Grateful American Kids

Adventures of a Farm Boy

Written by Abigail Nelson
Illustrated by Abigail Nelson and Audrey Hood
For the series A BOOK by ME
True Stories Written by Kids for Kids

Farming was what Charles (Charlie) Ogle knew well as he grew up during the Great Depression, but when he left high school a different future was in store for him. As WWII raged on, Charlie joined the navy and ended up on a ship in the Pacific theater as the U.S. continued to fight Japan. He was also present when Japan signed the peace treaty that ended the war. Readers will find Charlie’s experiences during this time and afterward an amazing story about a life well-lived.

The book is available on Amazon.

Charles Ogle, Machinist Mate, 3rd Class, U.S. Navy

Charles (Charlie) Ogle was born on April 10, 1926 north of Manley, Illinois (a town which no longer exists). His parents, John and Esther Ogle, were farmers who always had a big garden. This meant their family had ample food to eat during the Great Depression. As a child, Charlie did farm chores alongside his father and his brothers, Robert and David. They raised chickens, horses, beef cattle and hogs. Although there wasn’t much time for fun, he liked swimming and playing ping pong when he could. Charlie and his brothers attended grade school at Brock Country School near Prairie City, then Prairie City High School for his freshman and sophomore years, and then to Bushnell for his junior and senior years.

In March of 1944, WWII was in full swing, and Charlie and two high school friends joined the Navy’s V-6 program. This allowed them to finish high school before being drafted. Graduation day was May 29, 1944 and by June 3, 1944, they were on their way to the Great Lakes Naval Station in Illinois. Charlie had a good voice, so he joined the Great Lakes Choir Company, which consisted of about 60 people. Navy chaplains encouraged recruits to participate in the choir, to provide much needed entertainment and to uplift them spiritually with hymns.

In March of 1944, Charlie and two high school friends joined the Navy’s V-6 program, which allowed them to finish high school before being drafted. They graduated on May 29, 1944. By June 3, 1944, they were on their way to the Great Lakes Naval Station in Illinois. Charlie had a good voice, so he joined the Great Lakes Choir Company, which consisted of about 60 people. The Navy chaplains encouraged recruits to participate in the choir, both to provide the men much needed entertainment and to uplift them spiritually with hymns.

After basic training, about 30 of the choir members went to Camp Bradford, Virginia, which was a training center for the crews of LSTs (Landing Ship Tanks). The sailors lived in tents. Charlie, however, was part of a show called “Spearhead,” directed by Fred Murray of the Murray Touring Company, which toured up and down the east coast. Naval ships were needed in the Pacific theater in the war with Japan, so the choir was eventually disbanded, and Charlie was assigned to a destroyer named the USS Hambleton, part of a squadron of 13 ships.

The USS Hambleton had been converted to a high-speed minesweeper, which used sonar to locate moored or bottom mines. They used electromagnetic cables to cut their mooring lines and, when they surfaced, they would shoot them to make them explode. Their major mission was to lead the way and protect the aircraft carriers in their flotilla.

The ship carried Charlie and the rest of the crew from the east coast through the Panama Canal, to San Diego in California, to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, and to Eniwetok Atoll in the north Pacific. On the way to Hawaii, five of the 13 ships were hit by suicide (kamikaze) planes.

In March 1945, the USS Hambleton arrived at Ulithi, a small volcanic atoll in the central Pacific, which was used as a Service Squadron for the fleet. There, they prepared for the invasion of Okinawa, Japan. When they arrived off of Okinawa in April, they commenced to sweep, screen, patrol and provide fire support. They were under almost constant attack from Japanese airplanes. Charlie often saw the kamikaze pilots attack ships. It was scary to watch as hundreds of Japanese men gave their lives to damage or sink Allied ships. Although Charlie’s ship was damaged slightly by two different kamikazes, the ship and her crew remained on duty as part of the fleet.

