JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jim Snellen, now going strong in his 80's, says he is one of the youngest of all World War II veterans still alive. He's written a book called "South Pacific at Seventeen" to keep alive the contributions of his fellow military members in the 1940s.
Snellen lives now on the First Coast, but he remembers his days in Kentucky. A double date helped him achieve his dream of joining the Navy. He and his buddy wound up in a ditch, got home late, and angered his Dad.
In his book Snellen writes, "I remember to this day with chills down my spine, 'Dick, where in the hell have you been?'" His Dad called him "Dick" in serious situations.
Snellen replied, "If you don't like it, why don't you sign my papers to join the Navy?"
His Dad agreed and -- at a young age of 17 -- Snellen had what he needed to get into the Navy.
It was 1944. He was inspired to serve after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.
Snellen trained for an LCVP, a Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel boat that could haul up to 35 men and one officer.
His post was at the rear of the boat to handle radio calls, the gun and signals to the main boat.
He tells a story about learning a painful lesson to obey rank. His call name was "Idiot 2" and he was on the radio while he was looking straight at a Japanese vessel. Turns out a superior thought "Idiot 2" was actually seeing a big fish.
Snellen knew that wasn't the case and told his superior just that. The radio traffic cost Snellen a verbal whipping.
Snellen was involved in eight invasions of the Philippines and three in Borneo. He remembers the hardship of receiving a shovel to scoop up body parts, but he served without getting a scratch.
He insists he is not a hero in any way. His humble speech is a tribute to all of our military members who serve without expecting fanfare and flashy praise.
Snellen has two bronze stars. He's proud of that for good reason. But he's also proud of sharing the story of his service and that of his shipmates. He speaks often to local high school students and says they're captivated to hear about WWII straight from a veteran who was there.
First Coast News