Bill Reynolds: Tom Tucker – World War II Veteran – Valencia Resident
Tom Tucker posing with a .50 Caliber Machine Gun. Courtesy photo.
By Bill Reynolds
Friday, September 23rd, 2016

Talking with Tom Tucker and hearing his life’s experiences was such an honor.

You see, I never spoke with my dear ole Dad about his WWII experiences in the South Pacific as he passed away suddenly at age 50 on D-Day 1969 shortly after my Army service.

For me, men such as Tom Tucker are a rare breed and special.

Born August 13, 1926 in Los Angeles, Tom grew up in South Pasadena.

His high school days were tumultuous, to say the least, as he attended several high schools managing a diploma from South Pasadena High School in June 1942.

Tom tried joining the Navy at age 16; he ultimately succeeded at age 17 in November 1942.

While going through Boot Camp in San Diego, Tom finally learned to respect discipline and authority; yeah, military training has that effect.

Tom Tucker and Duane Harte Veterans Day 2015. Courtesy photo.
Tom Tucker and a girlfriend who later on sent him a Dear John Letter. Courtesy photo.

After Boot Camp he travelled by train to attend eight months of signal schooling at the University of Illinois; and then to attend a diving school in New York.

Next, Tom was sent to the Naval Amphibious Base at Little Creek, Virginia where he volunteered for a mysterious assignment.

Underwater Demolition

 

Six hours after arriving at his new base, Tom left for six months of Naval Amphibious Training at Fort Pierce, Florida. Tom was to become an underwater demolition diver which predated the Navy Seals.

By November 1944, he was off to San Pedro, California – via another train trip. During this period, there was no opportunity to take a leave of absence, nor was he even allowed a phone call to his family.

Tom’s next adventure was on a slow ship to Maui where his Underwater Demolition Team 19 boarded the USS Knudsen 101 and steamed towards the South Pacific arriving at Iwo Jima March 1945.

The next stage sent the men off to Ulithi Atoll in the Caroline Islands of the western Pacific Ocean. It was a staging point for operations against various Japanese occupied islands including Iwo Jima, Guam, Leyte, and Okinawa.

Tom said he had never seen so many ships in one place as there were at Ulithi.

Body parts

Tom’s memories of the South Pacific remain vivid as he spoke about the following events.

While on antisubmarine duty in early 1945, the USS Knudsen was attacked by a Japanese bomber, but the gunnery mates shot down that plane after two bombs narrowly missed his ship.

Tom Tucker and his band of brothers at Ulithi Atoll. Courtesy photo.
Tom Tucker and his band of brothers at Ulithi Atoll. Courtesy photo.

By the time the USS Knudsen arrived at Iwo Jima, the Marines assault had already began. Japanese guns fired and hit the USS Knudsen seriously wounding two sailors.

Due to Tom’s medic training, he assisted hospital staff attempting to save one of the sailor’s life, but he didn’t make it. Both sailors were KIA.

Tom forever remembers being ordered to take a bucket of body parts to throw off the ship’s fantail into the sea…. in doing so, he passed out.

Night Recon

Tom recalled transferring onto a submarine for a special operation at Agama Island near Guam.

His four-man unit, armed only with knuckle knives, took a rubber raft to shore for a night recon patrol to observe enemy activity. They spotted Japanese soldiers and military hardware everywhere.

The men broke into two teams but after circling the island, the other two sailors simply did not return. It was presumed they were either captured or killed.

Because Agama and other Japanese occupied islands were cut off, the US Navy simply bypassed them.

‘Power Chat’

While on R & R at Ulithi Atoll, Tom went to a remote beach and spotted one other sailor there so Tom joined him and casually spoke about the war.

Tom asked the sailor what he job was, but the sailor glossed over the question.

Suddenly, a uniformed officer appeared and said, “Admiral Halsey it’s time to go.”

Tom was astounded that he had just chatted with one of the most powerful men in American military history.

Souvenir swords

While delivering 155 artillery howitzers at Akashima Island, Tom and several buddies set out to find souvenir swords off dead Japanese soldiers.

Tom found one dead soldier but his body was bloated and stunk so badly that he could not bring himself to take the sword.

Before departing, the beach, a remaining Japanese soldier fired at Tom and his boys and Ensign Killow was hit in the buttocks. That enemy soldier retreated into the brush as the guys blasted away.

Okinawa, Pearl Harbor

April 1, 1945, the day initial amphibious landings on Okinawa took place; the USS Knudson continued antisubmarine warfare patrols during amphibious landings at Hagushi, Okinawa.

