Freedom Fighters: Clinton Culpepper

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Clinton Culpepper was 19 when he joined the Navy in October of 1943.

Assigned to the amphibious ship, the USS Crescent City, Culpepper soon found out what war was all about during the invasion of Guam in July of 1944.

"We lost a lot of men, a lot of them," Culpepper said.

There were 30 landing crafts aboard the Crescent, carrying soldiers and supplies to the Guam beaches, as Japanese guns fired at them.

"We'd carry them. Sometimes we'd carry their food in for them, carry supplies in for them, bring the wounded back to the ship and let the doctors care for them," Culpepper recalled.

Culpepper stayed at Guam three days before his ship returned to Guadalcanal to load up for the next invasion at Peleliu.

"We was there 10 days before we could finally leave," Culpepper said.

Ten days of carrying soldiers and supplies to the Peleliu beaches and bringing the wounded and dead back to the ship.

"We had over 700 ships going to the Philippines," Culpepper said.

By the time the Crescent City joined the armada of ships in the Leyte Gulf, America's Navy had grown to be a dominant force in the Pacific. It was there that Culpepper's ship had it's first brush with the Japenese suicide planes.

"It came over on the left and as he crossed our ship he dropped a torpedo in the water to get the Catskill ship on the left and that torpedo hit and it became airborne and went over the ship and they shot it down on the other side," Culpepper said.

After the battle of Leyte Gulf, Culpepper's ship was overhauled and turned into a hospital ship.

"They enlarged our sick bay area and added eleven doctors aboard the ship, nurses and all and changed us into a hospital ship," Culpepper remembered.

The invasion of Okinawa was the Crescent City's first use as a hospital ship, but that didn't protect it from the Japanese suicide planes.

"We had a lot of suicide planes and some of the ships got hit," Culpepper said.

Clinton Culpepper returned home in March of 1946. Now at the age of 91, he looks back at his service with pride, but at the horrors of war with sadness.

"I did real well but a lot of our boys got killed, and a lot of our boys got injured," Culpepper said.

Copyright 2017 KLTV. All rights reserved.