Fathers’ Day Remembrance

This Sunday is Fathers’ Day. For many it seems, the military is a family affair. Many of today’s coasties came from military families. For my generation, many of our parents went through World War II in uniform.

Capt. Bob Gravino, USCG (ret.) is the scribe for my Academy class Alumni Bulletin class notes. He had been told the stories of fathers and other family members who had military experience in WWII and was concerned that those stories would be lost, so he has tried to recover them. I suggested we post them here.

It seems men of that generation seldom talked about their experiences. My father-in-law was an aircraft mechanic and tail gunner on B-25s as part of General Kenney’s Fifth Air Force in the SW Pacific. Of French Canadian parents, he spoke fluent French, so of course the Army did not send him to Europe. He had been shot down and spent a day in a raft in the Pacific before being rescued, but my wife had never heard that until I drew him out.

Here are some of my classmates’ stories. If you would like to add your own remembrances, please put them in the comments.

From George D. Bond, II

My father was Army and Gayle’s Navy (his wife-Chuck).  Both in the Pacific Theater.

My father, George D Bond, was I the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) until they disbanded it in 1942.  Like many he joined the Army as a 2nd LT, CWO1.  Don’t ask me!  CWO was permanent rank and 2nd LT reserve one.  He was in training somewhere and then was in the Alaska Aleutian operations.  He told me nothing other than there was a woman behind every tree and not a tree in sight and of crawling over the tips of hills as the wind was so bad.  I learned more reading “The 1000 Mile War”.  He was involved (he was infantry) when they kicked the Japanese out of the tip of the Aleutian Islands.  In the book they say the US fought Japan and the weather.  Japan fought the US and the weather.  The weather won.  He got home earlier than most as I was born May 1946.
Gayle’s father, Clyde William Solt, was an oiler on a Navy refueling vessel all around the Pacific.  Gayle says he also said little other than they wrapped their tools in cloth so no potential spark could occur and set them off. (Sounds like a gasoline tanker–Chuck)
My grandfather tried to serve but they said no as he was a minister.  One of Gayle’s grandfathers was in the Navy and after his enlistment was up signed up for the Coast Guard and help set up the Ocean Stations we did.  He ended up XO of the CG training station Groton at Avery Point.
From James T. Doherty, Jr.:

