Myrtle Beach man remembers brother, reflects on World War II

Jack Platt will travel to Hawaii next month, but he won’t be going for a vacation.

The World War II veteran plans to inter the ashes of his older brother Clarence Platt – also a veteran and who survived the attacks at Pearl Harbor – at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.

“When we were growing up he was my protector,” the Myrtle Beach man said of his brother. “I really felt my brother was a hero. He was [in World War II] from the beginning.”

Clarence Platt died in January and Jack Platt said it was always his plan to have his brother interred at the cemetery known as the Punchbowl.

“My brother always told me … everything began there, and he thought he’d like to have his life end there as well,” Jack Platt said.

He is scheduled to inter his brother on Dec. 7 – the 71st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Clarence enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1941 when he was 17 years old and was stationed in Pearl Harbor that December when the Japanese attacked, Jack said. Clarence served in the Naval Air Corps and his plane, which was sitting on the tarmac, was destroyed in the attack.

He was given a new plane and in June 1942 was stationed in the Midway Islands during the Battle of Midway, and for a few days he retrieved pilots who had been shot down by the Japanese, Jack said.

Clarence went on to serve in the Korean War and during the Cold War, retiring after 20 years of service. He was awarded an Air Medal with valor.

Jack, following in the footsteps of his big brother and generations of Platts before him, enlisted in the Navy in 1944 when he was just 16 years old.

“I forged my birth certificate … to show that I was 17 years old,” he said. “I was 16 and about 7 months old.”

Jack Platt also fought in World War II, piloting an amphibious landing craft and serving in the Philippines.

“In early February of 1945, I was heading into shore and about 100 yards offshore when the front end of my craft exploded. I was told later I might have hit a floating mine or some large obstruction left by the Japanese,” he said. “And both of my eardrums were blown out.”

He now uses hearing aids in both ears.

Not only was it a Platt family tradition to join the Navy, but Jack said he and his brother both enlisted as a way to escape their rough lives growing up in south Boston.

“My brother joined the Navy so he could eat three meals a day,” he said. “The common meal of the day was beans and frankfurters … It was a tough way to grow up.”

Honoring veterans

Veterans throughout the country will reflect on their time spent in the military on Sunday, with many events happening around the Grand Strand, but Jack Platt, who retired to Myrtle Beach in 1992, said he’s not sure he will attend an event this year.

“I let the young folks go to that stuff,” he said.

Veterans Day was established in 1954 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website, after previously being known as Armistice Day to commemorate the ending of World War I. It is typically observed on Nov. 11, but many will recognize Veterans Day on Monday this year.

The Grand Strand Patriotic Alliance, along with the city of Myrtle Beach, will host Veterans Day activities on Monday morning. Activities include a guest speaker, the laying of the wreath, a missing man’s table and music, said alliance chairman Sinclair O. Swan Sr., a Vietnam War veteran.

“It’s important to honor veterans so people won’t forget the sacrifices that have been made so that we can be free,” he said.

Jack Novak, also a Vietnam War veteran, said he doesn’t believe Veterans Day is about him but about others who have sacrificed.

“When Veterans Day comes along I’m not going to think about myself. I’m going to think about my brother who I lost in the Vietnam War. And I’m going to think about my son who has sacrificed for [the country],” Novak said. “The population should always recognize veterans because whatever you do every day in the country, some veteran may have sacrificed his life so that you can do it.”

Remembering victory at sea

Jack Platt still has the radiogram that informed him that World War II was over.

“People have tried to buy it from me, and they want to put it in a museum, but I’m not [giving it away],” he said.

In August 1945, the ship he was on received a message saying the Japanese would accept an Allied surrender ultimatum. As everyone celebrated the victory, the radiogram was passed around among the sailors.

“I remember thinking, ‘By golly, this could be an historic occasion,’” he said of how he slipped the paper under his shirt.

Platt remembered how the ships would be completely dark at night to stay hidden from the Japanese,

“You couldn’t even light a cigarette [on deck],” he said.

But that night all of the ships had on their search lights, sailors were firing their guns into the air so red lights could be seen everywhere.

“It was the most spectacular thing I’ve ever seen in my life. It looked like the Fourth of July,” he said. “That’s when the war was over for me.”