In another war during an earlier time, the USS Gilligan would have been a frigate, one of the smallest fighting ships in the fleet. DE-508 was 306 feet in length with a couple of 5.8 inch main guns fore and aft and several 40mm and 20mm anti-aircraft guns to protect her from attack by enemy…
The USS Hocking, an attack transport, was a marked ship while still in port at Hilo, Hawaii, even before it sailed for the war zone in 1944. Stanley Fiorini of Port Charlotte, Fla. was a deckhand on one of its landing craft.
At 18 Jim Williams of Seminole Lakes subdivision south of Punta Gorda, Fla. became a Navy plane captain aboard four different aircraft carriers during his three years of service in the 1960s.
Capt. Willard “Bill” Reddel of Paradise Park south of Punta Gorda, Fla. was captain of the satellite communication ship USNS Kingsport when it helped put the first worldwide communications satellite in orbit Dec. 8, 1963.
Willis Brumhall spent World War II in the Aleutians building emergency runways as a member of the 46th Seabee Battalion for Russian pilots ferrying American made planes from Canada across the Bering Sea to their homeland to use against the Germans.
When Jim Julian flipped the switch, cranking up a small remote-controlled helicopter on the deck of a Navy destroyer, he became a part of history that stretches to the increasing use of drones in today’s military.
A couple of weeks after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor launching the United States into World War II, Francis Cynkar of Maple Leaf Estates, Port Charlotte, Fla. joined the Navy. He was 15.
Bob Erwin of North Port Pines Retirement Center made five patrols aboard the USS Parche (SS-384) into Japanese-held waters during World War II. On one of these patrols his skipper, Cmdr. Lawson Ramage, received the Medal of Honor and Erwin was awarded the Silver Star for their exploits.
John Dexter of Jacaranda Trace apartments in Venice, Fla. was already an electrical engineer working for Dow Chemical Co. when World War II broke out in 1941 for the United Sates.
Bill Hallo of North Port, Fla. fired the 16-inch main guns on the stern of the battleship USS South Dakota in some of the major battles in the Pacific during World War II. He was aboard ship firing away at the enemy at: Guam, Saipan, Tenian, New Guinea, Philippines, Luzon, Formosa, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and…
Lee Mauk of Venice was aboard the nuclear submarine SSN Skate when she made the historic cruise under the Polar Icecap during the winter of 1958. He was the chief electrician aboard the boat.
Gene Roaf of Punta Gorda, Fla. was a plane captain who maintained a single Corsair fighter aboard the carrier USS Bennington during the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa in World War II. He served as a seaman 1st class and part of the Essex class carrier’s deck crew.
Les Thompson says he’s no war hero. He was just a seaman 1st class who served aboard the USS Abner Read, a destroyer sunk by a Japanese kamikaze at the Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944 during the final months of World War II. The 76-year-old Englewood, Fla. man joined the Navy at 17…
Dale Davis of Punta Gorda, Fla. got into Naval aviation on June 8, 1945. It was two days after Lt. Col. Paul Tibbets dropped the first Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima, Japan from a B-29, four-engine bomber named for his mother–Enola Gay–ending World War II.
Art Rimback, who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., had a military and civilian career afterwards that was pretty much a closed book. He did a bunch of secret stuff he doesn’t talk about.
It was July 22, 1945 when Earl Thompson, a Navy fireman who now lives in Port Charlotte, Fla. sailed into Buckner Bay aboard a transport ship that dropped anchor off Okinawa. The 17-year-old swabbie was one of the thousands of servicemen aboard these ships.
Shortly after graduating from high school in 1943 at 17 in Philadelphia, Pa., Warren Hope of Gulf Cove, in Charlotte County, Fla. joined the Seabees. His parents had to sign him into the service because of his age.
When the Germans marched into Poland in 1939 starting World War II, Bill Donaldson and all the other young men in his senior class at Strong Vincent High School in Erie, Pa. went down to the local military recruitment center and signed up.
By the time World War II ended, Oscar Hettema of Port Charlotte, Fla. had seen a lot of this world as a chief warrant officer in the Navy Seabees.
They called it “Nimitz’s Secret.” All 10, 100-foot-long steel sections were towed by ship from San Francisco to Espiritus Santo, the main island in the New Hebrides chain. This floating steel dry dock for America’s Pacific Fleet during World War II was a military secret and a game changer.
Glen Berree spent the first two decades of his life as a Navy brat. His father was a fighter ace in World War II with nine kills to his credit. The next quarter century Berree carved out a career as a pilot, like his dad, almost became a SEAL and completed his Naval career as…
Like millions of other young men before and after him, Howard Mack joined the Navy right out of high school. It was 1954, he was 18, and the Korean war had been over for a year.
Two friends who served in the submarine service before Jim Manning talked him into signing up for the Navy and going to sub school when the time came. He didn’t regret it.
Christ Nielsen of Punta Gorda, Fla. was a “Seadevil.” He was a member of U.S. Navy Helicopter Combat Support Squadron Seven that rescued downed pilots and seamen in trouble off the coast of Vietnam during the war.
It was late in the war. Petty Officer 3rd Class Don Alger was on his first combat patrol aboard the USS Billfish (SS-286) sailing into Japanese waters. He was scared.
Before Brad Messick graduated from high school in 1966 at 19 he had already been notified by his draft board. He signed up with the Navy and was allowed to graduate before going to sea.
“I knew things were getting serious when they issued us corpsmen morphine as we got off the C-130 transport at Guantanamo Bay,” Bob Pulver of Heritage Lake condominiums in Port Charlotte, a former Marine corpsman during the Cuban Missile Crisis said.
During his 30 year Naval career Mike Clarity of Punta Gorda, Fla. was the skipper of a guided missile destroyer and the Port Commander at Pearl Harbor by the time he retired from the service.
Jack Sanzalone of Port Charlotte, Fla. spent almost three decades under the sea in atomic attack submarines keeping an eye on America’s enemies as the boat combed the deep searching for adversaries.
Okinawa was the bad battle as far as John Wrublevski was concerned. He served as a 3rd Class fitter aboard a liberty ship converted to a mother ship for 150 mine cutters, not minesweepers, named the USS Mona Island (ARG-9).
When John Dickinson arrived at the airport in Saigon, Vietnam in 1969 aboard a commercial jet from the United States he was a recient graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy who had just finished helicopter flight school in Pensacola.
Jay Stuart had two years behind him at North Carolina State in engineering in 1960 when he ran out of money for school. He decided to join the Navy and see the world.
Times were tough for Robert Smith’s family when he was inducted into the Navy. “I sent 60 percent of my Navy pay home to my mother to help the family. My other three brothers did the same. I never played payday poker in the barracks,” he said.
Fleet Admiral William “Bull” Halsey sailed into the sea of Japan, between the Japanese home islands and the Chinese mainland, with Task Group 38.3 consisting of five aircraft carriers, two battleships, four light cruisers and a group of destroyers.
Helen Salins of Polynesian Village in north Englewood, Fla. joined the WAVES during World War II. She was 25 and already a talented artist and a graduate of Northwestern University with a degree in English.
Jerry Bauer of Village of Holiday Lakes mobile home park, near Port Charlotte, Fla., spent 22 years in the military, most of it in the “Silent Service” during the “Cold War.”
Joe Medina and a buddy were shooting pool in a Tampa, Fla. pool hall in 1946 when the two of them got the idea to join the Navy. Both were 18.
Dan Avenancio joined the Navy in 1976 as a teenage seaman, part of the flight deck crew, sweeping the decks on the carrier USS John F. Kennedy, sailing off the Virginia coast as a training ship. He ended his 24-year Naval career in 2000 as lieutenant commander in charge of maintenance aboard the carrier USS…
After graduating from high school in Michigan in 1960, two days before he turned 18, James Dundas, who lives in the Burnt Store area, south of Punta Gorda, joined the Navy and took a “Kiddie Cruise.” The deal he made allowed him to serve three years and be out of the service shortly before his…
Howard Dole served on minesweepers, provided French Foreign Legion phones and worked for the Shaw of Iran Howard Dole joined the Navy in 1948 after graduating from high school in Philadelphia. He went aboard the minesweeper, USS Sprig, the first radarman assigned to a minesweeper in the Atlantic Fleet. She was based in Charleston, S.C.
Bruce Rohn served as fire control officer aboard the USS Tennessee after the World War I-era battleship, sunk by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, was raised from the bottom, repaired and sent to war. The 95-year-old Venice, Fla. resident and the Tennessee (BB-43) saw action at the Battle of the Philippine…
Sharks, injuries and exposure killed many of the 883 sailors lost aboard the heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis after being torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in the Philippine Sea shortly before the of World Wr II.
Until he sailed for Vietnam in 1967 aboard the USS Mathews, AKA-96, Richard Hartley of Port Charlotte, Fla. was a 21 year-old auto worker making Jeeps at Ford’s giant Rouge industrial complex in Dearborn, Mich.
John Schiro sailed into battle aboard the aircraft carrier USS Independence (CVL-22) shortly after she was commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard in August 1943 as a member of the engine room’s “Black Gang.” When he left the carrier at war’s end he was the chief machinist-mate in the forward engine-room.
Like his father and grandfather before him, Noel Hyde graduated from pharmacy school. But he did his elders one better, Noel joined the U.S. Navy’s Service Corps in the pharmacy department and served 25 years retiring as a Navy captain.
When Roy Johnson of Port Charlotte went aboard the destroyer USS Wiltsie (DD-716) in December 1952, just before a shakedown crew, he was an 18-year-old apprentice fireman. Since the ship ran on steam turbine power Johnson was made a messenger aboard the Wiltsie.
Bud Lounsbury of North Port, Fla. may have had the cushiest job in he Navy! He served as a seaman aboard the fleet admiral’s barge in the Mediterranean during the Korean War.
Philip Merrill almost missed World World II. Two weeks before graduating from high school at 17 he was sworn into the Navy on May 17, 1943.
Harold Tyson was a teenage quartermaster 2nd class at the helm of the USS Sheridan (APA-51), an attack transport, in seven major Pacific battles during World War II. He and his ship took part in the Invasion of Tarawa, Kwajalein, Saipan, Guam, Leyte, Philippines and Okinawa, the largest island engagement during the Second World War.
The hand-written note on the back of the framed 8 X 10-inch black and white photo on the wall of Earl Swillum’s Port Charlotte, Fla. home reads: “Iwo Jima, Day 3.” On the flip side it shows LST-121 on the beach with its bow in the island’s black volcanic sand two days before the Marines…