Friday, January 03, 2014

TOP STORY >> Read all about it: WWII ends

Leader staff writer

Sam and Jean Ross of Cabot have several California newspapers from 1945 that were printed as the Second World War was ending and they plan to give the historical treasure trove to a local museum.

The couple reflected on their 70-year marriage while flipping through the yellowing pages, which report on a victorious nation that had made great sacrifices.

The 89-year-olds first met in 1941 on a blind date. They are high school sweethearts and graduated from North Little Rock High School in 1943.

Sam was 18 when he joined the service during World War II. He was a carpenter’s mate first class in the Navy on the USS J. Franklin Bell for three years. From 1943 to 1945, he spent most of his time sailing in the South Pacific.

Sam and Jean were engaged before he left for the war. He was on a 10-day leave from the Navy when they were married in June 1943.

“It was nearly a year and a half later before I saw him again,” Jean said.

Communication between loved ones was different then than it is today. Sam said if he sent a letter to the U.S. then, it would take three weeks or even months to arrive. It was always uncertain when letters would arrive because mail was sent by ship.

While her husband was serving in the military, Jean moved to California and stayed with a friend’s wife.

She was an electrician’s helper at the Calship Yard in Los Angeles, where she ran wiring and lights in battleships under construction.

Jean later became a secretary for the port of importation processing special clothing orders for servicemen.

Sam said the USS J. Frank-lin Bell delivered American troops during the invasions of eight different islands in the Pacific.

He received eight bronze battle stars during the war. As a carpenter, Sam made repairs on small boats and landing crafts.

His ship was docked in San Francisco for repairs on Sept. 1, 1945, after a kamikaze plane buckled one of the plates on the ship. Torpedoes were also shot at them, though the ship was never hit by those.

His wife, who was working in a shipyard in the Wilmington neighborhood of Los Angeles, came up to San Francisco to visit him while repairs were made.

Sam was on his way to Jean’s hotel when news came that Japan had surrendered and the war was over.

“Traffic stopped. I had to walk from the Pacific cable car to her hotel when war was declared over,” he said.

“People were climbing light poles. Mobs were everywhere celebrating,” Jean said.

After the war, the couple returned to Arkansas.

Sam purchased a car dealership with Victor Wright and operated Ross Wright Chrysler Plymouth in North Little Rock off Broadway there for 30 years — from the 1960s to the 1980s.

Jean was a housewife and raised their three children.

Recently, while looking in a cedar chest, she remembered buying the newspapers because Sam did not have a chance to read them when he was in the service.

Jean saved the April 16, 1945, edition of the Los Angeles Examiner.

It was published the day after President Franklin D. Roosevelt was buried.

She also saved Aug. 15, 1945, editions of the San Francisco Chronicle-Extra and the Call-Bulletin of San Francisco; the Sept. 2, 1945, edition of the Call-Bulletin of San Francisco; and the Sept. 2, 1945, edition of the San Francisco Examiner.

“They had paperboys along the streets — ‘Extra Extra read all about it.’ That’s what you heard on all the streets,” Jean said.

“It was interesting at the time. We’d forgotten that we had kept them. She was getting ready to throw them away. I told her, ‘Whoa, don’t throw those away,” he said

The newspapers will be donated to the Jacksonville Museum of Military History or the Cabot School District’s Museum of American History.