WOJG James T. Doherty (Sr.), 1946

My father, James T. Doherty (Sr.), was a Warrant Officer Junior Grade in the US Army during World War II. He voluntarily enlisted in US Army in February 1941, ten months before Pearl Harbor, and served until his final discharge in January 1946. He was trained as a combat medic. He served in the European theater from May 1943 through October 1945, including operations in North Africa, Italy, and France. He never spoke of his wartime experiences, but my aunts (his younger sisters) told me that his pre-war carefree attitude had been changed significantly after he treated men injured in horrific combat operations, particularly during the Italian Campaign. He was in Italy from October 1943 through October 1944. Regarding the rest of my family, four uncles served, two Navy in Pacific, one Army and one Army Air Corps in Europe. Additionally, one aunt was a Navy WAVE in Pacific, and a much older uncle had served in Army in Europe during World War I. My wife’s father, Harold J. Doebler, was a Navy radioman in an LST in the Pacific, and two of her uncles were Army and Army Air Corps in Europe. Like my relatives, my father-in-law and Patti’s uncles also voluntarily enlisted. All are gone now, my personal Greatest Generation.
From David Frydenlund:
This is a tale of three brothers from the plains of eastern North Dakota who, after having to quit school early because of the Great Depression and the loss of the family farm, were swept up in the events of WWII.   These are my recollections based on stories told at family gatherings. The fundamental arc is right but the dates and details are a little sketchy and I have no way to research them. Interestingly, like many veterans, none of them talked a lot about their experiences and they usually only shared after some alcoholic release of inhibitions or when, after I entered the military, they thought some experience that they had had would provide a useful lesson to me.
The oldest, my father, Marvin Frydenlund, entered the Navy in the summer of 1941. He had tried to enlist earlier but was under weight. His recruiter gave him a special “fattening” diet and, after a couple of weeks and with the aid of pockets full of rocks he passed the threshold. He then went straight to Great Lakes Naval Receiving Center. On graduating from Boot Camp he was ordered to the USS Maryland (BB-46), a Colorado Class battleship, as a fireman. He arrived at Pearl Harbor in early November. On December 7 Maryland was moored inboard of USS Oklahoma on Battleship Row. When GQ sounded he went to the engine room, but after the first (of two) bombs hit Maryland he was sent up on deck with a fire ax to cut away the mooring lines to Oklahoma as she had taken 7 to 9 torpedoes, was listing badly, and it was feared she would drag Maryland under as she rolled. As soon as the lines were cut, Oklahoma rolled. After the attack was over he spent the rest of the day, and most of the next two, as part of a boat crew collecting bodies, mostly from Oklahoma and Arizona, and stacking them on the beach for Graves Registration.
After temporary repairs were done to Maryland she sailed to Puget Sound for permanent repairs. She then deployed for picket duty along the West Coast and then to North Australia (Christmas Islands) to block Japanese ship movements. In late May she went back to Pearl just in time to deploy as part of the south wall for the Battle of Midway, but saw no direct action. Some where in here he became an Electricians Mate.
After Midway it was back to San Francisco where, by freak chance, he got to spend the only day during the war where he saw his brother Roy. After a brief refit in San Francisco, Maryland went to Fiji and then to the New Hebrides as a blocking action to stop the Japanese from attacking Australia. He then received orders to the pre-commissioning crew of the USS Hornet (CV-12), Essex Class, in Newport News. Lacking transport, he was assigned to a Free Dutch tramp steamer as the loader on a newly installed 3” 50 gun. They fired it twice to make sure it worked and had an uneventful steam from West Pac to San Francisco. He reported in to Hornet and was assigned to schools to become an interior communications electrician (synchros, gyros, telephones, alarm systems). Hornet deployed west in February of 1944. Somewhere in here Marvin made “clean sleeve” Chief Electricians Mate. Unlike the relatively peaceful time he spent on Maryland (after Pearl…), Hornet was nearly continuously in action, but being a “lucky ship” she was rarely seriously damaged by enemy action, though she frequently suffered damage from her own planes accidents on landing.
She went an extended period without making any port calls doing a combination of UNREP and short refits at Ulithi Atoll. Just listing major actions I can remember, she participated in strikes on Japanese installations in New Guinea, Palau, and Truk and then took part in the Mariana and Palau Islands Campaign followed by the Battle of the Philippine Sea in June (nicknamed the “Great Marianas Turkey Shoot”). Then the liberation of the Philippines in late 1944, and the Volcano and Ryuku Islands Campaign in the first half of 1945. Then there were attacks on Formosa and Indo China. My dad’s GQ  station during much of this time was to a Damage Control team fighting flight deck fires and repairing deck damage caused by crashes of returning aircraft. He got to see way too much carnage.
Hornet’s luck ran out in a typhoon in June of 1945. Her flight deck was warped down at the bow by wind and wave. After steaming backwards at high speed into the wind to launch her aircraft off the stern she headed for San Francisco for repairs. My dad frequently said he did not regret missing the final preparations for the invasion of Japan.

The war ended abruptly with a couple of bombs. Hornet was assigned “Magic Carpet” duty and crossed the Pacific several times returning men and material from forward deployment. My dad claimed this was the most important thing he did during the war. Magic Carpet ended in February of 1946. Shortly thereafter my father was advised that his enlistment, which had been extended “For the Duration” was ended and he had to reenlist or be demobilized. Under the influence of my mother, he elected not to reenlist and left the Navy.

The next brother, Roy, has a much shorter story. He was also rejected by the Navy for being under weight and so enlisted in the Army in late January 1942. He was assigned to Basic Training (even he did not remember where) but did not go because his Basic Battery showed him to be a candidate for a special program. He was assigned directly to Signals Intelligence Schools where he learned first radio electronics, and then wire recorders, and then Morse code (to 60 wpm) and finally rudimentary Japanese. As he described it, an excellent shot his whole life, he never officially touched a gun in the Army. On finishing school he was ordered, with the highest priority, to Oahu via San Francisco. He was put on an express train to SF and, on arrival, was given priority transport to Angel Island for transport to Hawaii. And then, in a way only the military can really do, they lost track of him, and despite the fact that he appeared every Monday at the transport desk with his orders, and the fact that at least two ships left for Hawaii each week, he spent 4 months on Angel Island with no duties. It was during this time that he got to spend a day with Marvin in SF so it was a mixed bag. He then went to Oahu and spent the rest of the war listening in on Japanese communications and recording them both by hand and on wire recorders. Interestingly, he claimed that when his number came up for Magic Carpet he missed the cutoff for being assigned to Hornet to ride home (with his brother) by less than 100.

