While doing some clean up today at the old Garnet Valley Press office in Concord Township (Pa.) Fred Mitchell stopped by thinking the office remained open and looking for a recent paper with a story about him written by Eileen Shomo.
Fred revealed he had been a 17-year-old sailor manning an anti-aircraft gun aboard the destroyer USS Drexler which was sunk by a kamikaze plane on March 27, 1945 off Okinawa. Out of crew of 336 there was 158 dead and 52 wounded, one of whom was Fred.
Fred said he nursed an enduring hatred for the Japanese to the dismay of his wife and parents. He said he wished we had dropped three atom bombs on the country.
His wife noted he said the Lord’s Prayer at church and wondered if he wasn’t being a bit hypocritical when it he said the part about “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others”.
Fred said he caught a documentary on TV regarding three Marines who fought on Iwo Jima and had, had the same hatred with regard to the Japanese. He caught them questioning whether they wanted to die with that hatred. He said the Marines decided to try to meet with Japanese who fought them there. They found three and they met on the island where they had been trying to kill each other. What died was their hatred. The Japanese also confessed to fear dying with hate.
Fred said before a reunion of Drexler survivors his group had been contacted by a Japanese-American woman who made documentaries and wanted to interview them. The ensuring film led to a visit to Japan for the survivors and their wives sponsored by the Japanese business community.
The hatred died.
Fred said they were treated like movie stars, and ever a sailor, was quite taken with the loveliness of the Japanese hostesses.
Fred said he plans to return.
Fred was also quite complementary of the health care he was receiving in the VA medical system.