The sailors continued escorting battleships and cruisers in the northern Philippines until stopping in at Pearl Harbor and then to Bremerton, Washington.

Once Emperor Hirohito surrendered August 15, 1945, the USS Knudsen was redirected to San Pedro, California.

Tom was honorably discharged May 16, 1946. Tom’s awards include Asiatic-Pacific Medal with 2 Stars, Philippine Liberation Medal, Philippine Republic Presidential Unit Citation Badge, WWII Victory Medal, and Naval Combat Badge.

After discharge, Tom went to his Mother’s home in Los Angeles and promptly found work at a gas station, but soon went to work for JW Robinsons owned by his family members.

He worked at May Company; the Auto Club selling white wall tires; then sold Cadillac’s; and he worked at Howard Automobile Company.

Later in life, Tom had the chance to hobnob with celebrities and sports stars such as Johnny Weissmuller, Sammy Sneed, Leo Carrillo, and more as a result of his step father, Charles Howard, owned the infamous race horse Seabiscuit, and other fine race horses.

Living the Good Life

Tom was leading the good life.

He loved dancing learning the fox trot, tango, and ball room, but his favorite part of dancing was the women who bought him drinks hand over fist.

Tom married his first wife, Myrtis McGee and they had one daughter. Later, he married his second wife Dixie, and then he married Sydney. Altogether Tom has 7 children, 15 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren.

Tom Tucker and Duane Harte Veterans Day 2015. Courtesy photo.
Tom Tucker and Duane Harte Veterans Day 2015. Courtesy photo.

These days, he loves attending Santa Clarita’s Veterans Day, Memorial Day & July 4th ceremonies and parades. Stating the obvious, Tom has led a dazzling life and he dearly adores the city of Santa Clarita and this great country.

Bill Reynolds is one of the “Boys of ‘67,” Charlie Company, 4th/47th, 9th Infantry Division and director of veterans affairs for The Signal.

About the author

Bill Reynolds

Bill Reynolds

Bill Reynolds is one of the “Boys of ’67,” Charlie Company, 4th/47th, 9th Infantry Division and is the director of Veterans Affairs for The Signal.

Tom Tucker posing with a .50 Caliber Machine Gun. Courtesy photo.

Bill Reynolds: Tom Tucker – World War II Veteran – Valencia Resident

Talking with Tom Tucker and hearing his life’s experiences was such an honor.

You see, I never spoke with my dear ole Dad about his WWII experiences in the South Pacific as he passed away suddenly at age 50 on D-Day 1969 shortly after my Army service.

For me, men such as Tom Tucker are a rare breed and special.

Born August 13, 1926 in Los Angeles, Tom grew up in South Pasadena.

His high school days were tumultuous, to say the least, as he attended several high schools managing a diploma from South Pasadena High School in June 1942.

Tom tried joining the Navy at age 16; he ultimately succeeded at age 17 in November 1942.

While going through Boot Camp in San Diego, Tom finally learned to respect discipline and authority; yeah, military training has that effect.

Tom Tucker and Duane Harte Veterans Day 2015. Courtesy photo.
Tom Tucker and a girlfriend who later on sent him a Dear John Letter. Courtesy photo.

After Boot Camp he travelled by train to attend eight months of signal schooling at the University of Illinois; and then to attend a diving school in New York.

Next, Tom was sent to the Naval Amphibious Base at Little Creek, Virginia where he volunteered for a mysterious assignment.

Underwater Demolition

 

Six hours after arriving at his new base, Tom left for six months of Naval Amphibious Training at Fort Pierce, Florida. Tom was to become an underwater demolition diver which predated the Navy Seals.

By November 1944, he was off to San Pedro, California – via another train trip. During this period, there was no opportunity to take a leave of absence, nor was he even allowed a phone call to his family.

Tom’s next adventure was on a slow ship to Maui where his Underwater Demolition Team 19 boarded the USS Knudsen 101 and steamed towards the South Pacific arriving at Iwo Jima March 1945.

The next stage sent the men off to Ulithi Atoll in the Caroline Islands of the western Pacific Ocean. It was a staging point for operations against various Japanese occupied islands including Iwo Jima, Guam, Leyte, and Okinawa.

Tom said he had never seen so many ships in one place as there were at Ulithi.

Body parts

Tom’s memories of the South Pacific remain vivid as he spoke about the following events.

While on antisubmarine duty in early 1945, the USS Knudsen was attacked by a Japanese bomber, but the gunnery mates shot down that plane after two bombs narrowly missed his ship.

