BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Victor Killingsworth was a kid from Taft, CA, attending UC-Berkeley, when the U.S. entered World War II. He enlisted in the Navy, but was told to return and finish his last semester of college.
Victor then entered the service as an officer and was sent to Midshipmen School at Columbia University on the one year anniversary of Pearl Harbor. He completed his training and got his orders. "It was top secret," said Killingsworth, "we weren't allowed to open our envelopes until we left the campus."
Killingsworth was assigned to the U.S.S. Sumter, an amphibious attack transport ship, carrying members of the 4th Marine Division. He chronicled his time in the service in a book entitled, "The Gator Navy".
His first assignment was in the Marshall Islands, when he volunteered to transport a group of Marines, nicknamed 'Carlson's Raiders' onto the Kwalajein Atoll halfway between Hawaii and the Philippines. "It was pouring rain and the waves were three to four feet high," said Victor, "I was towing the Marines in rubber rafts toward the beach, like ducklings behind my Higgins boat."
Once he cut them loose, he was alone in his boat, and the weather was so bad, he couldn't last outside the channel. So, Victor chose to go back inside the atoll, driving his boat back and forth in the darkness close to enemy forces. The Japanese never fired at him. Victor believes the enemy thought he was one of their boats.
The Raiders returned at dawn, successfully taking the island with 31 enemy soldiers killed.
His service then took him to Saipan, as Killingsworth led the first wave of Marines onto Red Beach. It was a rough battle for the amphibious boats, called tractors, that had to climb over the coral reefs. He led several supply runs to the beach under enemy fire. "They were shooting artillery and mortars at us," said Victor, "I told the guys just throw the supplies up on the dock and the Marines will run over and get it.
During his time on Saipan, Victor stumbled upon an area on the north side of the island called 'Banzai Cliff', where hundreds of Japanese soldiers and civilians were committing suicide to avoid being captured by the Americans. "They were screaming, jumping off the cliff," said Killingsworth, " we yelled at them to jump on the truck and hang on."
From Saipan, Killingsworth transported Marines across three miles of open ocean, landing 8,000 men on one of only two beaches that were accessible in 24 hours. Killingsworth spent time on a floating dry dock before transferring to the U.S.S. Artemis as a communications officer. He took part in the landings on Iwo Jima before they were sent to the Ulithi Atoll as part of the invasion force for Okinawa.
When Victor was discharged, he returned to Taft where he ran a sporting goods store for nearly four decades. He also took part in numerous community projects including the Oil Worker Monument to mark the city's Centennial celebration.