Local veteran served in 3 wars
PADUCAH, Ky. - Waldman Christianson, 88, spends most afternoons at The American Legion. The Wisconsin native is not only a WWII vet, but a Korea and Vietnam vet as well.
Christianson is one of just 82 living WWII submarine vets in the United States.
Christianson was 18 when he enlisted and requested to serve aboard a submarine, what many in the time dubbed 'iron coffins.'
"That was one of the beautiful parts of submarines, you either came back whole or you didn't come back," he said.
Serving aboard a sub meant an additional $50 each month. But it was dangerous. He was on board one of just four special mission subs that sent operatives to shore before major landings.
"There were lights, flashing lights. It was Morse code with lights and they had to give the right signals or we didn't go," he remembered of efforts to make it to shore.
The U.S.S. Stingray got those signals 17 times, delivering 28 tons of weapons to guerrillas in the Japanese occupied Philippines.
At the time, the importance of the mission was lost on the teenager, "It was just like a regular job, that's all."
But it is a job Waldman Christianson made into a career, "I stayed 21 years. I liked submarine duty."
He would serve the United States during two more wars: Korea and Vietnam. He said it was something a lot of men in his generation did, "Anything we could do for the United States we did without question."