War Veteran Interview, Jim Reynolds ’s World War II Story: If you have been listening to WallBuilders Live for very long at all, you know how much we respect our veterans and how appreciative we are of the sacrifices they make to make our freedoms possible. One of the ways that we love to honor those veterans is to tell their stories here on WallBuilders Live. Today, we are interviewing Jim Reynolds on his experience as a coast guard in World War II.

Air Date: 10/02/2019

Guest: Jim Reynolds

On-air Personalities: David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton


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Faith And The Culture 

Rick:

Welcome to the intersection of faith and the culture. This is WallBuilders Live! Where we’re talking about today’s hottest topics on policy, faith, and the culture, always doing that from a Biblical, historical, and Constitutional perspective.

We’re here with David Barton, America’s premier historian and the founder of WallBuilders. Also, Tim Barton, national speaker and President of WallBuilders, and my name is Rick Green, I’m a former Texas state legislator, national speaker, and author. 

We’re talking about any issue that affects your life, backyard, family, communities, state, and nation. Sometimes when we’re talking about those issues it’s from something that happened in the past that made it possible for us to have a backyard, children, family, schools, church—all the things that we love about freedom here in our nation. There has been a heavy heavy price paid throughout the generations. 

Every single generation of Americans has been enough willing to step up and say, “Here I am. Send me. I’ll fight. I’ll do whatever’s necessary to make sure that freedom survives my generation and is enjoyed by the next generation.” 

So often rather than talking about something that’s happening on the battlefield of the culture or in the society today, we are reminding ourselves what it took to get to this point today. 

The Coast Guard in World War II

Before we get to our specific program for today, which is one of those special programs looking back at some of the sacrifice that was made in the past, just a quick reminder of what we do here on WallBuilders Live. You can learn more about us on our website, of course, WallBuildersLive.com, our radio sit. That’s got a list of all the stations we’re on across the country, it’s got archives of programs over the last few months, and it also tell you a little bit about us your hosts.

All right David, Tim, we’re one of our veteran interviews today, and this is another World War II veteran interview, but a little different.

David:

It is a little different. This is a Coast Guard veteran from World War II. And I’ve got to say, in all the years we’ve been doing this, I don’t think I remember us ever having a Coast Guard veteran from World War II. 

Tim:

Not I from World War II. 

David:

Yeah I did not see this line because I was thinking about World War II. And the immediate thing when you hear of Coast Guard is they didn’t do much. They kind of patrolled the shores, maybe picked up people and life boats that capsized—not in World War II. It’s a whole different thing. I think that most Americans don’t realize how many attacks were launched against the fiscal United States in World War II. We know Pearl Harbor, but if I told you guys tell me about the Battle of Los Angeles, can you tell me anything? 

Tim:

Well, currently there’s a lot of liberal ideology Los Angeles, but that’s all I got. 

Rick:

I was thinking it was a movie with the Rock. Not World War 2. 

The Battle of Los Angeles and Japan’s Attacks on the Mainland U.S. 

David:

No, you guys are not on the right track. As you said, that’s not World War II. So what happened was, on the Pacific side, the Japanese kept submarines all along the west coast, and over on the east side the Nazis kept submarines against the East Coast. So what happens in February of 1942? Some of those Japanese submarines slipped into the channel outside Santa Barbara. They got up close to an oil field there. They came up at night and they took their guns and started bombing that oilfield. So they’re trying to blow up that oil field. They did some damage, but not a big deal. 

But a couple days later, the word goes out that Japanese planes are attacking Los Angeles. So all around Los Angeles—nobody thinks of this now—all around Los Angeles they had anti-aircraft guns open up for hours, and they filled the sky with guns for hours. Turned out there weren’t any planes attacking, all the attack had been with submarines, but they call it the Battle of Los Angeles, and it was a physical attack.

Then, about four months later, you had Japanese subs that went up the Columbia River in Oregon and attacked Fort Stevens. They bombed Fort Stevens, and then that summer three months later you have what are called the lookout air raids where that these Japanese submarines had float planes on the submarines, and they launched the float planes off the submarines, and those float planes went up and started bombing the forests in Oregon trying to set the forest on fire.

Japanese Fire Bomb Balloons

Tim:

An interesting thought, because I do remember having read some of these kinds of things surrounding World War II, in contrast you also add Japanese leaders and officials who said, “We can’t actually do a physical invasion in America because there would be a gun behind every blade of grass.”

So even though there was maybe some discouragement from physically sending all their people over to invade America, they certainly were still doing very disruptive things with ships and planes, and apart from Pearl Harbor, most people probably have no idea of what was going on in America in World War II.

