March 3, 2017

World War II Seabee reflects on VJ Day

Lt. Comdr. Jennifer Cragg
Richmond, Va.

World War II veteran and Seabee Jack Mace reflects on marking the end of the World War II on “V-J Day” while stationed in Hawaii in 1945.

On March 5, Seabees worldwide will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Seabees that established a force of more than 325,000 builders who could fight during World War II.

Mace, who celebrated his 90th birthday on Feb. 28, is one of the dwindling numbers of Sailors who served as a Seabee during the Second World War. Mace served from 1944 to 1946 as a Motor Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class.

Mace’s granddaughter Amanda Hunsucker celebrated his milestone birthday with his extended family of four children, 10 grandchildren and two great children.

“‘Pa’, as he is so affectionately known was then and still is a humble and honorable man,” said Hunsucker. “His quiet and unassuming manner is testament to his great character. As we came together for his 90th birthday we were filled with pride and admiration for his desire to serve his country at such a young age. A most ordinary man who by his love for God, family, and country is one extraordinary hero to all who know him.”

For Mace when he enlisted in the Navy he knew he wanted to be a Seabee.

“I’m inclined to build mechanically,” said Mace on deciding which rate to select when entering the U.S. Navy. “That’s one reason I joined the Seabees for; it also got me out of the regular Navy. One thing when I think about the Navy you’re on the water and the Seabees you’re on land. In case something happened, I figured I could walk a lot further than I could swim. In all, I enjoyed it.”

Mace who still has a faded and worn copy of the Blue Jacket manual from 1944 also maintains his Navy-related patches, discharge paperwork, dog tags, and other memorabilia that is stored in an old cigar box.

Mace was stationed at Pearl Harbor during his tour as a Seabee. The Battle of Pearl Harbor had occurred less than three years earlier and the base was still dealing with the ramifications of the event.

“I would look across the bay at Ford Island and see the USS Arizona,” recalled Mace when reflecting on what it was like to work there after the 1941 attack. “Looking at that all the time; it crossed your mind that you knew there was a crew of that ship still underwater over there.”

Mace worked at the headquarters for the Seabee supply line which was in charge of shipping and receiving. His battalion would take cargo off of ships, move them to warehouses, sort them, and resupply ships that would then take the supplies to units in the Pacific.

Additionally, he built portable ramps for use on island landings, operated a crane and built landing wharfs.

“I don’t think any of us were looking for any glory or anything we just took our orders and did what we were told to do,” said Mace. “Done the best we could.”

On V-Jay Day — Aug. 14, 1945, will forever be remembered as the day Japan surrendered signifying the end of the Second World War.

“I know when it was announced we were stationed on Red Hill,” said Mace. “What I did all day, I don’t really know, I don’t really remember, but I didn’t get out of hand too much, I didn’t end up in the brig.”

With excitement in the air Mace added that everyone was really excited about V-J Day and there was definitely a “big hullabaloo.”

When asked if being a Seabee was something that he has carried with him throughout his life, Mace responded by lifting up his shirt sleeve revealing a fighting bee tattoo on his upper arm.

“Being a Seabee is being one for life,” said Mace.

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