Jeff Littell was born February 8, 1922 in Hundred, West Virginia. He grew up on a farm in a large farm family – 12 children in total, where Jeff was the oldest. Times were difficult for them, as the Great Depression began to intensify. Jeff left school after Grade 8, and he worked to support the family, eventually taking on work with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and heading out west to Las Vegas. The work in the CCC was hard; Jeff and the other men created fire trails and prepared cattle grazing land, all in the intense desert heat. By then the war was underway, and many men were joining up. Jeff did war work for a time and then in the wake of Pearl Harbor he and two friends decided to join up themselves, opting for the navy. Training ensued at the Great Lakes Naval Station, followed by deployment to Norfolk, and not long after that Jeff was assigned to the USS Montpelier, a cruiser bound for the Pacific. They sailed to the Solomon Islands, where they supported the Marines’ Island Hopping campaign, and they interdicted Japanese supply lines through the region. As such Jeff was thrust into the front lines of naval combat right away, and he and his crewmates played a critical role on their 40 mm anti aircraft guns. As the campaign moved north, the Montpelier was at the center of many battles, from Guadalcanal to Rabaul to Saipan and Tinian. Jeff would experience the full intensity of the Pacific War along the way. By war’s end the Montpelier was patrolling the seas around Japan itself, and that’s where Jeff learned of the atomic bombs and the surrender. The ship went into port in southern Japan, and Jeff and other sailors were able to see the devastated city of Nagasaki. Not too long after they set sail across the Pacific, en route to San Diego and then New York; now discharged Jeff boarded a train and headed back to West Virginia, arriving the day before Christmas 1945. Like the other returning men, Jeff found work and a few years later he was married, finding his way in the rhythms of postwar American life. Jeff Littell was interviewed by Scott Masters over zoom in June 2022.
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