Interview of Helaman Pratt Call by Clarissa Walker, December 2002
My sister interviewed our great-grandfather shortly before he passed away for a school project on WWII. She was in seventh grade at the time, so the interview is short, but yet the answers are detailed and touching.
Q: How was it during the time of WWII?
A: During the time of the war, I was an insurance man and I collected war bonds along with insurance money, so I thought I would be exempted from service all the way. But in 1940 in January, I got a notice to report to the board. I had to go up on the 3rd of January for an examination. We had just gone up to Morgan for Christmas with the folks. We stayed up there and didn’t get home till New Year’s Eve and on the 3rd I had to be in the draft board.
Q: What Branch of service did you go into?
A: When I went up to the draft board Merle said don’t go in the Marines. She had a brother in the Marines and she didn’t want me head chopping like he had been able to write home about. I just got in to the draft board and they called my number. I was stripped down waiting to be examined. They called my number and I went up to the desk and they said, “Mister, grab your clothes and get out in that truck. You’re going to Fort Douglas.” They took me there and in 30 minutes I was in the Navy. I hadn’t even been able to tell Merle about it. I went home and then I had to leave on the 5th of January to Farigle (?) Idaho where my career in the Navy started.
Q: What event stands out the most to you during WWII?
A: The day President Roosevelt died, I think our ship was hit by three Kamikaze planes. Within about five minutes we lost about 150 men. My job was to help hold them down while a man who had been training to be doctor but wasn’t a doctor yet amputated legs and arms and things like that without any anesthetic. It was very traumatic to go through that. As a result, they ordered me to the hospital. When I got to a telephone and called home I found out that Linda was hit by an automobile and not expected to live. So they sent me home rather than sending me to the hospital. I did never go to the hospital. I was discharged after coming home to see her and to see my father buried. He had died. That was the most trying experience I had during the entire war.
Q: About how old were you?
A: I was 36 when I was discharged from the Navy.
Q: How was it keeping in touch with your family?
A: We wrote letters to each other but I couldn’t ell anything about where I was so if the enemy wouldn’t find out if they got a hold of some of my mail, so Merle didn’t where I was or anything till she heard over the news that my ship had been hit and lot of people killed. She didn’t know how I was and I didn’t know how she was. She wasn’t well, we had a lot of difficulty.