Here's something I wrote and never posted after a cruise from 4/1/2013:
I just met the coolest old man.
He was a scout for an artillery battery in WWII. That means he got to go up in the front with the infantry guys whenever there was a battle so he could send back coordinates of where to send the shells to bomb the shit out of the Japs.
He told me a story about being on New Guinea with 500 troops near the end of the war. 25,000 Jap soldiers surrendered to them because they were starving to death. A Japanese contingency approached to surrender and their translator spoke perfect English. He was a Colombia University grad and a buck private in the Japanese army. When he was asked how someone so educated could be ranked so low he responded, the Japanese promote based on your ability to be cruel.
Franklin told me how when he was tasked with overseeing one of the transport cars taking those same prisoners to Manila he couldn't figure out how to communicate with his captors. There were two American GIs for every box car which held fifty Japanese POWs. He didn't speak Japanese and none of his group of prisoners spoke English. On a Hail Mary he tried the only other language he knew – Spanish.
Two of the Japanese POWs spokes perfect Spanish.
He fought in two battles during the entire war. He came out mostly unscathed.
He’s on his second marriage of 31 years and going.
His first wife died after 25 years of marriage and he met his current wife at a widowers get together. They danced. That was all it took for him.
He’s 90 now. He’s a small man. Shrunk by age. My guess is the world will lose Franklin soon enough.
He’s my favorite part of this trip.