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Airman First Class Ballenger

From Rocky Ridge to Japan …and Beyond

by Richard D. L. Fulton

Life-long Rocky Ridge resident, Emily Ballenger (pictured right), during a short two-year span during which she lived in Texas, decided to seek out a career move, and subsequently signed on with the United States Air Force.

Ballenger is the daughter of John and Linda Ballenger, owners of Buck Forest Farm in Rocky Ridge, which now also serves as her home. Her father served aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Saratoga in the 1960s.  Her brother, John “Jay” Ballenger, served in the Army in Afghanistan.

Ballenger signed up for the air service in Dallas in 2003 and trained at the Lackland, Texas, Air Force boot camp in Bexar County, Texas, for a half dozen weeks before being assigned to Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi. 

Ballenger spent eight weeks in Biloxi, six weeks training and two additional weeks awaiting an assignment. When the assignment came through, she found herself enroute to Misawa Air Base, located in the northern part of the island of Honshu in Japan, where she was attached to the 35th Communication Squadron which is a component of the 35th Mission Support Group, 35th Fighter Wing. 

The base is a joint service installation and houses three United States military services—Air Force, Navy, and Army—as well as the Japan Air Self-Defense Force.  Ballenger noted that there were also American Marines located there.

She served as an Air Force administrative assistant/information manager. Ballenger described the installation as a “fairly large base… nicely laid out,” which was “very quiet.” She said the base was being constantly upgraded throughout the time she was there.

She was able to spend some time touring, her main form of off-base entertainment, and even purchased a motorcycle there for simply getting around, touring the area. “I loved it in Japan,” she said, adding, “The culture there is amazing.” 

Ballenger said that particular area of Japan is primarily agricultural, which made her feel more “at home” (the Buck Forest Farm being some 140 acres in size).  The town of Misawa, she said, was about the size of Thurmont, noting, “It was so nice. It was like being at home.”

She served in Japan two years before being discharged and sent home. The only downside to her service in Japan was contracting “stress-related arthritis and fibromyalgia, which resulted in her having been diagnosed as being 50 percent disabled.

Ballenger was honorably discharged from the Air Force at Misawa Air Base in August 2006.

Following her return to the United States, Ballenger served as a photographer for the (now defunct) Emmitsburg Dispatch, photography being among her obsessions. She now runs her own photography business, Twilight Photography, primarily focusing on outdoor events and subjects. 

“My love of photographing nature and horses brought me to share my passion with others,” she said, adding, “I would have to describe my photography style as a bit of photojournalism mixed with fine art and a sprinkle of spontaneity.”

Her other obsession includes horses. Her home, Buck Forest Farm, served as a boarding facility for horses for many years. Presently, Ballenger also offers riding instructions, and currently has three horses of her own.

She said her experience in the Air Force has “taught me a lot about integrity and working hard.” As an administrative business professional, she learned skills related to initiating and managing a business.

For more on Ballenger’s Twilight Photography, visit twilightphotographymd.com.  For riding lessons, contact Emily Ballenger at 301-473-1504.

Dana French

45 Years in the Navy

by Richard D. L. Fulton

Note: Priscilla Rall contributed various materials for the purpose of writing this article.

Dana French of Frederick County served aboard and/or commanded several Navy vessels over the course of the 45 years he served in the United States Navy, from 1955 through 1990.

Raised in Newburyport, Massachusetts, French decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and enlisted in the Navy at age 17. After French signed on with the Navy, he qualified to attend the Naval Academy Preparatory School (NAPS), in Bainbridge, Maryland.

French attended the academy as a sailor, and then graduated in 1961 as an ensign. He chose to pursue a career in the naval surface (non-submersible ship) service, as opposed to air or submarine services.

His first shipboard assignment came a month after he graduated, when he was assigned to the destroyer U.S.S. Coontz, which was then sent along with ships accompanying the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Ranger to the Middle East for two seven-month deployments.  French served as the assistant 1st lieutenant in charge of the deck force, then became gunnery assistant at the end of the deployment.

French was then ordered as an executive officer in 1963 to report to the wooden minesweeper U.S.S. Whippoorwill during the Korean war. The minesweepers were wooden while metal alloys were employed wherever necessary—then to keep from triggering magnetic mines. The ships were responsible for cleaning mines from harbors for use by United States’ forces.

In the wake of the Tonkin Gulf incident (which technically triggered the Vietnam War), the minesweepers were sent on a “secret mission” to the Tonkin Gulf to screen a harbor for mines, rocks, and debris that would prevent the proposed port from being used.

In 1965 French was ordered to the U.S.S. Koka, an auxiliary ocean tug as Commander (the first such rank assigned to his academy class).

French said one of the more interesting incidents was when his ship was ordered to tow a “floating bomb” out to sea where it could be detonated to test how far around the world the detonation could be detected via deep sea sound channels. The “floating bomb” actually was a “Liberty” ship, made of concrete.

French was tasked with towing it, along with a second tug, to a desired location for detonation, which “seemed like a simple idea, except the weather turned bad. The weather really turned awful.” As the vessels approached to drop-point, the tow lines gave way, and the “floating bomb” was then loose. French was able to recapture the “Liberty” ship and begin towing it, but the scientists present decided to blow up the ship where they had it, rather than risk further issues trying to tow it to the original designated location.

During 1968, French was again heading back to Vietnam for seven months, this time in command of the guided missile destroyer U.S.S. Robison. He and the Robison became part of an operation deemed “Giant Slingshot,” a plan to ambush Vietcong attempting to cross two parallel rivers, using the cover of night, leading from Cambodia into Vietnam. 

The Robison and other Navy ships under French’s command, joined by several riverine combat ships, were concealed during the day until nightfall, and then to rush the two river crossings and take out as many enemy combatants as they could, then fall back before Vietcong artillery could get a fix on their ships’ locations.

French was subsequently assigned as a weapons officer on the guided missile cruiser U.S.S Leahy in 1970, when the ship was sent off with its sister ship and an aircraft carrier to Gibraltar and then Jordan to counter a Russian move in that area, resulting in a stand-off and the retreat of the Russian ships.

After his services at sea, French had also subsequently developed a number of programs addressing officer leadership and enlisted men and organizational effectiveness. After his retirement from the services, he began a career as a self-employed organization development consultant and trainer, based in Frederick.

For additional information regarding Dana French, visit elementalimpactsolutions.com/dana-french-bio.

by Richard D. L. Fulton

Lehman & the U.S.S. Barb

The Sub That “Sunk” a Train

The World War II submarine U.S.S. Barb (also known by its naval designation SS-220), was said to have compiled “one of the most outstanding records of any U.S. submarine in the war,” sinking more than 96,600 tons of Japanese ships—a total of 17 Japanese ships, including an aircraft carrier.

Under the command of Lieutenant Commander Eugene “Lucky” Fluckey, the Barb’s commander earned the Navy Cross and Medal of Honor, and the ship and its crew were awarded four Presidential Unit Citations and a Navy Unit Commendation with eight battle stars.

The late John Lehman, born in Reed (near Hagerstown), ultimately became a resident of Frederick.

Lehman joined the Navy in the wake of the Korean War as a trained radio operator, having attended the Bliss Electrical School in Tacoma Park. He joined the Navy before he could be drafted into the Army, wherein he received additional training, notably in the field of radar.

He was subsequently sent to London, Connecticut, to attend classes on submarine-specific radar.

Following the completion of his education in Connecticut, he returned to Mare Island, California, where he was assigned to the crew of the U.S.S. Barb.

Initially, the Barb was dispatched to the North Atlantic under Captain John Waterman, where the submarine sank only a single German ship.  The Barb was then assigned to Pearl Harbor, where Fluckey assumed command.

With Lehman manning the radar, the Barb sank four Japanese ships, including an aircraft carrier in the East China Sea, off the coast of China, before making its way up to a Japanese-occupied port on the China coast, where the crew of the Barb took on a Japanese sitting duck convoy of 30 anchored ships.  About that raid, Lehman stated, “(sneaking into the harbor) was the easy part… Getting out of the harbor safely into open water was the tricky part,” adding that upon escape, the submarine was forced to remain on the surface in order to safely negotiate mines and rocks.

For this daring assault alone, Fluckey was awarded the Medal of Honor, and the crew of the Barb received the Presidential Unit Citation.

The Barb also participated in a rescue operation when an unmarked Japanese ship—designated the “Hell ship”—transporting Australian and British prisoners of war was tragically sunk. The crew of the submarine rescued 14 of the POWs.

But one of the Barb’s more notorious ventures began on July 19, 1945, when the ship sailed close to the Japanese shoreline, and the crew noted a railroad that had been constructed with the apparent intent that it be used for transporting military supplies. The submarine sat idle for several days to allow the crew to observe the arrival and departure of the supply trains.

