memory on the ship was when they were serving breakfast. Unfortunately, it was red beans, which was the Navy’s primary food. I ended up losing my breakfast, but never got sick after that.”
After a short time, patrolling various coast lines of countries in the Mediterranean, the Hambleton was assigned to an armada of ships escorting the European Division, heading for the English Channel. While traveling through the Mediterranean, and into the English Channel, Stevens’ ship was assigned to anti-submarine patrol.
“We engaged six different submarines,” said Stevens. “We were credited with sinking two.”
On the morning of June 6, 1944, Stevens took part in Operation Overlord… D-Day… the invasion of Normandy. The USS Hambleton would escort a large convoy of Landing Ship Tanks (LSTs) to the area around Omaha Beach.
“We were assigned to escort troops into Normandy,” said Stevens. “I can still remember those two days; I still see it in my mind. The Germans had dispatched six boats, which were the equivalent to our PT boats. We were assigned to take them on.”
After sinking one of the German E-boats, Stevens’ ship was attacked. While maneuvering around a German E-boat, Stevens’ ship was attacked, damaging a portion of his boat. The attack left Stevens injured, calling the events a “freakish accident.” Fortunately for Stevens, the attack wasn’t too severe, and he was able to continue to serve.
New mission, new responsibilities
After spending a short leave back at home, Stevens and the Hambleton would be sent to the Pacific theater of operations.
“They replaced the machine guns and installed high-speed minesweeping gear,” Stevens said. “We were assigned to sweep for mines around all the islands to clear the way for our troops.”
The Hambleton sailed for the Pacific to take part in the invasion of Okinawa, which was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific. “We were responsible for clearing the way of mines for larger ships like the USS Missouri.”
“At one point I was responsible for taking care of any mines on my side of the ship,” Stevens said. “One popped up in my vision and I started firing at it. My gun jammed, but I was able to clear the jam and destroy the mine. I felt like that mine was my responsibility and there was no other gun available to get it. I did what I needed to do.”
While serving in the Pacific, Stevens encountered several kamikaze pilots, with his crew getting credit for destroying six of them. “You wouldn’t believe how they could fly,” Stevens said. “With a sky full of ammunition, these kamikaze pilots moving all around. We destroyed five of them, with one of them losing a landing gear on our security cable causing it to go down. We got credit for it anyway.”
“Kamikaze aircraft were basically a piloted bullet,” Stevens said. “It was hard to take them down because they didn’t have much equipment or ability to fire. One of them almost wiped out our ship, but we got lucky when it went down in the water.”
After fighting outside Normandy, and fighting kamikazes and mines in the Pacific, Stevens says one of the greatest battles came against mother nature. “We rode out four typhoons during that tour, with the fourth one almost wiping us out,” Stevens said. “I had a sixhour duty one stretch during that storm. My dungaree shirt was in
shreds once that six hours was over.”
At one point during the storm, the Hambleton hit a massive wave. “The entire ship started vibrating,” Stevens said. “Our skipper was sleeping in his chair beside the helm. He sat up and shouted who the hell hit us? I told him we hit a wave and he just said carry on.”
End of a war
Once the Hambleton reached Tokyo Bay, Stevens and his crew watched from shore as the armistice was signed.
“It was a wonderful day,” Stevens said. The ceremony aboard the USS Missouri was a memorable moment for Stevens.
“We anchored off the starboard bow of the Missouri and watched the signing of the armistice,” recounted Stevens.
After returning to San Diego, Stevens made his way back to Oklahoma. Four days later he married his wife, who had awaited his return.
“I wasn’t home but a few days and we got married,” Stevens said. “She had been with me for three years before I went into the Navy, and I was lucky she was still waiting on me when I got out.”
Stevens is one of more than 33,000 Veterans in the West Texas VA Health Care System (WTVAHCS) catchment area, and WTVAHCS staff are proud and humbled to be able to fulfill the VA mission of caring for our Nation’s Veterans.
“The service has taken care of me ever since I got out,” said Stevens. “I have severe vertigo after the accident on the ship during Normandy. The VA has taken care of me through it all.”