Saved by a Fiddle Max Walker, Fireman First Class, U.S. Navy, USS Randolph [CV-15], WW II

John Maxwell [Max] Walker was born December 21, 1913 in Goshen, Alabama, and was the seventh of ten youngsters. His mother and father had been William R. and Leona Carter Walker. The household moved to Andalusia, Alabama, round 1923 the place he attended college for 10 years. He married Nell Rebecca Walters in 1938. In some unspecified time in the future, they moved to Montgomery, Alabama, the place Max labored as a carpenter. A son, Ariel, was born there. Max was drafted in 1944 and selected to enter the Navy.

After primary coaching, Max was assigned to the plane provider, USS Randolph [CV-15], which was underneath development in Newport Information, Virginia. He would turn into a “plank owner,” the identify given to all members of a brand new ship’s crew at launching. Randolph accomplished her shakedown cruise within the Caribbean in 1944 and proceeded by means of the Panama Canal to San Francisco, California, the place she could be outfitted with armament.

After outfitting and provisioning, Randolph sailed for Ulithi Atoll within the Caroline Islands. They had been a part of Job Drive 58 underneath the command of Admiral Marc Mitscher. Max Walker was a Fireman, a price assigned to boiler room personnel in B Division within the Engineering Division. [As a side note, two other men from Andalusia were serving on the Randolph at Ulithi – the late Jurrell Davis and the late Charles Cope of Andalusia].

From February – March, 1945, Randolph participated in airstrikes over Tokyo, Japan, at Chichi Jima and Iwo Jima. Along with his work within the boiler rooms, Max stood four-hour watches in these areas every day. These boiler rooms had been highly regarded always however particularly so the place the Randolph was situated within the South Pacific.

On the night time of March 11, 1945, the Randolph lay quietly at anchor at Ulithi, swaying gently within the cool Pacific breeze. The quiet night time lent a false sense of safety to the crew of a ship that had so not too long ago been in battle. The breeze blowing throughout the ship’s fantail provided the prospect for Max to take a fast nap earlier than taking the midwatch [midnight – 4 a.m.] within the boiler room. On his option to the fantail, Max encountered a number of pals who had been half a musical group that he typically performed with on the ship. That night time they had been having a “jam session” in one of many berthing areas.

USS Randolph with restore ship, USS Jason tied up alongside after kamikaze harm close to Ulithi throughout WW II. Word the big gap on the fantail the place the kamikaze hit. [Photo:]

The lads knew that Max performed a “mean fiddle” in order that they requested him to hitch them. After retrieving his fiddle, Max joined the lads and performed a number of songs. After that, Max informed the lads that he wanted to get a nap earlier than occurring watch. As he began to depart, the lads begged him to play only one extra music. Max later recalled, “We had just started to play ‘Turkey in the Straw’ when the kamikaze hit the fantail.” For the remainder of his life, Max Walker believed that God had intervened that night time and saved his life. The Kamikaze hit the fantail the place Max had meant to take a nap.

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The assault occurred about seven minutes previous 8 p.m. The airplane was a twin-engine Yokosuka P1Y1 bomber [U.S. Code named “Frances”], carrying a single 1,700 lb. bomb. It crashed into the Randolph’s fantail, setting off an amazing explosion. The conflagration was fed by gasoline, ammunition and oxygen cylinders aboard Randolph. Greater than 4,000 sq. ft of flight deck was destroyed and solely the heroic actions of Randolph’s harm management crews saved the 27,000-ton ship. The blast and hearth killed 27 sailors and wounded 105.

A Navy restore ship, USS Jason [AR-8], was introduced alongside Randolph to help her sailors with repairs. The big restore job took 19 days and required greater than 30 tons of metal plate, 29 tons of metal “I” beams and seven,500 ft of timber for the flight deck. Whereas the ship was being repaired, Max visited the machine store on the Jason. They allowed Max to make use of the store to style a copper field that he would use to retailer his Bible. As quickly because the repairs had been accomplished, Max and the Randolph sailed for Okinawa to participate within the invasion. Her planes took half within the air assist for the invasion troops.

The Randolph led a charmed life all through the Okinawa marketing campaign. Max recalled that they had been typically attacked by kamikazes however managed to keep away from any hits. At the least 149 U.S. ships had been hit, of which 30 had been sunk with the lack of roughly 5,000 lives. Randolph dodged many assaults however remained unscathed. Satirically, on June 7, 1945, Randolph was once more struck by a airplane, however this time it was a U.S. Military Air Corps P-38 fighter/bomber. Two P-38s had been doing follow runs on Randolph throughout a mock assault when one misplaced management and crashed into the ship. Greater than 10 plane had been destroyed and 13 sailors killed. The admiral aboard the Randolph jokingly threatened to shoot down any Military Air Drive planes that overflew his ship after that.

