Gerald “Jerry” Picker, born Feb. 8, 1924, is a World War II veteran who served aboard the USS Essex aircraft carrier from 1942 to 1945 as an electrician mate. Jerry was a baseball pitcher for Delphos St. John’s High School, pitching a no-hitter season and was recruited by the St. Louis Cardinals. Dad believed in service to his country so he signed up to serve with the U.S. Navy. First he married his love, Junella, who waited for his return in California.
The USS Essex went though several battles. The worst was on Nov. 25, 1944, when the carrier was hit by kamikaze pilots on the port edge of the flight deck landing among planes gassed for takeoff, causing extensive damage, killing 15 and wounding 44. Many of the seamen aboard this ship took to the flight deck to push the bombs off the ship that did not explode. Plus, this hit took out the carrier’s navigational system. Being the largest and main aircraft carrier in the Pacific at that time, they were forced to stay out and remain in battle.
Jerry being the electrician mate, it was his duty to re-establish the carrier’s navigational systems (anemometer, gyroscrope, etc.) and all electronic components that were damaged or destroyed. This required work beneath the flight desk running new cables to the Combat Information Center and to the towers. This took over two days during continuous battle while being shot at by kamikaze pilots.
Even through their hardships, the antics on the ship by the seamen and officers were crucial to keep morale up. When the ship crossed the equator, each seaman received a subpoena from the Royal High Court of the Realm of Neptune in and for the District of Equatorius. This stated comical charges for each seaman as a landlubber, beachcomber, guardo-rat, lounge-lizard, parlor-dunigan, hay tosser, chicken-chasers, park bench warmer, feather-merchant, scollay cowboys, bridge shark and other foul creatures of the land masquerading as seamen. Jerry’s charges were trying to belittle the initiation by childish tricks and growing massive mounds of hair fit for screen idols only. Initiation was to walk the line of seaman for a whack with paddles.
Jerry has always flown our country’s flag and even today, he continues to display the U.S. flag on the walls of his room at The Springs of Lima.
God bless all our servicemen and keep our country free.