Joseph Knight Jr. survived multiple World War II invasions, as well as two typhoons, during his service aboard a landing ship in the Pacific.
Joseph Knight was in two World War II invasions in the Pacific before he was 18.
Knight, who lives just outside of Minerva in Brown Township of Carroll County, was a 17-year-old Salineville resident then. His mother signed for his underage service.
“I wanted to get in there and get it over with,” Knight recalled.
So, he joined the Navy and was stationed as a coxwain aboard LST 670 — “Landing Ship, Tank,” in military parlance.
“I either went on or went past every island in the Pacific, I think.”
Knight, a loader on a 20mm gun mounted on the LST 670, frequently helped fire upon Japanese kamikaze planes that threatened his ship, which carried troops, trucks and armored vehicles.
“You knew that you had to get them or they would get you,” he explained.
LST 670 first participated in the invasions of Leyte in October 1944 and Mindoro in December 1944.
“At Mindoro, we were the last ones to hit the beach,” recalled Knight. “We shot down six kamikaze planes, but one hit our ship. It killed our executive officer and there were more than 40 wounded.”
Fear didn’t really occur to the sailors, he said.
“When things were going on, you were all right. You got used to it. You didn’t get scared until it was all over.”
The invasion of Luzon followed.
“At Luzon they shelled us all night. A destroyer had slipped in behind us and they were using us as a decoy.”
At Okinawa, LST 670 carried the Army’s 77th Artillery unit ashore. After unloading ammunition, sailors aboard the landing craft watched the main invasion from off the beach.
“You saw guys running on the beach,” Knight said. “You couldn’t tell exactly what was going on, but you knew what they were doing.”
LST 670, which survived two typhoons during its service, was sailed to Hawaii and then San Pedro, Calif., when the war concluded. It finally was decommissioned at Charleston, S.C.
“That’s where I was discharged,” said Knight. “They gave me $42 to get home. The bus didn’t cost too much.”
AFTER THE WAR
Knight worked at a china factory until 1956.
“I was making a buck and a quarter an hour,” he remembered. “Then I made foreman and that kicked it up to $1.57 and I got part of the proceeds from the Coke
Later, Knight worked for Babcock & Wilcox, from which he retired in 1984.
Knight and his wife, Patricia, were married for 52 years, before she died of cancer late in the 1990s. They raised two girls, Patty Jo King and Christina Lee Mikes.
Page 2 of 2 - He built the house he still lives in.
As is the case with many veterans, his wartime service haunted him for a time.
“You lay awake thinking about it,” Knight said. “For years I couldn’t talk about it. For years I couldn’t go to movies about it.”
But, the years have tempered his recollections of his time in World War II.
“Sometimes I wonder how I did it. I wouldn’t want to do it again, but I saw a lot of places. I wouldn’t trade the experience for a million dollars.”