Son enters winning name in honor of his veteran father

NEWPORT BEACH — World War II veteran Bert Melvin served in 10 major battles during his three years in the Pacific.

He shot kamikaze pilots out of the sky, dug mass graves in Okinawa and patrolled Nagasaki only a month after the U.S. dropped its second atomic bomb on Japan. He also helped release 9,000 prisoners of war.

"He's my hero," said Bert's son, Gary Melvin.

That's why Gary, 52, submitted a name in honor of his 88-year-old father in Balboa Boat Rentals' contest to name two of its new 18-foot Duffy boats.

"Honorable Discharge" was chosen out of hundreds of entries submitted, said Balboa Boat Rentals co-owner Penny Rodheim. The other boat will be named "Good Ohmen."

The Melvin family won a free two-hour rental on the eight-person Duffy boat for naming it, Rodheim said.

The call for boat names was sent out via email to all of the company's past customers, Rodheim said.

She said the only rule was that it had to play off an electrical term, because the boats are electric.

Gary's submission was "the only one that had a military significance to it and that made it special," she said. "We want to honor the military."

Gary said he never thought he would win and didn't tell his father about it until he found out he had won.

Growing up, Gary always asked his father what it was like at war.

Bert, who lives in Seal Beach with his wife of 64 years, Mary, signed up for the Coast Guard with his twin brother Eddie in 1942. They were only 17.

Eddie got into the Coast Guard, but Bert didn't hear back from the Coast Guard until after he had already left for the Navy.

Bert served on the USS Wichita and USS Washington. His primary role was manning a 40mm anti-aircraft gun.

During his service, he said in Saipan and Guam he watched women jump off cliffs with their babies.

In Nagasaki, he had to wear film negatives on his body to see if the radiation was a problem. Bert said it never affected him.

He was hit in the head with a piece of shrapnel from a crashed Japanese Zero, but never received his Purple Heart.

After everything he went through, Bert said the moment that sticks out most in his mind were the at-sea burials of 14 young men from his ship.

As the men were put into the ocean, there were destroyers on the lookout for submarines around his ship, he recalled.

"You could hear the bodies hitting the water," he said. "You never forget that sound."

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