Savannah WWII veteran remembers this Memorial Day

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - We don't celebrate Memorial Day. We remember.

Even at 98 years old, Walter Parrish remembers everything from his nine years in the United States Navy.

"I graduated from high school in 1936 and I wanted to go to college," said Parrish, a resident at Savannah Commons Senior Home. "So the only way we could do it was to go through the Naval Academy or a military academy, so it wouldn't cost us anything."

After four years in the reserves, Parrish was called to active duty and spent the next five years at sea. He spent almost 20 years researching and documenting his military experience, filling scrapbooks and journals with memories of fighting the Germans in the Atlantic Ocean and the Japanese in the Pacific.

He wrote of battles that he saw all of from his position on the bridge as a First Class Signalman.

"We were the leading ship in one battle called and we fired the initial torpedoes," said Parrish. "We struck a couple of ships and got out of that fray. By the time we were able to start our turn to get out of the way, they started firing and they were firing shells on the spot that we had been in"

That wasn't Parrish's only close call.

While at sea, he started corresponding with a friend of a friend, a young lady he would propose to over the phone.

"When I hung up the receiver on the telephone," Parrish remembers, "all the money in the coin machine dropped down and I had access to it."

They were married on a Wednesday night while he was on leave and were together for 66 years.

"Less than a week after I was married, I went back to the ship to return to duty and they said you've been transferred," said Parrish, who was originally stationed on the USS Borie and later transferred to the USS McDermott. "I got off the ship and left it and in a couple of days, they encountered two submarines in the Atlantic and destroyed one. And the other made so much damage to the Borie that they had to sink it."

A total of 30 American men were lost in the Borie's final battle, one that Parrish narrowly missed being part of.

"There are approximately 175 men aboard ship and I knew all of them," he says. "They were all friends, some of them even school mates."

And they are among the many ones of Savannah's oldest veterans, who will remember this Memorial Day.

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