In one other irony of the battle, one in all Randolphs pilots was amongst a number of U.S. prisoners of battle who had been killed by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Ensign John Hantschel had crashed at sea on July 25, 1945, and was picked up by a Japanese fishing boat. He was taken to a jail of battle camp on the mainland and finally transferred to a jail camp at Hiroshima.

The Randolph accomplished her function within the battle and returned to Norfolk, Virginia, in October 1945. Max Walker was discharged at the moment and returned to Andalusia. He began the J. Max Walker Building Firm. Max was a self-taught architect and builder. One of many extra notable and costly houses constructed by Max’s firm was the Henderson house on East Three Notch Avenue. [it still stands directly across from the First Baptist Church]

Mrs. J. D. [Kate] Henderson had requested a number of well-known architects to attract up plans for her house however none glad her. She requested Max Walker to attempt his hand and the ensuing plans had been to her liking. The Henderson house was one of many many high quality houses constructed by Max and his firm. This firm was additionally among the many first within the southeast to construct pre-fabricated houses.

The Walkers’ second son, David, was born in 1946 and a daughter, Geneva, was born in 1950. In 1953, Max turned disabled due to extreme complications when uncovered to daylight. He gave up the development firm that yr. Max purchased his spouse’s household farm situated close to Brooklyn, Alabama, and moved there in January 1954. After shifting, Max’s situation improved considerably however it by no means completely went away. More often than not, he wore darkish sun shades and a broad-brimmed hat to guard his eyes from the solar. Max was employed because the Metropolis of Andalusia’s Constructing and Electrical Inspector in 1957. He additionally did FHA and VA inspections and value determinations part-time. Many individuals knew Max Walker as an ordained Primitive Baptist pastor. He served a number of church buildings in Covington County together with the Union Primitive Baptist Church in Andalusia.

J. Max Walker along with his fiddle, jammin’ aboard the USS Randolph throughout WW II. [Photo: David Walker]

Max Walker was a person of many abilities – artist, self-taught expert architect and builder, mathematician and a gifted participant of a number of musical devices. His pals stated that above all, Max liked his fellow man. He typically attended singings in church buildings across the county. Max wrote the music and lyrics to a number of songs and held a patent for a wire skinning blade which Klein & Sons included into one in all their current electrical knives.

Max’s son David stated this about his Dad, “Daddy was one of the smartest men I ever knew – he was a gifted mathematician, he figured out how to do a cube root and had an almost photographic memory.”

Max’s spouse Nell died on August 12, 1972. Max retired from the Metropolis of Andalusia in 1979 and died from a mind tumor on November 5, 1980. His funeral was held on the Elam Primitive Baptist Church in Goshen, Alabama, and he was buried on the church cemetery.

After his dying, The Andalusia Star-Information had this to say in an editorial: “Max Walker died last week. The City of Andalusia building inspector was many things to many people, but mainly he was a friend of all….Although he sought no recognition and shunned publicity, Walker left his mark in Andalusia in more than one way….many structures in the area were either built or designed by him….Plans for the Andalusia Fire Station were designed by Max Walker and submitted to an architect for blueprints. It was then only fitting that the flag at the fire station was flown at half-mast the day of his death.”

The writer lived close to the Walker household within the early Fifties and was pals and classmates with the late Ariel Walker. We spent many a summer season day looking for arrowheads round Inexperienced Acres and cooling off within the Hooper pond. On one event, we discovered two oil drums close to the pond and determined to construct a makeshift raft utilizing some baling wire and two-by-fours. Ariel needed to go first so we pushed it out into the pond and he climbed aboard, solely to have the wooden platform disintegrate, dumping him into 4 ft of water. We managed to make it safely again to shore after I observed a big, bleeding gash on Ariel’s brow. We managed to name the Walkers and so they picked up Ariel and took him for stitches. That night time, Mr. Walker came around my mother and father [who still knew nothing about the accident] and “explained” [not the exact description] that it will be greatest if John and Ariel stayed away from Hooper Pond and forego any extra constructing initiatives.

John Vick

The writer thanks Max Walker’s son, David, for his assist in placing collectively this text. As a aspect observe of curiosity: the writer was a newly commissioned Ensign when he spent two months aboard the Randolph in late 1962. One of many propellers from the kamikaze airplane was nonetheless mounted on a ahead bulkhead within the hanger bay with a plaque itemizing these crew members killed within the assault.

Sources: Wikipedia; The Naval Methods and Heritage Command;

Artmotion U.S.A

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