Out of all the vessels that took part in the Cape San Juan rescue, none obviously had a greater impact on the number of lives saved than the destroyer USS McCalla. And to think that her involvement was due to a simple twist of fate. The result of an accident, although a tragic one, that initiated a chain of events that would put McCalla in the right place at the right time. I shudder to think what the consequences would have been had she not been there. True, the Dempsey could have picked up quite a few, though substantially less than the number McCalla did. The small YMS-241 and SC-654 both performed just as heroically, but had their limitations due to their size. It would have taken several more of the similar sized vessels in the area to compensate (i.e.; SC-1048 & YMS-117), would have taken more time, and therefore, no doubt, cost more lives.
An excellent set of plans for her type are included on the Historic Naval Ships Association website here.
McCalla's diary continued:
The USS McCalla (DD-488) was commissioned on May 27th, 1942 under the command of Lieutenant Commander William Goodwin Cooper, USN (Annapolis ‘26) from Palmerton, PA.
According to her War History: “The period from 27 May 1942 to 13 June 1942 was spent at the Navy Yard and vicinity for fitting out, degaussing and calibrating, loading ammunition, and effecting emergency repairs.
On 13 June 1942 ship proceeded to Long Island Sound enroute Newport, R.I. Reported to CominCh [Commander-in-Chief", U.S. Navy] and CincLant [Commander in Chief, Atlantic Command] for duty. Received torpedoes at Newport, then proceeded Casco Bay, Maine, via Cape Cod Canal, firing structural test shots while enroute. Arrived Casco Bay on 17 June 1942.”
The period from June 18th, 1942 through August 12th, 1942 was spent on various training exercises off the East Coast which included a couple real submarine hunts (no results) and some short convoy escort duties.
On August 13th they began working their way West through the Caribbean, and arrived in the Canal Zone on August 24th, 1942. They made their way up the West Coast, arriving in San Diego on September 2nd and San Francisco on September 5th, 1942. On that same day they received orders to escort the USS Copahee (ACV-12 at this time) to Pearl Harbor and departed later than afternoon. They arrived safely in Pearl on September 11th, 1942.
They departed Pearl on September 17th, once again escorting Copahee, this time to Suva, Fiji. They crossed the equator on September 21st, 1942 and held their first Crossing the Line Ceremony. They crossed the International Date Line at midnight on September 24th, but did not stop in Suva as planned and continued instead on to Noumea, New Caledonia, arriving there on September 28th, 1942.
The next week was spent escorting various ships in the area. On the evening of October 7th/8th, 1942 they were part of a special night firing exercise using their radar controlled gunfire off Espiritu Santo. Probably as a result of the disastrous night engagement of the First Battle of Savo Island two months prior, and in preparation for further expected night actions around Guadalcanal. It was just in time.
Notable actions McCalla participated in early in her career were:
Battle of Cape Esperance (aka: Second Battle of Savo Island)
On the evening of October 11th/12th, 1942 the green crew of the USS McCalla took part in the key night surface action known as the Battle of Cape Esperance.
The link above will provide a nice summary of the action, but essentially the McCalla was part of a small American force comprised of the cruisers USS San Francisco (CA-38), USS Boise (CL-47), USS Salt Lake City (CA-25), and USS Helena (CL-50) and five destroyers; USS Farenholt (DD-491), USS Duncan (DD-485), USS Buchanan (DD-484), USS McCalla (DD-488), and USS Laffey (DD-459). Between Savo Island and the northern tip of Guadalcanal known as Cape Esperance, they intercepted a formidable Japanese force intent on the bombardment of Henderson Field and the re-supply and reinforcement of the Japanese garrison on Guadalcanal.
During the fierce, but brief engagement, McCalla assisted in sinking the Japanese cruiser Furutaka and destroyer Fubuki, and damaging the destroyer Hatsuyuki. According to her war diary, two enemy vessels were fired upon soon after approval was given at 2346 at a range of 4,000 yards. Only one salvo was fired before the cease fire was given by the force commander on the San Francisco as he attempted to confirm he was firing on friend or foe. Once confirmed, McCalla re-engaged Furutaka and Fubuki at 2353 at a range of 3,600 to 4,000 yards, now bearing 15° forward of McCalla’s starboard beam, ceasing fire at 2400. Between 0012 and 0017 McCalla engaged a second enemy destroyer (assumed to be Hatsuyuki) at a range of 7,000 to 7,500 yards. McCalla fired a total of 390 rounds of 5” ammunition during the engagement, but no torpedoes. Remarkably, she received no casualties and no serious damage. The other vessels in her group did not fare as well, and although the bombardment of Henderson field was carried out the next day and the re-enforcements got through it was still considered an important American victory as the Japanese suffered greater losses (including a prominent Admiral) and were forced to temporarily withdraw.
Immediately following the night action, McCalla was tasked with finding the badly damaged American cruiser Boise (which they could not) and came across a destroyer heavily engulfed in flames aground on Savo Island. They initially could not determine if the destroyer was Japanese or American as they could only see one stack and the after part of the vessel was obscured by smoke. Identification was finally confirmed as the USS Duncan (DD-485) after a volunteer group led by McCalla’s Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander Floyd B.T. Myhre, was sent over in McCalla’s whale boat while McCalla continued her search for the Boise. Myhre’s team included Lieutenant George T. Weems who at great personal risk swam 200 yards over to the vessel (so as not to risk the other men) and was able to read Duncan’s name on her stern. A valiant effort was made by that team and additional men once McCalla returned, to put out Duncan’s fires and attempt to salvage her.
At daybreak, Duncan’s survivors were spotted in the water all around them for miles. In all, 9 of Duncan’s officers and 186 enlisted men were rescued, mostly by McCalla, but with the assistance of some landing boats.
An attempt was made to tow Duncan by the stern, but she sank later that same day, making her the lone US vessel lost in the engagement.
Many Japanese survivors from the previous night’s action (mostly from the destroyer Fubuki) were also seen in the water, but most reportedly refused to grab lines that were thrown to them. McCalla ended up lowering a boat and took three prisoners by force. A total of 106 other Japanese survivors were eventually rescued by other vessels.
As a result of the action and subsequent rescue efforts, McCalla’s Commanding Officer, William Goodwin Cooper, received the Navy Cross. Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander Floyd Bertram Thomas Myhre, and, Lieutenant (j.g.) George Thackray “Bee” Weems, the Silver Star, although both specifically for their attempts to save the Duncan. Several of the crew received a Commendation Ribbon.
Gunnery Officer Lieutenant Will P. Starnes, Assistant Gunnery and Plotting Room Officer James B Sweeny Jr., and Officer of the Deck Lieutenant Edwin K. Jones where all singled out for their actions.
Myhre (Annapolis ’31) left McCalla by December and went on to command the USS Buchanan (DD-484) in January of 1943, and later the USS Alfred A. Cunningham (DD 752). He survived the war, retired as a Captain, and passed away in 1980.
Weems was already a rising star. The son of renowned navigational expert Philip Van Horn (PVH) Weems, George was Regimental Commander and Vice President of the Class of ’42 and was featured in Life Magazine. He appears to have left McCalla around May of 1943 (His brother PVH Weems Jr. was killed in June of ’43 in the southwest Pacific while serving as a Major with the 3rd Marine Division) and went on to become a naval aviator and test pilot. He won two Distinguished Flying Crosses in April of 1945 during the Invasion of Okinawa for two separate actions while flying off the USS Intrepid (CV-11). He and his co-pilot were tragically killed during a test flight in 1951. The year before he was killed he flew a De Havilland Dragon Rapide from England to Australia with three other men, including his father and mentor. He wrote about the adventure, but the story lay undiscovered until PVH Weems’ great-granddaughter discovered it and published it in 2013 as ‘Box Kite to Bali: The Last Great Adventure of a U.S. Navy Pilot, by George Thackray Weems, edited by Gwenanne Manseau (Fox Road Press, 2013, ISBN-10: 0988834200, ISBN-13: 9780988834200).
Guadalcanal (Third Savo)
While not directly involved in the night surface actions of November 13th, 14th and 15th, 1942, McCalla helped screen the supply convoys off Lunga Point from November 11th to the 15th and helped drive off several waves of Japanese air attacks.
On the 11th they defended against a dive bombing attack on the transports and McCalla expended 46 rounds of 5”/38 cal. and 98 rounds of 20mm. They may have gotten a piece of one with 20mm fire. The second attack of the day was comprised of approximately 28 two-engine bombers making a high altitude (21,200 feet) bombing run on Henderson Field. McCalla expended 61 rounds of 5”/38 cal. with no observed results.
On the 12th they defended against a low level (less than 100 feet) 22-25 torpedo plane attack on the transports and McCalla expended 66 rounds of 5”/38 cal., 30 rounds of 1.1”/75 Cal. and 262 rounds of 20mm. They claimed assist on two enemy aircraft destroyed and 1 damaged. No enemy torpedoes found their mark.
Note: A couple weeks prior to this on November 2nd, while escorting a convoy including USS Helena, a surface contact was picked up at 16,000 yards just before dawn in position 10° 53’ S, 161° 50’ E. McCalla was tasked with investigating. As McCalla closed to within 2,000 yards the contact was visually identified as a submarine, but before they could bring their guns to bear the submarine had submerged. McCalla fired five 300lb. I-gun depth charges and rolled six 600lb. stern depth charges. After McCalla’s charges had exploded, a series of underwater explosions were reported. The report makes for fairly convincing reading. The McCalla was initially credited post war by the US Navy with sinking the Imperial Japanese submarine I-15 (Ishikawa), however, credit appears to have eventually been given to the USS Southard (DMS-10) sinking the I-15 a week later on November 10th. Southard was initially given credit for sinking I-172 on the 10th, but that loss is now unconfirmed. No communication from I-15 was received after McCalla’s attack, so it seems somewhat dubious that McCalla did not retain credit.
Consolidation of Southern Solomons
According to her War History: “On November 25, 1942, while operating as a member of the screen for the unloading operations of Task Unit 62.4.2 off Lunga Point, Guadalcanal Island, it was noted that a large number of Japanese landing boats were secured along the coast in the vicinity of Tassa Foranga Point. The excellent targets offered by these landing boats was called to the attention of the Commander Task Unit, and it was suggested that the McCALLA conduct a daylight bombardment.”
