At a monthly meeting in Vista, Colly O’Gorman shared something that very few others in this world can offer.
He is one of the few remaining U.S. Submarine Veterans from World War II, which makes these meetings rarer and rarer. Since most U.S. conflicts happen on land, the real war stories among these deep sea divers are few and far between.
“Everybody has a story of course,” he said. And often laughter follows those stories as these vets reminisce.
At 94 years old, O’Gorman is the oldest member of this group. He served aboard USS Balao in WWII.
He was in Japanese waters at the time of the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.
"After it was dropped we got all sorts of communication of what in the world had happened," he said.
But when Japanese didn't immediately surrender — and although he still calls it selfish — he remembers hoping the U.S. would drop another.
“I said to the lord, I said, ‘Let's take that island off the face of the map because I want to get back and raise some children and have a happy life,’" O’Gorman said.
When the second bomb hit, he witnessed it in person.
“Being on the tar, I had an opportunity to raise the scope and to see the plumes of the bombs," he said.
World War II submariners such as O’Gorman are a rarity today — one in five didn't even survive the war,
the highest casualty percentage of all the U.S. armed forces.
O'Gorman said every time he went on a mission he thought he'd die. The U.S lost 52 of its 263 submarines that did patrols during World War II.
“They went out an participated in only what we trained for," said Mike Patzius, the local president of the U.S, Submarine Veterans Incorporated, a group dedicated to preserving the memories of submariners such was O’Gorman, whose life is in its final chapter.
He was recently placed in the care of Silverado Hospice, which makes these monthly meetings more important than ever to him and, of course, to the others who will pass the stories on to the generations that will follow.