Last weekend was a journey back in time for Newborn Chambers, 92, of the Marche community just outside Maumelle.
The World War II sailor was one of several veterans of that war who were given a flight to Washington, D.C. to visit the new WW II monument. In fact, 80 veterans actually made the trip compliments of Tyson and the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas.
He said it was a fast trip flying to Washington and back the same day spending about four hours touring the WWII monuments but one he’ll never forget.
Chambers, a retired attorney, said he spent the most time at the Midway section of the monument because he was involved in that battle at sea which he said was the “turning point of the war.”
Almost all of the action in that pivotal battle centered around the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier, he said. From the bridge of his ship, the USS Astoria Chambers said he had a bird’s eye view of the major action that eventually sunk the Yorktown that night but the two other aircraft carriers that the Japanese never found used their fighter and bombers from those two aircraft carriers to so decimate the Japanese navy.
His only regret was that his older brother didn’t live long enough to make the trip to Washington, he said. Since they both served on the same ship he said his older brother pulled a few strings to get him — the younger brother transferred to shore duty at Pearl Harbor where he spent the rest of the war.
As soon as the Astoria returned to Pearl Harbor for repair his older brother got him transferred off the same ship, he said.
Part of the reason was the fact that the five Sullivan brothers were all lost when the USS Juneau went down on Nov. 13, 1942, and the U.S War Department changed policy to prevent that happening again.
The younger brother served until he was discharged in October 1945 and he then spent five years in the naval reserve retiring as a Chief Petty Officer.
Chambers said he went through basic sailor training with the oldest two Solomon brothers, and they were all sad to hear about all five going down together.
Chambers said he grew up in McCrae, a small White County town. After the war he attended the University of Arkansas and after his undergraduate work he attended law school there.
In addition to his daughter Mary Alice who is living with him he has another daughter in Maumelle, Cindy.
The trip was like traveling back in time he said and he relived the Battle of Midway that he said he watched from the bridge of the Astoria. After he was moved off the heavy cruiser he said the Astoria was hit and sunk in August 1942 at the Battle of Savo Islands..
He said his older brother had to swim miles at sea for hours before he was rescued. If he had still been on the ship, he said he doubted they’d both have made it off.