The last brother, Earl, was too young to enlist at the beginning of the war. He finally enlisted in the Marines after VE day. By the time he had finished his training the war was over. Except his war was not over. At some point (he was pretty vague and mumbled about still “Secret”) his company was deployed to China as part of an advisory team to the Nationalist Government Army which was engaged in a losing fight against the Peoples Liberation Army. He was also pretty vague about what he did in China or even when he left. He was not vague about some bits. His company suffered heavy casualties. He counted himself as lucky to not be one of them. It was the ugliest thing he had ever done and beyond the ugliest thing he could have imagined. He liked the Chinese peasants in the ranks (farm boys a lot like himself he would say), but had no use for their ruling class (officers and politicians). They had a reckless disregard for human life, except their own. The only thing he had a lower regard for was the Chinese Communist Party who shared the reckless disregard for life but added, in his view, a casual cruelty to what they did. Noting that promotion was almost non-existent, that a wider war was probably coming, and that he had seen all the war he needed in his lifetime, he left the Corps just in time to avoid the Korean Police Action.

I don’t know why, but these stories in no way deterred my brother and I from seeking commissions in the sea services of the United States.

Bob Gravino:

My father was in the US Army during WWll and served in the invasions of North Africa and Sicily, and then fought up the Italian peninsula to Rome.  He died at age 64, and never spoke about his time in the service.  My mother would talk about him waking up in the middle of the night screaming, which went on for five or more years after they were married in 1945.

Robert Henry: 

1st Lt. Harold F. Henry, lower left.

Dad flew out of North Africa and Italy in 1944 with the 15th  AAF. He participated in numerous missions including Ploesti, Budapest,, Bucharest and Vienna, and earned two Distinguish Flying Crosses. He never talked about his war time experiences and we only found out about his achievements after he passed away. I can only imagine what he went thru along with the rest of his generation to give us the freedom we now take for granted.

Mike Moore: 

When Thomas T. Moore Jr. passed away 14 years ago, our family and the nation lost a wonderful gentleman and patriot. He loved his creator, his family, and his country with all his heart and soul. My sisters and I think of him every day and miss his warm demeanor and endless optimism. Dad served in the Army Air Force during World War II as a radio operator in B-29s and in the Air Force during the Korean War as a radio operator in C-119s. He remained in the Air Force Reserve for a number of years after Korea. Dad never spoke about the missions he flew during either war, only saying that the flights were very long. When asked about his service experiences, he talked about the places he had been stationed, his crew, life on Guam during WW Ii, and life in Ashiya, Japan the Korean War. I only learned about the missions he flew after his passing by reading some of his service personnel papers in order to put together an obituary. That was the first time I found that he was in the 6th Bombardment Squadron (very heavy), 29th Bombardment Group, 314th Bombardment Wing, 20th Air Force. Dad played baseball (catcher) and football (line) on squadron teams. He was a St. Louis Browns fan and, after the Browns moved to Baltimore, an Orioles fan. He was a huge Tennessee Volunteers fan. Among my fondest memories was listening to play-by-play radio broadcasts on fall Saturdays. Dad was a virtual handbook on how to be a good father. He instilled in us a desire to do our best, do the right thing, and a strong sense of persistence to never give up. We miss him greatly and know there is a special place in heaven for him.
I know that the purpose was to honor our fathers. There are other fathers in our lives who are important to us. My father in law enlisted in the Navy prior to WW II, served destroyers, destroyer escorts, and transports in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. He ended his service as a Chief Watertender (forerunner of the BT rating). He later earned an education degree and taught school for 20 years. He was a wonderful father for Alice, her sister, and her brothers.
Gary Pavlik:

Photo: William Pavlik, gun captain of this twin 40mm. As a GM2 he would go AWOL to marry Aldia, Gary’s mother. For that he was busted to GM3.

My dad was on a completely CG crewed USN DE, the USS Lowe (DE-325), that did convoy escorts between NYC and ports in the Med. Had one confirmed sub kill and two probables.

USS Lowe (DE-325) in its later guise as USCGC Lowe (WDE-425). Maybe we could name an Offshore Patrol Cutter after her to commemorate the 351 Coast Guard manned Navy vessels and craft of World War II.–Chuck

When I was young what I heard about WWII from Dad was during conversations with his brothers, my uncles. One who served on subs in the Pacific theatre.

