Joe J. Langdon
Storekeeper 2nd Class
U. S. Navy
WWII US Military
Dates of Service: 12/08/1941 - 10/18/1945

John, who goes by Joe, was born in Paragould, Arkansas, as one of there sons to Daisy Morgan Langdon and Euell Langdon. His father later changed his name to Jimmy Langdon. "He was not famous for telling the truth," John says of his father, but adds that he was "the greatest salesman that ever lived." His father sold "anything from vacuum cleaners to sewing machines." He was also a photographer. Joe's mother took an active role in his education. By age six Joe was promoted to the third grade. He grew up wanting to be a teacher and a coach. "Thanks to the Navy experience, I was able to do that," he says. Soon after John was born. His father was running a photography studio in Haynesville, Louisiana. They moved to Gurdon, Arkansas, where his father opened a furniture store and where John grew up. As a schoolboy he worked to support the family by selling magazines and distributing the Texarkana Gazette and the Arkansas Gazette. His mother, "a fantastic cook," he recalls, made items such as potato salad that was sold in local stores. The family moved elsewhere in Arkansas, including Arkadelphia, New Edinburg, and Warren, where Joe graduated from high school in 1941 at age 16. Moving to Osawatamie, Kansas, Joe began work as an offset press operator at the local newspaper. On December 8, 1941, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy at Fort Scott, Kansas, and was sent to boot camp in San Diego, where "they hurried us through," he says. He learned little more than how to tie a square knot and how to load a Springfield rifle, he recalls. In January of 1942, Joe sailed on the USS President Hayes (APA-20), to Pearl Harbor, where he witnessed the destruction from the Japanese raid a month earlier. Because of a lack of ships and a surplus of sailors, he was sent not to sea but to Kaneohe Bay Naval Air Station, where he worked as storekeeper in the supply department for long hours. "I just remember being on duty most of the time, daylight until dark," he recalls. Joe states that he got along well with Japanese citizens around Honolulu, where he and a friend were often invited to local luaus. In 1943 he was transferred to Midway Island, where living conditions were "just barracks and sand." The men wore little more than bathing suits and ball caps until a new commander arrived and made them dress in traditional dungarees. On Christmas Day, he recalls fondly, Jewish sailors took over all duties, including cooking and serving food, so the Christians could celebrate the holiday. Joe was sent back to Pearl Harbor, then was assigned to a nearby base, Aiea. He was one of the few to see President Franklin Roosevelt, General Douglas McArthur, and Admiral Chester Nimitz aboard the USS Baltimore (CA-68) when they met in secret to determine Pacific war strategy. Joe returned to the States in January of 1945. He worked at a storage base in San Diego through V-E and V-J Days. He married Lucille McCurley on June 20, 1945. They would have three children, three grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. After his discharge in October of 1945 Joe used the GI Bill to earn his bachelor's degree in two-and-a-half years from Henderson State Teachers College in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. Not only did he finish his degree in two-and-a-half years, he also worked two jobs, at a lumberyard and at a theater, while attending classes. Joe taught in Garland City, Arkansas, then came to Shreveport in 1955, where he spent much of his career at Northwood High School, where he retired as principal in 1980. In retirement, Joe opened a bus company for pleasure excursions.