World War II Vets and Lifelong Friends Relive Days at Sea


IOLA, Texas - They served together during World War II, and built a friendship that would last a lifetime.

Hubert Nelson, 89, and Julio Luna Junior, 91, met at Navy boot camp in 1943. A short time later, they were both assigned as gunners to the Navy ship Star King.

After about nine years apart, the two recently got together at Nelson's home in Iola to talk about old times.

Perhaps the most vivid memory they share was the day Star King was attacked by an enemy submarine, and how a talking parrot was the first to warn everyone.

"I give the credit where it belongs. It was the parrot that saw them," said Nelson.

Nelson said the bird was brought on board by another crew member. Over time, the crew taught the bird how to say "porpoises," because the bird seemed to be fascinated with the creatures who swam next to the ship often.

"All of a sudden, he says porpoises, porpoises!" said Nelson. "I turned to look, and all I saw were three torpedoes, and they were coming through the water. And I hollered torpedoes, Starboard beam!"

The ship was hit and eventually sank, but all 61 crew members were rescued by an Australian ship.

The crew would spend the next several weeks in Australia, a place where the people didn't know much about Hispanics at the time.

"They didn't have any Hispanics in Australia. You were either black, or you were white, and I was right in the big middle of both of them," said Luna.

Luna said he was treated so well in Australia that he eventually sent a letter of appreciation. The Lord Mayor of Sydney read the letter and responded with a thank you letter.

Nelson finished his military career at Fort Chicago in California as a rail car inspector for munitions. He said he'll never forget the day he tried to inspect a cart he later found out was carrying three Atomic bombs.

"I had a crow bar to break the seal with. And I took that crow bar and swung it," said Nelson.

Nelson said he missed his mark, and thought he heard something or someone calling to him.

"I reached back to hit that seal a second time, and I heard 'I said halt!'," said Nelson. "And I stopped and looked up on top of that car, and there were two Marines with rifles pointing right down my throat. So I put the crowbar down."

Nelson said the Marines had orders not to let anyone open the car door, but he had orders not to let any cart inside the base without his inspection.

"He said you can't open the car, and I said you can't go on the base until I do open the car," said Nelson.

The stalemate lasted all night until Nelson was able to call Washington D.C. the next day for approval to inspect the car. Nelson said the Marines never left the top of the train car.

When Nelson inspected the bombs, he said he had no idea exactly what he was looking at until he heard the news they had been dropped.

Both Nelson and Luna have seen a lot since those days. Met new friends and said goodbye to old ones. But their friendship, the thing time can't destroy, remains strong to the end.


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