Archive for the 'People' Category

Dec 18

Ens. Donald W. Lynch: The Scars of War

Saturday, December 18, 2010 12:02 AM

“War should not be glamorized,” wrote Donald W. Lynch long after his service as Chief Engineer in destroyer Mugford (DD-389) during World War Two. He had purposefully put much of his wartime experiences out of his mind but later, in an undated letter to a Mugford reunion group, he described why that was so.

Lynch joined the Navy after Pearl Harbor and, after four months of intense steam and electrical engineering training at the Naval Academy, received his commission in May 1942. Three months later he was serving in Mugford during the invasion of Guadalcanal in August 1942. As he put it, this was “quite a shock for a Montana farm boy with a Master’s degree in Forestry.” This is a feeling not unknown to Navy Reserve Sailors today, who suddenly find themselves mobilized to Iraq or Afghanistan.

The war arrived quickly for Mugford and Ens. Lynch, when four Japanese carrier bombers (2d Kokutai) attacked the destroyer on 7 August, scoring three near misses and one hit just forward of the No. 3 gun mount. Four Sailors died, three suffered mortal wounds and another ten were blown overboard. Lynch tried to help “in the midst of complete confusion…”, the deck “covered in debris, lots of black soot, men lying amidst the clutter, blood, and torn clothing.” He came across a wounded Chief Boatswain’s Mate, who ordered an officer to stop cleaning the blood off his face, “Forget my face,” he said, “Check my leg!” Lynch later wrote he looked at the Chief’s leg, “My God, there were only some stringy pieces of skin below the knee, blood-soaked, very dirty, and no sign of ankle or foot.”

Like so many times before and since, confusion and chaos is the stuff of war, particularly but not just for those manning battle stations outside of the CIC. People only make sense of it afterwards, as time molds and shapes the interpretation of events. Two days after the air attack, Mugford steamed in the warm waters in the Solomon Islands as the Battle of Savo Island took place off in the distance. Lynch wrote, “It was a very dark night, with low clouds, rain, no moon or stars – pitch black! We heard heavy gun firing and saw flashes of explosions on the horizon. There was utter confusion as to where we were, where are allies, if any, were, or where the enemy ships were.”

The following morning Mugford proceeded to Savo Island to rescue survivors from the cruiser Vincennes (CA-44). “We began pulling bodies and living men aboard the ship. The mid-section of the deck was soon covered in men – mostly half-naked, some with torn clothing, and all in critical condition. Our doctor, Lt. Bruce McCambell, was very busy administering first aid. Blankets were placed on the shivering, suffering men; on others, blankets or sheets simply covered their dead bodies… We then proceeded to the tender and discharged our pitiful load of dead and wounded men. What more is there to say?”

In November 1944, Mugford, which had spent the long intervening years in combat operations off New Guinea and the central Pacific, ran partially out of luck during operations in the Philippines. While patrolling in Surigao Strait, a Japanese kamikaze dove through intense anti-aircraft fire and crashed Mugford in her port uptakes, wiping out a gun crew and gutting No. 1 fire room. Seven Sailors died instantly and another fourteen were wounded. Later, with the fires out and the clean up begun, the question arose, “Where is Tony?” A Firemen 3d class, Tony was stationed in the fire room and had never come out. Lynch, by then Chief Engineer, volunteered and searched the pitch-black still smoldering smoke filled room. “With a flashlight I began the search. Finally, way at the back of the compartment, crouched in a sitting position, with his skin very dark and swollen, was poor dead little Tony.” They later discovered Tony had lied about his age and was only fifteen years old.

Lynch survived the war but never forgot it, carrying the invisible wounds with him always. The scars fade only with difficulty, as is known by anyone who comes home with the stress of war about them. For Lynch they never faded, who ended his letter by writing “This is about all I’m able to write. Thank God WWII was finally over – and I hope to forget as much of it as possible.”

 
Dec 16

USS Charles R. Ware – On Navy TV

Thursday, December 16, 2010 8:38 AM

Now on NAVY TV – The story of the USS Charles R. Ware (DD-865).

