As a Navy ensign during World War II, Bob Christman served as a navigator aboard the USS Sitka (APA-113), a luxury liner that had been refitted for troop transport. Back and forth from its home base in Manila, the Philippines, the Sitka plied the Pacific Ocean, delivering Marines to numerous islands.
“We’d drop ‘em and run,” Bob recalls. “They were a tough bunch—well-trained and very young.”
A young man himself at the time, Bob was a college sophomore when Pearl Harbor was bombed. He immediately joined the Naval Reserves and upon completion of the academic year, entered active duty. While in training, the St. Louis native met the young woman who would soon become his wife.
Toward war’s end, the Sitka was part of a convoy of six ships, each carrying about 2,000 men, to invade Japan. En route, two of the ships were sunk by kamikazes; the other four stopped 400 miles short of their goal: The atomic bombs that fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki had forced Japan’s surrender. Of the approximately 8,000 men who were spared the task of invasion, Bob remains convinced that “without the bomb, most of us would not be here today.”