Tom Tucker and his band of brothers at Ulithi Atoll. Courtesy photo.
Tom Tucker and his band of brothers at Ulithi Atoll. Courtesy photo.

By the time the USS Knudsen arrived at Iwo Jima, the Marines assault had already began. Japanese guns fired and hit the USS Knudsen seriously wounding two sailors.

Due to Tom’s medic training, he assisted hospital staff attempting to save one of the sailor’s life, but he didn’t make it. Both sailors were KIA.

Tom forever remembers being ordered to take a bucket of body parts to throw off the ship’s fantail into the sea…. in doing so, he passed out.

Night Recon

Tom recalled transferring onto a submarine for a special operation at Agama Island near Guam.

His four-man unit, armed only with knuckle knives, took a rubber raft to shore for a night recon patrol to observe enemy activity. They spotted Japanese soldiers and military hardware everywhere.

The men broke into two teams but after circling the island, the other two sailors simply did not return. It was presumed they were either captured or killed.

Because Agama and other Japanese occupied islands were cut off, the US Navy simply bypassed them.

‘Power Chat’

While on R & R at Ulithi Atoll, Tom went to a remote beach and spotted one other sailor there so Tom joined him and casually spoke about the war.

Tom asked the sailor what he job was, but the sailor glossed over the question.

Suddenly, a uniformed officer appeared and said, “Admiral Halsey it’s time to go.”

Tom was astounded that he had just chatted with one of the most powerful men in American military history.

Souvenir swords

While delivering 155 artillery howitzers at Akashima Island, Tom and several buddies set out to find souvenir swords off dead Japanese soldiers.

Tom found one dead soldier but his body was bloated and stunk so badly that he could not bring himself to take the sword.

Before departing, the beach, a remaining Japanese soldier fired at Tom and his boys and Ensign Killow was hit in the buttocks. That enemy soldier retreated into the brush as the guys blasted away.

Okinawa, Pearl Harbor

April 1, 1945, the day initial amphibious landings on Okinawa took place; the USS Knudson continued antisubmarine warfare patrols during amphibious landings at Hagushi, Okinawa.

The sailors continued escorting battleships and cruisers in the northern Philippines until stopping in at Pearl Harbor and then to Bremerton, Washington.

Once Emperor Hirohito surrendered August 15, 1945, the USS Knudsen was redirected to San Pedro, California.

Tom was honorably discharged May 16, 1946. Tom’s awards include Asiatic-Pacific Medal with 2 Stars, Philippine Liberation Medal, Philippine Republic Presidential Unit Citation Badge, WWII Victory Medal, and Naval Combat Badge.

After discharge, Tom went to his Mother’s home in Los Angeles and promptly found work at a gas station, but soon went to work for JW Robinsons owned by his family members.

He worked at May Company; the Auto Club selling white wall tires; then sold Cadillac’s; and he worked at Howard Automobile Company.

Later in life, Tom had the chance to hobnob with celebrities and sports stars such as Johnny Weissmuller, Sammy Sneed, Leo Carrillo, and more as a result of his step father, Charles Howard, owned the infamous race horse Seabiscuit, and other fine race horses.

Living the Good Life

Tom was leading the good life.

He loved dancing learning the fox trot, tango, and ball room, but his favorite part of dancing was the women who bought him drinks hand over fist.

Tom married his first wife, Myrtis McGee and they had one daughter. Later, he married his second wife Dixie, and then he married Sydney. Altogether Tom has 7 children, 15 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren.

Tom Tucker and Duane Harte Veterans Day 2015. Courtesy photo.
Tom Tucker and Duane Harte Veterans Day 2015. Courtesy photo.

These days, he loves attending Santa Clarita’s Veterans Day, Memorial Day & July 4th ceremonies and parades. Stating the obvious, Tom has led a dazzling life and he dearly adores the city of Santa Clarita and this great country.

Bill Reynolds is one of the “Boys of ‘67,” Charlie Company, 4th/47th, 9th Infantry Division and director of veterans affairs for The Signal.

About the author

Bill Reynolds

Bill Reynolds

Bill Reynolds is one of the “Boys of ’67,” Charlie Company, 4th/47th, 9th Infantry Division and is the director of Veterans Affairs for The Signal.

