The day WWII ended for Mid-Columbia couple

By Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldAugust 14, 2011 

Sixty-six years ago today, Dean Shaffer of Connell was aboard the USS Ozark when the Japanese surrendered.

Shaffer's ship was near Japan's Bonin Islands on Aug. 14, 1945, when Japanese Emperor Hirohito agreed to surrender. Shaffer recalled that day seeing B-29s pass overhead on their last hostile run on Japan.

In a letter he wrote to his parents, he admitted he and others didn't get too excited about the announcement because of previous false reports.

And when a torpedo crossed the USS Ozark's path just ahead of the bow the next day, he wrote that it killed any desire to relax their normal sharp lookout.

The previous week, the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Hanford helped produce plutonium for the bomb dropped on Nagasaki.

After the surrender, the crew on the USS Ozark still met with some resistance. A kamikaze pilot dove toward the ship, but luckily the pilot was a poor shot, said Shaffer, who is now 86.

His ship was one of the first to enter Tokyo Bay after the Japanese surrendered Aug. 30, 1945. Several Japanese submarines were flying a black flag of surrender from their conning towers, he wrote at the time.

Shaffer, a 1943 Pasco High School graduate, remembered how it felt "spooky," because he wasn't sure if Japanese soldiers were lying in wait to attack them. The bay was gigantic and so quiet, he said.

The Ozark helped transport nearly 1,000 Americans who the Japanese had held as prisoners of war back to the states, he said.

That was at the end of World War II for Dean Shaffer. His ship carried troops to Iwo Jima, Luzon and Okinawa.

The Ozark hauled 800 troops, who reached land using 6-wheeled amphibious vehicles called "ducks," he said.

Getting the ducks back into the ship was a challenge because the wet wheels couldn't grip the steel ship, he said. So sailors would tie ropes onto the ducks and use a winch.

After the soldiers returned from battle, Shaffer would watch as surgeons operated on the wounded on the ship. His job as a seaman first class was to do whatever was asked, from painting to sweeping the floor.

After the war ended, Shaffer returned to Pasco, where he became reacquainted with fellow Pasco High School graduate Louise Shaffer, who was also a Navy veteran. The two married four years after the war, in 1949.

Louise, 86, served in the Navy hospital corps stateside.

The 1944 Pasco High School grad enlisted in April 1945 at age 20. She said her decision was influenced by her two brothers, who were serving in the Navy -- one in the South Pacific and another in Alaska.

Just to get in was an adventure. Louise weighed 95 pounds and was 4 feet 11 inches tall, but that was 5 pounds and 1 inch less than the minimum requirement to enlist, she said.

So when her height was measured, she alternated between standing on her tiptoes when no one was looking at her feet and then standing flat on her feet. Finally, the man said, "To heck with it," and let her in, telling her to eat a big hamburger and milkshake for lunch, she said.

Louise said she was trained at the naval hospital in Bethesda, Md., and then served at the Farragut Naval Hospital in Idaho and the naval hospital in Bremerton.

Deana Dougherty of Connell, one of the couple's three children, said one of her favorite stories is how her mother used to hitchhike from the Idaho hospital to Pasco on the weekend to go to dances.

Louise said that by the time she was free on Saturday, she couldn't take a bus or train, so she would stick out her thumb. People took care of those in uniform, she said.

After the war, her husband went on to work in construction, as a plasterer and then spent 20 years in construction for the highway department.

Louise Shaffer worked in offices and nursing, including working at Lourdes Medical Center in Pasco. Her last job was as a nurse for four day care centers in the Yakima Valley.

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