Randall D. Sledge
Yeoman 1st Class
U. S. Navy
WWII US Military
Dates of Service: 07/05/1943 - 04/18/1946
Yeoman, USS Idaho
Audio Samples

The youngest of five children of William Dalton and Ada Dixon Sledge, Randall was born on a farm in the Martin community of Red River Parish. He picked cotton as a child, walked to school, and studied by a kerosene lamp. The family farmed with mules and horses, washed clothes in big iron pots outside over fire, canned vegetables, slaughtered hogs, preserved meat, and ground corn into meal at a grist mill. Randall graduated from Martin High School in May of 1941. After taking a course at Norton Business College, he worked in a law office of Leroy Smallenberger, then enrolled in night classes of law school at St. Mary's College. Randall was drafted in June of 1943 into the U.S. Navy. After boot camp in San Diego he was assigned to the USS Idaho (BB-42). He worked in moving bags of powder, which weighed about 60 pounds each, from the magazine to the elevator and up to the guns. While in San Francisco he often saw his sister, Wilma, who had also gone into service. "She was an officer and I was a lowly seaman, but she never pulled rank on me," he says fondly. The Idaho sailed to Pearl Harbor, then joined the task force to bombard Makin Atoll before troops landed. Randall was placed in charge of the gunnery office, and was stationed in the fire control tower where he kept a log of the firing. The ship returned to Pearl Harbor, provisioned, and then joined the campaign for the Marshall Islands, during which Randall worked in the ship's communications office. There, the battleship was ordered close to the beach where it fired 2,000-pound, armor piercing shells to knock out concrete pillboxes. While the ship was re-fitted and re-supplied Pearl Harbor, Randall enjoyed the beauty of the island and the hospitality of the people. "I have seen so many signs in California around restaurants or at other public places that said, "Dogs and sailors not allowed.' I never saw that in Hawaii," he recalls. From Pearl Harbor the Idaho bombarded Kavieng (New Ireland) as a diversionary attack for an invasion elsewhere. The Idaho docked at Sydney, Australia, for about two weeks before participating in the campaign for the Marianas. At Iwo Jima the ship was tasked to destroy big guns and machine gun nests. In the action off Okinawa, kamikazes attacked the vessel one afternoon. Gunners shot down five planes, and helped splash two more, one only 50 yards from the ship. The Idaho was in Leyte Gulf of the Philippines preparing for the invasion of Japan when word came of the surrender. "Every ship began to fire flares and pyrotechnics," Randall recalls. "The captain came to the PA and ordered the ship's band up to the quarter-deck to play. There was celebration and rejoicing." The ship sailed into Tokyo Bay for the signing of the surrender, then returned to the States where it was placed in mothballs in Norfolk. Randall was discharged in Virginia on April 14, 1946. That fall, feeling a call to the ministry, he entered Bob Jones College in Cleveland, Tennessee. He graduated from Louisiana College in Pineville. On August 12, 1949 he married Dorothy Suell. They would have three children, nine grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. Randall earned a doctorate at New Orleans Seminary. In 1954 he and Dorothy served as missionaries in Costa Rica for four years. When they returned, he pastured churches for 20 years in Louisiana, then taught in a seminary. After retiring he did mission work in Bosnia.