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Franklin County WWII vet remembers service

Veteran Claude May vividly remembers his service in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific Ocean during World War II.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Veteran Claude May remembers his time in World War II vividly. 

May was a farm boy from Franklin County who joined the Navy and ended up off the coast of Iwo Jima in WWII.

“We went alongside the USS Bowers to help with casualties,” he recently told WRAL News.

The absolute worst day, he said, was when a Japanese pilot crashed into the USS Bowers right by his ship.

“What an awful sight. Some (people) had arms, legs, heads blown off,” May said.

Fifty-five wounded men were taken from the Bowers, he said. “Three died before we got there,” he said.

May was also a lookout aboard the USS Swearer. He looked for submarines underwater and planes in the air. Some planes flew so close; he can remember one pilot's face.

“When he came by, I could see him kind of stout and grinning. He had an old, leather helmet,” he said.

Though his ship didn’t get hit, May said he did have some close calls. As a young sailor, May said he remembers shaking at times while holding his binoculars.

May said he was hopeful, at the time, that the war would end before the U.S. got to Japan.

“We found out later what they had waiting for us,” he said. “They had about 25 planes for every troop ship. We would’ve lost at least 100,000, I believe, if we’d invaded.”

At 85 years old, May said he is proud of his service.

In October, he’ll join other local veterans at the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. The trip is part of the Triangle Flight of Honor program which raises money to send veterans to see the Memorial.

May said he has been there with his son, but wanted to share his experience with other veterans.


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