Sixty-five years ago, about two years after America declared war on Japan and Germany in World War II, Robert G. Dox became a sailor in the U.S. Navy. In his career, a ship he was serving on was hit by a torpedo and sunk. Many people died, but Dox, now 83, survived.
On a ship called the S.S. Tivives, Dox operated a 20 mm gun on the bridge of the ship. On the 21st of October, 1943, he watched torpedoes from the air come at the ship. “Watched two torpedoes from Germany’s planes miss our bow, then two more miss our stern.” Then one more came straight at the engine room, and just then Tivives turned and the torpedo hit behind the engine room. “If one had hit the engine, we would all be dead.”
When Dox got on a life jacket, he was almost taken under the sinking ship. He ripped off the life jacket and scrambled onto a nearby life boat. There, he helped pull men from the water onto the small boat. “She [the Tivives] sank in less than 10 minutes, some say five.”
When the war ended, Dox was in Okinawa. While on guard, the rifle that he was holding went off, and a bullet shot through his leg. “It wasn’t even supposed to be loaded!” says Dox, who still recalls the incident very well.
Dox received six medals in his career, including American defense, Asiatic Pacific campaign, World War II, the Philippine Liberation and combat action.
Some people he tells about his naval career say he should have received the Purple Heart medal. This is a medal that is rewarded to any member of the U.S. armed forces killed or wounded in an armed conflict. Although he has never received it, he still says that he should have, along with many others.
Dox stayed in the Navy all through the war, even after the war, until he hurt his leg. Whenever he has the chance, he tells people what he remembers in order to pass down the history to many generations to come. He has five grandchildren and one great-grandchild. He now lives happily in his New York home with his wife, daughter, son-in-law and their two children.
Colette Reynolds is a seventh-grader at Schenectady Christian School in Scotia.