WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized the service and sacrifice of WWII Navy veteran George Vinson in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series recognizing the military service of Arkansans.
Vinson, a 95-year-old Fort Smith resident, grew up on a farm in Alabama. He graduated from Eufaula High School in Eufaula, Alabama and spent several months in trade school before enlisting in the Navy.
Vinson’s goal was to be a fighter pilot, but the Navy assigned him to a different position. He ended up being quite happy about the role he was selected for despite it not involving flying. “I got an assignment which was better and I enjoyed a lot better,” Vinson says about his duty as a quartermaster.
Vinson served on the destroyer USS Edison. He worked on the bridge, the ship’s command center. “I loved that because I was up there where a lot of action was and I could hear a lot of what was going on,” Vinson said.
His crew sailed through the Panama Canal. On its way to join the Pacific Fleet, the ship docked in San Diego where Vinson had an opportunity to meet with his brother, a member of the Air Force.
“We met to say goodbye,” Vinson said. “We didn’t know if would we be back or not, but we both made it back, thank God.”
Vinson recalled working on the bridge during a mission to rescue a sailor who fell overboard a troop ship. Two additional destroyers were also searching for the sailor. Vinson said his ship made two sweeps of the area and he encouraged the Captain to make one more pass. That’s when they found the sailor who had been in the water for hours. “He could see us, but we couldn’t see him,” Vinson said. He said rescuing the sailor was one of the most rewarding experiences of his military career.
Vinson and his fellow crew members had trained for the invasion of Japan, but those orders changed once the atomic bombs were dropped. The crew reached Japan for occupation after the war ended and served in an observation role. After two months, the ship was assigned to the Aleutian Islands as a weather station. Vinson says duty for weather patrol was tough because of the rough waters.
Following his military service, Vinson used the GI Bill to attend school.
“As a member of the Greatest Generation, George Vinson’s dedication and service to our nation helped change the course of history. I am grateful that his memories of his time in uniform will be preserved for future generations,” Boozman said.
Vinson’s entire interview was submitted to the Veterans History Project (VHP) by Zane Watson. Watson was inspired to participate in the VHP for his Eagle Scout Service Project by Boozman’s office. As part of the project, Watson interviewed veterans and trained other scouts and high school students to collect the oral histories of our veterans for the Library of Congress VHP.
To learn more about the VHP and how you can help preserve the memories of veterans click here.