Book signing for book about World War II vets held in Augusta | News

AUGUSTA — Using a walker to help him stand as he spoke, Paul Harless provided a link to the past for attendees Saturday during a book signing for “In Their Own Words: Augusta and Aiken Area Veterans Remember World War II.”

He also made them laugh.

Harless, 95, lives in North Augusta. During the early 1940s, he was a member of the crew on Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidential yacht, the USS Potomac.

While his audience at the Augusta Museum of History chuckled, Harless told a story about an incident that happened when the yacht was cruising along the coast of New England one day.

“Mr. Roosevelt said, ‘There’s a man out there in a rowboat checking his lobster pots. Let’s go over and see if we can get some,’” Harless remembered. “So we went over close to him, and he (Roosevelt) hollered, ‘Hey man, would you sell me a bushel of lobsters?’ The man recognized him (Roosevelt) and said, ‘No sir, Mr. President. I won’t sell you a bushel of lobsters. I’m going to give you a bushel of lobsters because I want to be able to say I gave a bushel of lobsters to the last Democrat president.’”

Harless, who served in the Navy, is one of the veterans featured in “In Their Own Words.” After leaving the USS Potomac, he ended up in the Pacific Ocean, where he spent a lot of time on a destroyer, the USS John Rodgers.

“I was in charge of half of the deck crew,” Harless said. “I had everything from the bridge to the back end of the ship.”

The men under his command shot down a Japanese kamikaze pilot and his plane.

“It (the aircraft) got so close that I could see the pilot’s face and the flashes of his machine gun,” Harless said. “He had a bomb, and we hit his bomb, I think, because it (the plane) disintegrated into little pieces.”

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