USS Charles R. Ware (DD-865) was named for Lieutenant Charles Rollins Ware, a hero of the Battle of Midway. She sailed the seas for 36 years until the Navy scuttled her on November 15, 1981. This is her story as told by the men that sailed her and remember her as they gather annually at the ship’s reunions. Produced by John Bailey

Take a tour of the ship, and listen to the sea stories of her days at sea.


 
Dec 16

RIP Chief Bob Feller

Thursday, December 16, 2010 8:22 AM

The Naval History & Heritage Command joins a greatful nation in mourning the passing of our shipmate Chief Bob Feller, the Ace of the Greatest Generation. When asked once what was his most important victory, he replied, “World War II.”

Dr. Ed Furgol of the National Museum of the U.S. Navy has prepared a short vignette about Chief Feller’s naval service which originally appeared on Naval History Blog on 9 December 2010 – the 69th anniversary of his enlistment in the U.S. Navy. It is reprinted below:

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on 7 December 1941, Major League Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis wrote to President Franklin Roosevelt, asking him, “What do you want [baseball] to do? . . .We await your order.” The President replied, “I honestly feel it would be best for the country to keep baseball going.” With this recommendation, the league began a massive effort to support the war. However, some players chose a more patriotic path. Waiving his draft deferment as the sole provider for his family, pitcher Robert Feller enlisted in the Navy on 9 December 1941, becoming the first Major League player to join the service.

Already a national star, Feller was first assigned as a physical training instructor. However, his desire to go into combat led him to volunteer for gunners’ school in 1942. Chief Petty Officer Feller was placed in command of a 40mm antiaircraft mount aboard USS Alabama (BB 60), and served through the campaigns in the North Atlantic and throughout the Pacific theater. In March 1945 he reported to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, Illinois, where he managed the baseball team. In August he returned to the Cleveland Indians and resumed his Major League career.

Feller got his nickname, “The Heater from Van Meter,” due to his lightning fastball and his hometown, Van Meter, Iowa. Some baseball experts have credited him as being the hardest throwing pitcher in history. An 8-time All-Star and a World Series champion, Feller’s number 19 was retired by the Cleveland Indians, for whom he played his entire 18-year career. He retired from baseball in 1956, and in 1962 he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot. Bob Feller also holds two other great distinctions: he never played a game in the minors after being signed by the Cleveland Indians, and he is the only pitcher in Major League history to throw a no-hitter on opening day.

Chief, you stand relieved. We have the watch.

 
Dec 10

NHHC Wishes Photo Curator Ed Finney Fair Winds and Following Seas

Friday, December 10, 2010 11:19 AM
NHHC Photo Curator Ed Finney and CINCHOUSE, Daisy at Ed’s farewell in the Museum Education center on 7 December 2010.

The Naval History & Heritage Command won’t be the same anymore after today’s retirement of photo curator extraordinaire, Ed Finney. Ed started out at the-then Naval Historical Center as a GS-4 clerk typist over 20 years ago. RUMINT has it the number of words per minute he could type is still classified.

Ed is a third generation U.S. Naval Academy graduate (Class of 1967). His grandfather was Class of 1902 and his father was class of 1937 .

He has helped countless of researchers over the years with their inquiries. When asked by Naval History Blog about some of the more bizarre requests he had received over the years, he said requests for satellite imagery of the August 1942 invasion of Guadalcanal and a bizarre phone call in which the caller asked, “What time is it where you are?”

Ed will be missed at the NHHC but hopefully he will be back to visit us.

 
Dec 9

Baseball and the Navy: Bob Feller, “The Heater from Van Meter”

Thursday, December 9, 2010 12:01 AM

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on 7 December 1941, Major League Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis wrote to President Franklin Roosevelt, asking him, “What do you want [baseball] to do? . . .We await your order.” The President replied, “I honestly feel it would be best for the country to keep baseball going.” With this recommendation, the league began a massive effort to support the war. However, some players chose a more patriotic path. Waiving his draft deferment as the sole provider for his family, pitcher Robert Feller enlisted in the Navy on 9 December 1941, becoming the first Major League player to join the service.

