"Frenchie" Roussel gave all American service in three wars - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

"Frenchie" Roussel gave all American service in three wars

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Gerald "Frenchie" Roussel was one year too young to join the U.S. effort in World War II. So what he forged his dad's signature and joined anyway.

"I wanted to be a hero," the now 87-year-old says with a grin.

He points to a picture on a wall of a young sailor. "This is me when I was 16 years old," Rousell says. He posed with his half brother, who was an Army soldier. He says that brother died in Europe just 30 days before Germany's surrender.

Meantime, Frenchie was in the South Pacific driving boats that took our troops from ships to the island shores for battle.

"Our job was to dump 'em and get the hell out," he says of those harried trips, battling the waves, hoping not to come under fire.

Back to his ship one day, Roussel says he and most of the crew survived a torpedo that took two shipmates' lives.

He left the Navy after the war, but was called back up during the Korean War. That move that led him to make the Navy a career that stretched all the way into the Vietnam War.

Roussel points to another picture that shows him being dropped by helicopter from his ship to another so that he could deliver a communique from his admiral to the other.

"Soon as my feet hit that deck, hit that button, released me," he explained, adding that moments later, the chopper hit the ship's antenna and crashed into the rough sea. Fortunately the crew was saved.

"If I had fell out I'd been gone. You know, if I would have been thrown off," Roussel says. "The good Lord was with us.

"Admiral said, 'How do you feel?' I said, 'I feel good, I'm all shook up.' That's when Elvis Presley was popular," Roussel added, making sure his younger interviewer got the drift.

While on board that ship, Frenchie reunited with his other brother who he'd not seen in seven years.

Frenchie's pictures and other war memorabilia hang in his son's boot and shoe repair shop on Barksdale Boulevard in Bossier City. Frenchie had his own shoe shop in downtown Shreveport after his Navy career, and passed the craft down to one of his sons, Larry.

"And he's better than me, believe it or not," Roussel says with a laugh.

Roussel got the nickname "Frenchie" in the service. He was from the southern Louisiana town of Paulina and could speak Cajun French, and the name stuck.

He first came to the Shreveport area during the Korean War, working at the munition plant in Minden.

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