Even though he hasn’t been in the armed forces since 1956, North Branch resident Ray Sellnow recalls his time in the U.S. Navy like it was yesterday.
Sellnow, 82, a 44-year member of North Branch American Legion Post 85, served about four years during and after the Korean War starting in 1953.
He never saw combat, but played an integral support role.
Aboard the Kula Gulf, an escort carrier that transported airplanes, Sellnow primarily worked in the galley, making sure the ship’s 500-plus men were well fed.
“We were working around the clock,” he said.
The ship took Sellnow far from home, all the way to the Mediterranean Sea where he visited Sicily and Greece.
“I got to see the world,” Sellnow said.
A story of hurricanes
The seas were certainly turbulent during Sellnow’s Navy years.
He rode out three hurricanes aboard the USS Kula Gulf.
“The first hurricane we were near Norfolk, (Va.),” he recalled. “When the hurricane came in, they sent us up to Chesapeake Bay. We were out there and had both anchors dropped and the engines running two-thirds speed, and we were still slipping anchor.”
The wind whipped and rain pelted the ship, which made for a heart pounding experience.
“I was standing in a gun tub, and they gave me a pair of binoculars I was supposed to use to tell if other ships were around us,” he said. “But I couldn’t see them – I didn’t know if they were at 12 o’clock or whatever. There was nothing but water hitting me. It was kind of scary.”
After his duty on the deck, Sellnow said he was glad to return to the galley.
The Coral Sea
After leaving the Kula Gulf, Sellnow served two years aboard the USS Coral Sea, an aircraft carrier.
He was a second classman on the Coral Sea and shortly after he joined ship, he was put in charge of the bakery.
Sellnow estimated he and his shipmates in the bakery made food for about 300 officers a day – about half the ship’s population.
The ship’s second bakery served the other half.
Memories on display
On Oct. 27, North Branch American Legion Post 85 Commander Jim Johnson stopped by Suite Living in North Branch, where Sellnow lives, for a visit.
Johnson brought with him a piece of Sellnow’s patriotic past.
He handed Sellnow a glass and wood encasement, which contained a small, weathered American flag and a timeworn fountain pen.
A member of Legion Post 85 built the protective frame for Sellnow’s two prized possessions.
Sellnow was given the flag at the age of 13 when he joined the Sons of the American Legion.
“I went to a carnival and they had a parade,” Sellnow recalled. “They gave each one of us Sons of the American Legion a flag to carry in the parade.”
The pen belonged to his father, a World War I veteran.
Johnson told Sellnow the pen and flag will be displayed at the North Branch American Legion Post 85 building.
“It’s got some stains on it, but it’s got character,” Johnson said of the flag.
Sellnow humbly accepted the honor bestowed upon him by Johnson.
“I think there are a lot of benefits to being a veteran,” Sellnow said.