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15th Jul 2021


Robert Applegate USN

Posted on 17 September, 2014 by in , ,

Hello World War II history buffs,

Today I interviewed a Navy veteran Robert Applegate who has one of the most different stories that I have heard.  He was drafted in 1943 but volunteered for the Navy during his draft physical.  He was assigned to the Naval Armed Guard which I had not heard of.   What their training was is that they were trained in 3 and 5 inch Naval Artillery and placed on civilian ships that took military supplies to different parts of the world.  While they were in the US Navy men assigned as Naval gunners on ships that were privately owned and operated as a business with Navy gunners aboard to give protection to these ships.  They were called Liberty ships and were produced by Henry J. Kaiser.  In the Pacific Ocean they traveled alone instead of in convoys using zig zagging tactics for safety.  Robert’s ship was called the SS Jean Nicolet.  Robert tells of being in a Typhoon with 50 ft. waves and what that is like.  What is different about Roberts service is that on the 2nd of July 1944 Robert saw a civilian named Parker  aboard the Nicolet  signal a Japanese submarine the location of the Nicolet with a lighter in the dark which could be seen for miles.  Within seconds two torpedo’s hit the Nicolet forcing the crew to abandon ship.  Google the ss Nicolet  One hundred men went into the water only to be picked up by the I-8 Japanese submarine who had just torpedoed  the Nicolet forcing the crew into the water.  What happened next is what is so different.  Instead of machine gunning the survivors which was common.   The submarine surfaced and forced all of the Nicolet crewmen aboard the sub and forced them one by one to run the gauntlet of Japanese sailors with swords, knives, boyonets  and other sharp instruments  thru the Japanese sailors with 77 out of 100 of the men slaughtered and thrown over the side.  Robert was about 20 ft from where these slaughters were taking place.  The only reason that Robert and 22 other seamen survived was a American plane came on the scene and the submarine radar picked up the PBY so that the submarine went into a very quick dive, the survivors went overboard into the open Indian Ocean.  Some of the men’s hands were still tied though Robert’s ropes were cut by a American sailor who had a small knife that the Japanese did not find.  They took the Americans shoes, life preservers and tied their hands behind their backs.   The man who cut Roberts ropes off of him could not swim and he drowned very quickly.  Another man who Applegate pusher in the Ocean  for two hours while he still had his hands tied behind his back did survive but imagine having your hands tied behind your back and no life preserver for about 36 hrs.  Applegate said that that man never spoke to him again after Bob quit pushing him toward the SS Nicholet.  Robert did see sharks very near, one as large as 18 feet.  The  American on board the Nicolet that fateful night named Mr. Parker.  Mr Parker had lived with his wife and two children in Japan at the beginning of the war.  He and his family was traded for Japanese citizens who lived in America at the start of the war.  He was never seen again by any of the men aboard the Jean Nicolet though the Japanese officer asked for him by name when the officer had not been told the name Mr. Parker by an of the Americans.  Email me for the rest of the story of Mr. Parker.  Then you will know ” The rest of the story as a great radio announcer used to say”.  (Imagine being in the open Ocean with no life preserver and your hands tied behind your back for 36 hrs)   Take a look at my website for much more WW II history as well as a list of Libraries that I will be putting on FREE WW II presentations with much memorabilia.  World War II website is     Lmww2.com

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