In Bradenton Beach, one military veteran’s daughter took the extra step to celebrate her father’s service.
On the evening of Nov. 10, Debbie Bacon had staff from the Bradenton company Flamingos at Large decorate John Bacon’s front yard with U.S. flags and a sign identifying him as a World War II Navy veteran.
When he woke up Nov. 11, which was Veterans Day, John Bacon said he saw the sign on his front yard and cried.
“It feels good to be recognized for your service,” he said. “My daughter is so beautiful to me. …I was very proud.”
More than 70 years ago, John Bacon stepped off the USS LSM(R) 196, a rocket ship used to clear beaches in the South Pacific.
He said he was one of the last crew members still on board the ship when it was brought to Long Beach, California, to be decommissioned.
He had served on the ship for two years after joining the U.S. Navy as an 18-year old because he was finally old enough to apply without his parents’ permission, spurred to action by the events at Pearl Harbor.
At only 107 pounds, he was technically ineligible to serve — one must be 115 pounds to serve in the Navy — but, Debbie Bacon said, he struggled to gain weight for the entrance and begged to let serve, and he was waved through.
Bacon served as a navigator on the ship, steering it by South Pacific beaches to clear them before U.S. soldiers moved in.
Although he never fired a gun, Bacon said he witnessed a lot of action during his service — from soldiers clamoring onto newly-claimed beaches to the bombing of Hiroshima — he said the atomic bomb was dropped 300 miles from his ship.
He was awarded a Bronze Star for his service. Today, he wears the medal pinned to a baseball cap that reads “World War II Navy Combat Veteran.”
After his Navy service, he spent 10 years in the reserves.
Bacon returned to a newspaper career in Flint, Michigan, eventually becoming a circulation director for the Flint Journal.
After years of visiting Anna Maria Island, he purchased property in Bradenton Beach in 1972 and has resided in the community since.
He has held two reunions for shipmates in his Bradenton Beach home — one in 1988 and another in 1998 after friends voted to return to the island again for a second gathering.
John Bacon was married for 68 years to wife Irene before she died in 2015. “She was the most beautiful woman,” he said fondly.
Irene Bacon served as an RN and held the title of Army lieutenant before retiring to marry. They had two children — Debbie and Butch.