Clarksburg's Charles Ruble, 91, was invited to partake in the Honor Flight Sept. 25.
The Honor Flight is a program for Veterans to receive a plane ride to Washington D.C. and tour many of the United States’ national monuments.
The tour is available for Veterans of any war, so long as they are physically fit to make the trip and walk the D.C. area.
Ruble said he was Gunner's Mate, Second Class during WWII. He was responsible for maintaining 20 millimeter guns.
“You get out to sea - the salt water is hard on the guns,” Ruble said in a past interview with Daily News’ Dan Lee in 1994. “You got up in the morning and immediately you hung around your gun station and made sure everything was in place. Just about every other day we’d tear that thing down. It got to be monotonous.”
Ruble also witnessed the “The Fighting Sullivans’” ship, the Juneau, sink.
According to an interview with The Daily News’ Pat Smith in 1992, while the crew of the USS Helena didn’t know of the five fighting brothers, a week after The Battle of Cape Esperance (July 6, 1943), the government would no longer allow relatives to serve on the same ship.
The USS Helena had previously been manned by a father and son, two sets of twins, and two brothers, according to the interview.
Upon impact from a torpedo, Ruble was thrown 30 feet into the air. After he regained his senses, he abandoned ship in accordance to orders. “It was a short jump into the water to escape the sinking ship. The USS Helena had been blown into two parts. The bow and stern were sticking up in opposite directions.” Ruble wrote his own account in a 2009 editorial with the Daily News.
After abandoning ship, Ruble held onto a life raft for five hours.
Before the USS Helena was sunk, she fired off more than 2,000 rounds in nine minutes, succeeding in bringing down three Japanese cruisers. The USS Helena was later nick-named “The Fightinist Ship.”
The USS Helena is also unique having been commissioned twice (Ruble served on each ship), and was the first ship to be awarded the Navy Unit Citation.
The original USS Helena had also been damaged during Pearl Harbor, but repaired.
Ruble and his shipmates received the Navy Unit Commendation ribbon for their service on the USS Helena. Ruble was awarded Commendation Ribbons and Good Conduct Ribbons for both the American Theater and the Asiatic Pacific Area. Ruble has been involved in 13 combat situations.
After being discharged in 1945, Ruble said he fell into alcohol.
“There’s things I remember that I don’t want to remember,” Ruble lamented, “And the things I want to remember I’m forgetting.” He briefly recalled a visit with an aunt who told him he needed to pray. Ruble said he repented, and began earning an honest living through construction.
“I’ll testify that the Lord saved me in 1943,” Ruble said, “Everybody prayed when they needed help, but they were not living right.” Ruble feels today that his mother’s prayers and the Lord were part of what led to his survival during WWII.
One night, Ruble recalled, the Lord sent the rain to protect them.
He had received an order to stand by for an aerial attack over his headphones. Sure enough, enemy planes were shown on the radar. Before the enemy could began their attack the weather changed to rain. The rain “frizzed” the radar, said Ruble, making detection from the enemy impossible. The enemy stayed nearby for an hour before leaving. As soon as the enemy left, the rain left, according to Ruble.
“Faith is made stronger in times of transition,” Ruble said. Having grown up during the Depression era and fought in WII, Ruble has had many times of transition.
The Honor Flight, Ruble said, was interesting. There were around 25 WWII Veterans out of 150 Honor Flight participants. The remaining Veterans had primarily served during Vietnam and Korea.
Ruble had been particularly impressed by the size of the statues and Arlington Cemetery.
“I wouldn’t want to live there,” Ruble said about D.C., saying the hills were too much for his shattered hip.
He had to spend the day in a wheelchair to get around. The rest, such as some of the city's fountains, caused Ruble to wonder how much money had been put into construction and how much it cost to maintain everything.
Ruble married his wife, Carmen, in 1947, and still lives with her after 65 years.
He built his own house in 1957, and still resides in it in Clarksburg today.
Charles Ruble has five children.
Contact: Tess Rowing 812-663-3111 x7004