War Stories in Their Own Words
'They called me Hit the Deck Jake'
Warren 'Jake' Fegely grew up in Allentown, quit school in eighth grade and joined the Navy in 1943 at age 17. (MONICA CABRERA, Allentown Morning Call / November 6, 2008)
Later, he shook hands with me and said he was sorry, he was new and didn't understand what combat was all about. We got along great after that. He recommended me for a combat promotion from third to second class.
Sleep in a helmet
When there's an attack, you hear the bosun's whistle: General quarters! Then the bugle.
I slept on the first deck below, on the fifth bunk up, and the speaker was at my ear. GENERAL QUARTERS! That used to knock me out of bed, just about. We'd yell back all kinds of obscenities.
You'd be dead tired and get general quarters at 3 o'clock in the morning and you had to come up one ladder up to the hangar deck, where the planes are parked. There were red lights along the way because they couldn't use white lights -- red lights couldn't be seen at a distance. So it was dark and you could hardly see.
The planes are parked tight together with the wings folded up, and they have antenna underneath. We had 100 planes, over half on the hangar deck. You had to watch you didn't get cut by an antenna or poked in the eye. I'd be half asleep and go up with my hands in front of me. Then you had to go up a ladder again to get to the radar room.
That was one of the worst things, running from my bunk to my battle station, trying not to get stabbed in the side a couple times by things protruding from the planes.
I was the admiral's radar operator for three days, up on the island at what was called flag plot.
The admiral, Gerald F. Bogan, who was a helluva nice guy, was the commander of the task force. He and his assistants did the plotting and planning up there. They kept switching the top-rated radarmen up there for him.
We had a kamikaze attack, about 15 to 18 Japanese planes came in.
One hits, WHOOM! And it shook the heck out of us. Five minutes later, WHOOM, another one hits.
The standby radarmen were in what they called the pilots' ready room. It was under the flight deck. That's where they'd go when the pilots were out.
When the first kamikaze hit the flight deck, its bomb came through and everybody in the ready room was blown to pieces -- 26 radarmen. A lot of my friends were down there. Later, I had to go and help identify the bodies. I'd pick up arms and try to match them.
That was a terrible day. It was a massacre.
I was up in flag plot with the admiral when the planes hit. He said, ''OK, let's go.
''We've got bodies to pick up.''
The Intrepid's air group sank 80 ships, and its planes and guns destroyed more than 650 enemy aircraft.
Today, the ship is the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum and is berthed along Pier 86 on Manhattan's west side.
Fegely has five campaign ribbons and seven battle stars.
He worked for almost 30 years in the Allentown Fire Department as a communications specialist, retiring in 1975. He lives with his wife, Fran, and has two sons, Keith and Jeff.
Fegely says he was never scared aboard the Intrepid. ''I didn't worry about getting hit, I don't know why. I wasn't brave or anything. I was just doing my job, and that was it.''
But he did know fear later while serving on a troop ship that got caught in a typhoon off Okinawa.
''It scared the hell out of me. The waves were hundreds of feet high. Some ships never got out of the harbor; they rolled over. It was the first time I was scared.
''And that was after the war.''
Fegely's e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.