After a hitch in the Navy at the end of the Korean War, Don Bordenkircher, who lives in Maple Leaf Estates in Port Charlotte, Fla., went to work as a correctional officer at San Quentin State Prison in 1957. In the vernacular of the penal system, he was a “screw.”
Maston Thomas of South Port Square in Port Charlotte, Fla. joined the Navy six months before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
A week or 10 days after boarding a victory ship in New York Harbor Pfc. Lou Roth of Baltimore, Md. sailed into Le Havre, France together with thousands of other G.I.s. It was August 1945, a few months after the end of World War II in Europe, and the 19-year-old was part of the Allied…
In 1944, Val Gerald was a petty officer second class serving aboard the USS Randolph, an Essex Class aircraft carrier in World War II. Today the 89-year-old former Navy man is a resident, along with his wife Olga, of The Courtyard, an assisted living facility in Port Charlotte. Fla.
Water Tender 2nd Class Charles Murdock of Holiday Park in Englewood, Fla. was 21-years-old when he went aboard the light cruiser USS Philadelphia in February 1942, during the early months of World War II. She was headed for convoy duty in the North Atlantic.
Fred Paulsen heard the 20 mm guns on the carrier USS Saratoga firing at will as she cruised off Iwo Jima on Feb. 21, 1945. That’s when he knew they were in trouble.
Jack McClinden was aboard the USS Jenks, one of the five destroyers in a hunter-killer pack that captured the German submarine U-505 off the African coast in June 1944. It was the first time a U.S. vessel had captured an enemy ship at sea since the 19th Century.
Russ Kyper of the Park Forest subdivision in Englewood, Fla. joined the U.S. Navy on Aug. 13, 1945, the day before V-J (Victory over Japan) Day that ended World War II. He eventually transferred to the Seabees.
Like millions of other servicemen in World War II, Jack Reynolds who lives in Grove City south of Englewood, Fla. on the way to Placida, never made it to the front lines and the fighting. He was a radio operator on a PBY airplane, at the Jacksonville Naval Air Station and aboard the troop transport…
What Gilbert Butson of Oak Forest Condominiums Port Charlotte, Fla. remembers most about the three years he served aboard the destroyer USS Cowell (DD-547) in the Pacific during World War II was the time his ‘tin can” rescued sailors from the ill-fated heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis in the Philippine Sea during the “Great Mariana Turkey…
Every So often I receive an e-mail from a reader worth reprinting. This one from Jack Fournier of North Port, Fla. fell into that category. It’s better than anything I could write. As a U.S. Navy World War II vet I am a constant reader of your column. I was taken by a recent column…
Glen Johnson of Tropic Palm mobile-home park, south of Punta Gorda, Fla. went to war right out of high school in mid-July 1943. After boot camp he and a group of other sailors took a banana boat to Pearl Harbor. His destroyer hadn’t returned with the fleet from fighting the Japanese at Tarawa Atoll.
Knowing how to type made former Seaman Duane Payne’s 22-months in the U.S. Navy during the late 50s a walk in the park. It was an outstanding tour of duty, or so he recalled with pleasure more than half a century later.
Frank Arcidiacono was the radio operation aboard a U.S. Navy seaplane assigned to find Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto’s armada. The huge Japanese fleet was steaming toward Midway Island in the North Pacific on its way to attack what was left of the much smaller American battle group during the pivotal days of June 1942.
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…
It was pitch dark 64 years ago this past week, when Seaman 1st Class James Friel of south Punta Gorda, Fla. jumped from the fantail of the USS Walke (DD-416) into Iron Bottom Sound at Guadalcanal after his destroyer was hit by a Japanese torpedo.
Wilbur Kinney of Port Charlotte, Fla. was aboard the carrier USS Yorktown when it was sunk by a Japanese submarine during the decisive Battle of Midway that began June 4, 1942.
Radioman 3/C Wayne Mengel of Rotonda, Fla. played a small part in the history-making “Cuban Missile Crisis,” the high point in the “Cold War,” between the United States and the Soviet Union, in October 1962.
