I was made to feel at home right from the start. Dick Sherman opened the door to his apartment at Atria last week and presented an abundance of charm and one of the warmest personalities I have ever encountered. “I guess you know my son,” he said with a big smile. (Mr. Sherman’s son, Jeff, has been a friend for more than 30 years).
While sitting with him and his aide, Marie, I found Mr. Sherman to possess all the qualities—humility, kindness, a genuine manner—one would expect from a member of the Greatest Generation, as well as an energy one would never expect of a 95-year-old man.
He was involved, amazingly, in five invasions during his time in the South Pacific Theater. Mr. Sherman served his country for seven years in World War II and Korea as a member of the US Navy. He was discharged as a quartermaster first class.
Born in Providence, Rhode Island, he attended the University of Rhode Island for one semester before enlisting in the Navy at age 19. He was sent to Camp Sampson in New York for basic training. His first assignment was to pick up a ship in Pittsburgh. (Mr. Sherman’s memory is still exceptional; he remembered it as the tank landing ship LST-670). Because of his education and ability to get things done, Quartermaster Sherman was immediately relied on heavily by the officers.
Of all the South Pacific invasions Quartermaster Sherman was involved in, he remembers Okinawa as the absolute worst. “One of our ships was hit 21 times and kamikazes attacked three of our LSTs. It scared the hell out of me! We were at general quarters (a state of readiness) 24/7. Always on the controls, always on the lookout. We did a lot of praying,” he said.
The intense day-to-day pressure was sometimes unbearable, but you could never give in. “You had to be focused, because you were responsible for so many lives. We did get ’em (the enemy), though. Our ship knocked out 10 planes,” he recalled. “We had a really good gunnery officer. His name was actually Al Gore (no relation to the former vice president). I tried to find him after the war but was disappointed I couldn’t....” Was he ever afraid? “Oh God, yes!” he responded.
One constant source of aggravation was Tokyo Rose, one of the enemy’s supposed secret weapons based on her ability to get into the minds of seamen through radio broadcasts. “You would hear her, but we paid no attention,” he said dismissively. Evening watch could, at times, rattle the nerves; Japanese shells would hit the coral on the starboard side of his ship and explode, and remnants of coral would land on the deck. “It scared the hell out of me,” he said. Sometimes the crew members would “make smoke” by putting kerosene in a barrel and lighting it on fire to distract the enemy and protect the ships.
When asked about being away for the holidays as a young man, Quartermaster Sherman got quiet. “Yeah, it was tough. The worst thing was when they showed Christmas movies. It really got to you,” he recalled. There was little entertainment on the ship. “We saw shows, but the only thing that was really great was when the nurses came on board,” he said with a huge chuckle. When asked about a mentor, he replied without hesitation and affectionately, “My grandfather. He was a damn good friend.”
Quartermaster Sherman shared a story about his ship having to bring supplies to Hawaii after the attack on Pearl Harbor. “We were to bring 60,000 cases of beer to the island,” he recalled. “Believe it or not, all the cases didn’t arrive,” he said with a devilish grin.
He still has bad dreams. “I relive it there,” he said, pointing to his bed. How did he get through it? “I always tried to get along with everyone. Didn’t matter the color of a man’s skin or where he was from. We watched out for each other every day.”
Quartermaster Sherman’s awards include the Presidential Unit Citation and Occupational Service Award, and the National Defense Service, Combat Action, Navy Expeditionary, American Campaign, Asiatic Pacific and World War II Service medals.
Quartermaster Dick Sherman, a true gentleman in every sense of the word, thank you for your service to our great country.