McCalla fired 186 5”/38 Cal. rounds and destroyed an estimated forty landing boats.
McCalla continued to make additional supply runs between Noumea and Guadalcanal through the end of the year. The first six months of 1943 was fairly uneventful with various patrol and escort duties. Lieutenant Commander Halford A. Knoertzer took over command in March of ‘43.
William Goodwin Cooper went on to command the USS Charles J. Badger (DD 657) from July 23rd, 1943 to April 18th, 1944, the USS Newport News (CA-148) from August of 1951 to June of 1952 and eventually retired as a Vice-Admiral. He passed away in1971.
According to McCalla’s War History, on June 30th, 1943: “In action off Rendova, the McCALLA received machine gun hits (approximately four 20mm and 20-30 25 caliber hits) from enemy torpedo planes [described as Mitsubishi 97 Type]. Lt (jg) HANSON [Loren G. Hanssen] received a shrapnel wound in the arm; Ensign G.C. Young [George C. Young] received a bullet wound in the wrist, and FERANO [Andrew L Terrono], a machinist mate was hit by shrapnel close to one eye, which he later lost.”
The attack transport USS McCawley (APA-4) was struck by a torpedo during this action and McCalla rendered assistance, evacuating the crew with the USS Ralph Talbot (DD-390). McCalla had several close calls from torpedoes but was not struck. One missed forward, one aft, and one passed under amidships.
McCalla expended 280 rounds of 5”/38 cal. AA Common, 35 rounds of 1.1”/75 Cal. and 260 rounds of 20mm. They claimed one enemy aircraft destroyed and two damaged.
McCawley was hit later that night by additional torpedoes, exploded and sank. Unfortunately, those shots were fired by our own PT-boats in error.
New Georgia Campaign
About 1:00am on July 5th, 1943 McCalla participated in the landings at Rice Anchorage on the north coast of New Georgia, helping to land Marine raiders from the 1st Raider Battalion.
At dawn on July 9th McCalla, in company with the destroyers USS Farenholt, USS Buchanan and USS Ralph Talbot bombarded Munda Airfield in preparation for an Army and Marine assault. McCalla expended 507 rounds of 5”/38 cal. AA Common and 150 rounds of 5”/38 cal. starshells. A total of 2,344 rounds were fired from the four vessels and despite an additional 5,800 rounds fired from US land based artillery, and several air attacks, the assault stalled. It would be over a month of bloody fighting before the airfield fell.
Japanese Evacuation of Kolombangara – Solomon Islands
After the Japanese defeat and evacuation of Guadalcanal, a garrison of some 10,000 Japanese troops on the volcanic island of Kolombangara were at risk of being cut-off as the allies worked their way up the Solomons.
On August 2nd, a young navy lieutenant (j.g.) you may have heard of named John F. Kennedy lost the PT boat he commanded when it was struck and cut in half by a Japanese destroyer just a couple miles southwest of Kolombangara while they were attempting to intercept Japanese re-supply convoy's of the 'Tokyo Express'.
Starting on the evening of September 25th, 1943, the Japanese decided to evacuate the garrison across ‘The Slot’ to Choiseul Island by destroyers, assault boats and barges. The operation was known as Operation "SE-Go" to the Japanese and continued several consecutive nights until October 7th, 1943.
Several Japanese submarines and destroyers helped cover and take part in the night-time evacuations:
McCalla’s report on the action reads as follows: “On the night of 29 September a task group under the command of Capt. Frank R. Walker on the Patterson, Lt. Comdr. Albert F. White; with the Foote, Comdr. Alston Ramsey; Ralph Talbot, Comdr. Richard D. Shepard; and McCalla, Lt. Comdr. Halford A. Knoertzer, made a sweep of the north coast of Kolombangara Island and into Vella Gulf, crossed the Slot to the south coast Choiseul Island and returned to the northwest coast of Kolombangara. There was no moon and the night was dark, with a 5/10 sky [50% cloud cover] and frequent rain squalls. Visibility on surface objects was about 3,000 feet [believe they may have meant to say 3,000 yards, not feet].
At 2230 the Ralph Talbot and McCalla made radar contact bearing 225° T., distance 4,500 yards, just as the task group was changing course in column to 140° T. about 18 miles north of Kolombangara. At 2237 the McCalla was detached to develop the contact and left the formation which continued on a southward course. She sighted two enemy barges bearing 290° T., distance about 3,000 yards, at 2243 and with permission from Capt. Walker opened fire on them. Firing was continued on this and subsequent groups of barges that appeared on the FD radar. The barges resembled our own LST’s but were about two-thirds their size. Many of them were taken under fire and it was believed that seven to eight were damaged or sunk.
After six minutes of firing it was discovered that the gyro compass repeater system was operating erratically and was temporarily useless, though it appeared to return to agreement with the master gyro after repairs. During the engagement with the barges several salvos of three to five-inch projectiles landed fifty yards abeam the McCalla on the engaged side [quite possibly from one or more of the Japanese destroyers that were heavily loaded with evacuees as well, although none of their Tabulated Record of Movements note firing on American vessels]. Upon learning of the possible presence of larger enemy vessels, Capt. Walker at 2258 directed the Task Group to close the McCalla, and ordered that vessel to rejoin the formation. Salvos of large projectiles continued to land in the McCalla’s wake, and as she was changing course to rejoin, two “extremely heavy explosions”, apparently from aircraft bombs were heard and felt astern [while Japanese night fighter-bombers were known to be used during this period, there is no definitive confirmation].
At 2304 the McCalla made radar contact on enemy barges located beyond and to the right of the other three destroyers of the Task Group, bearing 608° T., distance about 7,000 yards. The Commanding Officer decided to engage the enemy prior to rejoining his task group as ordered, and communicated his decision to the Task Group Commander. The Group in the meantime was proceeding on a northerly course leaving the enemy on its starboard quarter. At 2309 these ships opened fire on targets to northwestward instead of taking McCalla’s contacts under fire.
At 2315 the McCalla changed course to 320° to continue closing the Task Group. At this time the targets she had selected, now on her starboard beam, distance 6,000 yards, were seen to open fire in the direction of the Task Group. Tracers from one of the targets indicated weapons of heavier type than automatic guns, and the Task Group Commander was informed. The McCalla slowed to 20 knots to take her targets under fire. The Task Group then distant between 6,000 and 7,000 yards, changed course to 120° T. and began closing the McCalla from a head-on bearing of 310° T. The latter ship changed course to 300° T. and at 2318 began firing on enemy contacts to the starboard. Several hits were observed on a group of seven or eight barges, and five pips disappeared from the radar screen during the firing.
At 2320 the Task Group was reported to be approaching within 4,000 yards of the McCalla, bearing slightly on her starboard bow. The McCalla ceased firing at 2321 and turned left to clear her own ships and get in position to fall astern of the column. Shortly thereafter her Executive Officer reported that the PPI [Position Plot Indicator] scope showed the formation to be dead ahead. The Commanding Officer ordered the rudder put full left and went to the starboard wing of the bridge.
When the smoke of firing cleared, and night vision was regained, he sighted the Patterson 1,500 yards dead ahead and closing rapidly. At this moment he was informed that the bridge had lost steering control. (The Commanding Officer of the McCalla believed that this casualty and the earlier failure of the gyro compass repeater system may have been caused by a combination of the aircraft bombs exploding astern, which caused “considerable shock damage,” and the shock of the ship’s own gunfire. He believed the latter caused most of the damage. “It appears to have been unusually intense,” he wrote, “probably due to low angle of fire due to short range and small size of targets.”)
The rudder angle indicator showed full left rudder. The casualty was immediately reported over TBS [Talk Between Ships - VHF Radiotelephone Communications] to all ships, which were instructed to keep clear. Control was shifted to the after steering room which reversed rudder to the 30° right position apparently in an effort to steady on the heading at the time of the steering casualty. Collision with the Patterson now appeared inevitable, and at 2325 the commanding officer rang up full astern.
At 2326 the McCalla struck the port bow of the Patterson at a point about even with the No. 1 gun. The McCalla lost way rapidly and the Patterson surged ahead, tearing the bow of the McCalla at frame 24. When the latter vessel backed clear and turned, her entire bow forward of frame 24 [approximately 48 feet] dropped clear of the ship and sank immediately [in position 7° 36’ S, 157° 12’ E]. The Patterson, when collision became unavoidable, had backed her engines full and had come to full right rudder. The impact of the collision completely demolished and severed the Patterson’s bow at frame 23, flooding the ship forward to bulkhead 36 and flooding the ship below the first platform forward of bulkhead 48. Three men stationed in No. 1 magazine were trapped and killed, and 16 other men suffered minor injuries.
Prompt and effective damage control measures enabled the two vessels to continue under their own power. The Ralph Talbot and the Foote circled the damaged ship, engaging and driving off enemy planes. Although all four ships remained in the area until daylight, no further barges were encountered. It was believed that the attempted evacuation was broken up for the night.”
Despite the claimed destruction of several enemy barges, historically the Japanese evacuation was considered a great success and unfortunately most of the 9,400 strong Kolombangara garrison would live to fight another day.
Patterson Casualties included:
Three Killed in Action:
Brown, Francis James, S2c from Medina, TX
Duffey, Charles Elmer, S1c from St Louis, MO
Mattison, Elvin Elliot, St3c from CA
Barton, Frank A. – RM1c USN – Laceration right supra-orbital region
Birkedal, John Edgar – F1c USNR – D.U. Fracture of pelvis
Davis, Clarence E. Jr. – F2c USNR – Severe contusion right shoulder
Gilbert, Onis H. – SF3c USNR – Possible semi-lumbar Fracture
Grantz, Lyle K. – S1c USNR – Contusion right forearm
Graves, Edward Jr. – SF2c USN – Severe contusion right foot
Gunn, Robert Holden - F1c USNR – Laceration, scalp
Hensely, “A”. “T” - CCSTD USN – Laceration scalp and possible fracture 9th and 10th ribs, rt.
Kuhn, Harold J. – SC3c USN – Laceration rt. cheek and left thigh
Wise, Lawrence D. – S1c USNR – Severe contusion right forearm
Worley, Lovel C. – MM2c USNR – Sprain lumbo-sacral, contusion, pelvis
Tucker, V.L. – Lt (jg) USNR – Laceration, scalp
Miraculously, only one of McCalla's crew was slightly injured, Chief Pharmacist's Mate George Buren Pearson, who was badly bruised and sustained a possible fractured rib.