While departing Okinawa, Charlie noticed that the ship’s wheel was vibrating vigorously, so he shut the engines down. The Captain came down to the engine room and asked who had shut the engines down. When Charlie told him about the terrible vibrations, the Captain thanked him for stopping the engines before any major damage. The ship’s propeller had apparently gotten tangled in an anti-submarine net. The Captain was so grateful that, whenever he saw Charlie from then on, he took time to stop and talk to him.

Charlie’s ship was in the East China Sea for a second mission when the Japanese surrendered on September 2, 1945. His ship joined Admiral William F. Halsey’s 3rd Fleet off Tokyo, clearing the way for the occupation forces. Since the USS Hambleton escorted the USS Missouri into Tokyo Bay, Charlie was able to watch the signing of the Peace Treaty that took place on the USS Missouri in the presence of witnesses from nine Allied nations.

During this time, the USS Hambleton rode out four typhoons, one of which battered their ship with 60-foot waves. The Allies lost three ships during these typhoons. The USS Hambleton was the first ship to make contact with prisoners of war. Charlie was privileged to find fellow soldiers who had been held prisoners and help rescue them.

While visiting on the mainland in Tokyo, Charlie and his buddies found the citizens to be very friendly. They even visited an elderly Japanese lady in her home. Her husband had been killed in the war, so she had wanted to get to know an American. She had been told that Americans had started the war. Later, she was very grateful when Charlie and his friends brought her a box of needed supplies provided by the ship’s cook.

Toward the end of his service, Charlie was assigned to the USS Cowie for a short time. He was discharged as a Machinist Mate, 3rd Class, at the Great Lakes Naval Station on June 2, 1946. Returning home, Charlie learned what had happened to the two friends who had signed up for the Navy with him in 1944. One made it home and one did not. Ralph Russler died when his ship, the USS Twigs, was hit in the Pacific. His other friend, Bob King, came home and became owner of a sand pit business near Chillocothe, Illinois. Charlie is the only one of the three that is still alive today at 94 years old.

After Charlie’s discharge from the Navy, his father asked him if he intended to work on the farm or did he have something else in mind. Charlie told his father he would work with him on the farm, so they bought more land, which then made the farm about 2,200 acres. He worked alongside his father and brothers on the farm, and then Charlie eventually bought them out in 1965. In the 1970’s he hired workers and started a tile business. These large tiles were important in agriculture because they were used to drain farmers’ fields.

In March, 1947, a young lady Charlie dated in high school met him outside the White Hut restaurant and said, “Charlie, will you marry me?” Charlie Ogle and Rose Lee Dimmitt were married on June 1, 1947. Together, they raised three children and were married over 70 years. Sadly, Rose Lee passed away, along with two of their three children. Today Charlie lives in a senior living center and enjoys life there because he hates to do dishes! He still owns farm land and drives his car to visit his farms whenever possible. Charlie hopes to live to be 100 years young, as no one in the Ogle family since 1600 has lived that long! Charlie hopes the United States will never have another war, because it affects too many lives.

Author/Illustrator Abigail Nelson, Charles Ogle, Co-Illustrator Audrey Hood

Veterans Day 2022 – Mail Call for all our heroes!

Understanding Works NFP is asking people to honor our unsung heroes with a hand written card or letter! Whether it’s this November for Veteran’s Day or during the holiday months, or even after the first of the year when the winter months drag on for senior citizens. They love to get mail from young people and old. We all love to be appreciated and this is an opportunity to say THANK YOU to the WWII generation.

A BOOK by ME, a book series developed by Deb Bowen, empowers students to preserve history by telling the story of unsung heroes in our communities. For the young participants, it’s a guided cross-curricular project that gathers stories of people who do amazing things but have received little or no recognition. Students learn how to publish a picture book that is a primary source document with photographs and a biography.

Since 2003, Deb Bowen has been arranging meetings between students and individuals from the WWII generation. This intergenerational storytelling results in unique storybooks written and illustrated by kids for kids in the A BOOK by ME series. More about Deb Bowen >

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