Already a national star, Feller was first assigned as a physical training instructor. However, his desire to go into combat led him to volunteer for gunners’ school in 1942. Chief Petty Officer Feller was placed in command of a 40mm antiaircraft mount aboard Alabama (BB 60), and served through the campaigns in the North Atlantic and throughout the Pacific theater. In March 1945 he reported to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, Illinois, where he managed the baseball team. In August he returned to the Cleveland Indians and resumed his Major League career.

Feller got his nickname, “The Heater from Van Meter,” due to his lightning fastball and his hometown, Van Meter, Iowa. Some baseball experts have credited him as being the hardest throwing pitcher in history. An 8-time All-Star and a World Series champion, Feller’s number 19 was retired by the Cleveland Indians, for whom he played his entire 18-year career. He retired from baseball in 1956, and in 1962 he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot. Bob Feller also holds two other great distinctions: he never played a game in the minors after being signed by the Cleveland Indians, and he is the only pitcher in Major League history to throw a no-hitter on opening day.

 
Dec 7

Pearl Harbor through the eyes of Tai Sing Loo

Tuesday, December 7, 2010 1:00 AM

Tai Sing Loo was the official Navy photographer of Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In this excerpt from Air Raid: Pearl Harbor edited by Paul Stillwell, Mr. Loo provided a unique account of his experiences that day.


Tai on his famous "put put" wearing his trademark helmet.


How I Were at Pearl Harbor

By Tai Sing Loo

On the 6th of December, Saturday afternoon, I had made arrangement with [Platoon] Sergeant [Charles R.] Christenot to have all his Guard be at the Main Gate between 8:30 to 9:30 o’clock Sunday morning to have a group of picture taken in front of the new concrete entrance as a setting with the “Pearl Har­bor” for Christmas card to send home to their fam­ily.

Sunday morning I left my home for Pearl Harbor after 7:00 o’clock. I was waiting for my bus at corner Wilder Avenue and Metcalf Street.

Saw the sky full of antiaircraft gun firing up in the air, I call my friend to look up in sky, explain them how the Navy used their antiaircraft gun firing in practising, at that time I didn’t realize we were in actual war. Our bus stop at Bishop and King Streets. We heard the alarm ringing from the third story building of the Lewers & Cooke, Ltd. Read the rest of this entry »

 
Dec 3

Navy Ace Bill Davis and The Last Ship

Friday, December 3, 2010 8:48 AM

Bill Davis in his F6F Hellcat. The washed out rectangles on the side are actually Japanese flags, one each for his seven aerial kills.

Naval History Blog is pleased to present a guest post by author Doug Keeney about his friend Bill Davis:

In October of 1944, a young Navy lieutenant nosed over his F6F Hellcat and began a dive towards a Japanese aircraft carrier below. “I screamed down on the carrier which now completely filled my gunsights,” the pilot wrote in his memoir Sinking The Rising Sun.

“I rested my finger on the bomb release button. I kept going.” And go he did. U.S. Navy fighter pilot William E. “Bill” Davis had no idea of it then but he was just seconds from taking his place among the many great Americans that have worn a Navy uniform. The ship filling his gunsights was no less than the Japanese carrier Zuikaku, the last of the fleet that had participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Unlike today, back in 1941 no one sent out a fleet directive to hunt down those ships but every sailor had a mental list and as each ship was sunk, one name was checked off. Zuikaku was the last. With his F6F Hellcat insanely past the redline, Davis triggered the release, pulled back on his stick, and promptly slumped down into unconsciousness. No, he never saw his bomb but it squarely hit its mark, the beginning of the end for the Zuikaku, closure you might say, but Bill had little time to think about any of that. When his eyes fluttered open, his off-the-charts F6F was headed squarely into the side of the destroyer light cruiser Oyodo.