McCalla spent the next month in Purvis Bay, Florida Island (across "Iron Bottom Sound" from Guadalcanal) getting a false bow. The false bow was very rudimentary, and based on photos of other vessels repaired around this time, such as the USS Selfridge (DD-357), consisted of a triangular section made up of flat plate steel. Selfridge had it quite a bit worse and lost her entire bow up to frame 35 losing both forward gun turrets due to two torpedo hits suffered during the Battle of Vella Lavella on the night of October 6th, 1943.
McCalla had ‘only’ lost her bow up to frame 24, about 48 feet worth, and retained her forward gun turrets, but still would have looked a bit odd, like a snub-nosed destroyer, with less than a third of that added back on with the false bow. Unfortunately, no known photos exist of McCalla's damaged bow or temporary repairs, however, based on Selfridge's false bow photo's, I submit that McCalla probably looked as follows:
From there, McCalla passed the period between November 6th and 9th at Noumea where additional repairs were made. She then commenced the trip back to Pearl Harbor via Samoa.
We pick up the action on the 1600-2000 watch when McCalla was first informed of the Cape San Juan’s torpedoing and requested to assist in the rescue by ComSoPac (South Pacific Area Command, commanded by Admiral William “Bull” Halsey Jr. at this time):
Position at 1200: 21° 53’ S, 178° 47’ E
1600-2000 – Steaming as before. 1605 changed base course to 220° T [True] & pgc [per gyro compass]. McCalla proceeding to search for survivors of USAT CAPE SAN JUAN in accordance with ComSoPac dispatch 120235. 1607 changed speed to 20 knots (195RPM). 1608 ceased zigzagging. 1612 Changed base course to 180° (T) & pgc. 1618 changed speed to 21 knots (206 RPM). 1619 Changed speed to 22 knots (219 RPM). 1725 Changed speed to 23 knots (230 RPM). 1736 Changed speed to 22 knots (219 RPM). 1757 Changed speed to 20 knots ( 195 RPM), darkened ship. 1758 Changed course to 190° (T) & pgc. 1800 Went to general quarters. 1814 Changed speed to 22 knots (214 RPM). 1844 Changed course to 179° T & pgc. 1915 McCalla in area of torpedoing of S.S. Cape San Juan, Commenced search. Changed speed to 20 knots (195 RPM). Changed base course to 180° T & pgc. Commenced zigzagging in accordance with plan No. 6 of Pac 10. 1930 Changed base course to 270° T & pgc. Changed speed to 18 knots (172 RPM). 1945 Changed base course to 000° T & pgc. Av. St: 585. Av. RPM 208. – M.L. Harvey Lt. (j.g.), U.S.N.
It is important to note that the McCalla normally had a top speed of about 35 knots. The temporary bow was the best they could do in the field, but was likely made from flat plates of steel and acted more like a plow shoving the water out of the way than a bow slicing through it. This severely limited McCalla’s performance to a maximum speed of 22 knots. From the passage above they attempted to attain 23 knots, but had to back off after only 10 minutes, likely due to vibration.
Position at 2000: 22° 07’ S, 178° 09’ E
2000-2400 – Steaming as before. 2005 Commenced steaming on various courses, speed 18 knots (172 RPM), searching for survivors of U.S.A.T. CAPE SAN JUAN. Av. St: 592. Av. RPM: 175.6. – J.W. Roosevelt Lt., U.S.N.R.
0000-0400 – Steaming singly on various courses, speed 18 knots (172 RPM), searching for survivors of U.S.A.T. CAPE SAN JUAN. Ship darkened, at general quarters, material condition Able, boilers # 1 and # 4 in use for steaming purposes. 0035 Sighting burning hulk U.S.A.T. CAPE SAN JUAN, bearing 280° T, distance about 15 miles, proceeding to investigate. 0045 Changed speed to 20 knots (195 RPM). 0147 SG and FD Radars [SG = surface search radar, FD = fire control radar] reported contact 070° T, range 2800 yards; identified by gunnery officer as submerging submarine. Av. St: 580. Av. RPM 187.3. - J.W. Roosevelt Lt., U.S.N.R.
This potential contact is somewhat confirmed by James B. Sweeny’s daughter, working from her father’s notes, which stated: “They made an approach on the wreck from upwind and, sure enough, there was the sub. He had been lying on the surface about 100 yards from the burning ship on the lee side covered by smoke of the fire. As they rounded the bow of the wreck, the Mac crew saw the sub about the time he saw them. Dad trained the guns out and banged a salvo, but the sub was already on the way down and Dad did not think the sub was hit. Two were close, though.”
I have a couple concerns with this statement, however:
1. It was past sunset, bad weather and very dark out (too dark to spot survivors and initiate rescue), so there should have been little need for I-21 to attempt to mask her presence with the smoke from the Cape’s fires.
2. There was no mention in any of McCalla’s official records of actually firing on the potential target. McCalla’s war diary meticulously accounts for all ammunition expended, except apparently in this case. Furthermore, the McCalla would have been a sitting duck for a submerged submarine attack, and if the contact had been worth firing their 5” guns, surely they would have at least attempted to make a run in and fire their K-Guns or even drop a series of depth charges, even without their sonar. They had nothing to lose and everything to gain. The I-21 was huge (over fifty feet longer in length than the shortened McCalla and about 1,000 tons greater in displacement). In my opinion it is more likely the jittery crew picked up debris on their radar, such as over-turned life boats or rafts in the swells, and did not engage with gunfire.
0400-0800 – Steaming as before. 0413 Sighted YMS 241 bearing 206° T, distance about four miles. 0414 Changed speed to 18 knots (172 RPM). 0447 Sighted red flare bearing 140° T, appeared to have been fired just over the horizon. Changed base course to 140° (T), changed speed to 20 knots (195 RPM). Sighted SC 654 bearing 335° T, distance about 7 miles. 0503 Sighted life rafts and life boats bearing 152° (T), distance about 5 miles. 0515 Maneuvering at various speeds on various courses picking up survivors from U.S.A.T. CAPE SAN JUAN. 0628 Lighted ship. Av. St: 580. Av. RPM: 93.8. - J.W. Roosevelt Lt., U.S.N.R.
The survivors were scattered over such a vast area, and the swells quite high, it was a challenge for the McCalla and the other vessels to navigate through the chaos.
Orbiting overhead between 500 and 50 feet was the No. 6 Squadron Royal New Zealand Air Force PBY piloted by Flying Officer John Macgrane of Auckland and co-pilot Sergeant Harry Farmiloe also of Auckland. Their skeleton crew (originally taking part in a ferrying mission) consisted of:
1st Wireless Operator: Flight Sgt. Abb Ormesby of Auckland.
2nd Wireless Operator: Flight Sgt. Larry Heath of Waimate.
Navigator: Pilot Officer Stan Kirk of Auckland.
Chief Air Gunner: Sgt. Walter “Bill” Leadley of Wellington.
Chief Flight Engineer: Sgt. Ralph Rigger of Hamilton.
2nd Flight Engineer: Sgt. Noel Melvill of Timaru.
3rd Flight Engineer: Sgt. Jack Wakeford of Wellington.
They had orbited the area most of the night to try and either catch the I-21 on the surface and sink her or at least keep her down, and now did their best to direct the rescue from the air.
Per Chief Air Gunner Bill Leadley’s diary on the incident: “At last the Destroyer and sub-chaser had arrived. We circled her while she made the first pick-up, landing nets over the side and three tiers of three sailors starting at water line to assist these exhausted men up to the deck. The destroyer stopped, then she rolled, the first two tiers of sailors disappeared under water and a minute later she rolled the opposite way, up came the sailors and each one was hanging onto a man. She rolled again and 15 to 20 men were on the nets, eager hands helping them over the rail to safety, where their clothes were stripped off them and they were taken below for a shower as most were covered in oil or diesel fuel.
The picking up of these men was being made difficult by the high swell that was still running; not only that, but when the destroyer headed for the next raft she only saw it when it was on the crest of a swell, what she did not see were six or seven survivors in between and directly in her path. When she did it was too late to dodge or stop. I watched them slide down the side of the ship, only one managing the net, and then to my horror they disappeared under the stern of the ship.”
The log went on “It was Sgt. Farmiloe's quick thinking that saved the day. He suggested that we use our nav smoke flare to not only mark a clear passage, but to indicate those who desperately needed to be picked up.
Flight Sgt. Ormesby got busy on the aldis lamp again, the destroyer Captain welcomed the idea and so away we went, laying a smoke flare every ten minutes, also using the aldis lamp when necessary. After an hour of this we broke away and did another sweep around the rafts and bits of wood, shooting up the odd packs of sharks which were still around and in large numbers.”
McCalla’s War History concurs on the methods used. It states “The only practicable method of taking survivors on board was to lay the ship alongside each float and raft, put men at the bottom of cargo nets, and boast and pull survivors up over the side.”
Position at 0800: 22° 16’ S, 177° 47’ W
0800-1200 - Steaming as before. 0900 U.S.S. DEMPSEY joined in search for survivors. 1004 All survivors appear to have been picked up. Approximately 834, mostly troops, have been rescued by the four ships, of which McCalla has 446. 1055 Set base course 298° (T), speed 10 knots (95 RPM); commenced zigzagging according to plan # 11 (ZZ diagrams 1940); DEMPSEY, YMS 241, and SC 654 Commenced forming screen for this vessel. 1118 Changed speed to 12 knots (113 RPM). Av. St: 580. Av. RPM: 69.4. - J.W. Roosevelt Lt., U.S.N.R.
As per McCalla’s War History: “It is interesting to note the narrow margin by which some of the survivors were picked up. Seven of those picked up by McCALLA required artificial respiration, but all survived, they were literally “minutes” from death.”
Note: YMS-241 and SC-654 were so overloaded with survivors that their combat effectiveness would have been severely hampered. Their sonar and radar would have helped spot trouble early, but it likely would have been up to Dempsey to mount a counter-attack if the I-21 was still lurking around.
