John Schmitt
5th Division Gunnery and Recognition Officer, 1945-46
contributed by John Schmitt and his son Ron Schmitt

John Schmitt as an ensign, circa 1945.
-photo courtesy of John Schmitt and his son Ron Schmitt.

John Schmitt enlisted in the U.S. Navy in December 1942 after a recruiter visited the college he was attending.  He trained at Great Lakes before attending classes at Cornell University covering navigation, climatology, gunnery, seamanship, and "all things related to the Navy."  He was then stationed at Long Beach before continuing on to his commission aboard USS ASTORIA.  At Long Beach he became good friends with Jack Haasis, another officer who would serve aboard the Mighty Ninety.

Schmitt was assigned to the USS ASTORIA after she had already been at sea for almost a year.  He sailed through Pearl Harbor via troopship and transferred aboard ASTORIA by bosun's chair in May 1945, during the Okinawa campaign.  He took over as Gunnery and Recognition Officer, 5th Division--in charge of the ship's fourteen starboard-side 40mm mounts.

From an interview his son Ron conducted with him in 2003:
"I taught recognition training for identifying ships and airplanes; what we would be shooting at.  We had had a lot of that up to that point.  The truth is that most of them knew it already as well as I did, but when somebody got the bug that we should have the class, we had the class.  Most of the guys already knew their business and hardly needed an officer in charge of them.

"On a typical day we'd go to battle stations first thing each morning...  I'd be in the control station on one of the masts, a platform.  That would last a half an hour or so then they would call an 'all clear,' I guess that was before we had breakfast.  Then I would go around and see that the guns were in shape and cleaned up.  Sometimes we would have repairs on them, maybe need to switch the barrels for example.  There would be paperwork and occasionally inspections, maybe repairs for the damage control crew to take care of.

"Sometimes I would go on deck at night, it was nice then.  Sometimes it would be calm, sometimes rough... but never too rough while I was there.  There had been some bad storms but that was before I was there...  We did see some Japanese planes, but not too many; the war was about over when I was out there."

John Schmitt remained aboard ship after the war ended and Mighty Ninety returned to the United States.  He was aboard ASTORIA when she steamed to Pearl Harbor in December 1945 and returned to California packed full of servicemen as part of OPERATION MAGIC CARPET.  He remained in the Long Beach area until his discharge from the U.S. Navy in June 1946.

Ensign John Schmitt (at right) with fellow ASTORIA officer Ensign Jack Haasis, E Division, and an unidentified woman.
-photo courtesy of John Schmitt and his son Ron Schmitt.

Ensign John Schmitt, 5th Division (at left) with ASTORIA shipmate Keith Coggin.  Coggin's stars on his service ribbons indicate that this photo was likely taken at Long Beach shortly after ASTORIA returned to California in September 1945.
-photo courtesy of John Schmitt and his son Ron Schmitt.

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