David:

Yeah. It was the same thing we did when we attacked Tokyo with Doolittle’s Raiders. We wanted to send a message, “We can get you where you live.” 

We wanted the Japanese to keep some of their military forces in Japan and not send them out against us. That’s the same thing that we’re trying to do here: keep our forces at home, keep some of our planes here, and by the way, the one that maybe is the most fascinating to me is in 1944. The Japanese launched nine thousand high altitude fire balloons. Those fired baloons came 5,000 miles, they got over the United States, and each balloon was loaded with 50 pounds of incendiary and anti-personnel devices, that kind of stuff you would have in an explosive suicide bomber’s vest. It’s a stuff designed to kill people. 

Once they got over the United States these things, after three days in the air, set off and dropped the bombs. 

The Coast Guard at D-Day

They had these things hitting in Michigan, they had these things hitting in Iowa, actually only one set of fatalities happened, in Oregon, there was a pregnant woman and all four five children were killed with one of these things. They were doing stuff here. So when we say the Coast Guard, these guys really were seeing battle, but in addition to that we needed the Coast Guard overseas more than we needed them here. 

So while we had some here, we also sent them overseas, and on D-Day we had Coast Guard ships—we actually have a D-Day flag, the third ship that went out on D-Day, and it was a Coast Guard ship. That’s the D-Day flag that we have in the collection. So they took the Coast Guard to Europe, they took the Coast Guard over to the Philippines, etc. The veteran we have today, Jim Reynolds, was in the Coast Guard, but he’s spent a bunch of his time in the Pacific fighting the Japanese in close quarters combat. He has some really fascinating stories.

Rick:

We’re gonna take a quick break. We’ll be right back. Tim Barton is interviewing Jim Reynolds from World War II, Coast Guard. Stay with us. You’re listening to WallBuilders Live.

Share a veteran’s story

We Want To Hear Your Vet Story

Rick:

Hey friends! If you have been listening to WallBuilders Live for very long at all, you know how much we respect our veterans and how appreciative we are of the sacrifice they make to make our freedoms possible. One of the ways that we love to honor those veterans is to tell their stories here on WallBuilders Live.  Once in awhile, we get an opportunity to interview veterans that have served on those front lines that have made incredible sacrifices have amazing stories that we want to share with the American people. 

One of the very special things we get to do is interview World War II veterans. You’ve heard those interviews here on WallBuilders Live, from folks that were in the Band of Brothers, to folks like Edgar Harrell that survived the Indianapolis to so many other great stories you heard on WallBuilders Live. 

You have friends and family that also served.  If you have World War II veterans in your family that you would like to have their story shared here on WallBuilders Live, please e-mail us at [email protected]  Give us a brief summary of the story and we’ll set up an interview. Thanks so much for sharing here on WallBuilders Live!

Welcome Jim Reynolds

Tim:

Welcome back to WallBuilders Live! Tim Barton here. We are joined by a very special guest, Jim Reynolds, who was a member of the Coast Guard from World War II.

Mr. Reynolds, thank you so much for being with us. We want to hear about your story, how it started, how you got involved, so please tell us about your story from World War II.

Jim:

See, I was on a Navy vessel, but it was I was a Coast Guardsmen. During the war, the Navy had about 60 or 70 of these types of vessels that I was on, and they were all manned by the Coast Guardsmen as far as I know. They were called patrol frigates and mine was the USS San Pedro.

tim:

How old were you when you joined the Coast Guard?

Jim:

Let’s see… I joined in March of 1943, and got out in March of 1946.

Tim:

Wow. 

Jim:

I was born in 1924, in April, so right after I got there I turned 19.

Tim:

So at age you just finished high school at that point?

Jim:

Well, let me tell you about high school. I joined in December of 1942, and they didn’t call me until April of 43. I was very disgusted that they didn’t call me so I could get out of school.

Tim:

So you were in high school at the time?

Jim:

I was in high school. My mother received information in the mail that the only class that I needed was a 4 credit English class in composition or something like that. And they were going to assume that I’d be going to school enough in the service to get those 4 credits, so they sent my graduation certificate to my mother, my diploma.

A Signalman’s Story

Tim:

Wow. So you didn’t officially graduate in the traditional sense.

Jim:

That’s true. I wasn’t much for school in those days, and I took all the shop classes I could take, like woodshop, metalshop, and other kinds of shops. Academic things didn’t appeal to me too much. 

But the Coast Guard was a good move for me. I was very fortunate because I got on the USS San Pedro and they asked me, “What would you like to do?” 

They call it strike for. 

“What you would like to strike for? What kind of a guy are you?” 

I put down that I’d like to strike for signalman, and I had a little bit of information about that that I had read, and I felt that I was a pick for the good job. 

