Gerald “Gerry” Sheperd
Gerald Sheperd was born in 1926 in Brighton, Victoria in Australia. Having struggled in school, he ended his education at the age of fourteen and began working. He joined the Navy on his birthday at age seventeen, having to wait a few months before he could actually start his service because of the quotas. He shares that at the 60th Anniversary Celebration of the Commencement of the Korean War he was not only the oldest veteran in attendance, but the only one that had also fought in World War II. He displays tremendous pride in his service in both wars.
The Oldest Veteran
Gerald Sheperd is very proud of his military service, but also of how well he is still doing for his age. He shares that on a previous trip to Korea, he was not only the oldest veteran to attend, but the only one that had also fought in World War II. He shares that he is also an active member of the Coast Guard of Australia and a champion lawn bowler at the age of ninety-two.
Joining the Navy at Age Seventeen
Gerald Sheperd shares that he joined the Navy at the age of seventeen because that was the only branch that would take him so young. He explained that the military had quotas by state so he had to wait thirteen months before joining. If he had been from a less populated state, he would have gone in on the day he signed up to join.
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G: My name is Gerald Shepard, but I prefer Gerry Shepard.
I: And can you spell it for the audience please?
G: Uh, G E R A L D or Gerry, G E R R Y, preferably Gerry.
I: Um hm. Right. What is your birthday?
G: Tenth of June
I: Um hm.
G: Nineteen twenty-six.
I: 1926? So you are now
G: Ninety-two, and this, this, this year I’ll be 93.
I: Wow. You look just like 60.
G: Oh, thank you. Well, I was fortunate to have a second trip to Korea last year
I: Uh huh
I: Was it first time that, since you left Korea?
G: No, second trip.
I: Second trip.
G: First, first time was eight years ago for the 60th anniversary of the commencement
of the Korean War.
I: Um hm
G: And when I went to Korea last July, there were 21 nations rep, United Nations veterans. And I can’t believe it, but I was the oldest Korean War veteran there. And not only that, but I was the oldest, but I was also the only Korean veteran that also served in World War II. So I was quite proud.
I: You should be.
G: Yes, I was quite proud.
I: You look really young.
G: I thank you.
I: I couldn’t believe it. What is the secret?
G: I don’t know. I’m, I, I, I still play pennant lawn bowls. Uh, I, I won, I was in the Grand Final two, two years running back to back, won the grand title in lawn bowls
I: You’re kidding me.
G: and I’m still the, I am still active in the Coast Guard of Australia. I’m their oldest active member of the
Coast Guard in Australia. So I’m getting on okay.
I: What is the secret formula? You should share it with me so that I can have longevity like that.
G: Do everything wrong.
I: Do everything wrong.
G: Go, go out with bad women, drink, drink and all the things you shouldn’t do, I do.
I: That’s what you’ve been doing and you look young like this?
G: Oh yeah, thank, thank you.
I: So tell me about where were you born?
G: I was born in Brighton Victoria, Australia.
I: Could you spell it ?
G: B R I G
I: B R I G
G: H T O N.
G: Brighton Victoria, Australia.
I: Um hm. And tell me about your family when you were growing up, your sibling and your parents.
G: Well, my parents, I was brought up in the Great Depression where everyone was out of work and, uh, life was pretty rough.
Life was pretty rough. People were put out of their homes, and they were camping on the beach, on the four shore of the beach cause they were put out of their homes and, uh, it, uh, when you had a hole in your breeches, the, your mother would sew a patch over that
I: Um hm.
G: Getting new clothes just wasn’t a part of one’s life.
I: And were you, did you, did, did your father
have a farm?
G: Did my father have
I: Farm. Farm.
G: Farm. No, no. He was an office worker.
I: Office worker.
G: In England most, mostly.
I: Oh, I see.
G: My parents came from England.
I: I see.
G: I was born here, as, as I said.
I: Um. Tell me about the school you went through.
G: Uh, I was, uh, I wasn’t much of a student. I only lasted in high school for about six months
and went out to work because the family needed money. And I wasn’t doing any good at school which is, uh, I don’t understand because later on after I left the Navy, I ended up at Melbourne University.
G: So I went from one extreme to the other.
I: To the other. So when did you quit the school and began to work?
G: At 14 years of age.
I: I’m sorry?
G: Fourteen years of age.
I: Fourteen. So it’s, uh, like 1940.
I: Yeah, and what did you work on?
G: What did I
I: Yeah. What kind of work did you do?
G: Uh, uh, storeman, storeman.
I: Um hm.
G: And I joined the Navy at the, uh, the Navy is the only, uh, one of the three services where you can join at 17 years of age.
G: Army and Air Force was 18, and I joined the Navy on my 17th birthday. And the Navy had quotas for each State in Victoria, and if I, uh, I had to, with the World War II going, I had to wait, uh, 13 months to be called up. Whereas if I was born in South Australia or Tasmania where there’s not so many people, I would have gone in on the day I, I signed up. But I had to wait
13 months because they had all the quota they needed from Victoria, New South Wales.
