Transporting US troops from Marseille, France, to New York, USA, Farrest S Rudd (1921-2010) utilized revolutionary technology known as radar in order to safely move troops aboard a Liberty ship. He would endure hurricanes and freezing temperatures while constantly looking for remaining German fighters and sea mines. The following account comes from his own video record left for his family, US records, and Farrest’s family members.
At age twenty-one on February 13, 1942, Farrest was drafted into what would be known as World War II. He would enlist on August 29, 1942, leaving behind his parents and two sisters in Idaho. Upon entering the service, he received a smattering of tests to evaluate his abilities. The scores revealed his ingenuity and keen mind, so he was given the choice between working in electronics, doing maintenance, or working with explosives (ordinance). Fortunately he chose electronics and gained a skillset that would serve him during and after the war.
Shipped to Boca Raton Army Airfield in Florida, he studied radio, specifically radar, a technology that was so new Farrest was ordered to keep any information about it secret from his friends and family. He did well in school and after graduating, became an instructor. For most of his remaining service, Farrest taught other soldiers about radar.
However, near the end and after the war ended, Farrest was made a Radar Crew Chief aboard a ship that transported US soldiers from Marseille to New York. According to Farrest’s own account, some of the soldiers would go on from New York to Japan or be released from duty. They did not transport injured soldiers.
At first the captain of the ship didn’t trust radar. When Farrest told him a ship was heading toward them, the captain said if there was a ship, he’d be able to see it. A ship did emerge out of the fog and would have collided with Farrest’s except the captain rushed to the wheel and spun it. “He didn’t even yell order to the helmsman,” said Farrest. “He just went in and grabbed the wheel and spun the wheel [which allowed the two ships to narrowly slide past each other]. ‘Next time,’ he [the captain] says, ‘make those readings and things quicker and faster.’” Farrest explained the captain’s reaction while chuckling and saying, “Aye, aye, sir.”
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The same captain then began to rely perhaps a little too heavily on radar. Farrest explained, “This funny little captain—when he got convinced that radar was the utopia, he never slowed that ship down. He used to scare me to death. He’d go eighteen knots, and you couldn’t see nothing out there [because of the fog, sleet, and rain].” In fact on one trip, they navigated into the Marseille harbor during sleet and rain at dusk solely using radar. They hadn’t seen land for two days, and the captain informed Farrest that they had to enter the harbor at a right angle in a precise area, or the sea mines surrounding the harbor would blow up the ship. Jokingly, Farrest told the captain, “How about we just stop the ship and go back?” Farrest guided the ship to the middle of the harbor, and the captain ordered the crew to drop the anchor. “The next morning,” said Farrest, “I looked out. It was sunny and bright, and there was the Marseille harbor just as pretty as you can be. Man, sure felt good on that.”
The following is Farrest’s own account taken from a video recording of the state of Marseille right after the war:
On the way out of that trip [the trip mentioned above], we went into Marseille. I’ll tell ya now, there was a harbor that was a pitiful sight to see—was Marseilles. Marseille looked just like somebody had gone in there—two or three big giants landscaped the land with eggbeaters. Everything was just rubble and—oh, what a—what a mess of destruction. I bet it took those guys years to build that back up. They had those—you know—they had those great
big cranes that they load ships with, and they were just [makes a grinding noise and twists his hands] twisted and bashed and beat up.
After coming home, Farrest used his knowledge of radio and radar to help fire crews communicate with each other when they put out fires. Eventually, he became the regional supervisor over communications for the forest service in Idaho, Utah, and parts of Nevada and Wyoming. He was offered a position in Washington DC to be over the communications for the forest service in the whole country. However, he decided to remain in Utah. He married Vada Neilson, and together they had six kids and thirty-six grandkids. The authors of this blog, Veronika Tait and Ranae Rudd are two of those grandkids. We love and miss our grandpa and hope to remember and honor him and all those who fight or fought for our country in some way during this season of celebration of independence.