The guns going off, including the one in his hands, were so loud that they probably became muted by the ringing in his ears that followed the shots.
Staring up from the ocean, the crew was faced with Japanese airforce pilots bent on sacrificing their own lives if only to spread the destruction wider.
Albert Flowers Sr., whose job was to assist with ammunition, watched as the gunner, his comrade, was shot and killed. When jumping ship seemed just as viable an option, Flowers Sr. picked up the gun and shot until every plane was sinking into the ocean.
So completely in the zone as to be unaware, he continued shooting long after necessary, until another sailor composed himself enough to tell Flowers to stop, that the ship was saved.
Albert Flowers Jr. grew up proud to be named after his father, Albert Flowers Sr., recipient of the Bronze Star Medal.
Flowers Jr., an online student majoring in global business management, has spent recent months researching his father’s act of bravery that saved the entire remaining crew on the USS Intrepid during World War II.
“The commanding officer said that without Albert Flowers the USS Intrepid would have gone under,” Flowers Jr. said. “Not only did he save the ship, but he also saved the crew.”
Flowers Sr. led a life in which he never backed down from a challenge. Growing up in Troy, he enlisted in the Navy in 1943 and was part of that infamous battle in 1944.
When kamikazes began to dive-bomb the ship, one of the other men aboard predicted that they were facing certain death.
Flowers Sr. prevented that, however, and was recognized first by his commanding officer and then by President Harry S. Truman for his actions.
Flowers Jr. always considered his father a great man and looked up to him. After his time spent in the military, Flowers Sr. became the father of six children and a police officer in the ’60s in Florala, Alabama.
“That was unheard of in the 1960s in Alabama,” Flowers Jr. said, as his father was black.
“Somehow he endured,” Flowers said of the verbal abuse and slurs that his father initially experienced. “He was the type of person that you couldn’t really hurt him with words. He looked above that. He saw something better than a person being ignorant.”
Flowers Jr. said that the abuse did end as the community eventually accepted his father and saw past the color of his skin.
But he did not fully appreciate what his father had accomplished until a friend, employed by a black history museum, pushed him to do further research so that he could be included in the museum.
“It took me some time to get up the nerve to really start doing the research,” Flowers Jr. said of these years following his father’s passing in 2001. “I recently got his records from the Navy Archives.”
“I just admire his dedication to everything,” Flowers said. “He inspired me to be the best that I could be, even though I’ve stumbled and fallen a few times. I just admire him.”
A retired postal service employee and father himself, Flowers has recently become a nontraditional Troy University online student. Upon graduation, he will be the first in his family to earn a degree.
Citing the difficulties of being a retiree taking classes, Flowers thanks his professors, counselor and spell-check as factors in his success at school.
“Who doesn’t love a spell-check?” he said.
Inspired all over again as he sifted through the chronicle of his father’s life, Flowers decided that he wanted to do more to honor his father.
After writing many emails and making some phone calls, Flowers has received a special invitation to a Veterans Memorial Ceremony at the USS Intrepid, which is currently docked in New York City.
“There are only two remaining Navy men that were in that gunboat, and they’re in their 90s. I’m not sure if they’re going to make it to the ceremony, but maybe their children will, and I am excited about that.”
Flowers has also arranged a brick-laying ceremony for his father at the Veterans Wall in downtown Crestview, Florida, where his father also lived. The ceremony will be held on Feb. 21 at 10 a.m.
“I just couldn’t imagine,” Flowers said of his father’s heroism. “He actually did some things that a lot of people would give a second thought about. A lot of people probably would have jumped into the ocean.”