After bootcamp at Great Lakes in 1958 and a stint in Aviation Electronics School in Patuxent River, Md., Radioman 3rd/Class Jim Spence wound up as a radio operator aboard a U.S. Navy four-engine, Super Constellation patrol plane flying out of Argentia, Newfoundland in Airborne Early Warning Squadron 13.
The USS Cavalla (SS-244) was considered by some to be the luckiest ship in the submarine service. She sank the Japanese carrier Shokaku that participated in the Pearl Harbor attack, made 570 dives and sank 34,180 tons of enemy shipping near the end of World War II without sustaining any serious injuries to the crew.
Glenn Jenkins is dead. In 1945 he was a 17-year-old sailor who grew up in Nokomis, Fla. and joined the Navy near the end of World War II. After graduation from boot camp in Bainbridge, Md. he volunteered for a secret Naval mustard gas experiment that made him the focal point of a headline-grabbing Congressional…
Richard Cook looked the part with his short cropped hair, weathered face and ramrod-straight military gait. The old salt would fool no one. The real giveaway was the navy blue shirt with five rows of campaign ribbons complete with six battle stars on his chest. Underneath, embroidered in gold, it read: U.S. NAVY. Down the left arm of his long-sleeve shirt were the names of seven Vietnam cities. Even more interesting, also embroidered in gold, were four more lines of words in gold that read: “CAN’T TELL YOU.”
Dick Brown thought he was going to be an 18-year-old naval aviator in 1944. He quickly found out the military had more young flyboys than it needed.
George McNeill knows all about tsunamis like the one which devastated large portions of the southeast Asian coast of the Indian Ocean in 2005. He and the sailors aboard the troop transport, SS Denali, were hit by one in November 1942 while sailing from Seattle, Wash., to Dutch Harbor, Alaska.
Norm Meissner attended the United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, N.Y. in the 1960s. The “Cuban Missile Crisis” was erupting about the time he left the academy. The U. S. was on the verge of going to war with Russia over missiles the Soviets snuck into the island nation that were aimed our…
The toughest day of World War II for 17-year-old Seaman Ed McFadden was partway through the battle of Okinawa in March 1945. That day, he was not at his normal battle station in the foretop lookout 150 feet above the deck of the World War I battleship USS Colorado. That day he was on a…
Seaman John Wilson knew his ship was in harm’s way when the kamikaze plane at which he was firing continued to grow in the sights of his twin 40-millimeter anti-aircraft guns.
From the end of World War II, through the Korean War of the 1950s and halfway into the Vietnam War, late in the 1960s, Granville Pennypacker of Englewood, Fla. served as a yeoman, a Navy administrator, in strategic hot spots around the world.
“Hellcats” is what Admiral Thomas Lockwood, commander of submarines in the Pacific, dubbed the first “wolf pack” to breach the Tsushima Straits minefield and anti-submarine nets between the southern island of Kyushu in the Japanese chain and the Korean peninsula during the closing months of World War II.
Before Louie Wilson of Port Charlotte, Fla. joined the Navy in May 1943 he and his late wife, Bea, had a roller skating act on stage in Vaudeville call The Wilson Duo. After boot camp and preliminary naval gunnery training he went aboard a destroyer escort, the USS Barr (DE-576), headed for battle in the…
A dozen times or more Jim Clawson, who lives in Cross Creek RV Resort north of Arcadia, Fla. on US-17, crossed the Atlantic as the bow gunner on the William Gilles, a merchant ship, bringing tanks, planes and troops to North Africa and Europe during World War II.
Ted Schulz of Port Charlotte, Fla. had already crossed the Atlantic three times aboard a destroyer escort, USS Fiske, protecting transports full of military supplies on their way to North Africa when his ship was reassigned to a hunter-killer group in the North Atlantic searching for German U-Boats.
It was March 7, 1944 when Charles Kueny of Punta Gorda, Fla. got drafted. After a month’s basic training, instead of the usual 12 weeks, at Bainbridge, Md. he was sent aboard the USS Escalante a Navy tanker as a loader on a three-inch gun forward.
Operation Tiger was supposed to be a dry run, a dress rehearsal for the D-Day Invasion during World War II a few weeks away. What it turned out to be was a disaster for the Allied troops that has been covered up for almost 60 years.
Bernie Strapp of North Port, Fla. joined the Navy at 17 in February 1943 during the middle of World War II. Because he had taken carpentry in high school he wound up working in a ship repair unit in San Diego, Calif.
By the time Radioman 3rd Class Chris Genovese and his destroyer, the USS Rodman, reached Okinawa during the closing months of World War II, the ship had taken part in the D-Day invasion, shot down a German JU-88 bomber, 15 Japanese kamikazes, sunk a German submarine during the invasion of Southern France, and escorted President…
David Weaver, who grew up in Charleston, S.C. and joined the Naval Aviation Cadet Program in 1943 when he was 21, was sent to the Pacific Fleet and assigned to Escort Carrier Group VF-60 at Saipan.
Ted Sivyer of Country Club Estates in Venice manned a 20 mm antiaircraft gun on two destroyers, one during the Invasion of Sicily and North Africa and the other at Iwo Jima and Okinawa in World War II.
Lawrence Frazer of South Gulf Cove, Fla. was a 16-year-old sailor on the main number-2 five-inch gun aboard the USS Killen (DD-539), a Fletcher Class destroyer, during the battle of the Surigao Strait off Leyte in the Philippines on Oct. 25, 1944, in World War II.
The carrier USS Shangri-La sailed out of Pearl Harbor in early April 1945, headed for the war zone.
Tom Edwards of Deep Creek, Fla. was a Navy man through and through. He joined the Navy when he was 17 on Nov. 25, 1940 — his birthday — and made it his life for 22 years .
Minutes after the heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis‘ bow was blown away by a torpedo fired by Japanese submarine I-58 on July 30, 1945, Ensign Harlan Twible was treading water in the shark-infested, inky waters of the Philippine Sea.
* George Wolhuter took all of the black and white photographs presented here with his twin-lens reflex camera. He also developed and printed them aboard ship in the darkroom on his LST. Ensign George Wolhuter was a gunnery officer aboard an LST which took part in the invasion of Sicily, a secret Malaysian invasion, and…
The enemy submarine, I-374, sailed out of Tokyo Bay into the open Pacific shortly before sunrise on Sept. 22, 1944. Capt. Ralph Styles, skipper of the sub USS Sea Devil, was laying in wait submerged near the harbor’s entrance.
After 20 years of service in the U.S. Navy, Eugene Maresca retired in 1983 as a full commander. He served three years in the regular Navy and the rest in the Naval Reserve.
Wally Weber of Burnt Store Country Club didn’t have to sweat the draft during World War II. His father was the chairman of the local draft board in the little town in Oklahoma where he grew up.
“At Guadalcanal, I was almost a war hero to the Japanese,” Allard Guy “Slim” Russell of Sarasota, Fla. said with a smile. “I dropped my first 500-pound bomb on the 75-mile long, 25-mile-wide enemy-held South Pacific island.
By the time Master Chief Herb Schmaeling retired from the U.S. Coast Guard in 1971 he had served in the Navy aboard the aircraft carrier USS Wasp in World War II and during the Korean and Vietnam wars.
Arthur Anderssen of Burnt Store Isles south of Punta Gorda, Fla. graduated from Auburn University in 1962 on a Navy ROTC scholarship and joined the Navy immediately to complete his four year obligation. Thus began his 26 year military career.
Nine German torpedo boats attacked eight American transport ships in Lyme Bay off the southern coast of England near the village of Slapton Sands in South Devon, during the wee hours of April 28, 1944. By dawn, 749 Americans died and 1000 more were casualties of war.
Seaman 1st Class Art Coelho of Port Charlotte, Fla. wasn’t aboard the USS Pillsbury (DE-133) when she took part in the sinking of the U-515, a German submarine, off the Madeira Islands in the Atlantic near the North African coast. However, he was on her two months later when the same destroyer escort helped capture…
Seaman 3rd Class Howard Halsey was a 20-year-old assigned to a 20-millimeter anti-aircraft gun on the destroyer USS Kimberly off Tarawa, a tiny island in the Central Pacific.
John Socotch was a 20-year-old torpedoman when he went aboard the USS Barbero (SS-317) submarine in Freemantle, Australia Aug. 9, 1944. The new Balao Class sub sailed to war into the South China Sea, between Japan and China Sea, on her first combat patrol Oct. 4.
From the pages of the diary he kept aboard the destroyer he served on– the USS Beale (DD-471) — Ray Pomeroy of Rotonda, Fla. was able to recreate two of the biggest sea battles of World War II he fought in: The Battle of the Philippine Sea and the Battle of Okinawa.
D-Day was June 15, 1944. It was the baptism of fire for the crew of the new attack transport USS Comet (APA-166) off Saipan Island in the Pacific’s Marshall Islands chain during World War II.
By the time Ken Rivers of Port Charlotte, Fla. was 20 he had taken part in seven major engagements in the Pacific in World War II aboard the destroyer USS Mansfield (DD-728), participated in the first naval battle of the war in Tokyo Bay and attended the Surrender Ceremony on Sept. 2, 1945 when the…
Forty years after rockets rained down on their Tango Boat operating in South Vietnam’s Cau Lon River delta country, killing or wounding all seven crew members, Soan Ngo, skipper of the beleaguered boat, and Jim Milstead, his American advisor, were recently reunited in Venice, Fla. thanks to the efforts of a friend and the internet.
When the Japanese attacked the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941, Baker 3rd Class Dale Augerson had just put a batch of apple pies in the oven aboard the battleship USS West Virginia. The battleship was moored at “Battleship Row,” together with most of the fleet’s other capital ships.
George Burger of Rotonda, near Port Charlotte, Fla., was a radar operator aboard a four-engine Navy Super Constellation patrol plane flying out of Argentia Naval Air Station, Newfoundland in the mid 1950s during the “Cold War” searching for Soviet missiles and submarines as a member of Airborne Early Warning Squadron 13.
Just like Mr. Roberts, who served aboard the USS Reluctant, Seaman 1st Class Ed Blissick of Gardens of Gulf Cove near Port Charlotte, Fla. served on a similar attack transport, the USS Montague, AKA-98, during the final months of World War II.
Don Fowler was born in Arcadia, Florida in 1925. “I was going to graduate from DeSoto County High School in 1943, but I joined the Navy to see the world that March,” Fowler, who lives in Rotonda, Fla. said more than six decades later.
It wasn’t the bombing of the carrier USS Franklin off the coast of Japan on March 19, 1945, or the attack by 31 Kamikazes on the four destroyers leading the Franklin’s task force off Okinawa on April 14, 1945, that John Wisse of Rotonda, Fla. considers his worst day in World War II.
Jefferson Askew joined the Navy at age 23 in 1940, almost a year before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. By war’s end, he had made 38 trips across the Atlantic in a minuscule destroyer escort, the USS Amick, helping to protect 150-ship convoys making the hazardous voyage to Europe during World War II.
Otis Manchester of North Port, Fla. always wanted to go to sea and see the world. His father had served in the U.S. Navy during World War I and he volunteer for the Navy a year before the start of the Korean War.
At 90 Don Lumsden of Boca Royale subdivision in Englewood, Fla. has the distinction of being the oldest living “Frogman” in the United States of America. He learned about this honor a few days ago from Mike Howard, Director of the Seal Museum in Fort Pierce, Fla.
The Tachibana Maru was the only Japanese ship captured under sail by the U.S. Navy during World War II.
