Freedom Fighters: Jim Hodges - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Freedom Fighters: Jim Hodges

(KLTV) - Jim Hodges was aboard a tanker, one of the most dangerous places to be during World War II. 

Veterans living at Parkwood Place Health Center and Assisted living in Lufkin don't share their stories of fighting in Korea and WWII very often, but when it comes to sharing cake, that's a different matter. 

The party the day I visited was for Jim Hodges, who was aboard the tanker, the U.S.S. Pamanset in six major WWII battles in the Pacific. 

Hodges joined the Navy in 1943 at the age of 17. His very first battle was a tragic introduction to what war was like. 

"The first battle is when the Houston got sunk out in the South China Sea and we took survivors, 200 something survivors," Hodges recalls.

The Houston, carrying over 1,000 men, had been attacked by Japanese destroyers as it steamed into Bantan Bay. Only 368 of the crew survived the attack, many of them badly burned.  Ironically, two years later, in November of 1944, the Pamanset would once again rescue crewmen from another torpedoed ship. 

"The two Japanese, two ships, got through the net and they were set to get both of us, the Mississinewa and ours but one of them jumped the gun and sunk our sister ship,"

Tankers like the Pamanset and its sister ship are second only to ammunition ships in danger, because of their cargo of fuel. 

"We carried aviation fuel, diesel fuel and black oil."

Hodges' ship refueled ships and aircraft in the midst of six major Pacific battles, including the Battle of Leyte Gulf, Mariana Islands, Okinawa, and Iwo Jima.

"We were refueling a carrier alongside. We was about three miles off Iwo Jima when the fighting was going on."

Seeing the flag go up on Mount Surabochi on Iwo Jima is one of Hodges' most memorable sites. Although the most memorable was at the end of the war.

"The most pleasant sight was when the war was over and all the planes in the fleet came over. You could see them from horizon to horizon, as far as you could see them, all the way around."

After a short time in Japan refueling the American fleet, Hodges returned home. 

He was to make history again a few years later when, as a civilian, he helped lay the first pipeline across the Persian Gulf. But Jim Hodges, like the other veterans at his party, served their country, and defended it proudly.

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