A Good Old Sea Warrior Returns
and Remembers

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (1/31/98)
By Ray Pendleton

His name is William L. Jenson, but everybody I know just calls him "Swede." Not out of any disrespect mind you. Rather, I think, out of affection.

Swede is now experiencing the 81st year of a life from which legends are made. He has been a U.S. Navy captain, an unlimited-tonnage skipper, an educator, and, incredibly through it all, a husband 15 times.

His tour of duty with the Navy brought Swede to Honolulu in 1941, where he got a "hula girl" tattooed on his arm before the attack on December 7. His ship, the destroyer USS Hull, was spared that day, but subsequent battles aboard other vessels had less fortunate outcomes.

Like many of those who have gone to war and survived, Swede finds it difficult to talk about his last enemy encounter, but he provided me with ample documentation of that day.

Just five months before Japan's surrender - on April 6, 1945 - Swede was at the con of the destroyer USS Colhoun when she was ordered to come to the aid of another destroyer - the Bush - under attack by kamikazes north of Okinawa.

The Bush had been hit hard and was dead in the water and smoking as the Colhoun approached.

Some 50 enemy aircraft were spotted in her vicinity and quickly some turned their attention on the Colhoun.

Colhoun's gunners were able to down the first three attackers, but a fourth managed to crash onto the main deck and its bomb exploded in the after fireroom.

Three minutes later, three more kamikazes attacked. Two were shot down before reaching their target, but the third plowed into the forward fireroom, its bomb exploding, breaking Colhoun's keel and bursting her hull below the waterline.

Colhoun's crew was fighting fires above and flooding below when the last kamikaze attacked. The plane caught its wing on the after stack and skidded off the deck into the water before it's bomb exploded. Nevertheless, the blast opened the ship's hull.

In all, about two-thirds of Colhoun's crew of 300 perished on that terrifying evening, but somehow, Swede survived. Among his numerous decorations are the Navy Cross, the Silver Star, and two Purple Hearts.

For at least the past quarter century, Swede has run the most respected maritime license preparation school in the Newport Beach area of Southern California.

That, and the fact that he is a very social animal - remember the 15 wives? - may somewhat account for his huge circle of friends.

Recently, one of his friends, Bill Shaw, discovered Swede had not been back to Hawai`i since those fateful days of WW II and presented him with a round-trip ticket.

Mike Dailey, owner of the Hawaii Polo Inn graciously provided him a room for a week, and I had the good fortune to be his tour guide.

Naturally, pointing out where things used to be, or still are, but have been hidden, brought on plenty of smiles and reminiscing, but it was our visit to the Arizona Memorial that became without question, the most emotionally touching experience.

Watching an old warrior's eyes, under a USS Colhoun "Survivor" cap looking back at the past, or seeing young people walk up just to shake his hand in thanks are moments when dry eyes don't exist.

Mahalo for the experience Swede. I'll never look at the memorial the same way again.

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