I was working on deck one day—we do a lot of painting on a ship, curl mate and paint to keep the ship from rusting and sinking—I was chipping off rust and painting curl matte on places on the deck that we’re having rust, when somebody came up and tapped my shoulder. 

“Are you Jim Reynolds?” 

I said, “Yes.”

“Would you still like to strike for signalman?” 

“Yes sir.”

“Put down the brush and chipping irons and come with me.” 

And that was the beginning of a good life. I became a Third Class Signalman after a few months. That was what my job was on our ship.

Tim:

What do you recollect as your involvement in World War II? What really stands out to you? Are there other stories or moments from your experiences in World War II that you would like to share?

The Invasion of New Guinea

Jim:

Yes there were. We were engaged in the invasion of a part of New Guinea, in Dutch New Guinea, called Hollandia. That was where battleships, and cruisers, and our little bitty vessels were. We had to be in closer, so they were firing over our heads here. Not very interesting way to have a war, with people shooting over your head and with the bigger vessels were out farther and they were lobbing their shells over the smaller ships that were in closer.

But now Hollandia became a very busy port for the invasion of the Philippines, and we took several convoys up and down the coast to New Guinea to some of these smaller invasions. In one of our convoys up to the Philippines, one of the ships in our convoy was torpedoed by an airplane dropping a torpedo, and the captain called for an abandoned ship.

So here were, college guys in the water, and that convoy moves on and our vessel and another vessels of similar to ours stayed back with the ship that had been torpedoed.

So we helped about—I think it was close to 185 guys—out of the water. They were in life jackets or in small boats.

We took aboard over 180 guys. I know you know that. As far as I know they did not lose any men any of their crew in that sinking because there was another vessel there too, similar to ours, that picked up a large group of people and we picked up about 180 so. 

Tim:

Mr. Reynolds, was it normal, in your experiences, to have the aircraft come in and try to bomb you guys or drop torpedoes? Was that a normal experience?

Submarines and Bombers

Jim:

Well, we were watching for submarines, so we knew we were doing what they called ping. We were pinging and trying to get echoes to see if there were any subs in the area, but most of the area that we dealt with was anti aircraft. If we’d be in a small harbour some place, many times and about sundown there would be three tracer shells shot into the air as a signal that there was an air raid on the way. Usually it would end up being one plane, and they would try to get down low enough so they could go between the vessels, and that would make it hard for us to shoot at them because you’re shooting at your own ships if they’re running between you.

We often had that in an isolated harbor.

As far as our convoys being damaged, there were not many times when anything happened in the air for our convoys. Once in a while we’d get a ping on their sonar, and that sounded pretty solid, but the captain would make a decision whether it was a school fish or nothing at all. 

Tim:

Could fish actually set off your ping? 

Jim:

They can if you have a large enough group, or a whale.

Tim:

Wow. 

Jim:

And of course whales have to come up. If it’s whales you’re dealing with they usually will rise to the surface. They have to rise to the surface to breath and all. 

But occasionally it could be a large school fish—Well, that’s what all our captains said. I had a radar guy off duty tell me, “That was a submarine.” 

Morse Code and Radios

Tim:

Now, as a signalman, were you mostly signaling on deck, or is that something you did with some kind of technology machine electronics inside the ship?

Jim:

I worked on a radio, and took down code and translated what it meant later. But for single men, we used Morse code and lights on the top of the ship.

That was a very interesting job. When we’d go down off duty, the guys would say, “Well, where are we going?” 

They knew that if we took the message we have to get it to an officer. But we knew it. We knew what was going on as a signalman.

Tim:

Were there some messages that you didn’t want to communicate over airwaves, and that’s why you used the Morse code?

Jim:

We used Morse code at all times. You’re blinking with a light, and that’s ship to ship communication. They had what they called CBS, or radios, that they would communicate with each other, but any anybody could pick those messages up. I’m sure they had guys listening for radio stuff. That’s why light works better. The Japanese in an airplane couldn’t see what you were signaling.

Tim:

Wow. Were there any times that you had a message that was, in essence, saying that we have to go intervene or intercept, or that a fight is going on and we need to go somewhere to direct something?

Was there moments like that, or did you already have those orders and you already knew where you were going?

The Battle of Leyte Gulf

Jim:

Let’s put it this way. When we were in Leyte Gulf in the Philippines—and I don’t know if you remember—in the Philippines, Leyte Gulf was where a lot of it landed when they invaded the Philippines, and things were getting pretty tight. We were there on D-Day Plus One, and that’s when the action really started. The Japanese fleet had divided and was coming in from the north through a straight called San Bernardino Straight, and through the south at a straight called Surigao Straight.

