WASHINGTON- U.S Senator John Boozman recognized the longtime service of WWII, Korea and Vietnam veteran Delbert DuCharme in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series recognizing the military service of Arkansans.
DuCharme was born in Custer, South Dakota May 13, 1927. He went to school on the Cheyenne River Sioux reservation in South Dakota and graduated when he was 16-years-old.
In 1944 he enlisted in the Navy and was stationed in Idaho for basic training. He went to Coronado, California for additional training as a coxswain where he learned to crew the Higgins landing craft, the boat used to take troops ashore.
He was stationed in the South Pacific during WWII. DuCharme recalled one incident when he had to dive into freezing water to dislodge his boat from a reef, while under fire.
“A salvage boat came in to pull us off and it got the line tangled up on our screw. I had to go down to cut the line off the screw to get it out of there. That was cold,” DuCharme said.
DuCharme was stationed on a ship transporting Marines for the invasion of Japan, but the war ended as they awaited the mission. The celebration from one of the nearby battleships woke him up.
“We found out that they dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and the war was over,” DuCharme said. "We stayed in the harbor during the signing of the peace treaty. We were just a few ships back from the U.S.S. Missouri where they signed the treaty.”
When he returned home he and the other troops had a warm welcome, much different than he experienced when he returned from Vietnam.
He was living with his brother in Chicago and planning for college when the Korean War interrupted his plans and he was called back to active duty.
One of his responsibilities in Korea was transporting prisoners of war to eastern Korea for imprisonment.
He was a graduate of Class 14 of the Underwater Demolition Team, the forerunner to the Navy SEALs.
DuCharme served several tours in southeast Asia including in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.
“We don’t talk too much about those missions. Some of them were good. Some of them were bad. Sometimes we’d lose a whole platoon. Most of our missions were into enemy territory,” DuCharme said.
DuCharme retired in 1973 after serving nearly 30 years in the Navy.
Today DuCharme calls Prescott, Arkansas home. For several years he served as the Chairman of the Nevada County Democratic Committee and became acquaintances with then-Governor Bill Clinton. When Clinton was elected President, DuCharme was invited to the White House for breakfast on Veterans Day.
“He would call us aside and introduce us as friends of his family. That was quite an honor,” DuCharme said.
“Delbert DuCharme is truly an amazing American who dedicated his life in service to our nation. He represents who we talk about when we reference the Greatest Generation. Delbert’s memories of his military service are an important part of our history and I am honored to share his stories,” Boozman said.
Boozman will submit DuCharme’s entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans.