Hanging on to Faith Alone.

Featured

HANGING ON TO FAITH ALONE

George Fain Black

 

Having scarcely been more than fifty miles from home in my life, I had decided on my 18th birthday to join the Navy. I rode a bus for 90 miles to Lubbock, Texas, where as a selective volunteer, I was sent to Naval Boot Training at Camp Wallace near Galveston. After “boots,” I traveled on a troop train to radio school at Naval Armory in Indianapolis, and graduated as a radioman striker in December 1944. I arrived at a receiving ship near San Jose, California, and in less than 2 weeks, was on a bus in search of my ship.  I clearly remember the bus turning a corner at dockside at Alameda, and there loomed the most awesome thing I had ever seen in my life—the attack aircraft carrier named USS Franklin. The sea detail had already been set, and lines were attached to the gangway to pull it aboard just minutes after our party had boarded. I had never before seen a ship, or the sea.

 

While awaiting billeting assignment, my group was allowed to witness our departure under the Golden Gate, and saw it finally disappear into the haze. I had difficulty in acclimating to shipboard life, as I was in a group of 10 who did not even have a bunk, locker, or compartment assigned; we had to live, even off duty, in the mess hall, and sleep in our hammocks, as best as we’ could, when it did not conflict with mess meals or the early rising Airedales.  After we let Ulithi atoll, the mess hall was used as a bomb assembly area when not used for mess. I usually swung my hammock near the bomb elevator, and on one occasion, was roused out of my hammock from a deep exhaustive sleep only to straddle a 500-pound bomb parked directly under me. My watch was important. I was on what was called “Jump Fox,” which was NSS Pearl Harbor and CINCPAC. Should the main operator miss reception of the Morse-coded messages, then, as the “back up,” I was expected to receive it. As the “flag” was aboard, anything that came for “Big Ben” was important.

 

Recalling, the communications K division went into battle conditions on March 15, we shifted to two battle watches: starboard and port, and we stayed at our radio positions for 8 hours. My first test as an operator receiver came on the 16th, with our call sign direct from Admiral Nimitz H.Q. It was a long coded message; both the operator and I got it okay. A few hours later, after decoding and delivery, I Was shown the message copy and it said, “Lucky Day March 17.” We guessed that our sealed orders authorized our attack to commence on that date, and we turned out to be correct. Before we could be relieved from watch, we went into battle stations; so we remained on watch all through the 17th and into the l8th. Several attempts were made to relieve us for mess and rest, but each time was thwarted by battle conditions with bogeys on the screen. I recall going through the night of the l8th-l9th still at watch on the radios… very hungry, and tired. We had plenty of java and that was it. Suddenly, one of the communications officers, an Ensign, burst into the radio shack and announced our relief was just behind. We were to go on the double before chow call and eat ahead of everyone else; we had to get mess over within 5 minutes and report to Radio 2 on the fantail. Tired and hungry, I jumped and handed the earphones to my relief (I never saw him again as he was killed there), and followed my watch leader, First Class R/M Walter Bigusiak, down the ladders to mess.

 

The first bomb exploded, just as l seated and started scooping in chow. The blast flung me clear across the compartment into a corner. I struck a stack of sea bags and hammocks, one being my own, which cushioned the impact.  Others seated at the same mess table were not so lucky. Managing to get to my feet as a few others were doing the same, I noticed everyone’s face was sooty black from the burnt powder of the blast. Some hurried to go aft, some forward. Later, I learned that hardly anyone made it out. We had been ordered to Radio 2 on the starboard fantail, and tried to go that way. We were following Bigusiak, so we went port to a ladder that led up to the hanger deck. Thirteen men got into a small crew compartment under the hangar deck, just before the lights went out. A few minutes later, the telephone went out. The heat from above was becoming intolerable. I grabbed a towel from a bunk, wet it in a scuttlebutt, and tied the wet towel over my face to breathe, and then crawled into a bunk.  The explosions came closer and knocked down anyone standing. A cook grabbed the hatch wheel atop the ladder, and burned his hands.  After what seemed an eternity and another close explosion, salt water started pouring in from above, cooling off the hatch, and the cook was able to turn the wheel. By this time, we were out of air and in a starboard list. A burned out plane slid away from over the hatch and we now had a way to climb out onto the hangar deck. A rocket had blown a leak in a salt water line, and the pouring water put out the fire just over us.

 

By my own count, 11 preceded me up the ladder. A man wearing a gas mask grabbed me as number 12 and pushed me ahead of him. Had he not done this, I would not have made it, as I was now strangling. He was last out and number 13. We were nearly overcome with smoke and lack of oxygen.

 

The hangar deck was an unbelievable mass of wreckage and fire. A burning fighter plane’s wing guns spit bullets just above our heads, and then a blast spun it around in another direction. The deck was full of bomb holes, and we followed our only light to starboard. There was carnage everywhere. We met not a living soul on the hangar deck. Reaching a gun mount, we saw no way out in any direction but the sea. No rats, no floats, no life buoys, no life jackets among any of us; just steel helmets. Burning aviation gasoline started pouring over the side and making its way aft toward us. The decision was go or stay; an individual choice. Bigusiak a non-swimmer, was the only one to stay. We jumped overboard in groups of three, all 12 of us. I didn’t know the other two who jumped with me, but for a while we managed to stay together. Until they drowned, I tried to hold the other two up. Both were wounded, and just gave up. A “can” went by at full speed and threw a life preserver to us, but I was too exhausted to swim to it. I was managing to stay afloat by trapping air in my shirt. After 55 years of wondering, I still have not clearly established the time frame. It must have been hours.

 

I could tell the light was getting dim when a fighter roared over me just above the water. I thought perhaps I was going to get strafed, but it turned out to be one of ours, and he was leading a “can” to me. Some guy actually roped me first-try with a loop, and I was pulled into a cargo net. I had noticed I had drifted into land swells, and I was having difficulty keeping afloat. I suppose not much time was left for me. Just in time, the USS Hunt had saved me. Hours later, when I awoke, and days later, when I could walk, I looked all over the ship for those 12 guys from the Franklin who took to the sea with me, but none were aboard. Later I learned that Bigusiak, who had apparently stayed with the ship to his end, was listed as M.I.A.

 

Going from bunk to bunk and looking at all the faces, and asking around on the Hunt, I realized that of the my group of Franklin crewmen, 13 in all, one had died on the hangar deck, and of the 12 men who had gone into the sea together, I alone, was rescued.

It is a short journey of the sweet innocence of a youth, who in nine short months sailed into harm’s way to be a part of the carnage.

 

It is real FAITH when that is all you have to hang onto.

When thou passest through the waters, 1 will be with

thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee.

When thou walkest through the rivers, thou shalt not be

burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.

 

Isaiah 43:2

 

Obituary, Gerard P. “Jerry” Welch, 86

Gerard P. “Jerry” Welch, 86, of Natick, passed away on June 8, 2012. He was the beloved husband of Patricia A. (Turner) Welch and the late Reba (Himmelberger) Welch.

Born in Newton, son of the late Daniel and Mary F. (Herlihy) Welch, Jerry was raised there and attended the Newton schools and Our Lady Help of Christians school. After graduating from Newton High School, he enlisted in the United States Navy and valiantly served during WWII aboard the USS Franklin in the Asiatic-Pacific region. He was awarded the Silver Star on August 8, 1945 for gallantry and intrepidity while serving in the central Pacific waters. Upon being honorably discharged from naval service in 1945, Jerry returned to the Boston area and began his career with the United States Postal Service serving in Boston and Framingham until his retirement. After retiring from the USPS, Jerry then went to work for the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority as a toll collector. He was a member of the Knights of Columbus in Natick and the Disabled American Veterans.

In addition to his wife, Jerry is survived by his son, Gerard P. Welch, Jr. and his wife Donna of Reading, PA; his step-children, Elizabeth Songer of Bethlehem, PA, William Songer of San Diego, CA, and Teresa Songer of Atascadero, CA; his grandsons, Daniel, Shaun, and Joseph; 4 great-grandchildren; and his sisters, Mary McMillen of Newton, Alice Patterson of Roundtop, NY, Rita Sheehy of Newton, and Joan Sheehy of Newton. He was the brother of the late Daniel Welch.

Relatives and friends are invited to attend Jerry’s funeral from the John Everett & Sons Funeral Home, 4 Park St. (at Natick Common) Natick on Monday, June 11, 2012 at 9:00 AM to be followed by his Mass of Christian Burial in St. Patrick’s Church, Natick at 10:00 AM. Burial with military honors will follow in St. Stephen’s Cemetery, Framingham. Visiting hours will be held on Sunday, June 10, 2012 from 3-6 PM.

For directions and online guestbook please visit http://www.everettfuneral.com

Great Articles Commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the USS Franklin bombing.

Navy History and Heritage Command, H-042-1: The Ship That Wouldn’t Die—USS Franklin (CV-13), 19 March 1945.

https://www.history.navy.mil/about-us/leadership/director/directors-corner/h-grams/h-gram-043/h-043-1.html

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:  Doc George Fox Family

https://www.jsonline.com/picture-gallery/news/2020/03/19/george-fox-earned-navy-star-after-attack-uss-franklin/2864981001/

https://www.jsonline.com/videos/news/2020/03/19/george-fox-died-saving-sailors-lives-during-world-war-2/2866388001/

Penn Live Patriot News

https://www.pennlive.com/life/2020/03/big-ben-bombed-battered-bruised-and-bent-the-75th-anniversary-of-the-bombing-of-the-uss-franklin.html

Obituary, Robert P. Grimm

Robert P. Grimm
May 5, 1925 – March 27, 2020
Robert P. Grimm, passed away peacefully in his home on March 27th.
He was born May 5, 1925 to Wendel and Julia Grimm. He is survived by his loving wife of seventy one years, Kathleen Grimm; son Richard Grimm, daughter Susan Welsh and her husband Michael, and daughter Kathy Grimm-Signorelli and her finance Michael Hausman; six cherished grandchildren, Bryan Welsh, Kathryn Welsh-Kohl, and husband Zachary, Kevin Welsh, Lauren Signorelli-Ocasio, Nicholas Signorelli, and Michael Signorelli; great grandson Jacen Ocasio and soon to be new addition of baby Kohl.
Robert served in the Marine Corps, from July 1943 to October 1945 aboard the USS Franklin CV-13 aircraft carrier. His ship was awarded four battle stars for the Pacific Theatre and one star on the Philippine Ribbon. The ship’s final action was against the Japanese at the Islands of Kyushu and Honshu where the ship was hit with two 500 pound bombs resulting in 832 shipmates losing their lives and the ship barely making it back to port.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program.

March 2020 Pensacola Reunion Postponed

Featured

Hello again Franklin Family,

After much more consideration, and in light of recent developments, we must inform you that we have decided to postpone the reunion next week in Pensacola. We definitely plan to reschedule it there sometime this summer or fall. But we have to wait to see what happens before we can make any definite plans. Please be sure to cancel your hotel rooms and other travel plans. The Pensacola Grand Hotel phone number is 850-433-3336.  At this point we have made financial commitments and paid out money for deposits and pins & keychains. So we would like to hold on to the registration fees for the new dates. If this does not work for you please let us know. We are very sorry for the late notice. We really wanted to pull this off on the anniversary date but unfortunately it is just not possible. We hope everyone will be able to attend on the new dates. Again please contact April at aprilhomko@gmail.com or 815-685-9298 with any questions. Please stay healthy and safe.

Obituary, David Wilkinson Leonard

David Wilkinson Leonard, 93, of Mocksville, died on Feb. 16, 2020 after a lengthy battle with dementia.

He was born July 30, 1926 in Forsyth County, a son of the late Stahle Hartman Leonard and Edna Wilkinson Leonard of Rowan County.

He was also preceded in death by his sister, Edna Rae Sidwell.

He served his country in the US Navy during World War II on board the carrier USS Ben Franklin CV13 and was on board March 19, 1945, when the attack on his ship claimed more than 700 lives. After his service, he attended Pfeiffer College and later retired from Bell South Telephone after 34 years in cable repair.

Survivors: his son and daughter-in-law, David and Uka Leonard of Mocksville; his brother, Stahle H. Leonard and nephew Richard Leonard of Albemarle; grandson, Justin Kyle Leonard; and 2 great-granddaughters, Kahli and Marley Leonard.

Visitation was 6:30- 8:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 24 at Davie Funeral Service. A graveside service was held at Salisbury National Cemetery at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25, with his brother, Stahle H. Leonard officiating.

Condolences: http://www.daviefuneralservice.com.

Obituary, Martin Roy

Mr. Martin Roy, 105, of Manchester, formerly of Suncook, passed away on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, at Villa Crest Nursing Home in Manchester.

Born on Nov. 11, 1914, in Armagh, Canada, he was the son of the late Napoleon and Adelia (Boutin) Roy.

Martin moved to New Hampshire when he was 12 and attended local schools. He proudly served his country in the United States Navy until 1945. He was the former owner of Roy’s Grocery on Main Street in Suncook during the 1960s, worked in the textile mills in Manchester for 33 years and later as a thoroughbred horse racer for 13 years before his retirement. He also enjoyed gardening and held a part-time job during his retirement at a local bank, which he enjoyed.

In addition to his parents, he was predeceased by his wife Louise (Boutin) Roy as well as his 10 siblings.

He is survived by his children, Paul Roy and his wife Diane of Manchester and Cecile Fitts of Weare; grandsons, Henry Fitts, Jr. and Pattie of N.J., Richard Fitts of Weare and Michael Fitts and his wife Tracey of Weare; great-grandchildren, Virginia, Jacob, Madeline, Lucas, Amanda and Michael Pinizzotto, great-great-granddaughter, Abigail as well as numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.

The family would like to thank the staff at Villa Crest for the wonderful care that was given to Martin while he was there.

SERVICES: Calling hours will be held on Thursday, Feb. 20, from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Petit-Roan Funeral Home, 167 Main Street, Pembroke. A Mass of Christian burial will be held on Friday, Feb. 21 at 11 a.m. in St. John the Baptist Church, Allenstown. Interment with military honors will be held in the spring at the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery, Boscawen.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Martin’s memory to Villa Crest Nursing Home, 1276 Hanover St. Manchester, NH 03104.