Veterans Voices: Suttie Economy shares his life-changing experience in the Navy

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SALEM, Va. (WFXR) — Local veteran, Suttie Economy shares his life-changing experience in the Navy during World War II.

Born on October 30, 1925 and drafted in December of 1944 to the United States Army, Mr. Economy had his eyes set on the Navy.

“They examined me. Guess what? They said ‘your eyes are bad; we can’t put you in the Navy.’ They wanted to put me in the Army. I said, ‘Nope, I won’t go in the Army.’ I left there. They wouldn’t take me . . . I quit school, but they didn’t know it. I quit because I was 17 years old, and I wanted to go in the Navy . . . I dodged around for one year, ashamed to go back to school. One day I got a draft notice to sign up for the draft and everything, so I signed up.”

Suttie Economy, United States Navy (World War II)

Mr. Economy passed his examination this time and was told to report for basic training in Bainbridge, Md. in late December.

“Next thing I know, 21st of December, my grandma said, ‘Put this white shirt on, put your suit on. Dress up, look nice. Don’t look like no bum, she said.'”

Suttie Economy, United States Navy (World War II)

Mr. Economy later joined the third fleet on the USS English, where he worked in the service room and in the ammunition supplies room. The ship’s job was to protect larger vessels like aircraft carriers and to pick up downed airmen. 

Mr. Economy spent most of his time on the Pacific Front – in Okinawa, Iwojima, and in the Philippines. In May of 1945, during the Okinawa campaign, the crew aboard the USS English helped rescue many men. They escorted the heavily damaged USS Franklin after a kamikaze attack and the USS Bunker Hill after the aircraft carrier was hit by a suicider. Unfortunately, many lives were lost. 

“We was out there 86 days and nights running back and forth bombarding the islands there. May 11, 1945 was the worst day for me. The Bunker Hill had gotten hit by two suicide planes. Two planes came in real low above the water and radar couldn’t pick ’em up. These men on the ship, by the time they saw the plane coming, it was too late. Our planes’ gas tanks ruptured. Gas flew all over everybody. It burnt some of those men up. When you see men begging in the water and you can’t help ’em, when you see men hanging on a rope on the side of a ship . . . That’s enough to make anybody wake up . . . But, I know one thing. That night when I was laying in my bunk bed, I said, ‘God, that could’ve been me.'”

Suttie Economy, United States Navy (World War II)

The USS English was also the first ship in Tokyo Bay at the end of the war. Service members walked through minefields to make sure there were no men on fire. Mr. Economy visited the ruins of Nagaski after the atomic bombs had been dropped. He says the only thing he saw standing was the foundation of a Roman Catholic Church. 

He was not discharged until February 19, 1946. His second day back home, he returned to help at his uncle’s restaurant where he eventually took over.

He now resides in Salem. 

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