Chief Julius Gervan of Burnt Store Isles subdivision south of Punta Gorda, Fla. was in charge of the forward engine-room aboard the destroyer USS Thatcher II (DD-514) when a kamikaze pilot crashed his plane into the the ship’s super structure and burst into flames killing 14 sailors and wounding 56 more during the Battle for…
Dick Henry of Foxwood subdivision in Englewood piloted a “Higgins Boat,” a plywood landing craft, in six major invasions during World War II. However, the closest he came to being killed during the war was in a typhoon one night off Okinawa.
Larry McClure of Punta Gorda Isles, Fla. thinks of himself as a Pearl Harbor baby. He was born on Dec. 20, 1941 at the Naval hospital in Pearl Harbor. His father was a Navy chief at the time serving with the Pacific Fleet at Pearl. His dad was aboard the carrier USS Lexington when she…
Harry Weis of Punta Gorda, Fla. served aboard the escort carrier USS Santee. He took part in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval engagement in World War II. It was the first time the Japanese Imperial Navy used kamikaze airplanes to attack the Allied fleet.
John Callahan , of Punta Gorda Isles, Fla., was the coxswain of a Higgins Boat, a plywood and steel landing craft built in the New Orleans area. He and his wooden boat played a part in the Battle of Okinawa, the biggest battle in the Pacific during the Second World War.
George Gallagher of Englewood, Fla. was serving aboard the USS Trutta, a Tench-Class submarine, as a motor machinist-mate 2nd/class when they picked up a downed P-51 Mustang fighter pilot who was shot down and adrift almost a week in a yellow life raft in the East China Sea.
Despite the German U-boat packs prowling the Atlantic, Seaman 1/C Bob Frazier survived 10 round-trips in the USS Susan B. Anthony, an attack transport, without a scratch taking troops to Europe in World War II.
Navy Corpsman Bill Remley of Royal Palm Retirement Home in Port Charlotte, Fla. was aboard the heavy cruiser USS Vincennes watching the “Doolittle Raiders” fly their B-25, twin-engine bombers off the deck of the carrier USS Hornet on their way to bomb Japan four months after devastating the American fleet at Pearl Harbor on Dec.…
At 90 years old, Bob Boliere of Stillwater Villas in Englewood, Fla. may be the last of the U.S. Army’s horse cavalry.
Dorothy Arft loves the Navy. She spent one four-year hitch in the service as a seaman and 29 years working as a civilian employee for the Navy.
The exploding Japanese torpedo sheared off 15 feet of the destroyer USS Benham’s bow during a night engagement off Guadalcanal on Nov. 14, 1942. Machinest-mate 3rd Class Henry Horst was two decks down in the magazine of the ship’s number one, five-inch main gun when disaster struck.
Before Richard Perrin became chief chef and owner of RK’s Café at Bobcat Village Center, North Port, Fla. he was an air traffic controller aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson serving in the Gulf of Oman when Saddam Hussein marched his troops into Kuwait in 1990 launching “Operation Dessert Storm” which started the Gulf…
Former Lt. Col. Abe Wolson of Port Charlotte, Fla. served 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He piloted Marine Corps 1, the presidential helicopter, during the administrations of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. He served three tours in Vietnam in 1961, ’67 and ’72, flying helicopters in combat for Special Operations missions, among other…
Four days after delivering the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan to Tinian Island in the Pacific during the final days of World War II, the USS Indianapolis was hit by two torpedoes from a Japanese sub. She sunk in 12 minutes and her demise resulted in the biggest loss of life in the U.S.…
Roland Petit of La Casa mobile home park in North Port, Fla. served aboard an LST (Landing Ship Tank) and ashore as an interpreter in World War II. It wasn’t easy. He had to fight his way into the Navy.
Drennon Judy was a quartermaster who served aboard the Battleship USS Pennsylvania. He saw action during many of the major battles in the Pacific during World War II.
What Albert Reale of Port Charlotte, Fla. remembers most about World War II are not the battles, but the typhoon that ravaged Okinawa during the final weeks of the war.
Bob Arnold became a Navy man just like his dad. His father served aboard the USS Langley, American’s first aircraft carrier, before World War II.
