WWII Navy Veteran who enlisted when only 16 years old tells his amazing story!

Judy Bebee, a friend of Gene and his family, wanted to write his story and make it into a scrapbook for his two grandsons but she never got to do it. She now regrets waiting for so long, knowing that the WWII vet, who suffers from terminal liver cancer, is fighting for his final days.

She wrote an e-mail to The Examiner, urging them to write this story about a 16-year-old boy who enlisted in 1938 with his mother’s consent. Who served with the U.S. Navy in the Pacific Theater throughout the Second World War. Who fought in three theaters and survived to tell the story. Who cruised along Gen. Douglas MacArthur to Borneo. Who was there when the Japanese surrendered on the USS Missouri, Tokyo Bay.

This is Gene Hadden of Independence, the 91-year-old veteran, who spent 6 years fighting for his country, aboard USS Wichita and the USS Cleveland. He recalled the day when a Japanese torpedo was headed at the light cruiser and he spotted it. He put his index fingers into his ears and just wondered how high it was going to go. But then a miracle happened and it went under the ship and exploded on the other side of the USS Cleveland.

Nobody knew why that happened, but it hadn’t touched a single thing under the ship, not even one of the four massive propellers. “Had it touched a napkin or anything under the ship, it would have blown sky-high,” said Gene. While some might easily disagree with him, the 91-year-old vet believes it was the hand of God that helped him and his whole crew of 1,255, The Examiner reports.

But that wasn’t the only time death almost got him. On another date, a German sub fired on the Wichita off the coast of Africa, killing four of his crew. What makes the story even more interesting is that when they found the shell that destroyed the kitchen and killed the four men, it was marked with the U.S. initials, meaning that they fired at them, using shells of their own, from the First World War.

He did escape injury and death plenty of times during his service, but there was something he wasn’t able to avoid – an appendicitis attack which kicked in only when he was loading his gun, during a Japanese suicide attack on USS Cleveland. The surgery lasted 20 minutes and after that he was back in his bed.

Later on, he found out that the medics only removed the tip of his appendix because the ship was under attack. However, that only happened when he suffered a second appendicitis attack.

He also fought eleven days, with only apples and sandwiches, for the liberation of Saipan from Japanese occupation. Following the surrender of Japan, USS Cleveland was cruised to Japan and docked next to the USS Missouri. There, Gene was an eye-witness to the signing of the armistice.

Asked what he would do if he could relive his life, Gene said he “would attend church more … doing what God wants me to do.”

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE