Nov 20

Day 7- March 23- Guam

Tuesday, November 20, 2018 12:01 AM

By

Lieutenant Leroy Fadem recently revisited sites in the Pacific where he saw action in the Navy during the tumultuous years of the War in the Pacific over 70 years ago. This is a journal of that recent trip as kept by his son, Steven Fadem, who accompanied Lt. Fadem on that journey of rediscovery.

The day started with a brilliant rainbow.

(Courtesy of the Author)

(Courtesy of the Author)

It also started out with a potentially amazing discovery. I previously noted in our program that one of the WWII vets, Marine Frank Campisano, served in Nagasaki. I located him in the lobby this morning and was inquiring as to when he was there. He went in with the first group of ships after the dropping of the bomb- and he was on an LST. While he did not remember the number of the ship- and I am going to track down the manifest for LST 871 for that day- it is not out of the question that Frank was on the same ship Dad helped navigate into Nagasaki in late September of 1945. I am overwhelmed with a sense of amazement at the possible discovery.

(Courtesy of the Author)

(Courtesy of the Author)

[Trip Postscript- When we got back I was able to searched the U.S. Marine Corps records and located information that Frank served in the Headquarters and Service Battery of the 2nd Battalion, 10th Marines of the 2d Marine Division. According to the September 1945 Muster Rolls for this unit, he did sail into Nagasaki at the same time as Dad, but his battery embarked aboard the USS Mellette (APA-156), not on an LST. It still makes for a wonderful story.]

As Dad steamed out of Honolulu aboard the Stevens in early June 1944, the pincer movement against the Japanese was severely shrinking their supply lines. Yet securing launch sites for the B-29 raids on Tokyo and the rest of Japan was a priority Saipan, Guam, Tinian and Iwo Jima became prime targets for the Americans. Dad’s task force split enroute; half headed towards Saipan and his part headed to Guam. The Saipan action was expected to be brief and the Guam invasion was scheduled to commence three days after.

Dad is the fourth from the right in the picture of the Stevens’ officers (Courtesy of the Author)

Dad is the fourth from the right in the picture of the Stevens’ officers (Courtesy of the Author)

As we have seen, the Saipan invasion started on 15 June but the 2d and 4th Marine Divisions were bogged down in heavy fighting. Dad’s Guam convoy circled as their invasion was delayed. Finally, on the night of 20 July, the Stevens started shelling Guam in the hills behind Agana Bay.

Dad was the gunnery officer and the five inch guns he commanded poured out a heavy barrage of armament onto the island. The Stevens sailed in formation for five days and nights, firing constantly at the shore, a mile from the island.

When the 2d Marine Division hit the Asan beaches on the morning of 21 July, the firing became more directed. Each ship was given a sector and the Marines called in coordinates for the bombardment. Dad was later told they hit an ammunition supply site and other strategic locations with great accuracy. The Stevens received a Letter of Commendation from the Marine commander thanking its crew for their contribution to the invasion.

(Courtesy of the Author)

(Courtesy of the Author)

Guam was the epicenter of Dad’s wartime experience, in part I believe, for the physical effect it had upon him. The constant pounding of the guns for over five straight days- in an era when the Navy did not think about protective ear guards- left Dad stone deaf. The doctor on the Stevens was his cabin mate and when Dad told him he could not hear the doc examined him, told him his eardrums were intact and that the deafness was temporary. The doctor’s medical prognosis was unfortunately not correct.

As those of you who know Dad are aware, and as Chloe kids her Grandpa Lee, Dad left his hearing on Guam and she wistfully and hopefully said she prayed he would find it when we went back. Today he is back, not in search of his lost hearing but for the memories of that life-changing experience. That I get to be a part of this journey is beyond description.

We headed out on our bus for Agana and Agana Bay. Our group of 120 was split at Pearl Harbor into four groups- we are the Red Team and the group has become very close. With Raegan Buckley as our leader and James Linn as our historian/guide we formed a beautiful camaraderie. And the incredible reception for Dad and the other WWII vets is overwhelming. He is a rock star and I think that feeling of love and warmth for him has made this journey into his past even more memorable.

We disembarked at a National Park high in the hills with a panoramic view of the harbor and the sea. Our National Park Service guide is a native Armenian, naturalized U.S. citizen, now giving tours in Guam. It does not get any better than that in understanding what Dad and all his compatriots fought for 75 years ago.

As we walk through the beautiful memorial to WWII with a special tribute to the Guamians who lost their lives in the battle, the guide also took us to a memorial dedicated to the dozen Guamians who died on the USS Arizona. He noted how all of them worked in the mess and how prejudice prevented them from holding any more senior position in the military at that time. The moral lessons resound today.

(Courtesy of the Author)

(Courtesy of the Author)

 

(Courtesy of the Author)

(Courtesy of the Author)

 

(Courtesy of the Author)

(Courtesy of the Author)

The view of the harbor makes us understand the necessity for the advanced bombardment. The flat coastline several hundred yards off the equally flat sandy beaches make the hills surrounding the harbor a perfect place from which to hit the approaching American troops. From where we stood, according to our guide, the first 20 amphibious boats coming ashore were targeted by accurately aimed, pre-calculated mortar fire and destroyed in the opening moments of the battle. The Marines’ sacrifices in the surf meant the gunner’s positions were exposed and could be taken out by American counter-fire which Dad and his crew helped do from the Stevens. I could tell Dad was really soaking in the view for the different perspective it gave him after all these years. Dad’s narration of what the landing actually looked like, with reference to contemporaneous photos, was very illuminating.

(Courtesy of the Author)

(Courtesy of the Author)

We headed for Asan Beach and a front-row seat on the invasion. As we walked up to the artillery display our wonderful new friends Alan and Barbara told a group of Navy sailors who were cleaning up the park that there was a 97-year old WWII vet in the group and they all came over to where we were to meet Dad. They gathered around and prodded with questions from our friends Warren and Len, Dad was soon recounting his days on the Stevens; the shelling of Guam; the rush of guiding the Stevens through General Quarters to evade a Japanese torpedo and how he went ashore at HaHa Jima in October 1945 and accepted the official surrender of the garrison on that island. He modestly yet proudly described how he accepted the commanding officer’s sword, pistol and saki cup, not as Lieutenant Fadem the individual but as a representative of the United States Navy and the government of the United States. And all as a now-seasoned commander of an LST in the middle of the vast Pacific at the ripe age of 24!

Dad was in his prime here. The young sailors loved every minute and came up afterwards to ask questions. The 30 member Navy detachment, from the Coastal River Detachment Squadron 4 , was rapt with attention as Dad told his stories and answered their questions. He clearly served as an inspiration to them and I think he was very energized by being in their midst sharing Navy stories with them. It was the same enthusiasm he displayed two weeks ago when he went into Chloe’s history class and gave a talk on the war. He has always been reticent to talk about his experiences in the Pacific but with our group on this trip, with the Navy sailors and with other military we have encountered he really opened up. I think it was cathartic for him and amazingly wonderful for those with whom he shared his stories- especially me!

Feel free to listen in:

https://www.icloud.com/sharedalbum/#B0M532ODWJG3560

Dad and young sailors (Courtesy of the Author)

Dad and young sailors (Courtesy of the Author)

We went down to the beach itself and as soon as the bus doors opened it started to rain- the first and only rain of the trip- yet a providential rain, for it allowed Dad to take the mike and describe his Guam experience for our bus mates (including me!) He told us how the Stevens patrolled off-shore and shelled the hills behind us. He spoke about the directed fire called in by the Marines after they landed and his pride in supporting what they were undertaking. He was even further energized and enthusiastic as he revisited the battle and the Stevens’ and his role in it. The talk took him back 74 years and his enthusiasm was not dimmed from officer then to raconteur (and sailor) now.

We went down to visit a memorial park by the water honoring the American troops. I picked up a few rocks to take home as a souvenir from a beach off of which Dad spent five of the most formative days of his life. One of the rocks had a real heft. As I examined it closer I realized it was piece of metal, a half moon of steel maybe an inch long, encased in coral with another sharp-edged piece of metal attached. In reality it could be something meaningless and current; in my mind it is a memento of a beach that molded Dad’s life and a souvenir from 74 years ago.

As we left the park we looked up at the hills once shelled by the Stevens and were amazed at how their greenery hid the scars of another time and experience.

We returned to the hotel for a late lunch and then an afternoon talk by our historians on the last stages of the war and a tee-up for tomorrow’s visit to Iwo Jima. After Jon and Rich spoke we had yet another highlight. All the vets went up on stage and answered questions from the historians- Dad was first. He was asked about the close call with the torpedo on the Stevens and he gave a dramatic telling of that story. He was also asked about the surrender of HaHa Jima and his telling of the story amazed an even larger audience. The day was a fabulous reunion- of Dad and Guam- and I had the honor and pleasure of getting to tag along for the ride.

(Courtesy of the Author)

(Courtesy of the Author)

 

Dad answering questions from historians (Courtesy of the Author)

Dad answering questions from historians (Courtesy of the Author)

The day ended with more smiles and hugs from Barbara and Deanna:

(Courtesy of the Author)

(Courtesy of the Author)

Tomorrow another adventure- Iwo Jima.

Enjoy Steve Fadem’s earlier posts here.

https://www.navalhistory.org/2018/07/24/day-2-march-17-2018-honolulu

https://www.navalhistory.org/2018/08/21/day-3-march-1718-honolulu-to-saipan-via-guam

https://www.navalhistory.org/2018/09/18/day-4-march-20-saipan

https://www.navalhistory.org/2018/10/18/day-5-march-21-tinian