Veteran Salute: WWII Torpedoman on Tulagi Island

Veteran Salute

It was the glitz and glamour of the sailor in Hollywood that had Bill Sloan convinced the Navy was the branch to join.

He signed up to serve when he was 17, and in no time, he was off to boot camp in San Diego.

Sloan then headed to torpedo school, but that doesn’t mean he ever fired one.

If you take a walk down memory lane with Bill Sloan, he’s got a lot to share.

“It has 1,200 pounds of TNT in it,” Sloan said.

The WWII torpedoman can tell you exactly how the weapon really works.

“When you pull this back all of this stuff happens, just bang, bang, bang,” Sloan said.

The sailor was a key player is ensuring torpedoes were ready for battle.

“You have to have someone to overhaul them, and that’s where I came in and we had a little shop,” Sloan said.

The little shop was based out of a quonset hut.

“It was very interesting what we did,” Sloan said.

He also has fond memories of the men he worked with on Tulagi Island in the South Pacific.

“I think back on my buddies, you know,” Sloan said.

Sloan said he cherishes a professional photo, since many of his WWII buddies are now gone.

He said the photo was captured when their unit bought more war bonds than any other.

He said the only tricky part of making the sign for such an occasion was that they didn’t have a paint brush.

“So I took a match, a wooden match and just bit the end of it, to try to soften it up and then I used that for a little brush,” Sloan said.

Sloan also remembers how the guys were entertained at USO shows.

He said the troops enjoyed talents like Bob Hope and Jack Benny, but says one act fell flat.

“These guys on that island didn’t care anything about ballet dancing, they wanted to hear turkey in the straw and stuff like that, they were wild, you know hadn’t seen no women,” Sloan said.

He said the sailors eventually made it back to their loved ones, on board an Army ship.

He said the band on the dock first played the Caisson song.

“Then they played for the Marines, then they played the Navy and we had one guy on from the Coast Guard, they said you get off with the Navy guys, we don’t even know how to play the song for the Coast Guard, so he got off with us,” Sloan laughed.

He said he enjoyed every day he spent in the Navy and if given the chance he would do it all over again.

Now 94, Sloan still walks every day, perhaps that’s why he doesn’t feel like he has aged too much, since he over hauled torpedoes in the Pacific.

Sloan said there was a PT Base at the opposite end of the island and he said he says John F. Kennedy spent time at that base.

He said although he never laid eyes on him.

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