Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Navy World War II veteran Richard T. Carbaugh Sr. poses for a portrait on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020, in Dalton, Georgia.

It's been more than 70 years since Richard Carbaugh served in World War II, but only in the last five or so has he been willing to talk about his experiences in the U.S. Navy.

"He never talked about it when we were growing up," said Carbaugh's daughter, Debbie Daniels. "It was too emotional. He lost several friends, including some who died in his arms."

But in recent years, Daniels said, her 95-year-old father "wants to talk to everybody" about his service.

"His mind's still so good, and there aren't many World War II veterans left," she said. "He's got lots of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and he knows how precious that history is."

Daniels said one thing her father does every year, without fail, is remind her that his oldest brother was killed in action on Oct. 31, 1941. Carbaugh said his brother, L.E., was serving on a destroyer, escorting British ships near Iceland, when it was sunk by a German vessel.

"I remember it like it was yesterday," said Carbaugh, who noted that another older brother, James, also served.

"My brother getting killed, and especially after Pearl Harbor," he said. "I was determined to join the Navy."

So determined, in fact, that he quit school at 16 – "I made good grades," he said, "but I never liked school."


Name: Richard Carbaugh Sr.

Age: 95

Branch of military: U.S. Navy

Years of service: 1943-46


Carbaugh said it took some time to convince his parents to sign the necessary papers, but they eventually relented and he joined the Navy at 17. He left Princeton, West Virginia, behind for boot camp in Illinois. He later trained as a gunner's mate, making stops in Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.

His first duty was on a cargo ship. If Carbaugh had needed an eye-opener at that point, the mere sight of his ship would surely have done the trick.

"It was in New Orleans, and I'd never seen such a large ship," he said. "I couldn't believe they could load that much stuff on a ship and not have it sink."

Carbaugh later served aboard a tanker, on which he was badly injured in a training accident in the South Pacific.

"I don't remember all of what happened," he said, "but one of the gunners forgot that he'd put a rag in the barrel of one of the guns. [When the gun was fired,] the barrel exploded. Shards of metal flew everywhere."

Carbaugh said he sustained a concussion in that accident. He recalled being hospitalized in San Francisco, "but I have no idea how I got there," he said.

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Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Navy World War 2 veteran Richard T. Carbaugh Sr. poses for a portrait on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020 in Dalton, Georgia.

During the course of his service, Carbaugh also lost the hearing in his right ear. Despite his injuries, though, he was determined to see his hitch all the way through.

"I got to go home for a while to see my family" after the gun accident, he said, "but I wanted to go back to active duty. I signed up for the duration of the war plus six months, and I wanted that honorable discharge."

Carbaugh said he served on a couple more ships, then at a Naval base in Maryland. After leaving the Navy, he returned to West Virginia and eventually moved next door to Virginia, where he spent 36 years at Roanoke Gas Co.

He said his brother James, who'd also been discharged, volunteered to fight in the Korean conflict just a few years later.

"Whoever said, 'War is Hell,' was exactly right," Carbaugh said, "but we're country boys. We're pretty tough."

Daniels said her father and his wife, Doris, were just days from celebrating their 74th wedding anniversary when she lost her struggle with Alzheimer's this past July 6.

"Even though his health was frail and still is, he tried to help her and showed love and patience with her to the very end," Daniels said.