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Honoring a WWII veteran who survived on a raft for days after his ship sank

Posted at 5:15 PM, May 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-10 17:15:51-04

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- In a Henrico home lives a man who survived a wartime nightmare.

Walter Gammon served in U.S. Navy during World War II.

On October 25, 1944, Gammon and his shipmates faced insurmountable odds. During the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the U.S.S. Hoel was pummeled by Japanese forces.

The destroyer was sitting dead in the water. Gammon had to decide whether to stay on the crippled ship or leap into the ocean.

“I found half a life jacket. I put it on, and I made it out on my own. I jumped off the bow of the ship,” Gammon, who could not swim, said.

A shipmate later pulled him to a raft.

“Less than 10 minutes after I jumped ship, the Hoel was gone. I saw it go down,” he said. “I looked back and it was all gone.”

Gammon survived on the raft for three days until he was rescued. Gammon earned a Purple Heart, and the crew awarded a Presidential Unit Citation.

Fast forward more than seven decades, and Greg McQuade arrived at Gammon's door to honor the veteran as part of the CBS 6 Gives program.

"When we told your story it struck a lot of hearts and minds with CBS 6 viewers," McQuade said. "We just want to say thank you so much for serving our nation."

McQuade then presented Gammon with a $200 gift card provided by Virginia Credit Union.

"Gosh, you don't have to do that. Well, my goodness, thanks a lot, but you didn't have to do it," the humble hero replied. "You didn't have to go the extreme. I didn't deserve that much."

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