Freedom Fighters: Boots Brooks - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Freedom Fighters: Boots Brooks

(KLTV) -

Before Boots Brooks joined the Navy in 1942, he had never even been on a ship, but he learned fast what life aboard ship could be during war.

Aubrey "Boots" Brooks had joined the Navy when he was 18, and though he had never before been aboard ship, he was soon off to war in the South Pacific on the "Destroyer," the U.S.S. Woodworth.

"We looked for trouble. If we seen submarines, we dropped torpedoes where the submarines was," Brooks said.

Brooks says the crew never got any sleep because they were either under attack, or attacking, around the clock.

"It was just one thing after another. You weren't going to get no sleep."

In the Solomon Islands, Guadalcanal, Palau, Pelilu and Okinawa, the Woodworth was part of some of the fiercest fighting in the South Pacific theater of war.

"I was a seaman behind a machine gun, and that's where I lost my hearing by a five inch big gun," said Brooks. "I was strapped to the machine gun, MM machine gun, and I lost my hearing there."

An accident aboard ship also injured Brooks' hand, but since the Woodworth was attacked numerous times, those injuries seemed minor at the time.

In the battle of Okinawa, Japanese suicide planes sunk 26 Navy ships. With 62,000 casualties, the battle of Okinawa was the bloodiest battle U.S. forces experienced in the Pacific War.

After three months of constant battles in the Pacific, Brooks was sent home for a month vacation before boarding the cargo ship, U.S.S. Anterin, and returning to the Pacific.

"We didn't even have a gun on that thing."

While the Destroyer, the Woodworth, had been a hunter, the cargo ship, the Anterin, without gunpowder, was more the hunted.

"We had to dump I don't know how much ammunition because we got hit and we had to get rid of that."

Boots Brooks served 3 years and 11 months in combat, earning three bronze stars for his bravery.

"It took four years of my life, but I'm glad I did it."

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