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Local WWII veteran remembers his ship, time served

Bob Brooks, with a photo of himself from World War II and the plank he was awarded when the USS Topeka was scrapped in 1975.

Bob Brooks, with a photo of himself from World War II and the plank he was awarded when the USS Topeka was scrapped in 1975. Photo by Shawn Ryan.

— On July 18, with three other light cruisers and a small contingent of destroyers, the Topeka pealed off and headed for the entrance to Tokyo Bay. When they were between 15 and 25 miles from Tokyo itself, the order was given to bombard shore batteries. Immediately the Topeka and the rest of the ships launched a broadside attack.

“We watched the projectiles go, and then they came down. Well when that salvo hit land, I’m going to tell you, you talk about the Fourth of July fireworks here 100 times,” said Brooks about the historic raid. “We whacked them good, and so we left.”

They stayed in the Pacific and took part in other missions before the war ended, but none as memorable as that day in July when he was one of the first Americans to bombard Japan.

“I was honored to be part of a ship, a man-o-war, that would stand up to anything they ever had. They say we did 31 knots...when we went into that bay, we were doing 40. The little destroyers had trouble keeping up with us,” he said, his smile widening at the memory.

He left the Topeka in Tsing Tao, China in 1946 to return home and get on with his life. The Topeka went on with her life too, earning three battle stars for her service in Vietnam to go along with the two she earned in World War II.

He never totally put the Topeka, and especially her crew, behind him though, attending ship’s reunions around the country over the decades. Brooks finally received his plank when the Topeka was scrapped in 1975.

He was later honored to be part of the dedication of the new USS Topeka, an atomic powered submarine commissioned in 1989. He is a plank owner for that Topeka as well.

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