Kenneth Gausman, of Cokato, served in the U.S. Navy during WWII and is one of about 558,000 soldiers from that war still with us today (about 4 percent of those who fought).
Kenneth Gausman of Cokato served in the U.S. Navy during WWII, serving as an aircraft mechanic. Photo by Tom Hauer
He entered the Navy when he was 18 years old in 1943 and served three years as an aircraft mechanic until 1946. But he was not the only one in his family to serve. His two younger brothers, Bill and Robert, also served in the Navy. Plus his stepbrother, Glen, served in the Marine Corps.
Ken grew up and lived in Cokato with his mom, dad and his siblings. He graduated from Cokato High School and enlisted soon after graduation. His parents OK’d his decision even though it was the height of WWII.
“I chose the Navy because it was cleaner, and I was interested in ships,” he said. After his three years in the Navy, Ken married his wife Martha, and they have three children. He worked as a special deputy sheriff for Hennepin County for seven or eight years.
“I had a good life. It doesn’t owe me a thing,” Ken said.
Navy picture of Kenneth Gausman taken during WWII. Contributed Photo
Ken took basic training at Farragut Naval Station in Idaho, then was sent to Oklahoma at an aircraft school, and his final camp was in Florida. He was trained to fix airplane propellers. He fixed aircraft in Florida for most of his service time.
It was in 1939 Hitler started World War II by invading Poland, and it lasted until 1945 when the United States dropped a nuclear bomb on Japan. The nuclear bomb brought back some memories for Ken. He was in Chicago for more aircraft training.
“When we sat on a bench outside this building at the University of Chicago, there were soldiers marching by us with machine guns. I found out later they were providing security for the scientists inside the building who were learning how to split the atom. They were building the atomic bomb that was dropped on Japan. They took that information to Los Alamos to build the atomic bomb that was dropped on Japan.” You might say this was the highlight of his Navy career. “I saw history and didn’t realize it.”
Ken finished his naval duty as a 2nd class petty officer. “I thought of making a career out of it but then I got kind of lonesome for home. I was very proud to serve.”
Ken is standing, third person from the left. Photo was taken in 1944 in Chicago. Contributed photo