Loading the player...
Interview conducted with Myron Kesler Gupton (b. July 23, 1923) as part of the Nash County Cultural Center’s Oral History Project. Gupton talks about growing up in Nash County, his service in the US Navy during WWII and the Korean War, and his post-retirement life. He says he was born in a one-room log cabin on a farm near Nashville, NC. His father was a farmer and carpenter who also worked as a guard and foreman at the Caledonia Prison Farm, where the family lived until 1934. He details what life was like on the prison farm, recalling interactions with the prisoners and explaining the different uniforms and chains worn by prisoners based on whether they were considered dangerous or trustworthy. Gupton enlisted in the Navy and was sworn in on Aug. 29, 1941. He talks about his motivation to enlist and describes going to boot camp in Norfolk, VA. He was selected for sheetmetal school and spent 16 weeks learning foundry skills, welding, making molds, pouring metal, and boiler making. During his time there, WWII broke out. Gupton recalls hearing the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor while hitch-hiking, saying that blackout drills already underway when he arrived back in Norfolk that evening. Upon finishing school, Gupton was assigned to the USS Vulcan (AR-5), a Navy repair ship, as a blacksmith. He details the ship’s duties in the North Atlantic, searching for submarines while in relief of the USS Prairie. He was then transferred the USS Conway, a Fletcher-class destroyer. He speaks about the ship’s journey from Boston, MA to Noumea, New Caledonia, passing through the Panama Canal in December of 1942. Gupton mentions heading to the New Hebrides in January of 1943, having to rescue sailors from the USS Chicago which was sunk the Japanese forces near Guadalcanal. He talks about escorting a landing force during the Invasion of Vella Lavella. He also speaks of his ship, along with the USS Cony and USS Waller, looking to intercept Japanese destroyers near Kula Gulf during the Bougainville Campaign. Gupton was transferred to the USS Matsonia (aka USS Etolin) and returned to the U.S. in 1944.where he developed pneumonia and spent 1-2 months in the hospital at Camp Shoemaker, CA. He talks about hitch-hiking home to Rocky Mount, NC; mentions using ration stamps to get food and how most meant his age were away at war. Upon returning to service in San Francisco, he was assigned to Goat Island (aka Yerba Buena), where he worked on a ship escorting prisoners to Terminal Island near San Pedro, CA. Gupton was then sent to school in Norfolk, VA for superheaters, and was assigned to the USS Rooks, a Fletcher-class destroyer). He details the ship’s voyage from Seattle, WA to San Diego, CA, then to Hawaii and Saipan before taking part in the Invasion of Iwo Jima in Feb. 1945. He describes the ship bombarding the beaches and shooting down enemy aircraft, providing support for the Army and Marine troops trying to occupy the island. He discusses his ship serving in relief of the USS North Carolina, providing support the day troops raised the US flag atop Mt. Suribachi. He says his ship then headed to the Philippines, joined a convoy, and took part in the Invasion of Okinawa on April 2, 1945. Gupton mentions that his ship was there for 87 days and was the only destroyer not to take a hit during the battle. He remembers being in the Philippines when the Japanese surrendered, and talks of meeting up with friends there from his previous ship to celebrate. He says they then picked up POWs near Nagasaki, Japan, did minesweeping off of Formosa, and headed back to the US, where he was discharged on Dec. 5, 1945. In 1948, Gupton decided to re-enlist due to lack of work around Rocky Mount. He was assigned to the Xanthus AR-5 Repair Fleet out of Norfolk, VA, and also worked in the USS Waller while in Charleston, SC. He talks briefly about his time in Korea, mentioning bombarding Wonsan Harbor. He contracted hepatitis, spent 60 days at a hospital in Yokosuka, Japan, and then continued his recovery aboard a ship traveling to the Suez Canal before arriving in the US in 1952. During his time in the Navy, Gupton also served on the USS Coley and USS Coolbaugh, was assigned to both the east and west coasts, and retired in Long Beach, CA. He was married to Ruby Lee Shearin, and the couple had two children, both of whom died of cancer. Gupton speaks to the strength of his wife, and discusses gaining custody of his grandchildren once his daughter died in 1977. He also mentions helping raise four of his sister-in-law’s children, and having two of his great-grandchildren living with him. Gupton says he was fortunate to have been credited with service during five major battles without being seriously wounded. He finishes by speaking about the importance of unity in achieving a goal, giving credit to service members, civilians, farmers, politicians, steel workers, coal miners, and others for their part in the shared success of WWII.