By Ryan Labadens, NCBC Gulfport Public Affairs
It’s not often that a friend or family member makes it into the triple digits, but when they do, it is certainly an occasion worth celebrating. One former member of the U.S. Navy, World War II veteran and Pipe Fitter 2nd Class Talmadge A. Byrd, turned 100 years old today, Sept. 9, 2021.
Byrd was born in Lumberton, Mississippi, and moved to Wiggins with his family when he was just a boy. Together they lived on a small farm, growing different crops to eat and sell to make money for the family.
He joined the Navy family in 1942, shortly after the United States entered World War II following the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese Empire.
After finishing basic training in San Diego, California, Byrd was shipped to the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, where he served in the Pacific Theater assigned to a floating dry dock for 18 months. While there, he helped to repair battled-damaged ships enough so they could be sent back to former Naval Station Bremerton, Washington, where additional repairs could be completed before the ships were put back into service.
In 1944, he was shipped to former Naval Station Treasure Island, which was located in San Francisco Bay, California, and was eventually reassigned to Astoria, Oregon, where he worked on cargo ships being built for the U.S. Navy before they were crewed up for service.
After the war, Byrd separated from the Navy and stayed on the West Coast for several years, working various jobs until he eventually made his way back to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where he decided to rejoin the Navy in 1957.
The first and only time he ever left the continental United States for his Navy service led him back to the Pacific Ocean. This time it was on Naval Base Guam, which during World War II had been known as Orote Field. He served on the base for two years helping to maintain the base’s fresh water supply.
After several other assignments, Byrd again returned to San Francisco later in his Navy career, where he worked as a pipe fitter making repairs to Navy submarines. He eventually received a medical discharge from the Navy in 1964 and again returned to Mississippi.
Back in his home state, he worked various jobs before landing a position as a pipe fitter at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi. He worked there 22 years before retiring, and now currently resides in Vancleave, Mississippi.
Byrd looks back on his time in the Navy fondly, crediting it with helping him in many aspects of his career and life.
“It was a good experience for me. I just tried to take advantage of whatever opportunities they gave me, and it certainly helped me out,” said Byrd.
Happy 100th Birthday to you, Pipe Fitter 2nd Class Byrd, and may you enjoy many more!