Melvin Suda tried to join the Navy when he was seventeen, but his father wouldn’t sign the application. So Suda took an apprenticeship making bullet gauges. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, he quit his job, deferred being drafted and joined the military. Government doctors wanted him in the Marines, but he insisted on following his childhood dream of joining the Navy, so they allowed him to do that.
Eventually, Suda was assigned to the USS President Adams. He worked as an engineer keeping the motor running on the landing barge that carried Marines to the shore in Guam. It was miserable, he said.
“Before some of the Marines ever got off the ramp, they lost their leg or were dead or stuff like that. And, then we would pull them back in,” said Suda. “Things flash across my mind, when I talk about some of these invasions.”
Worried about not having a record of these memories, Suda has been sitting with his daughter-in-law, Cathy, telling her about his experiences in the war while she kept notes on her laptop. She began turning the notes into his memoir.
As the book neared completion, Suda gave Cathy a binder with some of his most valuable Navy documents so that she could add them to the book. She forgot her bag in her truck when she got home, and someone stole it, including his documents and her laptop with the book.
It wasn’t until the next day, when Cathy could not find her bag, that they noticed the theft. Now, they are desperately trying to recover the documents. Cathy and her husband have offered a $200 reward, no questions asked, to get the stolen items back.
As for Suda, he is not anxious to recreate the book. Bringing back memories from the war is a painful experience for him. At 92, his family is concerned that his mind and body may not hold up much longer.
Suda is actually conflicted over the book. He does not consider his service to have been unique or special. He is quick to point out that thousands of others had the same experience he had in the war. At the same time, he doesn’t want to think that his service leaves nothing behind – no physical record of his experience.
One of the items that Suda prizes is his grandfather’s discharge from the Dakota War of 1862. That document is the only record of what his grandfather did in the war. He was injured in the fighting and received the discharge, KSDK.com reported.
Now that his documents have been lost, he is worried that his descendants will have nothing to show for his service in World War II.