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Wartime sailing memories still strong

W hen 83-year-old Bonney Lake resident Bill Bingham sits down with his fellow Weyerhaeuser retiree’s at the Enumclaw McDonald’s every Thursday morning, there is never any lack of topics for conversation.

In addition to having worked for the Weyerhaeuser Mill at the peak of its bustling success, Bingham has led an extremely active life, beginning with his joining the Navy at age 18 and serving most of his tour on the U.S.S. Barnstable, or as Bingham affectionately calls it, The Ghost Ship.

Bingham was in the Navy during one of that branch of the military’s most active times, after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

On July 30, 1944, the Barnstable, upon which Bingham worked in the engine room as one of several maintenance men, returned to San Francisco having played an integral role in four major amphibious operations and two reinforcement runs. Officers and men aboard the Barnstable earned the privilege of wearing the American Theater Ribbon, the Asiatic-Pacific Ribbon with four stars and the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with two stars.

Bingham said he felt blessed by the fact the Barnstable saw so much action and yet remained unscathed.

“No casualties had been suffered either to the ship or any of its crew,” Bingham said. “Consequently, the men on board began thinking of her as a lucky ship.”

After World War II, Bingham toiled in the Enumclaw Weyerhaeuser Mill and after working as a maintenance man/mechanic for 30 years was fortunate enough to retire a quarter century prior to the mill closing its doors in 2002.

Asked what he thought of the war that the United States has involved itself in the Middle East, Bingham said these are different times in the military.

“In my day you knew who the enemy was and you usually knew what direction they were going to come from,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to be over there now, because those poor U.S. soldiers are having to deal with people that appear to be civilians coming up alongside them and tossing scrap metal bombs at them.

“No thank you,” said Bingham, shaking his head slowly, “No thank you.”

Reach John Leggett at jleggett@courierherald.com or 360-802-8207.

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