"I know many of you have loved ones in the military service of this great country. Many of you may have lost loved ones as well. One tiny piece of advice I would offer to each of you is to NEVER FORGET their sacrifices they have made for us all. Additionally, my father, Clarence Hood aka "Cubby Hood", rarely spoke of his time in the service. I only wish I had asked more as to what life was like aboard ship. How did he sleep, when did he eat, was he comfortable or was it always in turmoil because of the war? He had his tattoos, an anchor on his forearm and and Eagle on his calf. When I would refer to my Dad's "bird on his leg" Daddy would always correct me and say, "That's not just a bird, it's an Eagle!" When "Cubby" died in 1991, I lost my best friend and was so shocked and amazed that he wrote the following story. He had carried this burden and anguish all his adult life and never shared it with me or my sister Saundra. I hope by sharing this with you, that you will talk to your loved ones who have served or are still serving this country, in one of the branches of the military, and pray for their life experiences, pain they all feel and their return home."
Excerpts From the Testimony and Eulogy of Clarence Lee Hood, Jr. aka "Cubby" (Unedited)
"I was born at Thirteen Twenty three East Van Buren Street, Phoenix Arizona on November the twenty third, Nineteen Twenty Four: the seventh of eleven children, of poor but God-fearing parents, and the great grandson of General John Bell Hood of the Confederacy.
I accepted Jesus as my personal Savior when a very young teenager. Of course, we as a family, attended worship services twice on Sunday, and mid-week evening service. When we held a revival at the church, we attended every evening service. In Nineteen Forty One, I could see that war was inevitable, Hitler was already marching through Europe. So on November first I joined the Navy. I was on the waiting list until I turned seventeen. On December the third, we left Phoenix to be sworn into the Navy at San Diego, California on the fourth of December, Nineteen Forty One.
As you know on December the seventh, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Needless to say, we were really rushed through basic training, and by January fifth, we were stationed aboard ship in the Bremerton Navy Yard, near Seattle, Washington. I was stationed aboard the old USS Tennessee (BB-43), a thirty two thousnd ton battleship. The Armament consisted of four fourteen-inch turrets with three barrels per turret, eight five inch turrets with two barrels per turret, that was used for either anti-aircraft fire, or broadside firing. There were four, forty millimeter quads,which of course consisted of four barrels per quad. We had twenty millimeter guns anywhere a space was large enough to utilize one. We had a detachment of one hundred and twenty Marines on board, and a total crew of twenty one hundred men. The Marines stood sentry duty, manned the forty millimeter, and some of the twenty millimeter guns.
We were attached to the Seventh Fleet, the Amphibious Fleet of the South Pacific: although we did take part in the Attu and Kiska campaign in the Aleutian Islands. Our primary functions was to bombard, and to soften up the Japanese-held islands in support of the Marines recapturing the Islands. In a broad sense, kill as many of the the Japanese as we could, so we would lose less of our Marines.
I don't want to bore anyone with war stories, but I would like to relate a couple of incidents that are relevant to this testimony. When we recaptured the Island of Tarawa, which probably very few people ever heard of, for two days we bombarded this island before the Marines prepared to land. The third morning was landing time, and to everyone's surprise, the whole first wave of Marines were wiped out.
Now I must pause here, to tell you that every man aboard ship has a battle station. Mine was with the First Aid Station on the quarter deck. The quarter deck is on top side, on the after, or rear of the ship. It is also the only deck close to the water-line, about six to eight feet from the water. As we were slowly cruising back and forth past the landing site, it wasn't long before the surf carried the dead and wounded bodies of our Marines out to where we were.
I was pacing up and down the life line, looking intently at the Marines in the water, to see if there was any movement of life at all. I thought to myself, if only I could reach them, maybe we could help save some of them. Now the life line is three strands of cable, like a low fence around the perimeter of the ship. If the decks are awash from swells, and you get knocked off your feet, and being carried overboard, this is your last chance to reach up and grab hold of the life line to save yourself.
As the Marines were floating slowly by, my first impluse was to run up to the boat deck, and get a boat hook, maybe I could reach a few that way. Then it dawned on me, no I cannot do that, I couldn't leave my battle station. In all my life I had never felt so utterly frustrated, and so completely helpless. For you see a battlewagon never stops at sea, even to save a life, not even one of our own crew. If a crew member goes over the side, eihter a destroyer will pick him up or he's lost.
All I could do was lift my eyes to Heaven, and say, God help me. Well, the Lord did help me. He watched over me through ten major engagements, one surface battle and sixteen kamikaze air raids. After three years and twenty days of sea duty, I was granted the last months of the war stationed at the North Island Naval Air Base, San Diego, California.
About three months after my arrival in San Diego, I was walking down the sidewalk in town. I recognized a familiar face approaching me, it was one of my buddies off of the Tennessee: his name was Eddie Lucero. Eddie had a steel plate in his head, and was on his way to the Oakland Regional Hospital for more surgery. He informed me that the same day I was transferred off the ship, it pulled out headed for Iwo Jima. The ship was hit by a kamikaze plane on the after part of the boat decks, and on down onto the quarter deck. After telling me how he was wounded, I asked him, Eddie how many of the old gang ore left? His reply was, only you and me. I cannot describe the feeling that went through me when Eddie said, just you and me. For you see my batttle station was on the quarter deck. I just thanked God for steering the course in my life.
I have smelled the stench of war, the death, destruction, and desolation. Now I know I won't have to go through it again, and I pray that our country, and especially my loved ones, will not be subjected to any war. War is such a waste of manpower and resources that no one really and truly wins. A retired Colonel remarked to me, Clarence, he said, you might forget the places, and you might forget the faces, but you will never forget the smell, and that certainly is true."