Position at 1200: 22° 10’ S, 177° 57’ W
1200-1600 - Steaming as before. 1230 Changed speed to 14 knots (132 RPM). 1400 Commenced maneuvering to take SC 654 alongside for transfer of survivors. 1425 SC 654 came alongside to starboard; for transfer of personnel. 1445 Received about 152 additional survivors. SC 654 left from alongside to proceed to Tonga ta bu due to lack of fuel. DEMPSEY and YMS 241 maneuvering to transfer survivors from YMS 241 to DEMPSEY. 1532 Transfer completed; DEMPSEY was unable to take more than about 50 men, due to weather. Resumed base course 298° T, speed 14 knots (132RPM), zigzag plan # 11 (ZZ diagrams 1940). Proceeding to Suva, Fiji Islands in accordance with ComSoPac secret dispatch 130047 of November 1943. (See attached list for names of survivors on board this vessel [unfortunately, not included in fold3.com database]). Av. St: 582. Av RPM: 109.7. - J.W. Roosevelt Lt., U.S.N.R.
1600-2000 - Steaming as before. 1630 Sighted friendly ship bearing 310° (T), distance 7 miles. 1720 Sighted friendly ship bearing 325° (T), distance 9 miles. 1810 darkened ship. Av. St: 580. Av RPM: 135.2. – L.G. Hanssen Lt., U.S.N.R.
Position at 2000: 21° 30’ S, 179° 08’ W
2000-2400 - Steaming as before. 2035 Changed base course to 328° (T), & pgc. Av. St: 582. Av RPM: 134.6. - J.W. Roosevelt Lt., U.S.N.R.
0000-0400 – Steaming in company with U.S.S. DEMPSEY, and YMS 241 enroute Suva, Fiji Islands, in accordance with ComSoPac dispatch 0047 of 13 November, other two ships acting as screen for this vessel. On board ships of this unit are about 834 troop survivors of torpedoed U.S. Army transport CAPE SAN JUAN. Base course 328° T 323° psc. Engine speed 14 knots (132RPM). Zigzagging in accordance with plan # 11, (ZZ diagrams, 1940). Condition of readiness II, material condition Baker, ship darkened. Boilers # 1 & 4 in use for steaming purposes. 0000 Set clocks ahead 24 hours to zone -12 time. Av. St: 590. Av RPM: 134.3. – George Roper Jr. Lt., U.S.N.R.
0400-0800 - Steaming as before. 0415 Went to general quarters for dawn alert. 0532 Secured from general quarters, set condition of readiness II, lighted ship. 0730 Sighted land bearing 033° (T), distance about 30 miles. Av. St: 585. Av RPM: 137.2. - J.W. Roosevelt Lt., U.S.N.R.
Position at 0800: 19° 35’ S, 179° 24’ E
0800-1200 - Steaming as before. Av. St: 580. Av RPM: 134.3. – L.G. Hanssen Lt., U.S.N.R.
Position at 1200: 18° 56’ S, 178° 59’ E
1200-1600 - Steaming as before. 1300 Changed base course to 320° T & pgc. 1310 Sighted North Astrolabe reef light bearing 285° (T), distance 20 miles. 1420 Passed North Astrolabe reef light abeam to port, distance 6 ½ miles. Av. St: 580. Av RPM: 139.4. – M.L. Harvey Lt. (jg), U.S.N.
1600-2000 - Steaming as before. 1615 Changed base course to 350° (T) and pgc. 1630 Changed base course to 040° (T) & pgc, standing in toward entrance to Suva Harbor; ceased zigzagging; ships proceeding independently to enter port in order, McCALLA, DEMPSEY, YMS 241. 1644 Commenced steaming on various courses and speeds, conforming to channel entering Suva Harbor; Captain at the conn, navigator on the bridge; made all preparations for entering port. 1657 Passed through anti-submarine net. 1730 Moored port side to Kings Wharf, Suva, British Fiji Islands. 1735 Secured # 4 boiler, # 1 boiler in use for auxiliary purposes. 1740 Secured condition of readiness II, set condition of readiness III. 1750 Commenced disembarking survivors. 1751 U.S.S. DEMPSEY moored alongside to starboard. 1915 Commenced fueling from the dock; draft of ship forward 11’2”, aft 13’9”. Av. St: 580. Av RPM: 127.3. – J.B. Sweeny Lt., U.S.N.R.
Position at 2000: 18° 08’ S, 178° 26’ E
2000-2400 – Moored as before. 2211 Completed fueling; draft of ship fwd. 13’5”, aft. 12’11”, having received 81,816 gallons of fuel oil at 60° F. - J.B. Sweeny Lt., U.S.N.R.
Sweeny’s daughter, working from her father’s notes, stated: “Descriptions of conditions (bunks fouled with fuel oil, fresh water nearly gone, crew's spare dungarees gone, and ship knee deep in fuel oil) sound dreadful. Arrived Suva Sunday evening. Spent half the night cleaning the ship after the survivors left. 100 gallons of kerosene to clean off the oil.” This matches accounts from other reports including Bill Moss' PBM rescue.
The interactive map below shows McCalla's route from Noumea to rescue area in red, and her route back to Fiji in green.
Known Officers of McCalla at time of rescue:
E. K. Jones, Lieutenant Commander, USN
J.B. Sweeny Jr., Lieutenant USNR
J.W. Roosevelt, Lieutenant USNR
G. Roper Jr., Lieutenant USNR
L.V. Brown, Lieutenant USNR
L.G. Hanssen, Lieutenant USNR
C.D. Bishop, Lieutenant (j.g.) USNR
M.L. Harvey, Lieutenant (j.g.) USN
D.P. McIntyre, Lieutenant (j.g.) USNR
H.S. Wahab, Lieutenant (j.g.) USNR
Ricks, J.R., Ensign USNR
Young, George C., Ensign USNR
Stoneberg, G.G., Ensign USNR
Schroff, G.L., Ensign USNR
Kuney, J.H., Ensign USNR
Seitz, R.J., Ensign USNR
Below is a list of McCalla's 205 enlisted personnel at the time of the rescue:
They arrived in Pearl at 0934 on November 24th, 1943, mooring port side to USS Coney, at Ten Ten Dock. After receiving another 106,932 gallons of fuel they were underway again, this time bound for the U.S. Navy Yard, Mare Island, CA, which they reached on December 1st, 1943.
On December 17th, 1943 McCalla’s captain Commander Halford Knoertzer was replaced by Lieutenant Commander Edwin K. Jones, her former XO.
Repairs were estimated to take until January 5th, 1944, but were not completed until the 8th (still remarkable considering the damage to her bow and forward compartments). After weeks of training and additional repairs, McCalla’s return to action was further delayed when she was struck in the bow by the newly commissioned USS Cassin Young (DD-793) on January 24th, punching three holes in her shell plating between frames 24 to 27. She was patched back up and set sail for Pearl on January 28th, 1944.
McCalla arrived back in Pearl Harbor on February 2nd, 1944, then proceeded to help screen the carrier Task Force 58 involved in mopping up operations in the Marshall Islands.
On the 18th of February, 1944, just as they were about to enter the anchorage at Tarawa, they received instructions to assist in the search and rescue of a plane crash survivor about 20 miles south of Jaluit Atoll. Combined Naval aviation and Army Air Force units had been pounding the Marshall Islands chain in preparation for amphibious assaults. McCalla rushed to the area at 34 knots and rendezvoused with the USS Porterfield and the two vessels searched throughout the night to no avail.
At 1225 in position 05° 22’ N, 169° 04’ E sighted a bright green slick about two miles away. At 1233 picked up First Lieut. Bruce S. Campbell [Jr.], U.S.A., of the 45th Fighter Squadron, Makin Island.”
Campbell’s squadron was part of the 15th Fighter Group, 7th Air Force that recently started operating off Makin Atoll. He had spent 3 days alone in a raft after his P-40N fighter (s/n 42-105112) known as “Geronimo” was struck by enemy anti-aircraft fire on a raid over the Marshall Islands.
In an amazing coincidence, Campbell was a former schoolmate (McDonogh prep school) of McCalla’s Lieutenant James B. Sweeny Jr., and both were reportedly surprised but pleased to meet again. The chance encounter made the hometown newspapers.
Campbell would later fly Very Long Range (VLR) B-29 escort missions over Japan in a P-51 Mustang and go on to be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Purple Heart. He had at least one shared kill in his P-51, a Ki-44 over Tokyo.
McCalla spent the rest of the month escorting between Tarawa and Majuro, and patrolling the entrance to Makin Atoll.
April was spent escorting and patrolling between Majuro and Kwajalein, followed by an overhaul. They arrived back in Pearl on May 3rd, 1944. Various exercises were conducted around Hawaii, and later off Majuro in May.
On June 6th, 1944 McCalla joined back up with Task Force 58 and helped screen the force during strikes on the Bonin Islands and helped defend against aircraft attacks on June 19th while West of the Marianas.
At the beginning of July, 1944 they were temporarily attached to Task Force 38 to screen air attacks on Guam and Rota Islands. The bulk of July and August was spent back with Task Force 58, including air strikes against the Bonin Islands including Iwo Jima at the beginning of August. McCalla spent the rest of August around Eniwetok Atoll being overhauled and conducting exercises.
September was spent with Task Group 38.1, screening their airstrikes on the Palau Island group and initial airstrikes on the Southern and Central Philippines Islands, and Morotai Islands. McCalla and two other destroyers, USS Farenholt and USS Grayson, were temporarily detached on September 14th, 1944 for a bombardment of a Japanese radar installation on Mindanao, however McCalla’s fire control computer failed, and she failed to cause any damage. Each destroyer was allotted 100 rounds and were to take turns firing with Farenholt first, Grayson next, and then finally McCalla. There were also air strikes by planes from the USS Wasp and USS Cowpens. McCalla’s report asserted that the other salvos and air strikes fell too far north, and while McCalla’ officers felt they knew where to hit, the computer failure prevented them from doing so. They expended 40 rounds of 5”/38 AA common and 40 rounds of smokeless powder. While doubtful that the radar antenna itself was destroyed, the facility in general was badly mauled with several structures destroyed and may have been put out of commission as a result.
In October, while again with Task Group 38.1, McCalla helped screen the group during air strikes on Okinawa and Formosa by the carriers Wasp (CV-18) and Hornet (CV-12). On October 12th, off Formosa, a Japanese fighter shot down by USS Grayson (DD-435) came close to striking McCalla’s port bow. McCalla claimed 3 Japanese aircraft during their time off Formosa. Captain Eli Vinock was awarded the Bronze Star for his handling of McCalla from October 14th through the 16th.
