The Imperial Japanese Army’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 not only marked the beginning of the United States’ entry into World War II, it marked Don Munoz’ too. The Santa Maria native enlisted in the Navy in January 1943 when he was only 17 years old.
“I joined the Navy because I didn’t want to march in the Army,” Munoz said. “Had I waited, I would’ve been drafted.” At 93 years old, Munoz is one of the last Americans alive who served in both World War II and the Korean War. He has trouble hearing in his left ear due to a kamikaze attack on his ship during the Battle of Okinawa, but recalls the event like it was yesterday.
After boot camp in San Diego, Munoz went to radioman school for five months before getting orders to the USS Zellars (DD-777), which was part of the Navy’s storied Tin Can fleet.
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Santa Maria native and Navy veteran Don Munoz, who served in both World War II and the Korean War, recalled the day his ship was hit by a kamikaze pilot during the Battle of Okinawa.