“How’s the Flippo book going?” I’m asked regularly by curious friends. I appreciate the interest from many. Writing the authorized biography of Marshall Flippo is the project of a life time. I have completed the Prologue and Chapter One, Flippo’s childhood, but this carefree time of his life was cut short because World War II was raging in 1944 and many Americans’ patriotic focus gave them no option but to join up.
“During World War II (1939-1945), the Battle of Normandy, which lasted from June 1944 to August 1944, resulted in the Allied liberation of Western Europe from Nazi Germany’s control. The Normandy landings have been called the beginning of the end of war in Europe.
Flippo is one of the best-known callers in the world, so, do you think you know him? Do you know that Marshall enlisted in the Navy? At what age?
On his 17th birthday, Marshall Flippo enlisted into the Navy with his parents’ consent—17 years old! That sounds so young today!
As discussions about Flippo’s choice of which branch of the service to join filled the Flippo home, Marshall wanted to join the Marines because his buddy, Hub Evans, had enlisted and returned in his dress uniform which dazzled the young Flippo. His Dad encouraged him not to join the Marines, so somehow, he ended up in the Navy.
After this discussion, Flippo recalled that his parents accepted readily his patriotic desires because his older sister, Helen, had enlisted before him and they were used to it!
He was inducted into the Navy in Dallas after an enjoyable train ride with a bunch of recruits from Abilene, then the train went back through his hometown, so Flippo said good-bye to his parents once again, bound for San Diego for boot camp.
Flippo went unnoticed in boot camp, so at the end of it, his superior commented that he must have done a good job because he didn’t know Flippo—I guess the rowdy ones are the only recruits he dealt with during that time.
Flippo volunteered to go to “Amphib” training on Coronado island across from San Diego—he had no idea what that meant, but he volunteered anyway. His fate was set for the end of the war. He ended up on the USS Lander, a destroyer tender, where he was a baker and spent two years. We do have a couple pictures of him on the USS Lander: cleaning a colander and on deck.
His wartime stories are unique through the eyes of a 17-year-old. He ended up at Iwo Jima at the end of the big battle there. Then on he went to Okinawa. From there, he had a surprise voyage to China crossed the equator, experiencing the initiation of a “Pollywog.”
After decommissioning the USS Lander, Flippo landed on USS Piedmont, then the USS Wiltsie and finally the USS Dixie. The Piedmont, Wiltsie and Dixie were all after the war. All four of these ships were destroyer tenders:
A destroyer tender, or destroyer depot ship in (American) British English, is an auxiliary ship designed to provide maintenance support to a flotilla of destroyers or other small warships. The use of this class has faded from its peak in the first half of the 20th century as the roles of small combatants have evolved (in conjunction with technological advances in propulsion reliability and efficiency).
He played baseball on the USS Wiltsie and was selected as one of two baseball players from the Wiltsie to transfer to the USS Dixie to play baseball in Des Pac, Destroyers of the Pacific team. He returned to San Diego on the USS Dixie and played baseball at David Field.
Flippo spent four years in the Navy, two years in the South Pacific at the end of the war and two playing baseball for Des Pac.
Flippo had a Navy book he referenced often—it chronicles the year 1945 and the USS Lander. I’m so sick I didn’t read it before Flippo passed away, because I’d loved to question him about the specifics detailed in the book. He refrained from describing some specific events because he thought we’d go over the book together. My regrets for sure!
This is just a short summary of Flippo’s Navy experience. I hope I’ve whet your appetite! His stories are rich and wonderful! I have more than 10,000 words from our interviews about his Naval experience, so there’s more!
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