Upcoming Events

Jan
12
Fri
all-day Domes – Art Exhibit @ Old Town Newhall Library
Domes – Art Exhibit @ Old Town Newhall Library
Jan 12 – May 11 all-day
Domes - Art Exhibit @ Old Town Newhall Library | Santa Clarita | California | United States
Local resident Naomi Young, is the artist featured in the latest exhibit at the Old Town Newhall Library. The exhibit features original paintings and multimedia by Young, an artist born and raised in Jerusalem, Israel,[...]
Feb
1
Thu
all-day “The Golden Oaks of Santa Clarit... @ Valencia Library
“The Golden Oaks of Santa Clarit... @ Valencia Library
Feb 1 – Jun 1 all-day
“The Golden Oaks of Santa Clarita,” Art Exhibit @ Valencia Library  | Santa Clarita | California | United States
“THE GOLDEN OAKS OF SANTA CLARITA” ART EXHIBIT BY BRAD SERGI ON DISPLAY AT THE VALENCIA LIBRARY Library hours: Mon-Thu 10 a.m. – 9 p.m., Fri 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Sat 10 a.m. – 5[...]
Feb
14
Wed
all-day Tickets Available Now for 41st A... @ Dodger Stadium
Tickets Available Now for 41st A... @ Dodger Stadium
Feb 14 – May 12 all-day
Tickets Available Now for 41st Annual SCV Dodger Day @ Dodger Stadium | Los Angeles | California | United States
SANTA CLARITA DODGER DAY TICKETS ON SALE NOW! Tickets Start at $25 and Benefit Local Schools and Non-Profits It’s time to step up to the plate! The Santa Clarita City Council invites residents to purchase[...]
Apr
19
Thu
all-day Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival Co... @ Event Locations Vary
Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival Co... @ Event Locations Vary
Apr 19 – Apr 22 all-day
BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW FOR COWBOY FESTIVAL CONCERTS – Locations, Times & Prices Vary 25th Annual Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival offers ticketed performances and special events Get ready for some toe-tapping, two-stepping, guitar-picking musical performances![...]
Apr
20
Fri
all-day Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival Co... @ Event Locations Vary
Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival Co... @ Event Locations Vary
Apr 20 – Apr 23 all-day
BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW FOR COWBOY FESTIVAL CONCERTS – Locations, Times & Prices Vary 25th Annual Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival offers ticketed performances and special events Get ready for some toe-tapping, two-stepping, guitar-picking musical performances![...]
7:00 pm Hart High School Presents ‘Bye, ... @ Hart High school Auditorium
Hart High School Presents ‘Bye, ... @ Hart High school Auditorium
Apr 20 @ 7:00 pm
Hart High School Presents 'Bye, Bye Birdie' @ Hart High school Auditorium | Santa Clarita | California | United States
Spring Musical Coming April 2018! Hart High Theatre is proud to present Bye Bye Birdie! April 19, 20, 27 & 28 @ 7pm April 28 & 29 @ 1pm When the draft selects rock star[...]
Apr
21
Sat
all-day Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival Co... @ Event Locations Vary
Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival Co... @ Event Locations Vary
Apr 21 – Apr 24 all-day
BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW FOR COWBOY FESTIVAL CONCERTS – Locations, Times & Prices Vary 25th Annual Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival offers ticketed performances and special events Get ready for some toe-tapping, two-stepping, guitar-picking musical performances![...]
10:00 am Astronomy Day @ Valencia Library
Astronomy Day @ Valencia Library
Apr 21 @ 10:00 am – 10:00 pm
The Local Group Astronomy Club and The Santa Clarita Public Library present our free annual Astronomy Day Celebration. We will be at the Valencia branch of the Santa Clarita Public Library from 10am to 3pm.[...]
10:00 am Resource Parents Needed to Foste... @ College of the Canyons, Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook University Center, Room 222
Resource Parents Needed to Foste... @ College of the Canyons, Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook University Center, Room 222
Apr 21 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Resource Parents Needed to Foster or Foster-Adopt a Child @ College of the Canyons, Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook University Center, Room 222 | Santa Clarita | California | United States
Adoption is a meaningful way for individuals and couples to fulfill their dream of parenting.  There are approximately 64,000 children in foster care in California.  Los Angeles County’s foster care population exceeds 21,000 children with[...]
10:00 am The City of Lancaster’s 27th Ann... @ Sgt. Steve Owen Memorial Park
The City of Lancaster’s 27th Ann... @ Sgt. Steve Owen Memorial Park
Apr 21 @ 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
The City of Lancaster’s 27th Annual California Poppy Festival, Sat & Sun @ Sgt. Steve Owen Memorial Park | Lancaster | California | United States
On April 21 and 22, the City of Lancaster will host the 27th annual California Poppy Festival™ at Sgt. Steve Owen Memorial Park (43063 10th Street West). Drawing more than 40,000 attendees and spanning 35[...]