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Familiar faces: Vets recall meeting onboard ship

Finding a familiar face on a ship of 6,000 is nothing short of finding that proverbial needle in the haystack.

Which is why Bill Thompson and Ferrell Boutwell, both from Pike County, never knew they were on the same ship, traveling to the same cluster of South Pacific islands, at the same time.

On the ship, beds were stacked by long, narrow windows, 12 bunks high. The best thing to do was get the top bunk, in case other soldiers got seasick, Thompson said.

And they did get seasick, by the droves. Neither Boutwell nor Thompson felt sick on the three-week voyage, but other soldiers were incapacitated, Boutwell said.

The trip back home took 16 days.

“I have been back deep sea fishing since,” Boutwell said.

It wasn’t until after they were discharged, on a bus ride, that Thompson and Boutwell ever saw each other.

Boutwell spotted Thompson first, and after they started talking, they discovered they had been on the same ship.

It was an amazing, ironic coincidence, Boutwell said. They spent some time after that talking about their adventures.

Thompson now lives on his cattle farm on County Road 3316, and Boutwell lives at Noble Manor, an assisted living center in Troy.

After sharing an enormous ship and being stationed in the Philippines at the same time, the two veterans now live about half an hour apart.

It may have been a long journey for the farm boys, but it seems they haven’t strayed far from their roots.