JOAQUIN, Texas (KSLA) — A.J. Procell, 95, calls East Texas home.
So does his incredible story of his service during World War II.
"I started off at Pearl Harbor, but the war had already started," recalls Procell, describing his quick involvement into the Pacific theater.
“I had a chance to go on a battleship, a submarine or aircraft carriers, and I picked the battleship U.S.S. North Carolina.”
On board that ship, A.J. says he eventually was assigned to bringing down enemy planes as a 40mm gun direct operator.
“I’m the man who finds the plane,” he explains, first tracking planes across the sky before passing along coordinates to fellow sailors taking dead aim at the enemy.
A.J. remained on the North Carolina throughout the duration of fighting, including the dropping of both atomic bombs over Japan.
"We were there when they dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima."
A.J. explains that his battleship had to distance itself from both Hiroshima and Nagasaki before each bomb was dropped.
"We had to back off a few miles, afraid of that stuff coming off of it."
The bombs were dropped within three days of each other in August 1945, leading to the surrender of Imperial Japan weeks later, formally signed Sept. 2 on board the U.S.S. Missouri.
A.J. was aboard the U.S.S. North Carolina, alongside countless other U.S. and allied ships in the Yokohama harbor that day.
"I tell you, we couldn't believe it. None of us could believe it," A.J. says with a smile.
After his service across the Pacific, A.J. says he returned to the States, arriving at port in Boston.
“We were treated just like celebrities.”