On Monday, June 2, James R. Abbott, 91, was presented with a collection of medals in commemoration of his service in the United States Navy. Abbott served from 1942 to 1948 aboard the USS Biscayne. In a ceremony organized by Veteran Services at the West Union Senior Citizens Center, Abbott finally received visual recognition for acts of courageousness occurring more than 60 years ago.
“It simply never happened,” he told Dean Collins, Veteran Service Officer, explaining how he had gone so long without being awarded his decorations, “Time goes on.”
Born in Brown County and raised on a farm now occupied by the airport, Abbott and his four brothers enlisted for service in the midst of the war, prior to the mandatory call-to-arms.
“All four of us boys enlisted,” Abbott said, “I was born prior to the Great Depression and it extended up to the start of World War II and that’s what brought me into it. It was just a good, patriotic thing to do. I don’t believe in just taking and not giving back.”
A fifth brother joined the Army during the occupation of Japan.
Initially enlisting for six years, he re-enlisted for another four and was extended for another year due to the Korean conflict, together totaling 11 years in uniform for the Navy. During his time at sea, Abbott and his fellow crew members saw combat across the map and were present for several momentous battles.
“We participated in every operation in the Atlantic and the European ones as well, with the exception of Normandy, he said, “We came back to the United States for a 30-day leave and then went out to the Pacific and participated in everything else until the war ended there.”
In addition to the occupation of the Philippines, the invasion of Iwo Jima, Okinawa and the occupation of Korea, he participated in skirmishes throughout Japan until the war’s end. He described what it was like in battle, particularly from within the engine room of the Biscayne.
“I was below water level for about a third of the time. Have you ever been swimming when someone cracked rocks together above you? The sound carries,” he said, “We could tell when bombs were dropped even when the people on-deck couldn’t.”
Following his return home, Abbott promptly married a girl from the farm adjoining that of his parents, resulting in a 65-year relationship. His wife, Carroll, attended the ceremony.
Tremendously appreciative of Veteran Services for their hard work and dedication to the service-members they assist, Abbott applauded their work, titling members “very efficient.”
“It’s important we have these servicemen honored for their courage and bravery, as well as everything they’ve provided for this country,” said Service Officer Collins.
As the ceremony drew to a close, Abbott expressed his gratitude toward the Veteran Services team and described how he looked forward to sharing his newly-obtained medals with the younger generations.
“I’m grateful for the servicemen’s work,” he said, “It is nice to have the medals, not just for the memories but also for my grandchildren. I have one grandson in particular who is especially interested in this sort of thing. I’m sure it will hang on his wall for a number of years to come.”