George O. Appellof, 86, of Lynnwood, WA, died peacefully at his home on December 2, 2012. He was born to George W. and Marvel M. Appellof in Reedsport, Oregon on October 12, 1926.
He joined the Naval Reserves in 1943 at age 16 and then the Merchant Marines at age 17. He was then inducted into the Army in 1951 at age 24. After his discharge from the Army, George began an apprenticeship with Union Pacific Railroad, where he worked until retiring in 1989. After his retirement from Union Pacific, George was the editor of the Merchant Marine Newsletter for 15 years. Because of his affiliation with the newsletter and various online forums, he connected with men all over the United States who wrote him about their experiences during WWII; some about time they spent in POW camps. While George loved being a railroad man, he never lost his love of the sea, and his true love was the military and the men and women who served their country. He was proud of his service and proud of his family connection to the military by other family members, covering every branch of the military.
George received the following discharges and awards:
07/19/44 Honorable Discharge from the United States Army (Army Transportation Corp);
07/04/45 Honorable Discharge from the United States Coast Guard;
06/11/47 Certificate of Substantially Continuous Service in the United States Merchant Marine (7/22/43 - 02/06/46);
03/20/51 Honorable Discharge from the United States Navy;
For his service in the American Merchant Marine during WWII, George was issued the Atlantic War Zone Bar; Pacific War Zone Bar; Victory Medal; Honorable Service Button and the Presidential Testimonial Letter from President Truman, which states:
"To you who answered the call of your country and served in its Merchant Marine to bring about the total defeat of the enemy, I extend the heartfelt thanks of the Nation. You undertook a most severe task - one which called for courage and fortitude. Because you demonstrated the resourcefulness and calm judgment necessary to carry out that task, we now look to you for leadership and example in further serving our country in peace."
This is an excerpt taken from an interview conducted by George's daughter for the family's genealogy research in March 2000:
"When I was 16, me and a friend ran away and were going to go fishing on a fishing boat. The kid's Dad, he came and got us and took us back to Portland. Before that, we went down to Port Embarkation in Seattle, where they had a bunch of ships there, and we thought we'd rather be on those ships that on a fishing boat. My friend's Dad drove us back to Portland and I went to work in the shipyard (he was 15).
In April or maybe June of 1943, "the old man said he'd let me go wherever I wanted to go", so I went back up to Seattle and went into the Merchant Marine Naval Reserve. (When asked why he chose the Merchant Marine Naval Reserve, he said it was because he was under age and that's the only one he could get into at age 16). Then I went on one training ship for a month or six weeks. Then I went on the General M. G. Zelinksi. I was on that ship November of 1944. They said I was AWOL. When asked why this was, Dad replied, "because during the war, you couldn't get on a train or a bus hardly because there was no gas. When we came back from either Seward or Anchorage or Whittier, I got a 72 hour pass and went to Portland. I think it was Sunday night, and I was supposed to be back Monday morning to go on watch, and I couldn't get on a bus, I couldn't get on a train, so I started hitch hiking." So I was a day late getting back to the ship, they said I was AWOL and pulled me off the ship and put me on another training ship until that was straightened out. Then I was sent to Prince Rupert on a sea going tug, the Sea Lion LT 240. That was December of 1943 to June or July of 1944.
In June of '44, we went into San Francisco and they ran into a Dutch ship, so they took us all off the ship and put us in a hotel receiving station where we waited for 30 days before getting a new ship, the FP 239. We were on their way back to Seattle, and we got off Port Orford, Oregon, where all the bilge lights were plugged up with rags, steel shavings, and the water started coming up over the floor plates in the engine room, so the Coast Guard towed us into Port Orford where we had to take all the lines apart and clean them all up. After that, we went back up to Seattle. That was July or August of '44. Then we went to San Francisco, where I got on a troop transport; the Sea Flasher. They loaded the troops and went to Honolulu, Anawetok in the Martial Islands. I didn't really care for Honolulu because there was a curfew and you had to be in off the streets at 8:00 p.m.; there was barbed wire all over the "pretty, white sand beaches". Anawetok was even worse, so we just anchored out. There was nothing to Anawetok but a flat piece of sand, palm trees with the tops all shot off. So then we went to Saipan, Guam and Tinean. I asked Dad what he thought of those places, and he said, "They just invaded those places, and the beaches were all covered with life belts and rifles. No, I didn't like that. Pretty though."
