Ernest C. Massie of Gahanna is a 50-year-old U.S. Navy veteran who served during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm in 1990 and 1991.

His father, an Army military policeman during World War II, traveled in his work for defense contractors when Massie was growing up.

As a result, Massie, who was born in Michigan, lived in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Fullerton, California, before graduating from high school in Fairfield, Ohio.

He attended college in Kentucky when he joined the U.S. Army Reserve. After two years, he left the Reserve and joined the Navy, becoming a gunner's mate working on cannons and small arms.

He first went to sea on the USS Spartanburg County (LST-1192), which served in the Mediterranean as part of an amphibious readiness group of several ships carrying a total of 3,000 Marines.

The ship's next assignment was to assist the U.S. Coast Guard during anti-drug-smuggling patrols in the Caribbean.

"That was pretty interesting because of people trying to think they can outrun helicopters, ships, etc., etc., and it was mostly drunks coming out of Key West ... in pleasure boats, thinking it would be fun to try to outrun the Navy and the Coast Guard," Massie said.

Later, he applied for a gunner's-mate opening on the USS Truett (FF-1095), a Knox-class frigate designed for anti-submarine warfare.

After serving a year on the Truett, he was on a fishing trip in Canada and received a phone call to return to the Truett on Aug. 4, 1990, two days after Saddam Hussein's Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait.

The United States formed an international coalition that launched Operation Desert Shield to prevent further Iraqi aggression. It was followed by Operation Desert Storm, an offensive to retake Kuwait after Hussein failed to meet a Jan. 15, 1991, deadline to withdraw from the country.

Upon returning to the Truett, Massie was asked if he wanted to be assigned to one of the ships being deployed to the Persian Gulf that were short on personnel.

"The next day," he said, "I packed my stuff, and I was on the USS Mississippi (CGN-40)," a nuclear-powered guided-missile cruiser.

The contrast between the Mississippi and Truett "was like night and day," he said.

The Mississippi was a large ship with a crew of nearly 600. It sailed to Sicily, where it took on Tomahawk cruise missiles, and it deployed to the Gulf of Aqaba to enforce an embargo against Iraq during Desert Shield.

Massie was stationed in a room of about 12 by 20 feet that housed controls for the ship's cannon. He didn't see daylight for two days at a time, he said.

The Mississippi's crew boarded about 80 ships, looking for contraband from Iraq and finding it on two.

One, Massie said, "was full of everything you could think of that could be stolen," including a car that bore bullet holes. The items were taken from Kuwait and were being sold to customers for cash, mostly in Africa, he said.

The other was a Russian ship that carried no manifest but was full of small arms, he said.

After a maintenance stop at Naples, Italy, the Mississippi continued ship inspections and performed escort duty in the Red Sea.

When it sailed past Yemen, radar and anti-ship batteries on shore were trained on the ship.

Massie said the Yemenis shut down the radar after the Mississippi launched some aircraft, swung its guns toward shore and turned on its firing radar.

During Desert Storm, Massie said, the Mississippi fired six cruise missiles at Iraq on two dates.

The missiles had a range of about 1,000 miles. At the time, the missiles would emerge from their launches "kind of relatively slow -- slow enough that you can actually snap a picture" -- before the fins deployed and the missile's engine ignited, he said.

The ship also fired its guns at targets in Iraq, he said, to trick the Iraqis into thinking the coalition forces would stage an amphibious landing.

When Massie left the Navy, he had saved $12,000 and knew he wanted to finish his bachelor's degree.

Looking back on his Navy service, he said, "Glad I did what I did when I did. Glad I served when I did."

He received both bachelor's and master's degrees in economics from the University of Akron.

Massie is the administrator of the Tax Analysis Division of the Ohio Department of Taxation.

He and his wife, Jodi Miller, have a son, Michael Miller.

Massie is the commander of Tri-Community VFW Post 4719 and second vice commander of American Legion Post 797, both in Gahanna.

He's also a member of La Societe des Quarante Hommes et Huit Chevaux -- known as the Forty and Eight -- an honor society of American veterans and service members.

According to fortyandeight.org, the name is derived from the experiences of U.S. troops during World War I. Soldiers were transported to the front on the French rail system, and each boxcar had the capacity to hold either 40 men or eight horses. The organization was founded in 1920 by American veterans returning from France and initially was part of the American Legion before becoming independent in 1960, according to the site. Membership is by invitation only.

Massie's decorations include Sea Service Ribbon (with bronze star); Coast Guard's Special Operations Service Ribbon; National Defense Service Medal; Battle Effectiveness Award; Southwest Asia Service Medal (with two bronze stars); Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia); Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kuwait); and Navy Unit Commendation.

editorial@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNews

Marching Orders playlist