They divided and were coming in from the north, and probably south, and there were hundreds of ships sitting in Leyte Gulf. We thought we were seeing lightning in the south there, and which is a pretty common occurrence to see lightning flashing at night over the land.

But one of the guys went down to the charts to see where we were and all of that, and said that the flashes that we were seeing in the South were in Surigao Straight. We looked it up on the chart, and saw that was about 30 miles south of us. Thankfully, the guys that were right there guarding this straight were able to do enough damage to the ships that were coming through there to have them reverse their routing and go the other way. So we were sitting ducks if ships had gotten through the north end or the south end. But God took care of us.

Tim:

Wow, that’s awesome. What did you do as the war ended and you got out of the military? 

Jim:

Well, I became a teacher, and school principal at the Edmonds School District about 50 miles north of Seattle.

The Power of Prayer

Tim:

Wow. So, as a young man, you weren’t really interested in academics, and actually you didn’t even finish your time in school. But you came back and spent another 25 or 30 years in it? 

Jim:

30 years. Anybody that went to my high school would never believe it, I’m sure.

Tim:

Wow.

Well, Mr. Reynolds, as you look back over your life, if one of your grandkids—or maybe even great grandkids—one day were to come to you and ask you, “Is there something that you would tell them about your life, or maybe even your military experience?” 

What would be something that you would tell them that stands out to you?

Jim:

Well, I think right away of my mother. She was a wonderful Christian lady, and she had taken the… I think it was the 91st Psalm? She prayed that, and that was her promise that I would make it through this service. 

Tim:

Well, there are a lot of testimonies of praying moms out there. So it sounds like you’re another testimony of a praying mom, that God protected you through the midst of World War II, and all that you went through, and he brought you back safely, and you’ve lived a long life with a great career of education. Really a great testimony to your mom for being that faithful, praying Mom.

Jim:

I thanked her many times.

A Real Hero

Tim:

Well, Mr. Reynolds, thank you so much for taking the time and being with us today, and really for sharing your story. As an educator, I know that education clearly is important to you, and one of the things that we notice in culture today is that too many people of the next generation just don’t know much of the American story—and especially not many of the heroes—and even the battles that we fight. 

We’re so grateful to get a World War II veteran on to share part of their story so we can learn more about this history that just too many people don’t. 

Jim:

I’m glad that I could do my part. 

Tim:

Well, that’s why to us you are a hero, because you’re not looking for accolades and recognition, but you were willing to do your part. I really think that’s the image that we want people to understand that that’s what it’s all about. The reason that you are part of the greatest generation is you were guys who just rolled up your sleeves, and you did your work, and you weren’t looking for any accolades or praise. 

You just did the job that needed to be done. Because of you, and the thousands of men and women like you that paid that price, we enjoy our freedom today. So, Mr. Reynolds, we are very grateful and want to say thank you for what you did.

Jim:

You’re welcome, certainly. Thank you for having me on.

Tim:

We are back now with David Barton and Rick Green. Guys, so cool hearing some of the story, although I thought maybe some of it was—no disrespect to him at all—but someone maybe was a little understated.

An Amazing Story

David:

Well, I would say you’re absolutely right. But he made the comment. He said, “Well, you know I was in the battle of Leyte Gulf.” 

All right. Is there anything else? He didn’t say another thing.

No! He’s like, “Well, you guys surely know about that. I was in that battle. Moving on.” 

The battle of Leyte Gulf is the largest naval battle in the history of the world. I mean, that’s a big deal! 200,000 naval personnel involved in that battle. 

He just kind of walked by it like it was no big deal. Just another day at the office. Oh my gosh. 

He was in the invasion of New Guinea and all this stuff. This is really, really powerful stuff! That he had there been there one day after D-Day on the Atlantic side, here he is on the Pacific fighting the same kind of stuff there. The time he spent there was really, really brutal battles. It’s a really cool perspective to have on the Coast Guard, and what it did, as compared to now. But another one of the great heros we have from our history.

World War II Veteran Jim Raynolds’ Story and More with WallBuilders

Rick:

Well, like you said, understated. That tends to be how these guys are, especially World War II guys. Incredible stories, but they saw it as just doing their duty. 

We have some other great interviews with World War II vets, and veterans from every war of our lifetime, on our website at WallBuildersLive.com if you go to the archives section. We also have a CD that’s available at WallBuilders.com where you can get about 15 or 20 those really cool interviews of virtually every branch—I think every branch is covered there—in virtually every war covered on that C.D. 

So be sure you get that and share with your friends or family to remind them of the price of our freedom. Thanks so much for listening today. You’ve been listening to WallBuilders Live.