1st Lt. Richard Burns almost “bought the farm” on his 95th combat mission over North Korea in his F-84 “Thunderjet.” His squadron’s objective: knock out an enemy bridge.
Warner Heinrich of Port Charlotte, Fla. was a Browning Auitomatic Rifleman who served in the 43rd Infantry Division in the Pacific during World War II. He saw action at Guadalcanal and Leyte in the Philippines.
For the past year, in addition to writing war stories about local veterans, I’ve provided DVD interviews of these same veterans to the Library of Congress’ “Veterans History Project.” This week I reached a milestone in these interviews. A couple of days ago I sent 25 DVDs and supporting material on each disk to the…
Mickey LeMay of Rotonda, Fla. is a survivor of the 1967 attack on the USS Liberty, an American spy ship caught up in the Arab-Israeli “Six Day War.” When the strafing, bombing and torpedoing of the converted freighter by Israeli fighter-bombers and gun boats stopped, 34 American servicemen were dead and 171 wounded.
Ed Scarff had a 30 year military career that spanned two services and three wars. He enlisted in the Navy in WWII as a teenaged machinest-mate and ended up joining the Air Force’s Aviation Cadet Program and flew jet fighters in Korea and Vietnam.
Vernon Olsen, 91 — who survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor aboard the battleship USS Arizona, swam away from the carrier USS Lexington as it was sinking during the Battle of the Coral Sea months later, and took part in the Bikini Atoll atomic bomb tests after the war — died Friday, April 22,…
Right out of high school Clyde Leininger, who lives in Alligator Mobile Home Park south of Punta Gorda, Fla. joined the Naval Aviation Cadet Program to become a pilot. Before he got his wings the program was canceled in October 1944 because the Navy had too many pilots.
The cheap, cerise-colored, aluminum bracelet on her right arm was battered and worn. Every day for the past 25 years, Vera Creed of Port Charlotte, Fla. has had it on.
When Eugene “Fuzzy” Fazekas of Spanish Lakes mobile home park in Nokomis, Fla. sailed to war as a corpsman with Naval Advance Group 56 in 1944 he hadn’t been given any medical training.
Millie Edsall was a registered nurse working in a doctor’s office in Joliet, Ill. when the Second World War erupted. At 20, in 1938, she graduated from St. Joseph’s School of Nursing in Joliet.
Angelo Marinelli is the swabbie in the center. He and his buddies had just dropped FDR off at Malta and were touring the island on a sunny Sunday. President Roosevelt met with Egyptian King Farouk aboard the USS Quincy in July 1944. Photo provided Boatswain’s mate Angelo Marinelli knew something big was up when a bathtub was brought aboard his ship, the heavy cruiser USS Quincy, in December 1944 while it was moored at the Boston Navy Yard.
Looking back on it all, Tom Gould of Venice says, “I was 17 and just out of high school. I was a rebel without a cause. My father told me I had three choices: ‘I could get a job, go in the service or go to reform school.’
His dark blue ball cap with the orange patch and gold lettering read: “SCOUTS AND RAIDERS, 1942-1945, U.S. NAVY WW II, WE LEAD THE WAY.” It was what Art Nicholas of Englewood, Fla. wore when he, his wife and two grown daughters visited all five beaches in Normandy, France on the 65th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion during the summer of 2009.
His story could have been a page out of “South Pacific,” Rodgers and Hammerstein’s hit musical set in the Solomon Islands during World War II.
Bob Bolling missed World War II altogether. He signed up for the navy in 1946 right out of high school. After boot camp in Bainbridge, Md. he went aboard the escort carrier USS Salerno Bay, CVE-110, in Norfolk, Va.
Electrician’s Mate 1st Class Thomas McLean’s war in the Pacific lasted a little over three months. He sailed aboard the USS Tollberg, APD-103, for Pearl Harbor arriving April 22, 1945.
Jerry Hemphill served aboard the USS Missouri as a Japanese intercept operator. He was the first American to intercept the official code from Tokyo that the emperor was calling it quits. World War II was almost over.