Then we went to Pelilou in the Pilou Islands, not too far from the Philippines. Then some of the troops got off at Pelilou, and we had engine trouble, so we went South to Mannas in the Admiralty Islands. The USS Prairie came up and took a feedwater pump and the generator to the ship to repair that. From there, we went to New Caledonia and docked, and "took all these guys who were in the invasion who were burnt and had what they would now call PTSD. And we took them all to the Naval Hospital in Oakland, California." He was 18 years old at that time, and he recalls that it was very difficult to deal with.
It was in Oakland that Dad burnt his hands on a hot water line, so he had to stay until they healed. He was then was put on an ammunition ship, The Knox Victory, and went back to the South Pacific. They went to Saipan, Guam and back to San Francisco. That was in 1945. "Oh, then I was on the Cushman K. Davis, a Liberty Ship; back to Honolulu and then back to Seattle or Portland. They put me back on a training ship to learn diesel and I think that was '45. But then I was done with the Naval Reserve, and then I went in to the Merchant Marine.
"Cape Fairweather was a merchant ship that we took K-rations to Honolulu and Yokohama, Japan and Kobe, Japan and Ginsen, Korea. I liked it. Then when I got back, I said I don't want no more jobs on the ocean, so I went down to the employment office, they gave us that 52-20. So while you're looking for a job, they give you $20.00 a week for 52 weeks. 52-20, they call it. So then I went down there and told them I wanted a job in town. They said they had Fish and Wildlife Service, they had lots of ships in Alaska. They had Coastal Geological Survey, in Alaska. And there was one more. Oh, the US Army dredges, so I thought, well, I'm not going to get a job on the shore, so I'll take the next best thing, which was the dredges. Because some of them, they come in every week and you get two days off. The sea going dredges, they go up and down the coast between Hawaii and the islands, but you never get much time off. So anyway, I took the Army Engineer dredges. That was in 1947, I think. So I worked on four dredges, and then they said they'd like to have all their people belong to the reserve. That way you hold your job, so I joined the Naval Reserve again. And two of the dredges were from Portland to Astoria, dredging the Columbia River, so I got two days off a week. The other one was one right in Portland, where they tied up was right by the St. John's bridge. That would have been a good one, but they stayed right there all the time on this one dredge, but I didn't have enough seniority to hold that job, so they put me on a sea going dredge going up and down the coast; Aberdeen, Westport, Astoria, Coos Bay, North Bend. One day off a month. In 1951 I got discharged from the Naval Reserve and joined the Army Reserve, because you know, Army people like their people to be members of the reserve. So then they activated that company -- my outfit, in March 1953 on account of Korea. So they sent us to Ft. Lewis in Washington, Fort Bliss in Texas, Yokohama, Japan, Itozukie Air Base in Fukoku, Japan, and then Inchon, Korea. So March of '53 I got out of that. Then in April of '53, then I went to the railroad. And I was still in the reserve until '56, that's when I got my discharge."
George was a member of the Swedish Club in Seattle, VFW, American Legion, American Merchant Marine Veterans, Railroad and Airline Supervisor's Association, and Union Pacific Old Timer's Club.
He was also a very talented artist, calligrapher and loved working with wood. He loved music, and particularly enjoyed finding older music from the 20s and 30s. His favorite music though, was the big band sound of the 1940s.
George is survived by his son, Edward D. Appellof (Suellen) of Alaska and his daughter, Georgette Kozloff (Henry), also of Alaska, grandchildren William and Philip Kozloff, and one great granddaughter. He also leave his siblings, Delores Johnson, Elmer Appellof, Beverly Whitehall, Garnette Morgan and Carmen Unger, as well as numerous nieces and nephews. George was predeceased by his wife, Marilyn J. Appellof and siblings, Barbara Weitzel and Jerry C. Appellof.
Per his wishes, George is buried at Skyline Memorial Gardens in Portland, Oregon, next to his beloved wife of 35 years, Marilyn.