I: So where, where did you get the basic military training, I mean Naval training?
G: Uh, uh,
I: Was it 1943 that you joined the Navy, right?
G: Yes, and I ended up getting in, to 1944, I ended up going in for training, at Flinders Naval Depot, Victoria, Flinders Naval Depot, Victoria.
I: Uh huh.
G: Uh, I was very fortunate. I was Guard of Honor for the, uh, Duke of Gloucester who, at that time, was the Governor General of Australia, and they opened a, a, a new ship dry dock in Sydney which joined, to [INAUDIBLE] to the mainland. And I was Guard of Honor for the, for, for the Governor General of Australia
I: Um hm.
G: And I, can I speak of my service life?
G: Uh, I was, I, I, don’t like to boast, but I, I was in Tokyo Bay for a surrender of the Second World War
I: Uh huh
G: and actual fact that the Japanese envoys flew to Manilla in the Philippines to find out about the terms of the surrender,
I: Um hm.
G: and we were in Manilla Bay at the time, and I have photographs of the Japanese envoys getting off the plane to see what the surrender terms were.
I: Did you bring it?
G: I’m sorry?
I: Did you bring that picture?
G: Yes, I’ve got those pictures.
I: Yeah. Can you show?
G: Not, not, not here, no. I haven’t, I haven’t got them here today. I have pictures here, but not of the surrender. But I have plenty of them and also a DVD. I’ve got the only DVD that’s still in existence, an American DVD, of the surrender on the Missouri, uh, U.S.S. Missouri.
I: Where did you get the DVD?
G: I got it from, uh, I got it through,
uh, from an email, through an email. And, uh, I had a lot of trouble getting it copied. But I finally got a few copies of it which I’m happy to give to anyone that’s really interested in the Second World War. But I also have the shots taken on board the Missouri, photographs, and
I: So you had a camera at the time.
G: No, no. The Japanese newspapers took the photographs, and we were able to get them from the
Japanese news agency.
I: Ah. So you still have those?
G: I still have those.
I: Did you, did you scan it?
G: No. I’ve had it scanned, yes. I’ve had it scanned.
I: Oh, you had it scanned. So you can, you can share that with me.
I: Do you have my business card?
G: Yes I have in my pocket.
I: Yeah. Can you send it to me?
G: Yes, I can. I’ll send you a copy, I’ll send you a copy.
I: The, the copy of DVD.
G: I, I, I would like to, if you can scan it, what I send you and you send it back to me, please.
I: Oh, absolutely.
G: I would love to do it.
G: It’s the only, it’s the only copy of the surrender that’s in the, of the Second World War, it’s the only copy.
G: No one else has got it.
I: I want to
G: I could, uh, personally, everyone to their own opinion. But I’m,
I’m the only person that has spoken up that I don’t believe the Americans should have dropped the atomic bombs on, on Japan because they said that, that would, it saved a million, uh, American troops lives by not having to invade Japan. And when we went ashore, there was only silence that were in Tokyo Bay
I: Um hm.
G: and when we went ashore,
you had all the Japanese soldiers still in their Japanese Army uniforms cause that’s all they had to wear, and they were so [INAUDIBLE]
G: I, I doubt whether one single American troop would have been killed to invade Japan.
G: And I read a book, uh, called the Brighter Than a Thousand Suns by American physicist that developed, help to develop the atomic bombs, and he was aghast at, that they dropped them because Japan
was finished, uh. They had no oil left. You can’t part a, a fool about oil. They had no oil left. The country was finished. And I, I strongly think that the, the Americans were, they were worried that the, the War would finish before they could drop them. And I’m the only person that I know of that, uh, that, uh, is against the Americans dropping the two bombs.
I: Yeah. You’re right.
G: That’s just my opinion.
I: Um hm.
G: And, uh,
I, if you saw photographs published by the Japanese news agency, Nip, the Nippon Times, and I saw photographs, and one in particular I can’t get out of my mind. It’s a big, large photograph, a very large photograph, of a Japanese mother who was breast feeding her baby when the atomic bomb, and the flash burned all the clothes off her and the baby, and the baby’s skin was fused to the mother’s breast,
and each, the mother and the baby, had big black holes burned right through their bodies by the flash.
I: Um hm.
G: And, and, and the atomic, and they’ve never been published in the West, never been published. So, uh, there’s no doubt about it, uh. Countries do use propaganda and so forth to meet their own needs, you know?
I: So I’m going to make sure that I will send everything back to you after you send me those pictures.
G: Yes, alright.
I: I will scan it, and I will put it on the website so that everybody can see if, that this is your picture, okay?
G: Alright, yeah. Can, can, can I speak off camera now?
I: Sure. Hold on.
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