We Honor Veterans Spot Light

We Honor Veterans Spot Light By; Chaplain Keith Sarfoss

Amos Robert Graff – United States Navy – World War II (1944-1945)
Robert is the spouse of our home patient in Dauphin, Lois Graff.
Robert volunteered to serve his country during WWII, leaving High School approximately 3 months before graduating. Robert joined the Navy and served with honor. During his time in the Navy in addition to numerous other awards, Robert was awarded two Purple Hearts.
Robert shared two stories with me during one of my visits. The first story was very difficult for him to share. With a lump in his throat and tears in his eyes and several pauses Robert told the story. Robert was serving aboard the LCS(L) 31. LCSs were Landing Craft Support (L) Large, also nicknamed the Might Midgets as they were miniature destroyers. While aboard the 31 on D-day (June 6, 1944) the ship hit a mine and was sunk. Robert remembers the hardest thing about that day was hearing the crew below decks screaming for help. Keep in mind most of this crew was probably young boys like Robert. Robert stated there were 17 casualties. Robert said “this story is very difficult for me to tell and I don’t know why.”

Robert told the second story with much more ease. Almost a year later Robert was on the LCS(L) 122 off the coast of Okinawa for the Battle of Okinawa (Operation Iceberg April-June 1945).  These LCS ships had a distinguished performance in fighting the kamikaze attacks at Okinawa and assisting other ships hit by the Japanese planes. In the first seven weeks of the Battle of Okinawa the LCS(L) ships had approximately 80 planes definitely shot down, 6 probable, and 36 assists. Well Robert’s story starts on June 10thwhen the USS William D. Porter (DD-579) was hit by a kamikaze attack and was sunk. Robert’s ship the 122 rescued 99 men and with the help of three sister ships they were able to pick up the entire crew.  The next day on June 11thRobert’s ship was hit by a kamikaze plane, killing 11 and wounding 29. At the time of the attack Robert was manning the gun turret firing at the planes in the sky, when one plane got through and hit the conning tower and gun turret were Robert stood. In the midst of the crash Robert was thrown overboard into the water. Robert was caught in the swirling water from the propeller, and was pulled under water. Suddenly for Robert everything became quiet, he said he saw a great light and found himself at the gates of heaven, and in Robert’s words, “I was rejected.” I softly reminded Robert that he was not rejected but there was more for him to do on earth. The next thing Robert knew he was climbing the cargo netting to get back aboard the ship. Robert knew he had been severely hurt and was able to find his way to the head (bathroom) and looked in the mirror to see the damage. Looking back at him from that mirror was the hanging flesh that was once his face, bloody and burnt. Robert did not share much of  the events that followed, but through his bravery and the bravery of the other shipmates they were able to save the ship from sinking. Eventually, Robert was transferred to a hospital ship for transport to a hospital in the Philippines. That evening while the Navy doctor and nurse were making rounds on the ship, they stopped at Robert’s rack and the doctor stated, referring to Robert, there will be a sheet over this one before morning. Robert did not sleep that night; as a matter of fact he did not close his eyes.  Eventually making it to the hospital, Robert remembers one of his hospital buddies came up to him and said “Bob there is a pretty nurse that wants to meet you.” Robert told him to quit pulling his leg, but went down the hall to see the nurse. The nurse happened to be the same nurse that took care of him on the hospital ship. Robert said, “You asked to see me” and she responded, “Yes, I just wanted to see what you really look like.”
Robert, like so many others, is a hero and is someone with a story to tell. Robert said he does not know why he has a hard time telling the first story but not the second. Can you imagine being a young boy and having the ship you are on sink, and hearing those screams for help? By the second story although probably just as traumatic, a year later that young boy was forced to me a battle made man.
So I want us to recognize Amos Robert Graff for his brave service to Country, the United States of America and thank him and his daughter Zoe for sharing and allowing me to share this with all of you.

These pictures provided by Naval Archives. In the picture of the crashed kamikaze plane, Robert has a copy of that and he is quick to point out the Japanese pilots foot (boot) in all that chaos.