Shorly before the United States entered World War Two, John Schley joined the U.S. Navy as an officer. It was March of 1941 and Schley was 23 years old. In December of that year, the U.S. was at war and over the following four years and in succeeding decades, Shley went on to command five destroyers in war time: World War Two, the Korean War, and the war in Vietnam.
U.S. Navy Captain John Schley has many reasons to be proud: at 90 he is still fully active despite having served in three U.S. wars: World War Two, Korea and Vietnam.
A few months before the U.S. entered World War Two, John Schley joined the Navy. It was 1941, he was 23 years old and had just graduated from college with an economics degree. As a young ensign at war, he soon experienced its terrors. "The submarines would come in early in the evening. I can remember one time when a torpedo came right alongside our ship, about 50 yards, but it was not aimed for us. It was aimed at a merchant ship in the convoy," Captian Schley said.
By 24, he was named commander of the USS Stringham, a destroyer, and carried out missions in the South Pacific islands and Okinawa. He was the youngest captain in the U.S. Navy at the time.
"We were engaged in carrying out underwater demolition teams and marine raiders," he explain. "We would sneak in particularly at night, as close as we could get, and release swimmers."
Captain Schley saw many people killed or wounded during the war. But he survived. At his home in Shepherdstown in West Virginia, memories of ships and missions remain intact. "And I had destroyer division 82, which had five ships," he said.
By 1950 he was at war again; this time in Korea. "I had command of the Rodman and I joined her in Hawaii and we escorted ships and we did some shore bombardment," Schley explain.
Many more missions on land and sea followed during his career with the Navy in the 1950's. In the early 1960's, he was part of the war effort in Vietnam.
"Then I got involved as commander of an ammunition ship. We kept supplying and re-supplying our ships with ammunition."
During his three decades with the Navy, Captain Schley commanded a total of five destroyers. After his participation in his third war, John Schley finally retired with his wife and two children to their hometown: the historic Shepherdstown in West Virginia.
He still drives around and meets with friends. He points out, "My father was born in this house, and my nephew lives here now."
Today Captain Schley reflects about war and peace. He always felt very patriotic and always rejected what the Nazis did. But he regrets war.
"I think it is terribly unfortunate, particularly the set of wars we are fighting now, it's very difficult. I don't like war. It's too bad we have to have wars but unfortunately wars do happen."
Today, John Schley lives alone with his cat, Climber. He goes to the gym three times a week. His house is full of antiques and family photos, particularly of his wife Jean who died some years ago, after nearly 60 years of marriage.
"I miss Jean absolutely terribly," he said. "I think of her all the time."
But John Schley has no regrets; he lived intensely the two great loves of his life: the U.S. Navy and his wife Jean.