McCalla arrived in Ulithi Atoll on October 27th, 1944 after helping to screen the damaged warships from the theater. The period from November of 1944 through mid-February 1945 was spent escorting various vessels and convoys between Ulithi and the action around the Philippines.
On February 14th, 1945 McCalla arrived in Leyte, Philippines for operations with the 7th Fleet during the Visayan campaign. McCalla took part in the invasion of Palawan Island. On March 11th, McCalla provided direct fire support with USS Robinson, and opened fire on Japanese machine gun revetments on the beach. McCalla expended 9 rounds of 5”/38 Cal. AA common and 52 rounds of 40mm HE-T, with no effect observed. The remainder of the month through the beginning of May, 1945 was spent escorting and patrolling in this area.
McCalla sailed for Brunei Bay, Borneo on June 4th, 1945 with Task Group 78.1and supported landing and minesweeping operations there, including direct fire support on enemy shore positions and anti-aircraft defense. On the 15th McCalla expended 2 rounds of white phosphorous, 8 rounds of starshells and 132 rounds of 5”/38 Cal. AA common. They departed June 17th and arrived back in Leyte on June 20th, 1945.
They arrived back at Ulithi Atoll on June 28th, 1945, and resumed escort duties including actions off the Japanese mainland until July 22nd when she received passengers from the light cruiser USS Detroit (CL-8) and was tasked with transporting them back to the states. McCalla arrived in Eniwetok on July 26th, Pearl Harbor on August 1st and finally at Commercial Iron Works in Portland on August 9th, 1945 for major overhaul. The war ended 5 days later.
According to her War History, McCalla participated in a total of 15 “Star” operations and engagements during her World War II career (although she officially received 10 Battle Stars):
1. Capture and Defense of Guadalcanal.
2. Cape Esperance (Second Savo).
3. Guadalcanal (Third Savo).
4. Consolidation of Southern Solomons.
5. New Georgia Group Operation.
6. Marshall Islands Operation.
7. Asiatic-Pacific Raids – 1944.
8. Marianas Operation.
9. Strikes on Luzon, Ryukyus, and Formosa.
10. Western Carolines.
11. Philippines, Leyte.
13. Visayan Campaign (Palawan, Zamboanga, Parang-Cotaboto).
14. Brunei Bay, Borneo.
15. Third Fleet Operations against Japan (10 July to 15 August).
According to the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships: “By the end of January 1946 she was enroute to Charleston, S.C. There she decommissioned 17 May and entered the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. Re-commissioned 11 December 1948, McCalla prepared for transferring to the Turkish Navy.”
At this time she was modernized, being fitted with tripod foremasts and raised bridge.
DANFS continued: “She took several short cruises up and down the Atlantic coast with a nucleus Turkish crew aboard for training purposes. Then, in the spring of 1949 she sailed for Turkey where she decommissioned 29 April 1949, transferred to the Turkish Navy and re-commissioned the same day as Giresun (D-345).”
She continued to serve in the Turkish Navy until 1973, when she was finally stricken from the list and scrapped.
Ed joined the Navy On June 20th, 1930 and was admitted to the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, graduating May 31st, 1934.
His Academy 'Lucky Bag' yearbook write-up provides some insight into his early life and his personality:
“Edwin is indeed a man of the world. As the son of a Naval Officer he was born in Texas, spent his early childhood in the Philippines, was raised in Texas, South Carolina, and California and completed his pre-Academy training in a second tour of the Philippines. In spite of this Ed claims to be a Red Mike [Too embarrassed to talk to girls] and we never have seen him drag around here but still, who knows?
E.K. is a charter member of the Radiator Club and never worries about eating deserts because it might hurt his wind. However we feel that had Ed ever thought it worth while to work and sweat night after night for athletic honors, he would have been a star in any sport. He has a physique which is the wholehearted envy of his roommates.
Academics never particularly trouble Kuyk. He does not star but he is always able to turn in early while the rest of us are still boning. When there is a tough problem Ed is very often the one to offer a helping hand with a simple explanation.
Ed has a cheerful, helpful, and optimistic disposition which has made him an excellent roommate. These qualities plus his ability to gain the cheerful cooperation of others will make him a valuable asset to the Naval Service.” Note that he was known by “Ed”, “Kuyk” and “E.K.”
Not much is currently known of his early military career, although newspaper articles indicate he was assigned to the old four-stacker Caldwell-class destroyer USS Conway (former USS Craven, DD-70) in June of 1940 for connection fitting out and re-commissioning. He helped deliver her to Canadian naval authorities in Halifax, Nova Scotia in October of 1940 under the lend-lease agreement. Conway was renamed HMS Lewes (G 68) in Royal Navy service and served throughout the war.
Soon thereafter in December of 1940, while back in the States, Lieutenant (j.g.) E.K. Jones was assigned to the Hawaiian based destroyer USS Farragut (DD-348). He was transported to Hawaii on the USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) which departed Long Beach, CA on January 7th. 1941. By August 1st, 1941 Ed had been promoted to Lieutenant and was stationed on Farragut during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The vessel was moored in a nest with three other destroyers in the north of the harbor that fateful December morning and all of her senior officers were apparently not on board at the time, including her Captain, Lieutenant Commander George Porter Hunter, and Executive Officer, Lieutenant D.J. Wagner. Jones was the only Lieutenant aboard, the rest of the officers being Ensigns, so he took command and with his young officers managed to get the Farragut underway and into the channel, surviving two strafing attacks by the Japanese aircraft. Wikipedia incorrectly identifies Ensign Benham in command of the Farragut at the time. Below is a report filed by Farragut’s commanding officer a week after the attack:
DD348/A16-3 U.S.S. Farragut (348)
Pearl Harbor, T.H.
December 13, 1941.
From: The Commanding Officer.
To: The Commander-in-Chief U.S. Pacific Fleet
Subject: Report on measures taken during raid on December 7, 1941.
Reference: (a) CincPac desp 102102 of December 1941.
(b) U.S.N.R., 1920 Art. 712.
1. Pursuant to reference (a) the following is reported; Farragut moored at buoy X-14 in Pearl Harbor, T.H., with Desdiv TWO:
0758 Attack commenced. Went to General Quarters.
0812 Opened fire with main battery. Machine guns not employed at this time due to planes being out of range.
0828 Monaghan [DD-354] left nest.
0840 Dale [DD-353] left nest.
0852 Farragut left nest. Maintained continuous fire with main battery and with machine guns when planes were within range.
0921 Japanese plane attacked Farragut with machine gun. No casualties. Slight damage to topside, while proceeding through channel and abreast Hickam Field, BUSHE, Daniel, CMC(AA), according to witnesses, brought down a Japanese dive bomber with 50 Caliber Machine gun fire.
0927 Cleared channel ceased firing planes out of range.
2. The Farragut was commanded during the action described above by Lieutenant E.K. JONES, U.S.N., the regularly assigned engineer officer. Lieut. Commander G.P. HUNTER, U.S.N., who was ashore on liberty took command of U.S.S. Hull by verbal orders of Comdesflot ONE and took her to sea without undue incident. He was accompanied in U.S.S. Hull by Lieutenant D.J. WAGNER, U.S.N. Other officers regularly assigned to Farragut went to sea in ships listed below:
Ensign J.D.P. HODAPP Jr., U.S.N., USS Chew [DD-106].
Ensign W.D. BONNVILLIAN, U.S.N., U.S.S. Chew.
Ensign G.A. MANNING, E-V(G), U.S.N.R., U.S.S. Dewey [DD-349].
3. The following officers were in Farragut at time of attack and sortie:
Lieutenant E.K. JONES, U.S.N.
Ensign W.W. DeVENTER, U.S.N.
Ensign D.C. SLEEPER, D-V(G), U.S.N.R.
Ensign J.A. BENHAM, D-V(G), U.S.N.R.
Ensign D.A. DERTIEN, E-V(G), U.S.N.R.
4. The conduct of all concerned was most commendable throughout.
Jones was promoted to Lieutenant Commander on March 1st. 1943.
Jones appears to have joined the McCalla around the same time as Captain Knoertzer while McCalla was in Espiritu Santo as he first appears on a list of her officers dated April 15th, 1943. His name does not appear on any reports, however, until the McCalla made a stop in Dunedin, New Zealand at the beginning of May.
For Ed’s part in the Battle of Cape Esperance, Captain Cooper recommended him for a commendation: “who, as Officer of the Deck, and despite the blinding glare and smoke incident to gun fire, coolly maintained station on the next ahead throughout the engagement. This vessel was never off station and as a result was able to execute all orders promptly, engage the enemy effectively, and in general conduct the battle in an orderly manner.”
As noted above, after McCalla’s detour to help rescue the survivors of the Cape San Juan, McCalla continued their voyage back to Mare Island, CA for repairs where he replaced Knoertzer as captain. Per her War Diary: “At 1300, December 17, 1943, Lieutenant Commander E. K. JONES, U.S.N., was detached from duty as Executive Officer, in accordance with BuPers restr. disp. 131103 of December, 1943, and assumed command of this vessel, having relieved Commander H. A. KNOERTZER, U.S.N.”
On February 1st, 1944 while enroute back to Pearl after repairs Ed’s promotion to Commander came through.
Eventually, on August 12th, 1944 at 1030 while McCalla was anchored at Eniwetok Atoll, Marshall Islands, Jones was detached from the McCalla and temporarily replaced by James B. Sweeny until her Next Commander, Eli Vinock, arrived the following day.
It is not clear what Jones’ next assignments were. In 1947 he was transferred from the heavy cruiser USS Albany (CA-123) to the destroyer tender USS Hamul (AD-20). His father passed away in 1948, and at that time Ed was noted in the obituary as being stationed in England. USS Hamul was based out of Plymouth England at that time.
According to a newspaper article, he commanded the Naval Training Center in Dallas from 1949 to 1951.
In 1951 he commanded the newly re-commissioned Klondike-class destroyer tender USS Arcadia (AD-23) based out of Newport, RI.
Ed passed away unexpectedly on Saturday June 30th, 1956 in New York City at the age of only 45. He was buried next to his father at Restland Memorial Park in Dallas, TX.
