Grand marshal landed in Okinawa
In the early 1940s George Voss was at Harvard University, planning to go to medical school. Like many men at that time, he interrupted his college studies to enlist in the Navy. He served from 1943 to 1947.
On Monday, May 25, he will serve as grand marshal of Wilton’s Memorial Day parade. A longtime Wilton resident, Voss now lives with his wife, Mary, at Meadow Ridge in Redding and spoke with The Bulletin about his military service and later life here.
After leaving Harvard Voss went to midshipman school at Columbia University, achieving the rank of ensign. He was part of the V-12 Navy College Training Program, which trained recruits to become naval officers to bolster the force of commissioned officers graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy. From 1943 to 1946, training took place at 131 colleges and universities. He then spent the main part of his service as the skipper of an LCT in the Pacific theater.
LCTs (landing craft, tanks) were amphibious assault ships used for carrying tanks, troops and supplies from larger LSTs (landing ship, tanks) to beachheads. They were used in the invasion of Okinawa in the spring of 1945. The ships were about 120 feet long and had a crew of a commander and 12 sailors. They were armed with machine guns and other weapons.
By the time Voss and his crew arrived in Okinawa the fighting was over and the island was secured. The battle had been long and bloody, with more than 250,000 American and Japanese soldiers and Okinawan civilians killed. It proved to be the last major battle of World War II in the Pacific. Less than two months after the Japanese were defeated that June, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought about the surrender of Japan.
Voss’s LCT was one of 100 or more that would anchor out at sea and then travel back and forth to the island day and night, “with just a couple of hours’ sleep,” he said. “The amphibs had a lot of work to do.”
In addition to the perils of fighting in enemy territory, weather was a factor sailors had to contend with.
“We had some tough winds and survived them,” Voss said of an area known for typhoons. “We would beach the LCT and had lines going ashore. We also dropped anchor.” This would stabilize the ship and enable the crew to pull it by hand into deeper water from the beach.
Eventually Voss was reassigned to a port on the West Coast and mustered out of the Navy, picking up his education back at Harvard. With a degree in chemistry, he went to work for the Atomic Energy Commission in Idaho. That is where he met his wife, Mary.
“We met on a bus going to work,” she said, explaining they both worked for the commission. They were married in 1953 and George wanted to move back East. They did so within a few months, settling in a small house on Cherry Lane in Wilton.
“That was the only house we could afford,” Mary Voss said when asked why they chose Wilton.
George went to work for American Cyanamid, traveling a great deal, and then beginning his own chemical company, Isis Chemical of Stamford. The Vosses acknowledged the unfortunate connotation of the name today, but explained it was originally named for the Egyptian goddess of fertility and motherhood. He eventually opened a second plant in Jefferson City, Mo. The company made lacquers and finishes for furniture, wood stains, and varnishes. Among the contracts it had was one to make nail polish for Chesebrough-Pond’s and coatings for AMF bowling pins.
Voss also developed commercial buildings in Stamford, and the couple built two homes on Hidden Lake Drive, where they raised their family.
Voss was an active member of the Wilton Kiwanis Club and Wilton Congregational Church and has marched in many Memorial Day parades.
He left the navy in 1947 as a lieutenant, and looks back on his service with pride and affection.
“I thought the Navy was great,” he said. When asked how it compared to the Army or Army Air Corps, he said, “The Navy is special.”ian