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Part II - “Operation Magic Carpet” - USS Saginaw Bay carried troops home from World War II in the Pacific—Lucious Williams was there

Lucious Williams Lucious Williams

Lucious Williams was a 1st Class Steward’s mate aboard the aircraft carrier USS Saginaw Bay so he spent a lot of time in the kitchen.  But it was 1945 and all sailors on the ship had to be trained for “battle stations.” Although the war had ended and the Saginaw Bay was headed back to California carrying troops home from the Pacific Theater, the danger was far from over.  Europe not only required the clearing of mines, so did many parts of the Pacific Ocean.  

A true war disaster with possible great loss of life was prevented when a lucky sailor on the Saginaw Bay spotted the floating mines up ahead.  “A $50 reward was given to the first one to spot a mine,” Williams explained to the TIMES at his Two Egg home on Christmas Eve. “And $50 was a lot of money back in those days so we spotted the mines.  The waters were very rough and it was hard to do, but the 40 mm and the 20 mm guns on the sides of the ship were used to shoot the mines and make them 

explode.

“We were coming back from Okinawa and we spied five floating mines,” Lucious explained.  “They looked like wash pots turned upside down with three legs on the bottom. We shot four of them but the waves were so high and the ship was tossing in the rough waters so much that we couldn’t get the last mine.  It got dark on us then; we had to let that last mine go, but we all got battle stars for destroying the four.”

The Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships says the USS Saginaw Bay was a part of the campaign to retake the Philippines in early 1945, and then took part in the Invasion of Iwo Jima and the Battle of Okinawa. Lucious Williams wasn’t drafted until April of 1945 but he was on his way to California to be part of the crew for the Saginaw Bay when the war ended.  “Sailor, the war is over,” an officer told the 22-year-old from Two Egg.  (See Profiles of Courage Part 1 in this issue of the 

TIMES.)

So days after the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, ending the war, Williams was assigned to CVE-82, the aircraft carrier just recently built in 1943 and named for the bay of Lake Huron in Michigan.  Confirming what he explained to the TIMES for this article, the online dictionary Wikipedia says of the USS Saginaw Bay: “By the end of August 1945, she was engaged in training operations in the Hawaiian area until she reported for ‘Operation Magic Carpet’ duty, the return of combat veterans from the Pacific.”  

“We never got off the ship,” recalls Lucious’ excellent memory—not bad for a 92-year-old. “More than 100 men lived on that ship but we were able to load it up with more than 1,500 returning soldiers and come back to the states. We picked them up in Okinawa and Guam.  The trips took 40 days and 40 nights at full throttle.  After the last troop transport, we loaded up planes.”

Lucious only was required to serve in the Navy for “one year, one month and one day,” he said.  “They asked me if I wanted to reenlist for two years or six years, whatever I wanted.  But I said no.  I wanted to go home. I’ve always loved this country and was glad to serve, but I love Jackson County too—even today, I hate to stay away for more than a week at the time.”

Lucious married Cozzie Mae in 1946 and although she passed away in 1963, they had five children. He had good luck with job placement after the war. He continued well drilling and began farming as well.  He helped lay the foundation for the Jim Woodruff Dam.  “We started the dam in 1948,” he explained.  “It was supposed to take 12 years but they came out ahead and finished in 1958.” Meanwhile, Lucious had been hired at Florida State Hospital in 1951 and worked there for “17 years and 

six months.”  

“With the help of a banker in Chattahoochee,” Lucious said, “I was hired as a custodian at the power house, back at the dam.  And in 1978, I applied for and received a civil service job as a lock and dam operator.”  Along the way, Lucious received his “call from God. He spoke to me and I spoke to Him.” Lucious began preaching in 1958 and became pastor at Mt. Cello Missionary Baptist Church in 1960.  He is a pastor today at Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church on Blue 

Springs Road.

Lucious has learned a lot throughout his amazing long life from the people of Jackson County, the Navy, the workplace and from God.  “I love the church and the people; we have saved a lot of souls,” he said with joy. “I believe in righteousness and teaching them to do what’s right and how doing so always will bring blessings from God. Treat people the way you would like to be treated. If they treat you right, give it back.  If they treat you wrong—treat them right.”

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