Profiles of Courage Sponsored by Rahal-Miller
The generation of Americans which is now reaching 80 years of age and beyond has been appreciatively and appropriately deemed to be “Americas Greatest Generation”. They were children during the era when the nation's population was struggling through the Great Depression, then just as they graduated from high school and became young adults they were pulled away from homes and suddenly thrust into a worldwide conflict thousands of miles from their comfortable homes and families. Finally they conquered the evil forces that threatened our world and the war ended,enabling them to come back home to lead the nation through a post war era of remarkable economic prosperity. Hubert Mitchell was part of that elite group.
Baby Hubert Ellis Mitchell was born in 1926 during the heart of the national depression, on the family farm owned by William and Lee Mitchell. Their land was located six miles South of Graceville. Little Hubert attended Union School through the 8th grade, and Graceville High during the 9th grade. Then in 1940 Hubert's father passed away, and his Mother moved to Mariana to be near other relatives. From that point Hubert attended Marianna High, graduating in the class of 1944. One month later, at the age of 17, Hubert was in the U.S. Navy.
His first assignment was basic training, which took place at the Bainbridge Naval Base near Baltimore, Maryland. After basic training he was given advanced training to become an electrical technician. All of this took place as the bloody war ensued in Europe and in the Pacific. Throughout this initial training Hubert knew he would soon be immersed in this violent struggle.
After completing school Hubert was whisked away to San Francisco, loaded onto the USS Kansas City, a light cruiser, and transported along with 1500 other new Navy men to the Philippines. Then he was assigned to the USS Nashville, another light cruiser, which was General MacArthur's flagship. The ship had just undergone extensive refurbishing and repair after being hit by two Japanese kamikaze suicide aircraft which killed 132 crew members. Hubert was a replacement for one of those lost sailors.
One of Hubert's most vivid memories of his time on the USS Nashville occurred one day when he and a small group of other 18 year old sailors were in the front of the ship when they saw three PT Boats heading at their ship. Anxious to see what was going on, they began rushing to the fantail of their ship where the visitors would come alongside. Hubert was running across the deck, and as he rounded a piece of equipment he suddenly collided with a senior officer, knocking the man to one knee and sending his hat flying across the deck. Hubert almost fainted when he saw that the senior officer he had hit was none other than General Douglas MacArthur!
Knowing that severe punishment and perhaps a slow death would be his punishment, (MacArthur was infamous for his large ego, strict discipline, and lack of a sense of humor), Hubert thus decided to continue running and flee the scene. So if you see Hubert on the streets of Mariana you might want to call him “Hit and Run Mitchell”! That day, Hubert disappeared through the first door and escaped to the bowels of the ship.
The USS Nashville participated in the Battle of the East Indies Islands. The ship, along with many others, circled the island the night before the invasion, pounding the shore with shells fired from their five turrets of 6” cannon. Then, during the invasion they targeted the Japanese defenses to support the troops struggling ashore. Hubert recounts watching the invasion through binoculars, seeing our brave Marines mowed down like flies. A beachhead was not established until the fifth wave had struggled ashore.
Then the USS Nashville returned to port in the Philippines for repair and resupply. Then they were preparing to move to sea for a large naval battle with the last remaining naval force in the once powerful Japanese fleet. Suddenly the war ended, as two atomic bombs destroyed two large Japanese cities, causing Japan's Emperor to announce surrender.
Soon the battleship USS Missouri came alongside and General MacArthur left the USS Kansas City to board the Missouri for steaming into Tokyo Harbor and the historic official ceremony for the surrender of Japan.
Hubert remained on the USS Nashville, (He says MacArthur neglected to invite him to the ceremony.) and they returned to the United States, brought the Nashville back to the Philadelphia Naval Yard for decommissioning. The ship was later sold to Argentina.
Hubert separated from the Navy in June of 1946, and returned to Jackson County.
He immediately went to work as the manager of the old Gem Theater which was located across from the current location of Nifty Cleaners on Market Street.. He also served as Assistant Manager of the nearby Ritz Theater, working two jobs. It was at this time Hubert attended the newly opened Chipola College, being in the first class in 1947. In 1948 Hubert married a Mariana girl named Gwendolyn Hires and they had two daughters, Donna and Teresa. Sadly, n 1983 Gwendolyn died. In 1985 Hubert was remarried to Joan Rice who had three children.
Next, Hubert went to work for he U.S. Post Office, working there from 1948 through 1957. Finally he went to work for Retail Credit Company (Which became Equafax.), as an insurance claims investigator. He retired from that role in 1997.
Today Hubert is enjoying a life filled with his morning coffee club, looking after rental property, and giving expensive golf lessons to his competitors at the Caverns Golf Course. He deserves these more leisurely years after a lifetime filled with service to his country in a time of need, and a lifetime filled with hard work and devotion to friends and family.