I met Bill Davis in 1972 at the Los Angeles Tennis Club and we became instant friends. Bill and I were of course avid tennis players but in the greatest of all coincidences we were both from the same very small suburb of Philadelphia and in fact had grown up just blocks apart, albeit with 40 years in between us. Bill had gone to the University of Pennsylvania as had my father and we were both pilots, too, but that’s where the comparisons ended. Bill was the recipient of the Navy Cross, a fighter ace in the Pacific with seven kills, the first in a gaggle of fighter pilots that would drop the bombs that would sink the last Japanese carrier that had attacked Pearl Harbor. Militarily at least, the final revenge for Pearl Harbor would come here.

Today, 69 years after Pearl Harbor, Bill’s bombing run may be the last untold story of Pearl Harbor. He managed to pull his F6F above the gunwales of the Oyodo and he flew through an impossibly small space between the forward gun turret and the bridge; he remembers the white uniform of a Japanese admiral and perhaps he saw his life flash before his eyes as he twisted his plane into a 500-mile-per-hour knife-edge pass and cleared the destroyer. Of course this is the stuff of the Navy’s highest honor but none of this had anything to do with why Bill nosed over into a hail of anti-aircraft fire and held steady until his bomb found its mark. Neither honor nor glory rode that Hellcat down to the deck, just duty. Bill did his duty and the reward he fought for was the reward men in World War II wanted more than any medal or ribbon. They wanted to go home. That Bill could do that and provide a measure of closure for the sailors that went down on December 7th was merely the added satisfaction of a job exceptionally well done.

Doug Keeney is a widely published author including his forthcoming book from St. Martin’s Press titled 15 Minutes: General Curtis LeMay and the Countdown to Nuclear Annihilation. Bill Davis, 90, received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Pennsylvania and his Masters in Aeronautical Engineering from the California Institute of Technology. Bill began to write during his successful thirty-year career in business. His first work was optioned by 20th Century Fox.

 
Nov 28

Happy 235th Birthday to the Navy Chaplain Corps!

Sunday, November 28, 2010 12:01 AM

Today, marks the 235th birthday of the Navy Chaplain Corps. This day commemorates the Continental Congress’ adoption of the Rules for the Regulation of the Navy of the United Colonies of North America.

Article 2 of these rules stated: “The commanders of the ships of the 13 United Colonies are to take care that divine service be performed twice a day on board, and a sermon preached on Sundays, unless bad weather or other extraordinary accidents prevent it.”

Navy Chaplains like Joseph Timothy O’Callahan have always answered the answered the call to service:

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to

LIEUTENANT COMMANDER JOSEPH TIMOTHY O’CALLAHAN

CHAPLAIN CORPS, UNITED STATES NAVAL RESERVE

for service as set forth in the following

CITATION:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Chaplain on board the U.S.S. FRANKLIN when that vessel was fiercely attacked by enemy Japanese aircraft during offensive operations near Kobe, Japan, on 19 March 1945. A valiant and forceful leader, calmly braving the perilous barriers of flame and twisted metal to aid his men and his ship, Lieutenant Commander O’Callahan groped his way through smoke-filled corridors to the open flight deck and into the midst of violently exploding bombs, shells, rockets, and other armament. With the ship rocked by incessant explosions, with debris and fragments raining down and fires raging in ever-increasing fury, he ministered to the wounded and dying, comforting and encouraging men of all faiths; he organized and led firefighting crews into the blazing inferno on the flight deck; he directed the jettisoning of live ammunition and the flooding of the magazine; he manned a hose to cool hot, armed bombs rolling dangerously on the listing deck, continuing his efforts, despite searing, suffocating smoke which forced men to fall back gasping and imperiled others who replaced them. Serving with courage, fortitude, and deep spiritual strength, Lieutenant. Commander O’Callahan inspired the gallant officers and men of the FRANKLIN to fight heroically and with profound faith in the face of almost certain death and to return their stricken ship to port.

 
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