World War II veteran recalls experiences in the Pacific

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by KHOU.com staff

khou.com

Posted on November 11, 2013 at 7:55 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 11 at 8:00 PM

By some estimates, one thousand World War II veterans are dying every day.

World War II veteran Lester Collins, 91, remembers the smells of war 71 years later.

"The smell of gunpowder was very pungent," Collins said.

He was the gunnery officer on the Long Ship Tank in the Pacific. The crew nicknamed her the Long slow target -- target of shore guns, and Japanese fighter pilots, on suicide missions.

Collins, a Dallas native, joined the Navy at 19.He said he had many close calls.

"When the battles were over I recalled being so weak in the knees that I had to sit down,” Collins said.

Collins kept his ship log which tracks his Pacific Odyssey from the Philippines to China, Korea and Japan.

Collins and his crew were supposed to be part of the coming invasion of Japan, but the war ended after the atomic bomb was dropped.

Collins believes the bomb ultimately saved more lives -- both Americans and Japanese.

He lost friends, but came home to Texas without a scratch and became a minister.

Collins attributes his longevity to God, genes, and the gymnasium.

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