Freedom Fighters: J.L. Kirkpatrick - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Freedom Fighters: J.L. Kirkpatrick

(KLTV) -

More than 325,000 men served with the Seabees in World War II, fighting and building on six continents and more than 300 islands in the Pacific,J.L. Kirkpatrick joined the Seabees in 1942 and spent 27 months on Pacific islands, building airstrips for American bombers and fighter planes.

"I didn't Dodge a bullet, but if they're any worse than bombs, I don't want any of them."

Japanese planes bombed Kirkpatrick's ship on the way to Guadalcanal and again after he arrived there The airstrips the seabees were building were prime targets for the Japanese.

"Our officers always put our camp right beside where we were building and of course the Japanese went directly to those airfields and we got the shellacking from that," Kirkpatrick recalled.

During those island air raids, there were no bomb shelters to hide in.

"You either dig a hole or find one to get in."

The biggest air raid at Seegy Point was an attack by nine Japanese planes, who not only destroyed the officers chow hall, but also hit the TNT storage.

Even though Kirkpatrick was dodging Japanese bombs on a daily basis, it was malaria, carried by the island's swarm of mosquitoes, that posed the biggest danger. Kirkpatrick contracted malaria fever twice.

"...just tough it out...either died or made it."

Fortunately. Kirkpatrick made it, and went on to build airfields throughout the Pacific.  Among his medals are six battle stars for major battles he was involved in.

When the war ended, Kirkpatrick returned home to his wife Martha and son Jerry, who had been born while he was overseas.

Kirkpatrick says he sometimes still has nightmares from the horrible sights he witnessed in the  war, but in spite of that, he's still proud to have served his country.

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