Dean Nodine says he wouldn’t trade his experience in the Navy with any of his other lifetime experiences.
“You always remember the good times and forget the bad times,” he said.
Nodine grew up in Lake Preston, South Dakota. His older siblings served in World War II but never talked about it. He graduated from high school in 1951 and enlisted in the Navy one year later — one month after his twin brother, Gene, joined the Navy.
The Korean War broke out in 1950, but Nodine and his brother didn’t have any strong political feelings about the conflict.
“It was a good opportunity to see new places,” he said. “I traveled to places I’ll never see again.”
Nodine ran into Gene in San Diego after boot camp. His brother was assigned to a troop transport ship, and Nodine headed for Japan, where he stayed in a tent city for three weeks in winter waiting for his ship assignment.
“There were about 500 to 1,000 GIs there — Army, Marines and Navy — all headed to Korea,” he said. “There were lots of card games and lots of jabbering in the tents as everyone tried to stay warm.”
Nodine was assigned to the USS Lofberg DD759, a World War II-era destroyer, where he helped maintain radar and communications equipment.
“It was on-the-job training,” Nodine recalled. “I was interested in that kind of work.”
Sailors on the destroyer slept in hammocks atop their dress blues, which were turned inside out to maintain their creases. His personal gear was stored in a 3-by-3-foot locker.
“It was noisy,” he said. “You didn’t get much sleep during a storm — when the twin screws came out of the water, the whole ship vibrated.”
The narrow 376-foot long ship was capable of doing 34 knots, but it rolled a lot. Nodine said the food was great, but he recalled some of the ship’s 336-man crew being seasick, especially during a typhoon off Formosa.
“We went over one and through one,” he said about how the ship handled big waves.
Nodine rotated back to the states on six-month tours over two years before being assigned to another destroyer, the USS Ozbourn DD846, which shelled the Korean coastline with its six 5-inch guns.
When his enlistment ended in 1956, Nodine hitchhiked to Portland, where he worked at a home improvement company before returning to South Dakota and meeting his future wife, Joyce.
“She talked me into going to college,” he said.
Nodine completed a bachelor’s degree at South Dakota State College and was hired over the phone to teach industrial arts in John Day in 1962. He later completed a master’s degree at the University of Oregon and served 25 years as superintendent of Grant School District 3.
“One main reason for going into the Navy was to take advantage of the GI Bill,” Nodine said. “I got paid $96 a month during college and $126 after I got married.”
Nodine said he had volunteered and he intended to make the best of his time in the Navy.
“I served with a great bunch of guys,” Nodine said. “I’d go back tomorrow, but I don’t know what they’d do with an 85-year-old guy.”