As kids, it wasn’t uncommon for Warren Weaver and his twin brother to ski and hike 15, 20 miles a day up and around Casper Mountain.
It gave Weaver good scouting eyes, he said, all that time spent outside.
After high school graduation, the twins moved to San Diego and helped build parts for B-24s. When they went home to Casper for Christmas, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
Weaver’s brother went into the 10th Mountain Division, the division responsible for cutting through the mountains of Italy. A childhood spent in the snow made Weaver’s brother an ideal ski instructor.
Weaver’s own scouting eyes landed him a spot as a lookout on the USS Skipjack (SS-184), a sleek submarine advanced for its time.
“Being basically still a kid, that was a hell of a lot to learn,” he said. “You depend upon your ability to reason and think -- but that’s the way my life has been.”
In close quarters, 65 to 75 men worked on mechanics, diesel engines, control systems, radios, telephones, communications and torpedoes. Once you got used to the tight spaces, Weaver said, you didn’t mind it.
For two months they sliced through the sea, from Pearl Harbor to the South Pacific to the coast of Japan, as close as they could get without being seen.
Part of their mission was to figure out the capabilities of the Japanese military and gain more knowledge of their ships, Weaver said. The U.S. wanted to build a port to land planes and harbor ships off the coast of Japan. Learning more about the ocean could help make that happen.
As a lookout, Weaver would communicate down the hatch, telling officers in the control room what he saw. They’d call the shots, set up battle plans. Several times while Weaver was onboard, they torpedoed. Once, they took down three Japanese ships all together.
Weaver would help secure the upper deck and pull the hatch covers down so the Skipjack could dive, leaving only the tower and periscope sticking up through the waves.
Weaver would then move to the computer to help locate vessels. The Skipjack was to interfere with Japanese communications by destroying ships with torpedoes. Hitting one ship could take out thousands, Weaver said.
When his two months on the Skipjack were up, Weaver was sent to Brooklyn, N.Y. The Navy wanted him to learn more about submarine computers. It’s amazing, he said, how much computers have changed. Then, the machines were massive, with electronic tubes as wide across as a bottle of lotion.
“It gave me an introduction to the big cities, Brooklyn and all the cities in the East,” he said. “That was a hell of an education considering I was from little Casper.”
But when Weaver finished school, the Navy didn’t put him back on a submarine. They had him take more courses in construction and engineering.
He was sent to the waters off the coast of Japan to keep a lookout and help develop a U.S. military base.
“A lot of it was keeping your eyes open and observing any chance of the Japanese coming in there and realizing what you’re doing,” he said. “We were getting pretty close to Japan at that time.”
For Weaver, the war had opened him up to the world, new fields of building and design. Out of the service, Weaver returned to Brooklyn, the city he met as a boy at war. It seemed like anything he wanted to do, he could.
He studied architecture and got a background in home construction. He returned home and went to Casper College. Weaver helped build homes around the city in his career, including his own. He went back to the mountains he knew as a boy.
Weaver said war taught him the strength of organization, the responsibility of the individual to get the job done.
“That’s in a way what you’re doing with your life,” he said. “You’re the general, you’re the admiral, you’re the captain of the ship.”
They Served With Honor
Some have said that 1,000 World War II veterans die each day in United States. History dies with each one.
"They Served With Honor" is a special project by the Star-Tribune to collect stories from Wyoming World War II veterans. We will feature one story each week, from Veterans Day to Veterans Day.
If you would like to suggest veterans to be featured, please send their names, contact information and a summary of their service to Kristy Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 80, Casper, WY, 82601.