According to his obituary, which made no mention to cause of death; “At the time of his death, Commander Jones was attached to the Headquarters Staff of the Iceland Defense Force in Iceland. He had been stationed there since March.”
There is no indication that Ed ever married or had children. Perhaps one day his sister’s descendants will find the site and provide more info.
He went to the prestigious McDonogh prep school in Owings Mills, MD, received his Applied Baccalaureate from Amherst College in Massachusetts in 1937 before going on to earn his law degree at the University of Maryland School of Law in 1940 and soon thereafter passed the Maryland bar exam. He started practicing law in Baltimore shortly before the war started. He attended the Navy V-7 90-day program at Northwestern University in Chicago and became a commissioned ensign in the Naval Reserve on March 14th, 1941.
Jim’s family was one of the few McCalla families I’ve been able to reach to date, and while willing to share some anecdotal info on the rescue, were unfortunately not comfortable sharing any details on his military career due to privacy concerns.
What is known is that Jim had retired as a Navy Captain, and his Navy career spanned nearly thirty years.
Jim passed away on March 9th, 1983 in Carlton, GA at the age of 67.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR). Unfortunately, like Burgess of the YMS-241, all I initially had to go on besides his last name were his first and middle initials. My first search of FDR’s family was not promising, as while there were some sons and grandsons whose first named began with “J” (John & James), none had the middle initial of “W”, nor did their ages seemed to line up properly for my candidate.
As I broadened my search to the rest of the Roosevelt clan I discovered that FDR’s famous cousin, Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, the former 26th President of the United States, had a grandson named Joseph Willard Roosevelt, the son of Kermit. A little more digging revealed that Joseph had served in the Naval Reserve in the Pacific during WWII, though no mention was made of the McCalla in any accounts, so I was still unsure.
Finally, as I worked my way through McCalla’s War Diary I found a page from April 15th, 1943 that listed the names and address of the officer’s next of kin. Next to Lieutenant J.W. Roosevelt, USNR was listed “Mrs. Kermit Roosevelt, 9 Sutton Place, New York, NY”. A further search revealed that 9 Sutton Place was in fact the address of Teddy Roosevelt’s son Kermit and his family. They had recently moved there from their estate called “Mohannes” in Oyster Bay, Long Island which they had leased to the U.S. Maritime Commission to be used for a convalescent home for Merchant Mariners from 1942 to 1946. The property at 9 Sutton Place was sold in 1968 upon his Mother’s death.
Kermit Roosevelt (1889-1943) and his mother was Belle Wyatt Willard (1892-1968), the daughter of the U.S. Ambassador to Spain during WWI.
The First World War was still raging and in fact his uncle Quentin was killed in an aerial dogfight the following July when his Nieuport 28 was shot down over Chamery, near Coulonges-en-Tardenois during the Battle of the Marne. His famous grandfather was already in ill health and was heartbroken over the loss of his youngest son, and passed away in his sleep January 6th, 1919 before Joseph's first birthday. It’s unclear whether he ever met his grandson due to his health and the potential U-Boat threat to either family traveling via ship.
Joseph had three siblings; Kermit Roosevelt, Jr. (1916–2000), Belle Wyatt "Clochette" Roosevelt-Palfrey (1919–1985) and Dirck Roosevelt (1925–1953).
He appears to have preferred Willard or J. Willard to Joe or Joseph and traveled extensively with his family in his youth. Like his father and grandfather before him he attended the prestigious college preparatory Groton School in Connecticut followed by Harvard University. He went on to the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, MA where he trained under the famous French composer and teacher Nadia Boulanger who had just fled France on the eve of the German invasion.
Willard’s musical ambitions were soon interrupted by the war and he enlisted in the Naval Reserve. He attended the 90-day Navy V-7 program in New York before becoming a commissioned Ensign on August 19th, 1940.
I have not yet been able to find what his assignments were over the next two years, but he appears to have joined the McCalla shortly after her commissioning in May of 1942, and so saw a substantial amount of action. The Roosevelt’s in general had an impressive record of serving in the military, and despite their advantage of power and prestige, Willard and the others did not shy away from front line service.
His father Kermit, who had long struggled with depression and alcoholism, died about a year later of a self-inflicted gun-shot wound to the head on June 4th, 1943 while serving with the Army as a Major in Alaska. The family and press were initially told the cause of death was heart disease to lessen the blow. According to the info provided by the McIntyre family (see profile below), Willard found out about his father’s death from a newspaper report aboard McCalla.
His wife had a fascinating, if not somewhat bizarre, history of her own. Her birth was the result of an affair between her mother Elaine Orr Thayer (then married to Harvard alum, poet, publisher and art collector Scofield Thayer) and the famous poet, painter, essayist, author, and playwright E. E. Cummings, a close personal friend of Scofield (before and after the affair). Cummings would eventually, albeit briefly, marry Elaine, and formally adopt Nancy but she would not discover who her true father was until adulthood, in 1948.
It is unclear what Willard’s assignments were in 1944, although some sources state he was on the high speed transport USS Greene (APD-36, The former WWI four-stack destroyer DD-266/ Sea Plane Tender AVD-13) and took part in the invasion of Southern France in August of 1944. Greene landed the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Regiment of the joint American-Canadian First Special Service Force commandos (The famous Devil’s Brigade). I have not found any documentation to support Roosevelt’s involvement to date. Lieutenant Commander George O. Scarfe Jr. was the commander of the Greene during that time and Lieutenant J.S. Neill served as Executive Officer. Judging by the date of his first son’s birth, Willard would have been stateside in December of 1944 or early January 1945. Greene did arrive in Norfolk, VA on December 21st and remained stateside until January 29th, 1945. Lieutenant John B. Ricker Jr. replaced Neill as XO in January, not Roosevelt, but it is possible Roosevelt served in another position.
I found documentation that Roosevelt did, however, take over command of the USS Greene from Scarfe on May 7th, 1945 in the middle of the Battle of Okinawa (April 1st to June 22nd 1945). As Roosevelt himself would write in the USS Greene’s War History: “After several days and nights of almost perpetual [aircraft] alerts she left Okinawa with a convoy for Saipan. During June the Greene again acted as an escort; convoys to Okinawa, and then South to the Philippines. July and August were passed in that most-dreaded role of Anti-submarine patrol vessel and the Greene took her departure from Manila 25 August with few regrets. During September, acting as both transport and escort, she had a part in a highly interesting and heart-warming operation, the evacuation of ex-Prisoners of war on Kyushu through the devastated port of Nagasaki.”
They arrived in the port of Nagasaki, Kyūshū, Japan on September 12th. On the 17th Greene received 108 ex-POW’s and on the 18th they received 14 more, all reportedly from camps on Kyūshū. They departed later the same day and arrived in Okinawa late on the 19th, disembarking their 122 passengers on the 20th. They made another round trip between the 20th and 25th, transporting 100 men (31 Canadians, 1 Brit and 68 Australians).
Soon thereafter, USS Greene was driven ashore by a Typhoon "Louise" off Okinawa on October 9th. 1945.
Captain Roosevelt’s report of the stranding read as follows:
APD36/P13-5 U.S.S. GREENE APD-36
Serial 164 c/o Fleet Post Office,
San Francisco, Calif.
17 October 1945
From: The Commanding Officer.
To: The Chief of Naval Operations.
Via: (1) Commander Destroyer Division 102.
(2) Commander Amphibious Group SEVEN.
(3) Commander SEVENTH Fleet.
(4) Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet.
Subject: Report of Stranding.
Reference: (a) Article 840, U.S. Navy Regulations.
(b) Pacific Fleet Confidential ltr. 33CL-43 (Revised).
(c) USS GREENE Confidential dispatch 150611/October.
(d) USS GREENE ltr APD36/S1 Serial 56 of 8 October 1945.
1. During the afternoon of 8 October 1945, this vessel was anchored in Berth Baker 84, Buckner Bay, Okinawa in 17 fathoms of water with 75 fathoms of chain to the starboard anchor. A typhoon was expected to pass some time on the morning of 9 October, but for reasons stated in reference (d)[not included], it was considered unsafe to proceed to sea and preparations had been made to ride the storm out at anchor. At Midnight, the 8th, the wind had risen (it was estimated to be force seven, coming from the east) and the main engines were tested and the order was given to stand by to answer all bells. At 0628 the anchor was observed to tumble and preparations were made to heave around, the engines were used to keep the ship heading into the wind and to prevent further dragging. At 0744 the ship was underway, maneuvering to a new anchorage. At 0759 let go the starboard anchor in the vicinity of Berth Baker 119, but a bite could not be obtained and it was decided to try to anchor under the lee of Tsuken Shima. Wind at this time was estimated at force nine to ten, seas high to very high, both coming from the east. At 0940 anchored a few hundred yards east of Berth Baker 212, in 23 fathoms of water with one hundred fathoms of chain to the starboard anchor. Engines and rudder were used constantly from this time on to ease the strain on the anchor and to attempt to keep the ship’s head from falling too far off the wind. The ship was swinging from 40 to 60 degrees either side of the wind and it was considered that the second anchor would be of doubtful value at best and it was decided not to drop it.
2. At about 1500, the wind had risen to what was estimated at 100 knots, with gusts that could not be estimated, and had backed to the northeast. The ship was now caught in irons on a heading of about 100° (t) and could no longer be swung into the wind although every combination of rudder and engines was tried. At about 1520 I heard what sounded like a small explosion and wondered if the anchor chain had parted. It was impossible to find out for sure as visibility was so low that the chain could not be seen from the bridge and it was considered unjustified to risk a man on the forecastle. The chain was seen twice between this time and the time of grounding, tending approximately 270° relative, with a heavy strain; it is believed that this strain was caused solely by the chain itself. At about the same time (1520) the starboard engine was reported unable to answer bells, the reason being that the circulator for the condenser had lost suction due to the list of the ship.
3. At 1553 that starboard engine was reported ready to answer all bells again and a further attempt was made to bring the ship up into the wind, but the attempt was unsuccessful. At 1555 the barometer had risen to 27.95 (from a low of 27.90 at 1530), the wind had backed to the Northwest and it was thought that the center of the storm must have passed a little to the east of us, though there was no marked decrease in wind velocity until about 1800.
