James Joseph Mruzik
James Joseph Mruzik graduating Beaumont High
School in St. Louis, Missouri in 1941
Born: September 11, 1923 in St. Louis, Missouri
Passed: February 8, 1968 in St. Louis, Missouri
James lived with his family on Easton Avenue in St. Louis, Missouri and graduated from Beaumont High School in 1941. He enlisted in the US Navy on August 10, 1942 with service number 6691470 and served on the Submarine Chaser Patrol Craft PC-464 which departed Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on February 27, 1943 to Coco Solo, Panama Canal Zone. The ship won a battle star at Leyte Gulf in the Philippines. In March of 1943 he transferred to the Minesweeper the USS Shellbark (AN-67) supporting the invasion of Okinawa; and later operated around the Japanese Home Island of Honshu. After the war, James worked as a photo-engraver in the St. Louis area and later became a real estate developer. He smoked and eventually died of lung cancer at an early age.
These are some of the stories James Joseph Mruzik told to his immediate family and to nieces and nephews.
1. The Navy needed volunteers to be hard-had divers and he thought it would be fun to try. He said several before him failed the test on first being lowered into the sea. But he found the experience not to be frightening but rather interesting. He was unusually calm and curious about all the novel sights. He spent the entire time gazing around at everything and earned the job and additional training.
2. He said he frequently swam in the same waters as sharks and manta rays and other sea life.
3. Some of his jobs involved covertly swimming to various islands for reconnaissance and also involved disarming anti-ship and anti-personnel mines.
4. On his first crossing of the equator with the US Navy, he was initiated as a “Shellback” or a “Son of Neptune” and his family still proudly displays his certificate.
5. While in the Navy in WWII, he got a small patriotic tattoo on his chest. The design was a small globe or US Navy seal or small turtle. Apparently his wife, Muriel, was unhappy with the tattoo and they had some discussions about removing it.
6. One memorable experience happened while he was diving in a hard hat to an airplane they were trying to recover. He said he suddenly felt something hit him on the head from above. He looked up and it was another diver descending unannounced and unexpectedly on top of him. He was extremely angry and said the incompetent crew topside could have easily gotten the lines fouled and killed them both.
7. After the war he was tasked to help clear wreckage from the Sea of Japan. He said the water was extremely dirty and clogged with all sorts of unmentionable and miscellaneous debris.
8. He kept a photo of his minesweeping ship of which he was proud. It was a relatively small vessel and was notably painted with irregular diagonal camouflage stripes, perhaps 2-3 in total.
9. He would take delight in regaling impressionable children from his immediate and extended family with the lore of hard-hat diving in the US Navy. One lesson was on the signaling divers used by means of the number of tugs on the air line.
One tug meant to give more line or air.
Two tugs meant to take in line.
Three tugs meant to pull the diver up and end the dive.
Four tugs was for dire emergencies or "Pull up what was left".
10. His daughter Patricia remembers him telling of diving with friends off the big ships for coins at the bottom of the harbor.
11. His nephew George Mruzik, remembers meeting a wartime shipmate, John Crowder, who said he served with James Joseph Mruzik as they both listened to news reports of the atomic bomb being dropped on Hiroshima which helped to end the war and the horrible carnage.
12. When his family was living in Florissant, MO, he helped rescue a young boy who had fallen into a construction pit. He quickly reached over the side of the pit and lassoed the boy with his belt. His neighbor who had been a Drill Instructor in the Marine Corps held him as he reached over the edge. They both commented that the Marines and Navy were once again working together to do the tough jobs as they had done in WWII.
13. He taught his son Jeffery to swim at age 3 or 4. On family vacations he would be allowed to jump from the diving boards at the deep end of the swimming pool scaring his mother. His only source of flotation was a cheap little inflatable ring.
14. When his son Jeffery got a good report card in second grade, his father took him to the Sands drug store and bought a model of a 1932 Chrysler Air Flow, and they spent hours together assembling the car. His father died a few months after that.
15. His father liked to watch the early TV Series “Sea Hunt” every week and Jeffery would dive off the couch onto the hard floor pretending to be on the “Nautilus” submarine.
16. James Joseph Mruzik was the youngest child in his immediate family and well known being an exceptionally kind and gentle soul. He was available as a Catholic Confirmation Sponsor even though he lived far away. His son Jeffery only saw his father lose his temper once. It was when Jeffery ran across the street in traffic to get to him.
Wife Muriel Emily Mruzik nee Hoffman who danced professionally at the St. Louis “Met”.
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Patrol Craft PC-464 in the South Pacific in WWII. Commissioned on May 15, 1942 and armed
with one 3"/50 dual purpose gun mount, one single 40mm gun mount; three 20mm guns, two
rocket launchers, four depth charge projectors, and two depth charge tracks.
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USS Shellbark whose armament included one single 3"/50 caliber dual purpose gun and
four twin 20mm anti-aircraft guns.
Shellbark (YN-91/AN-67) returned to Norfolk, Virginia, on 21 November
1944 and operated from
there until departing on 20 February 1945 for San Francisco, California, via the Panama Canal Zone and
San Diego, California. She stood out of San Francisco on 27 April 1945 en route to Perl Harbor, arriving
there on 7 May 1945. She departed there to sea 20 days later arriving Eniwetok, Guam, Saipan and
Okinawa supporting invasion forces.
Shellbark operated in the Okinawa area
from 13 July to 20 September 1945. On 22 September, she moved
into Japanese home waters around Honshu, operating from Kobe and Wakayama, until 1 February 1946.
On that date, she sailed for Shanghai. She arrived on 17 March and began preparations for decommissioning.