It was all because of a book, “History of the USS Antietam, CV-36,” that two Venice Fla. swabbies got togethe more than half a century after they went to sea during World War II.
George Chatterton and Edward “Bud” Lightweis were Navy mechanics aboard the Essex Class carrier. George made major repairs on Grumman TBF and Martin TBM torpedo bombers. Bud spent most of his time working on F6F Grumman Wildcat fighters.
Each year for the past 15 years the sailors aboard the Antietam have held a reunion. Finally, someone who served aboard the ship got the idea to publish a book about the carrier’s crew with pictures then and now and a short bio of the 3,600 sailors that went to sea aboard her.
Eight months ago, George received his copy of “History of the USS Antietam.” He started paging through the historical picture book.
Halfway through he spotted a fairly recent pictured of Bud accompanied by a picture of a young sailor that could have stepped right out of “Anchors Away” starring Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly, a 1945 MGM movie.
“I knew that guy and it wasn’t from the ship,” George explained. “Then I read his bio and found out he lived in Venice, played golf, was a member of the Venice Yacht Club and volunteered at Bon Secours-Venice Hospital.”
He got Bud’s work schedule at the hospital, put on his blue ball cap with a picture of the USS Antietam, CV-36 emblazoned in gold on the front and headed for the hospital a few weeks ago.
“Bud walked by me, saw my hat and woke up,” George said with a grin.
Bud said, “The first thing out of George’s mouth was that he was looking for a guy named Bud. I stood there staring at his hat with the name of my carrier on the front of it for a moment and thought, ‘That must be me he’s looking for.'”
A minute later the two old sailors were talking about the Antietam. Off and on for the past three months the old salts have been comparing notes, telling war stories and talking about the Antietam and their buddies they went to war with a lifetime ago.
“I still correspond with a half-dozen of my shipmates,” Bud said.
Oddly enough, the USS Antietam is named for the deadliest battle this country has ever fought. In the fall of 1862, Gen. George G. Mead’s Army of the Potomac clashed with Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at Antietam Creek in Maryland on Sept. 17. That one day, 23,000 blue- and gray-clad soldiers were killed, wounded or captured. Neither before nor since have we lost as many Americans as we did during that battle.
What’s odd about it is that the carrier Antietam saw very little service during the war. It was built at the Philadelphia Navy Yard and commissioned on Jan. 28, 1945. Both George and Bud were there for the commissioning ceremonies. That makes them “plank owners,” which means they were aboard ship before the carrier was commissioned.
Despite the fact they worked below deck doing approximately the same job, they didn’t know each other as sailors.
After completing his service during WWII, George took advantage of the GI Bill, graduated from college and went to law school. He became a U.S. federal judge involved in cases involving the Equal Opportunity Employment Act in the late 1950s and 1960s.
Bud was in the communications business. He worked for 37 years first for New Jersey Bell and later with AT&T. He eventually ended up working in AT&T’s main office in New York on special communications projects. One of the last jobs he was involved in was the breakup of the company into regional phone companies almost two decades ago.
Although George has lived in Venice for the last 28 years and Bud has lived there for 18 years, they never knew each other. If it hadn’t been for the book on their old carrier, they would have probably never met.
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, June 24, 2002 and is republished with permission.
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Edward H. “Bud” Lightweis
Nov. 2, 1922 – April 16, 2007
Edward Lightwies, 84, Venice, formerly of Mahwah, N.J., died April 16, 2007.
Visitation will be from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, with a service at 7 p.m., at Farley Funeral Home, Venice Chapel.
Survivors include his wife, Mary; a son, David of Murrells Inlet, S.C.; a daughter, Janet Cole of Syracuse, N.Y.; two grandchildren; and a sister, Phyllis Hunstock of Louisiana.
He is also survived by his daughter-in-law, Lynne Lightweis, and his son-in-law Robert Cole; and many nieces and nephews.
He was employed by New Jersey Bell for 37 years and retired in 1983. He was a member of the American Legion, VFW and the Venice Yacht Club, and a volunteer with the HVV Auxiliary of Venice Regional Medical Center. He was a veteran of World War II, Navy for over three years, serving in the Pacific Theater.
Published in Herald Tribune on Apr. 18, 2007