4. At 1632 the ship struck bottom on what later proved to be to northwestern coast of Kutaka Shima (26° 9’ 50” N, 127° 54’ E). Boilers were ordered secured and the order was given to jettison the mast, the latter order was canceled a few minutes later when visibility improved and land was made at about fifty yards on the starboard beam and it was discovered that the ship was resting mostly on sand. The bridge clinometer registered a roll of seventy two degrees to starboard, which must have occurred as we struck bottom.
5. There were no personnel casualties.
6. A preliminary estimate of major damage is as follows:
a) Starboard shaft is badly bent, strut has punctured the steering engine room.
b) Port turbines have lifted about two inches.
c) Port reductions gears have lifted about two inches.
d) Foundation of No. 1 air pump has lifted about ten inches.
e) Starboard reduction gears appear to have lifted at least one inch.
f) Stanchion at frame 110, centerline, has been driven through the main deck.
g) There is a hole in the bottom of the forward engine room, vicinity of frame 110, centerline, covering about three square feet.
h) In addition, all holds and machinery spaces from the forward magazine aft have flooded. It is believed that most of this water has comes in through the seams; no large holes, other than that at frame 110, the one made by the starboard strut, and another hole in the after peak tank, have been discovered.
i) The rudder is jammed hard left and from its position and the support it is contributing, it is believed that the rudder post is bent.
j) In view of the above items and considering the pounding the ship is still taking from the surf, it is not believed that salvage is practicable.
7. The performance of the officers and men was, without exception, outstanding; so much so that it is impossible for me to mention any individuals as deserving of special praise. Everyone did his job, or the job assigned him, coolly, calmly and efficiently. I consider myself most fortunate to have been appointed commanding officer of such a fine group of men.
The Typhoon was incredibly powerful and caused a significant amount of damage to the naval vessels in its path. According to the Naval History and Heritage Command: “A total of 12 ships were sunk, 222 grounded, and 32 damaged beyond the ability of ships' companies to repair.” Casualties were mercifully light at “36 dead and 47 missing, with approximately 100 receiving fairly serious injuries.” There were no fatalities or serious casualties aboard the Greene.
For his actions as Commanding officer of the Greene during the typhoon, Willard was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal. The citation read: “The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy and Marine Corps Medal to Commander Joseph W. Roosevelt, United States Naval Reserve, for heroism at the risk of life not involving conflict with an armed enemy. Commander Roosevelt, at the peril to his own life, attempted the rescue of his shipmates, while serving on board the U.S.S. GREENE (APD-36), which as a result of the typhoon on 9 October 1945, was stranded on Kutaka Shima, Buckner Bay, Okinawa Gunto.”
Unfortunately the old Greene was deemed not worthy of salvage and was decommissioned on November 24th, 1945 and destroyed on February 11th, 1946. Willard was release from his military service soon thereafter.
As Roosevelt would write in her War History: “Greene served her crew well; for as the winds and mountainous waves subsided they found her to be resting on a sandy beach on the Northwest coast of the Island of Kutaka off the coast of Okinawa; not one of them had been injured or lost.
She has also served her country well. Already a veteran in 1941 she traveled far afield, covered 182,781 miles during the war years and though often in the thick of the fight never was a ship in her charge hit or sunk by enemy action. She never failed on any assignment nor has she ever failed the men that manned her. It is with sincere regret that her “old hands” will shortly decommission her, here in the last of her multitudinous berths.” Roosevelt obviously had a knack for prose.
Willard and his wife Nancy had three children: Simon Willard Roosevelt (1945 – 1965), Elizabeth F Roosevelt-Aldred (1947 – Living) and Dirck Roosevelt (1949 – Living).
They divorced in the early 1950’s, possibly partially due to the fall-out over the discovery of who her father was. Nancy re-married in 1954 and had two additional children. Willard also re-married, to Carol Adele Russell (1935-Living) in Vermont in 1955, and had a son, David Russell Roosevelt (1965-1986). There was quite a bit going on in the family in the early ‘50’s. Besides his divorce and re-marriage, his older brother Kermit Jr., who worked for the CIA, coordinated Operation Ajax, the coup d'état that returned the Shah of Iran to the throne in August of 1953. His little brother Dirck committed suicide at the age of 28 in the family home at Sutton Place in New York on January 7th, 1953. Like his father before him, the information was suppressed and the press was told he died of natural causes in his sleep, perhaps of a heart attack.
Unfortunately, there would be more tragedy to follow. Willard and Nancy’s first born son Simon was killed in a traffic accident on May 2nd, 1965 in Manhattan at the age of 19. Simon was in his second year at Columbia University, was married and had a 10 month old daughter, who’s middle name was Cummings, after her maternal grandfather. In a tragic coincidence, Willard and Carol’s only son, David Russell Roosevelt, who was born a few months before Simon’s death in 1965, also died in a vehicle related accident on June 11th, 1986 in Sandisfield, MA at the age of 21, about two weeks after the anniversary of Simon’s loss.
American Composers Alliance; “he was awarded a Bachelor of Arts from Hart College in 1959. He devoted much of his life to teaching music and composition to private students and at Fairleigh Dickinson University, Turtle Bay Music School, and Columbia University.” You can view a short video excerpt of an interview here he made later in life in which he discusses his music. It is interesting to note that several of his vocal compositions were based on works by his former father-in-law, E.E. Cummings.
Joseph Willard Roosevelt passed away on May 18th, 2008 at the age of 90 and is buried in the Roosevelt family plot in the Youngs Memorial Cemetery in Oster Bay, NY.
Although he did not apparently share his grandfather’s love of politics, thirst for publicity (Willard was seemingly the most private and least photographed of all the Roosevelt’s), he was his own man, did what he loved to do, and served his country well in a time of war. I think his grandfather T.R. would have been most proud.
George went to the University of Texas, after which he entered a Navy V-7 program and became a commissioned Ensign on December 6th, 1940. He appears to have spent most of the war on the McCalla.
After the war he stayed in the Navy and became a Commander on July 1st, 1954 and eventually a Captain on July 1st, 1962.
George passed away in Anderson, SC on March 6th, 2004 at the age of 87 and is buried in the Beaufort National Cemetery in South Carolina.
Lawrence went to his father’s alma mater Princeton University and graduated in 1935. He enlisted in the Navy on September 16th, 1941.
Not much is known of his Navy service at this time other than his service aboard the McCalla. He was discharged from the Navy on December 7th, 1945.
Lawrence passed away on May 31st, 1997 in Middletown, NJ at the age of 82. He left behind a wife, Winifred (1919-2001), but it’s unclear at this time if they had any children.
He married Charlotte Mary Seward (1922-1993) and they had two sons; Neil Loren Hanssen (1942 – 2012) and Joel Roger Hanssen (1956 – Living).
After the war he was department supervisor for the Toni Company in St. Paul, MN.
Loren passed away on March 2nd, 1963 in Ramsey, MN at the age of only 45 and is buried in the Evergreen Memorial Gardens cemetery in Washington County, MN with his wife.
According to his obituary, he “was raised in Charleston, SC. He was a 1939 graduate of the College of Charleston and served in the South Pacific during World War II as a Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy on the USS McCalla DD488 and the USS Formoe DE-509.” He served as Executive Officer on the Formoe.
The obituary went on to say he “began his career prior to the war as a history and biology teacher in Clover, SC; however, the majority of his career was spent as the Office District Manager over North Carolina and South Carolina with Sinclair Petroleum Co. and later with BP.”
He married Sadie Alef Johnston (1922 – 1990) and they had two daughters; Julie Alef Bishop-Johnson (1955 –Living) and Sarah Mount Bishop-Thompson (1961-Living).
Charles passed away on October 7th, 2000 in Charlotte, NC at the age of 82 and is buried in the Saint George UDC Cemetery in South Carolina.
Mike joined the Navy on June 22nd, 1939 and was admitted to the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. Tradition held that his class should have graduated after 4 years of instruction in June of 1943, however the war and its demand for young officers like Mike forced his class to graduate a full year early on June 19th, 1942.
His Academy 'Lucky Bag' yearbook write-up reads as follows: ““Mike” came to the Naval Academy from Brooklyn and he hasn’t lived it down yet. Like most men from harbor cities, he knew little of ships or the sea. He recognized the possibilities of sail early Plebe year and made many of those delightful overnight trips on the ketches. During the long winter months, Mike could usually be found in the gym absorbing practical instruction in the boxing ring. Spring and fall found him piloting a dinghy for the Sailing Team and sailing in most of the small boat races. On Saturday evenings, it was Dahlgren Hall for sure [where dances were held]. The Brooklyn Kid has become the Navy Kid – a true sailor.”
Immediately upon graduation Mike was assigned to the newly commissioned USS McCalla, and appears to have stayed with her throughout the war. Mike was promoted to Lieutenant (j.g.) on May 1st, 1943 and to Lieutenant on July 1st, 1944.
Mike survived the war but was killed soon after at the age of 25 in a tragic airplane accident on the morning of March 3rd, 1946. The civilian American Airlines “Flagship” Douglas DC-3-227B (NC21799) Flight 6-103 was enroute from New York to Los Angeles with known stops in Dallas, TX, Tucson, AZ and San Diego, CA. It was on the Tucson to San Diego leg when at 8:12am it struck the eastern slope of the fog-shrouded 6,000 foot Tierra Blanca Mountains about 1,500 feet down from the peak and burst into flames killing all 27 aboard.
The crew descended into instrument conditions to an altitude below that required to maintain clearance over Thing Mountain. The reason for the descent was not determined.”
The location was about 45 miles east of San Diego and about 10 miles north of the Mexican border.