Dad’s youngest sister’s husband, my uncle Jack, was an 18 year old crew member of the USS Belleau Wood, an Independence-class light aircraft carrier, that took a Kamikaze hit and lost 92 crew members. At the end of the war he came home on leave and told everyone he was on an extended leave. He had gone AWOL. Eventually the shore patrol came and got him. He was discharged with a 100% disability and sent home. He did not talk about his war experiences until the last few years of is life.
A recollection burned into my memory is from mid-late 50s with my Dad at the barbershop in our small blue collar Western PA mill town. I am reasonably sure of the time frame because much after that I would have gone to the barber by myself. Keep in mind this was only about 10 years after WWII.
The barbershop was pretty full. As I recall a 3 or 4 chair business. Biggest in our blue collar town. A guy in a suit (rare to work in one where I was raised) came in and sat down and started talking about burning a hole in his suit(!!??). I was only vaguely paying attention and didn’t get alert until the barbershop owner, who I knew well from our church, said something to the “suit” like “say you weren’t in the service right?” He replied in a nervous fashion that he had a bad hip or leg or something, was in bad shape, and couldn’t pass the physical. Even as a kid I could recognize embarrassment. And that Pete the barber asked the question in a purposeful manner.
It was only when I got older that I realized the guy was embarrassed about not serving. And the other grown men in the room, who like my Dad certainly did serve, spoke with their silence.
In retrospect I recall almost no regular casual conversations about WWII in the barbershop or anywhere else. Only very occasionally among my Dad and his brothers. And then about high jinks on liberty. Not about the action they saw. And as I found out in later years, they saw a lot.
From Stuart (Stu) White: 

LTjg Daniel H. White: Dan had attended two years at Yale University before enlisting in the Coast Guard. He was stationed in Seattle where he met Mom. Dan went through Coast Guard OCS at the Academy’s Splinter Village (wooden barracks and buildings where Munro Hall and parking lots are now) and recalled the old Cadet Auditorium, Cadet Recreation Hall and the old Field House (Alumni Center area) on our Fourth Class Parent’s Weekend. He attended diesel power school at Penn State before picking up LST-763 in New Orleans and trans packing to the Pacific Theater. His LST saw action during the D-Day landings on Iwo Jima and Okinawa. The story I’ve been told is that a roommate he had for the D-Day landing on Iwo Jima was photo-journalist Joe Rosenthal. An uncle was a navy officer who served in Europe and another uncle who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor serving on one of the battleships.

2 thoughts on “Fathers’ Day Remembrance

  1. My father, Adrian J. Ackerman enlisted in the Navy shortly after Pearl Harbor. After boot camp, he was sent to storekeeper school (he had been a book keeper in civilian life) and then to the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts in Washington, DC. After about a year there, he was sent to Plymouth, England as part of a large Navy contingent which established and operated a huge supply depot network which keep Navy units operating. They were bombed nightly (Plymouth was a prime target) and later endured V-1 and V-2 attacks.
    After the war, he briefly returned to civilian life. He missed the Navy and reenlisted. During the years that followed, he served on USS Rodman (DD-456) and USS Rizzi (DE-537). After a string of assignments at reserve training centers, he went back to sea on the USS Statent Island (AGB-5). His final tour was at MineRon3 in Sasebo Japan. He retired from the Navy in 1963 as an SKC and worked as an accountant until retired.
    He rarely talked about much of his wartime service. Despite the challenges, he enjoyed his time in Plymouth and returned there in the early 1970s to revisit the places he had seen.
    Most of the guys he had grown up with served during the war. His best friend was a navigaor in bombers. One of his cousins was one of the Rangers who assaulted Pointe du Hoc on D-Day.
    Growing up arounnd the Navy certainly influenced my decision to join. Dad always found it funny that I became a Coastie rather then serving in the Navy.

  2. My father Frederick Carl Wilder was an Army Infantryman in World War II in the Pacific Theater. He never talked about his experiences and when i asked he would only say it was “hot”. I figured he meant the weather, but after his passing at 91 years old i found some old pictures of him and his platoon and looked like it could have meant the fighting was “hot”!
    My father-in-law, Foster Gilmore Davis was a Tank Commander in World War II fighting n Europe. He talked a little about his experience when his tanks took enemy fire from the Germans and he was wounded with shrapnel in both legs. The shrapnel stayed in his body until his passing at 98 years old! Our fathers were a part of a tough generation that defended our country and fought for its freedom because it was the right thing to do. They were all heroes and set a great example for all of us.

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