Cody WWII vet honored; Shockley, 94, served in U.S. Navy in Pacific
May 8, 2019
firstname.lastname@example.org Nov 14, 2018
John Shockley, 94, never questioned his own motives for entering World War II. It was just what you did at the time.
"Everyone was getting involved in the war," Shockley said.
The longtime Cody resident served as a Gunnery Sgt. 1st Class in the Navy, serving 1943-1947.
Though he grew up in landlocked Chinook, Mont., he didn't think much about taking to the high seas for service.
"All the young people were joining the Navy," Shockley said with a twinkle in his eye.
Shockley took off from Oakland Bay in California and was put on the USS General M.M. Patrick (AP-150) transport ship around 1944, headed for the South Pacific.
As the weapons department division officer, he was in charge of scouting out Japanese submarines, scrutinizing data pertaining to several thousand square miles at a time, while furiously typing over 110 words per minute in his reports.
"I was so focused on the work," Shockley said.
He wasn't the only member of his family to lend a hand in the Navy during WWII; so did his grandmother, Maude May Richmond. The only difference was she got involved at 62 years old.
Richmond rolled up her sleeves, Schockley said she became a part of the Rosie the Riveter movement in 1944, an important female contingency working in factories and shipyards toward the war effort. Richmond helped construct the war ships at Bremerton Navy Yard in Washington. She would live to 90 years old.
"She was meant to battle," Shockley said.
He grew up with many Japanese Americans in Chinook, who came to town to work as beet laborers. Despite having many comrades killed by the Japanese while in the South Pacific, he said he feels no ill will toward the country or its people, remembering fondly his time playing basketball with Japanese Americans while growing up and playing for the Chinook High School Sugarbeeters.
"They were nice people," Shockley said.
He rarely got off the boat during his time in the service, but when he did, Shockley said he went to San Francisco. There, he danced to some of the finest big band artists of the time such as Harry James and Del Courtney.
It was at a big band dance in Zurich, Mont., he met his longtime wife Harriet Shockley, 89, after his time in the service.
He went on to work for Montana Game and Fish. He also joined the National Guard in Chinook, helping set up its armored tanks for 22 years. Though enjoyable to drive, he said they lacked certain conveniences of the modern vehicle like ventilation.
"They were hot when it's hot," Shockley said.
He and his family moved to Cody in 1966, where he built homes at the urging of local preacher the Rev. Lawrence Abe "Pat" Wisenbaker. There, he and Harriet raised five daughters, including Jill Shockley Siggins, 65, a former Park County commissioner.
"He's always had a lot of girls to take care of him," Shockley Siggins said with a laugh.
A WWII plaque at the State of Wyoming Veterans Memorial Park commemorates Shockley and other vets, and he was recently presented a Big Horn Basin honor quilt from local veterans organization Families on the Frontline.
The elderly man seemed at a loss for words when given the blanket.
"I've never gotten one before," Shockley said. "It's incredibly beautiful."
Now surrounded by nine grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, the man who grew up in a Montana ranching family during the Great Depression has lived a full and enriching American dream.
"I'm grateful," Shockley said. "It's nice to be recognized."