Three-war veteran and Warren resident Gordon Driscoll has been all over the world, seen extreme poverty, witnessed the deaths of friends, and to this day, he still thinks the best of humanity.
Driscoll was born in the former home of American West artist Charles Russell in Great Falls, MT. He was raised six miles west of Goble with his parents and two sisters, squeezed together in a three-room shack, as he described the home.
Driscoll grew up in the midst of the Great Depression — an era of food and financial insecurity. He said that despite their troubles, the people around him lead happy lives.
“We didn’t know any different,” he said. “That’s the way life was.”
At times, Driscoll said, schoolkids had such little funds that they took to selling strawberries and blackberries to buy school supplies. “I threw a few at the girls,” he added with a laugh.
In his generation, people were generally more appreciative of what they had, according to Driscoll.
“If something falls on your lap, you’ll never appreciate that, but if you have to get out there and work, you’ll appreciate it. You take care of it. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s the way we’re taught,” he said.
After his elementary years, Driscoll attended Beaver Homes Grange School and later, Rainier High School. He was 14 when World War II (WWII) broke out, and at 16 he began working for Swan Island Shipyard, an area where T2 tankers were developed for the war effort.
“We looked like Kentucky racehorses,” he said, recalling the boom in productivity at the onset of WWII.
Driscoll volunteered for his first B-29 mission before joining the U.S. Merchant Marines which, according to him, had the most casualties than any other military branch during the war. He was what he calls a “scrub boy” for a time and played the role of peacekeeper among his fellow troops.
“I saved three people’s lives,” he said. “The first one was going to jump out the porthole. He drank too much.”
According to Driscoll, the soldier was out the porthole at nighttime and went right into the ocean.
“All I could see was two legs and his butt sticking out,” Driscoll said. “I grabbed him, and I pulled on the leg. There was another fella in there, Lug Lug. And I said ‘Lug Lug! Grab him! You got to help me.’ We put him to bed. The next day I told him, and he said, ‘Gordon, I don’t remember a thing.’”
Following his stint with the U.S. Merchant Marines, he joined the U.S. Army and completed his basic training at Camp Roberts before serving in the Korean War. His deployment lasted two years.
“It was close combat back then,” he said, describing the war environment. “You learned to either kill or get killed.”
Driscoll served in the military for 25 years total, and for seven-and-a-half of them, he was deployed at sea on 23 different ships, making stops in Japan, Los Angeles, Tahiti and New Zealand, among many others. Despite his long history of service, Driscoll said he has never killed anybody.
Driscoll considers himself fortunate to have traveled the world, and also to have experienced such a wide array of cultures.
The Chief asked Driscoll why he enlisted in the military service.
“I certainly don’t go blabbing about service and all that,” he said. “I just knew it was my job.”
Takeaways from the war
The dangers of war didn’t do much to deter Driscoll from enlisting, he said, citing an example.
“When you drive down the road, you’re only three or four feet from eternity. I just felt like it was my job,” he said.
Despite having witnessed the atrocities of war, including the death of one of his dear friends, Driscoll said he maintains his optimistic perspective on humanity.
“There’s so many people in this world that are good people,” he said. “Most Americans are good people.”
Driscoll said he gained a multicultural perspective from his war travels and that perspective changed his outlook on life.
“(War) had changed me, I don’t think a whole lot but my world traveling – all the people I’ve met, the hunger, the difference in environment where we grew up, (made) me believe that going through tough times makes a better personality.”
Driscoll also said he worries about our future, given the current state of our country.
“During the war, we all held hands. We had victory gardens. It was safe,” he said. “(Now) it is so divided.”
On Nov. 14, 2009, Congress recognized Driscoll with a certificate of honor to commemorate his years of service.
“I’m no hero,” he said. “I’m just a little thread in the rope.”