They came from all parts of America: New York, Washington, Texas, and Oregon; boys who shared a hardscrabble Great Depression childhood of hard work and hunger who saw enlistment in the Navy as an opportunity for three “squares” a day and a steady paycheck. The four young men, Gordy Cox, Tim McCoy, Bob Palmer, and Chuck Vervalin, were all crew members of the USS Grenadier when a Japanese torpedo damaged the submarine beyond repair, and all the crew were captured by the Japanese.
Torture, starvation, brutality, disease, hopelessness – this would be the new world these young men would encounter. Faced with the Japanese belief that surrender was cowardly, the crew of the Grenadier were routinely beaten and starved as they went from Penang, to Singapore, and finally Japan where most of the crew was forced to work in a Japanese steel mill for the remainder of the war. Only thoughts of home sustained them: girlfriends in Australia who promised to wait, wives and families who would be overjoyed to see them, all the food they could eat, and freedom from filth, disease, and torment.
Larry Colton, the author of No Ordinary Joes, shares the story of these four ordinary young men faced with an extraordinary situation. From their youth in the Great Depression, to their experiences as POWs, and finally to their lives following the war, Colton gives the reader an unvarnished glimpse of four men of the Greatest Generation. Far from being saints – all had problems with alcohol and most were lousy husbands and fathers – their story is nevertheless incredibly moving in the sacrifices they made for their country.