story provided by Dan Murphy - Historian
Sam Hicks, a retiree from Local 863 is a veteran of 20 years in the U.S. Navy, seeing combat service in World War II and the Korean War while surviving the sinking of two ships. Enlisting on December 7th, 1937 Sam was trained as a gunners mate and ultimately rose to the rank of Chief Petty Officer. When the Japanese sneak attack came at Pearl Harbor, Sam was on the USS New Mexico escorting British supply ships. Sam's enlistment was up and he was planning on returning to his home in Hippo, Kentucky. That infamous 'day that will live in infamy' had changed his plans for the next sixteen adventurous years.
The next ship Sam served on was with his older brother Frank who was already a machinist mate on the new USS Atlanta (cl-51) a very famous ship of the era not only because it was one of a new class of anti-aircraft cruisers designed to protect aircraft carriers but more notedly it was christened by Margaret Mitchell, the author of the classic novel Gone with the Wind. The 'Atlanta' commissioned on December 24th 1941, had sixteen five inch guns which were augmented by a 3x2 40mm mount, a lx4Omm mount and 15 20mm guns, two depth charge racks and 2x4 21" torpedo tubes.
Capable of speeds up to thirty-two knots, the 'Atlanta' and her crews 'baptism of fire' came in the battle of 'Midway' which was the turning point in the war with the Japanese. At one moment in the battle for Midway Island Sam saw a Japanese Zero coming at him just above the water line, as recollected by Sam " one zero was coming in just above the water, I could barely see it through the gap between the turrent and gun. It was too close for sighting, so I coasted the gun up and pulled the firing key. It just exploded with nothing left of it. That was the one zero that I am sure was mine
After the battle of Midway the 'Atlanta' was steaming in waters off of Guadalcanal with 13 other ships on friday the 13th of November 1942. Sam was in his gun postion with 12 other sailors totaling 13 when his convoy ran into a flotilla of 14 Japanese ships. Before the battle was over a total of 13 ships were lost on both sides. Sams turrent was first hit by a 5 inch round fired from the USS San Francisco which tore through his armour and out again without exploding. The ship was then hit by a torpedo and a round fired by a Japanese gun which exploded inside his position propelling him on deck and into the ocean, he being the only survivor from his mount. Bleeding with twenty-six servere wounds, severely burned and minus his left ear, Sam was at the mercy of the Pacific Ocean for six and one half hours fighting off shark attacks and enemy sailors before swimming to a nearby island where he was found and cared for by his brother Frank until a hospital ship picked him up to recover from his wounds and convelece in New Zealand. Needless to say Sam is not the least superstious about the number 13 11its been lucky for me" says the former sailor
Only the A-Bomb saved us." The 'Atlanta' was awarded five battle stars for her World War II service and the Presidential Unit Citation for her "heroic example of invincible fighting spirit" in the battle off Guadalcanal.
After serving on the USS Atlanta and recovering from his wounds, Sam was transferred to a British cargo refrigerator ship. The ship was ~~YP 92" a wooden hulled vessel which was sunk by a Japanese submarine off of the island of New Guinea. According to Sam " the jap sub surfaced and sunk us with her deck gun" he spent the next twenty-three hours floating in the Southwest Pacific Ocean before being spotted by a Navy PBY Amphibious Aircraft which sent a vessel to pick up the survivors.
A career decision to stay in the U.S Navy after World War II found Sam in the Korean Conflict with the rank of Chief Petty Officer.
a half foot lOW tide and took heavy fire from the enemy guns. Only after the aid of bulldozers and water being pumped out of the balast tanks was the LST able to return to deep water.
As recognition for his service or just plain luck, CPO Sam Hicks was placed on the staff of President Dwight D. Eisenhower as Chief Petty Officer on the Presidential Yaght. Sam had many private moments with 'ike' following him around the golf coarse and exchanging salty stories with the former commander in chief. "Ike never stepped foot on that yaght. He gave it to the marines for recreational use. He took the crew and we served as his personal attaches. " Chief Petty Officer Samuel Hicks served out his twenty year enlistment on Eisenhower's staff, ending his career on December 7th, 1957
Besides his brother Frank, Sam had five other brothers in service to the United States of America in Europe and the Pacific Theater during World War II. Sam came to work at Ford Motor Company in 1958. Sam and his wife Von have been married almost 48 years. They reside in Sharonville, Ohio.
(note: a special thanks to Don Edwards, webmaster of the official web site of the USS Atlanta at USSATLANTA.com for his help and expertise in compiling research for this article.)