In addition to Mike, the Passenger casualties included:
1. V.C. Berdine, Chief Petty Officer, US Navy, San Diego
2. Eugene Mills, PFC, US Marine Corps, Vernon, AL
3. L.J. Baker, Civilian, Fort Worth, TX
4. J.H. Mange, Civilian, San Antonio, TX
5. C.C. Bradbury, Civilian, Inglewood, CA
6. Miss. Gladys de Lancey, Civilian, South Pasadena, CA
7. William Bettersby, Civilian, Berkeley, CA
8. Mrs. E.J. Lang, Civilian, Zurich Switzerland
9. L.A. Criswell, Sergeant, US Marine Corps, home unknown
10. Mrs. E.O. McGillivray, Civilian, Charlotte, NC
11. Mrs. R. L. McCall, Civilian, home unknown
12. Miss. McCall, 18-month-old infant daughter of Mrs. McCall
13. Miss. Joyce Whitley, Civilian, Atlanta, GA
14. Miss. Annett Abernathy, Civilian, Jacksonville, FL
15. Mrs. Margaret Greener, Civilian, Forest City, AR
16. Master Greener, 2-month-old son of Mrs. Greener
17. R.D. Roblin, Commander, US Navy, San Pedro, CA
18. Easterday, Lieutenant, US Navy, home unknown
19. Jack Eugene Selover, Lieutenant, US Navy, St Simon, GA
20. Mrs. J.S. Upchurch, Civilian, Jackson, MS
21. Mrs. S.F. Whittaker, Civilian, College Park, GA
The crew casualties were:
1. Captain Samuel E. Stoner, San Gabriel, CA
2. First Officer Emmett Edward Baker, Long Beach, CA
3. Stewardess Maxine Rickard, Burbank, CA
All crew were based in Los Angeles. Stoner was an Army Air Corps veteran and experienced pilot, ironically who had served in the China, India, Burma theater flying “The Hump” through the Himalayas.
In addition to the three primary crew were two other airline employees:
4. Captain Max L. Fife, Los Angeles, CA
5. First Officer R.L. LaMontagne, Pasadena, CA
These employees had boarded the plane in Tucson, AZ to return to L.A. after ferrying another aircraft.
Mike had boarded the plane in New York, perhaps after visiting his family. His remains were recovered and he was buried at the Jewish Mount Lebanon Cemetery in Glendale, NY, where his parents were later buried.
He graduated from Bangor High School in 1936, attended Creighton University and graduated from Loyola University in 1941. It’s unclear at this time exactly when he joined the Navy or where he attended Officer Candidate School. He preferred to go by D. Patrick or Pat rather than Don or Donald.
I was fortunate to connect with his son Michael who was able to provide some additional details on Pat’s naval career.
Pat appears to have first served on the small patrol boat USS YP 422, a converted fishing trawler, from June of 1942 at the beginning of her conversion through her commissioning in August until October. Interestingly enough, YP-422’s Commanding Officer was Lieutenant L. Ron Hubbard (Controversial founder of Scientology), who was relieved of command in October.
His next assignment appears to have been the small coastal transport APc-5, under commanding officer Lieutenant (j.g.) Claude Edwin Fike Jr. in April of 1943. They appear to have sailed for the south pacific with a number of other APc’s and reached Bora Bora in early April.
Sometime in June, while McCalla was in Espiritu Santo, he transferred over.
In a letter dated July 12th, 1943, that his son sent me regarding Pat’s new post on the McCalla as "Assistant Navigator", Pat wrote:
"I have been assigned Assistant Navigator and "O" (ordinance gunnery) Division Officer. A hell of a lot more work to do than on a small craft. I am now standing junior officer of the deck watches, but expect to qualify for top watch any day now. We had one more but he was injured and had to be sent to the beach, but should be back any day now. One of the fellows aboard, Joe Roosevelt, is a grandson of "Teddy". One hell of a grand fellow. He had it tough, just a few days before I came aboard, his father, Kermit Roosevelt, was on duty as a Colonel [sic] in Alaska and was killed. The first news he had of it was in the evening news press which is mimeographed aboard ship. [This answers how Willard learned of his father’s passing] That is my biggest worry, that something will happen to one of you and I won't find out about it for some time." He went on to write: "In your next letter, I wish you would let me know what Bob Graner and Jack Kissinger are doing".
Bob and Jack were his cousins who were also serving. They were fine at the time, but unfortunately neither would survive the war.
His son could tell from the letter that Pat was clearly excited to get his assignment on a Destroyer. It was quite a step up from what he had been serving on. He appears to have served on the McCalla at least until her repairs were completed in January of 1944.
Pat’s next assignment was as Executive Officer on the Haskell Class Attack Transport USS Okanogan (AP-220) under Commander Frederick Fender. He served on the AP-220 throughout 1945, including the assault and occupation of Okinawa Gunto, April 17th through the 22nd, 1945. He left the vessel shortly before his honorable discharge in 1946 as a Lieutenant Commander.
After the war he was a successful advertising executive. He began his career at Hearst Publications and This Week magazine, then joined medical advertising agency, Sieber & McIntyre, that was co-founded by his brother R. Joseph. Pat retired in 1984.
He married Joan Condon (1923-2004) and they had four children; Ann, Brian, Joan and Michael.
Pat passed away on May 9th, 1999 in Chicago at the age of 80.
His family tree is fascinating and goes back six generations to the early 18th century on Ocracoke Island in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Family legend has it that the Wahab name is Arab in descent, perhaps of a shipwrecked Arab sailor. Academics hold that the name is of Scottish origin, a local phonetic attempt at "Wauchope". Howard’s grandfather and several great uncles served on the Confederate side in the Civil war and he had many sailors in his ancestry. His first name, Howard, is his great grandmother’s maiden name, and her ancestry suggests that the first Howard in the area was the quartermaster on the pirate Blackbeard’s ship, Queen Anne's Revenge. His father Harry was a veteran of the Spanish-American War and the First World War and appears to have been one of the original crew (gunner’s mate) of the USS Holland (SS-1), the US Navy’s first submarine. His sister Sarah served as an Army Nurse in WWII.
Howard graduated from North Carolina State University in 1938 with a degree in Civil Engineering and according to the 1940 Census he was working as an engineer for the WPA (Works Progress Administration) in Greenville, NC after graduation. He registered for the draft in October of 1940 and at the time he was noted as being 5ft-10in tall, 140 lbs. with gray eyes and red hair.
So far, unfortunately, little is known of his military career other than his service aboard the McCalla which began at the time of her commissioning and continued at least through her repairs in January of 1944. He is believed to have left the Navy as a Lieutenant soon after the war was over and pursued his civil engineering career.
According to Sacramento city directories, he worked as an engineer for the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company from 1961-1980 and retired in 1981.
He married Mary Louise Wing (1921 – 1997) in 1947 in Lexington, MA. They had three children: Howard Jr., Mary Ellen and Scott.
Howard passed away on June 28th, 1992 in Carmichael, CA at the age of 75. He was buried in the Belhaven Community Cemetery with his wife and parents in his former home town of Belhaven, NC.
US Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD on June 22nd, 1928. He graduated the Academy on June 2nd, 1932. According to his 'Lucky Bag' yearbook write-up:
“Hal was born in the land where wheat and forests flourish, but after spending his childhood there he decided that such was not to be his life; he chose to be an officer instead of a farmer or lumberman.
After the newness of the service was past, he soon found an outlet for his energy in the Juice Gang [Electrical Club]. Being another one of these infernal saviors, he was well equipped for thinking up new intricate lighting effects and sign boards for the Masqueraders [Theater Group]. The “prop room” of the Juice Gang was seldom without his cheering presence, and when there were hard jobs he was always there. To risk death in getting a sign up meant nothing to him, and as a reward all he asked was a good cup of Java and a friendly bull session with the gang.
For two years he nearly convinced us that he was a confirmed Red Mike [too embarrassed to speak to girls], but even the best of us fall. Though his locker door was covered, we are of the opinion that there was one picture upon which he gazed more frequently than others.”
I suspect the picture they were referring to may have been his first wife, Mae, on which there is very little info other than a newspaper clipping mentioning they had married in 1934 and visited his family in Deer Park that year and some city directories from California in 1937 and 1939. They had a daughter named Rennie in 1943.
Below is a chronological list of his known assignments and promotions:
1934 - Assigned to the Battleship USS Colorado (BB-45).
1934, April – Detached from USS Colorado to Minelayer USS Oglala (CM-4).
1934, September – Detached from Aleutian Islands Survey Expedition to Aircraft Carrier USS Saratoga (CV-3).
1937, January - As Lieutenant (j.g.) transferred from USS Saratoga to Destroyer USS Patterson (DD-392) for fitting out and commissioning. Note: Yes, the same vessel he would collide with while Captain of the McCalla.
1938, June 23 - Transferred from USS Patterson to Naval Academy.
1938, December – Selected for post-graduate instruction in the school of the line for Aerology.
1939 – Promoted to Lieutenant.
1940, June – Transferred from Destroyer USS Upshur (DD-144) to Naval Academy.
1940, October – From Staff, Commander Destroyer Squadron 39 to NROTC unit, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA.
1943, April 12th – Assumed command of the USS McCalla (DD-488) while she was in Espiritu Santo, a position he held until December 17th, 1943.
USS Hunt (DD-674), a position he held until March 31st, 1945.
1945, August 4th – Assumed command of the brand new Gearing Class Destroyer USS Henderson (DD-785), a position he held until October 11th, 1946 when Commander Claude Fenn Bailey took over.
1946, October – From USS Henderson to Director of Distribution, 13th District
1951, May – Assumed command of the Andromeda Class Attack Cargo Ship USS Montague (AKA-98) (a converted C2-S-B1), a position he held until July, 1952, and so served in the Korean War.
1960 - Retired from the Navy as a captain after 28 years of service. At the time he was District Deputy Chief of Staff for the Naval Reserve.
Hal married Mabel Chatwin Beall on December 16th, 1946 in Seattle.
Halford Knoertzer passed away on May 3rd, 1986 in Kirkland, WA at the age of 75. His wife Mabel passed away on June 23rd, 2004 in Bothell, WA at the age of 80. It is not known what became of his daughter Rennie.
Ancestry.com for information on Captain Knoertzer and junior officers, including links to families.
Baldwin, Sara - for information on her father, James Blaine Sweeny Jr.'s recollections of the Cape San Juan rescue.
DANFS – Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships website for history of the USS McCalla.
Fold3.com for military reports relating to this story including monthly War Diary's, War History, Action Reports and Crew Rosters for the McCalla, Patterson and other vessels related to this story..
GenealogyBank.com for information on Knoertzer and his junior officers including various newspaper articles and obituaries.
Google Maps (google.com/maps) for free custom map creation tools.
Knoertzer extended family for photo of Knoertzer in front of car
McIntyre, Mike - for information on his father, Donald Patrick McIntyre's WWII service.
Navsource.org for information on USS McCalla and various other vessels connected to her history.
Scott, Jenny - Blog about RNZAF No. 6 Squadron participation in rescue of SS Cape San Juan.
Wikipedia free on-line encyclopedia for summaries on miscellaneous topics related to this story.