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Veterans Day: War stories: Redge Ranyard and General Patten

November 12, 2017 GMT

My story starts at three in the afternoon in my 7th-period class at Hollywood High School where this 17-year-old boy watched the clock creep to 3:15 so that he could run to catch the bus and head to his after school job.

School was where I went to rest because I had been up since 4 a.m. delivering the Los Angeles Times. Both jobs were necessary to add to my single mother’s pay of thirty dollars a month.

This particular day was important to my story because it is when I decided to join the United States Navy and “earn while I learned.”

I was inducted on December 26, 1940. Five years, eight months, one day and 21 hours later I returned to civilian status as a member of the Greatest Generation where, with the considerable help of the GI Bill, I eventually earned a Ph.D. and became a university teacher. But this is another story.

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My ship, the USS Biscayne, was the flag (command) ship for the landings in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and the south coast of France. We delivered General George Patten to Sicily which he secured in 14 days. Then it was to Salerno where we met fierce resistance from the Germans. The Italians had already surrendered.

The German fighter-bombers carried two bombs under each wing and had the habit of coming in on low strafing runs from out to sea. If you fired at them and missed, a usual event, your bullets stood a good chance of hitting one of your own ships. So we mostly watched and hoped that “Fritz” missed.

The beachhead was still being secured so General Patton was still on board. He and I were both standing on the boat deck close but not socializing when a German plane came into view and appeared to be heading straight for us.

General Patton was wearing the helmet he frequently appeared wore in photos. I had just diminished my stint as captain’s talker and had on one of those helmets on that made you look like a mushroom.

We both dove for cover and had, not too wisely, chose under an ammunition box as our protection. The general had managed, but I had been held out by the size of my helmet.

General Patten looked at me and said, “Sorry kid, I got here first.” I said, “Yes, Sir.”

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