Chester S. MacMillan
1st Class Water Tender
U. S. Navy
WWII US Military
Dates of Service: 1942 - 1945
1st Class Water Tender, USS Wainwright

Chester was born "out on the prairie in Kansas on a wheat farm," he says, to David MacMillan, an immigrant from Scotland, and Agnes Lyons Watts MacMillan. He was one of three children, although one sister died in infancy. The family lived on the farm of Chester's great-uncle until moving to Del Ray, Michigan, near Detroit, where his father delivered milk by horse and wagon, then worked at Ford Motor Company as a steam fitter. The family moved into Detroit where his father managed an apartment complex while still working for Ford. He lost his job in 1929, but was hired at the Plymouth plant. Periodically, throughout the Depression, his father was laid off and re-hired. Chester helped supplement a dwindled family income. "I had to work," he says of his boyhood. "I worked, worked, worked." By "nine or ten" he was working at a Kroger grocery store and setting pins at a bowling alley, giving all his earnings to his mother for family expenses. Chester attended Roosevelt School in Ferndale, and then Ford Trade School at a factory in River Rouge, where he attended class one week, and worked in the factory two weeks. He dropped out of Lincoln High School in the tenth grade to work in apple and peach orchards of a Packard Motor Company executive. He also served as a nurse and assistant to the executive's son, who was paralyzed from the waist down. Chester was employed as a plumber's helper in Birmingham, Michigan, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He wanted to serve in the Burma-China-India Theater, but "wound up in the Navy," he says. After boot camp at Great Lakes Naval Training Center in 1942, he was assigned to the USS Wainwright (DD-419) as a fireman. His battle station was in the Lower Handling Room, where he helped load projectiles and canisters of powder into an elevator for the five-inch guns. The ship sailed in the first convoy into Casablanca after the invasion of North Africa, then returned to America to escort other ships. He recalls several confrontations with German submarines, and even captured a German submarine crew, turning them over to authorities in Algiers. As part of its operations in the North Africa campaign, the Wainwright supplied ground forces with ammunition, and often fought off German air raids. He recalls watching German aircraft fire on hospital ships, although none were sunk. In the invasion of Sicily the Wainwright helped bombard enemy positions. Once, in an early airborne operation, his ship accidentally fired on aircraft carrying paratroopers. "They came in on the wrong radial," he says of the airplanes. "The pilots gave them guys the light to jump so they could get out of there, and they jumped in the water." In other actions the Wainwright escorted PT boats into the Straits of Messina to torpedo German E-boats transporting troops from Sicily to the Italian mainland. The ship served in the landing at Salerno in the invasion of Italy in September of 1943. In January of 1944 the crew nearly fought as ground soldiers in the Anzio invasion that nearly failed. "They gave us all trench knives and everything for us to go in and help the army. That's how tight it was," he recalls. The Wainwright also saw action in the Pacific, first at Ulithi Atoll, then in the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, where the ship fought off swarms of kamikazes. "Those five-inchers were going like crazy," he recalls of the gunners trying to shoot down the suicide planes. After Okinawa the Wainwright was sent to Adak, Alaska, in the Aleutian Islands chain. "They were massing for the attack on Japan at Adak," he says. When word came of Japan's surrender, he says, "they put us ashore on a little strip of sand and gave us three cans of beer," to celebrate. Chester was discharged in Chicago. Married before the war, he was divorced shortly afterward. He returned to the plumbing business in Pontiac, Michigan, where he met the bookkeeper, Ernaden Williams. They married in 1946, and had one son, Rodney David. Later, while living in Bend, Oregon, and serving as mayor, he became involved with the Bill Glass Prison Ministry. He worked in prisons around the country, and came to Shreveport around 1990. He returned to Medford, Oregon, in retirement.