little bit while the ships were fueling.  

   To finally see and talk to each other was a highlight. J. Ralph with a grin from ear to ear declared, “That was probably one of the best days being able to see an old buddy and knowing that everything was okay.”

    There were many good and bad days but out of them all, the best was knowing that my grandpa, J. Ralph Johnson, had made it out of World War II alive. He attended St. Johns University in Minnesota, and was able to raise a family he loves to this day. He is currently 89 years old, still has sparkling blue eyes but white frost hair with bad knees. This man is a proud veteran. Going into the military was important to him and believes everyone should experience it. With his courage and strength, he was able to fight for what he wanted and protect his country.