Military Matters: WWII Vet Robert Hammond

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MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) -- Every veteran has a story and Meridian is home to a retired Marine Corps Colonel with more than a few incredible tales to tell. We first introduced you to Robert Hammond earlier this month as he celebrated his one hundredth birthday. Now he's featured on Military Matters.

(Photo Source: WTOK-TV)

Looking around retired Colonel Robert Hammond's apartment in Meridian, it's immediately clear, he's a military man who loves his country. The 100-year-old veteran was born in 1919 and raised in Utica, Mississippi.

"Went to Mississippi State, took four years ROTC, took the last two years and I was commissioned as Second Lieutenant," said Hammond.

He still has the original commission, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, to prove it.

He was already in training at the outbreak of World War Two. On completion, he was assigned to a Navy ship

"Somebody had to be on there to hold the sailors in line, so we had a Marine detachment. On my ship, it was about 35 Marines," said Hammond.

He took part in five major combat operations in the Pacific, including the Battle of Savo Island.

"We were sitting patrolling around the Guadalcanal area," said Hammond.

Hammond still clearly remembers how the U.S. forces were caught off-guard.

"Ships from the Japanese came through, knowing where we were, we didn't know where they were," said Hammond. "They knew we were landing, and they came through in a big sweep, shooting as they went and they sank four of our ships. We hardly damaged them at all. Just about done away with the Navy in that area really, when they got four ships down - bang!"

Despite being injured himself - Hammond set about helping others.

"I had been helping wounded why passing up to a destroyer that came alongside, up on the bow," said Hammond.

After the battle, the Marine Corps was in need of more aviators, and after recovering from his injuries, Hammond put himself forward.

"I went to Pensacola and started flight training," said Hammond.

He flew the Corsair fighter plane - and in the course of the war, downed three Japanese aircraft, and he still has a record of every flight he flew.

His daughter, Jane Massey, says even long after retirement, his long career of service is still incredibly important to him.

"All he wants to do is tell you about his life as a Marine, his life in the military, his devotion to the United States of America," said Massey. "He's so patriotic and such a true hero and so, I'm very, very proud of him."

Even though he recently celebrated a whole century of life, Bob Hammond enjoys being active, spending time with family and fishing.

And what does he make of the rivalry between the Marine Corps and the other military branches?

"We think we're the best, said Hammond. "We might not be but as long as you think it, you got it!"

Colonel Hammond went on to serve in Korea and the early phase of the Vietnam War. He commanded eight squadrons during his career and served at 21 duty stations before he retired in 1964.

He entered the business world as a car dealer in Crystal Springs, Mississippi.