Then on July 23, the submarine closed in on the shoreline, followed by eight of the ship’s crew, launching themselves in a small boat to gain access to the beach. According to warhistory.com, the team then crawled through high grass, across a highway and a ditch, and then began to lay pressure-sensitive explosives along the train tracks.  Lehman said he tried to volunteer for the mission, but the commander was not about to send his primary radar operator into the attack.

In a little over an hour, after the assault team was back on board the sub, a supply train triggered the explosives and blew up, and the rest is history. The attack became the only ground combat assault carried out upon Japanese soil in the war, and the Barb became the only submarine with the image of a train sewn onto their battle flag.

Fluckey described Lehman as one of the best radar men with whom he had ever sailed, citing Lehman several times in the lieutenant commander’s book, Thunder Below.

Lehman passed away in Frederick in 2021, the last surviving crew member of the Barb under Fluckey’s command.

As to the fate of the U.S.S. Barb, it was decommissioned and loaned to the Italian Navy, who renamed it the Enrico Tazzoli. Still in Italian hands, the ship was sold in 1972 for scrap for $100,000, according to warhistory.com.

by Richard D. L. Fulton

The Day Georgie Peach Helped Save 3,800 Prisoners

Walkersville may very well remember George Fisher, Sr. as a life member of the Walkersville Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company or his having been an active member of the United Methodist Church, the local Lions Club, or the Woodsboro American Legion Post.

But some 3,700 to 3,800 civilian prisoners being held by the Japanese Army in Manila during World War II might remember him for an entirely different reason: the day Fisher, aboard his tank, Georgia Peach, stormed the prison camp and helped liberate the prisoners from their brutal Japanese Army captors.

When Fisher joined the United States Army in Spring 1942 as a drummer in a regimental band with the 8th Armored Division, the raid to liberate Allied civilians being held as prisoners by the Japanese in Manila was three years away. He received his basic training at Fort Knox. A month and a half later, Fisher was sent to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to assist in forming a regimental band as part of the 12th Armored Division. He remained there as a drummer in the regimental band and in the show and dance band.

But the frivolity, as such, was about to come to an end. In September 1943, the band was reduced in size, resulting in Fisher seeking reassignment, which landed him in the 44th Tank Battalion, a unit within the 12th Armored Division. In November, the 44th Tank Battalion was detached from the 12th Armored Division and, in March, was sent to Vancouver to prepare for deployment to the Pacific, a move that was executed in March 1944.

“We… boarded the Dutch ship S.S. Kota Baroe on March 22 and sailed unescorted for a period of 51 days before reaching our destination at Fanshawe, New Guinea,” Fisher stated in an interview.

The war officially commenced for Fisher in January 1945, when the 44th Tank Battalion was deployed along with the armed forces being sent to San Jacinto, Philippines, at the opening of the Luzon Campaign—making it the largest campaign in the Pacific war, involving more than 10 U.S. divisions.

General Douglas MacArthur, then commander of the Southwest Pacific, had become impressed with an ongoing prisoner rescue attempt and immediately ordered the formation of the “Flying Column,” with the orders to, “Go to Manila! Go over the Japs, go around the Japs, bounce off the Japs, but go to Manila! Free the prisoners at Santo Tomas…”

Fisher had been assigned to an M4 Sherman medium tank, which the crew had dubbed Georgia Peach, no doubt influenced by the fact that the tank’s commander was Sergeant Marvin Herndon, of Georgia, when orders were received to roll with the “Flying Column.”

As the column (a mere 700 men and their equipment) neared Santo Tomas, the bullets and shells began to fly, as Japanese resistance began to stiffen. Fisher described the ensuing chaos as seemingly “all Hell breaks loose, with the appearance of a fireworks display on the Fourth of July.”

Fisher stepped outside of his tank during a presumed lull and was immediately struck in the back by a fragment of shrapnel.  Regarding the injury, he said, “It was red hot, and that’s why it hurt so much, but it was a clean cut,” so the tank crew “just put on a bandage,” and he resumed his position in the tank.

The troops received word that the Japanese may well have been preparing to execute as many of the civilian prisoners as they could before they could be liberated, which further hastened the American column forward. Upon orders to charge the prison compound gates, the Georgia Peach and four other tanks broke into the compound, and the fight to free the civilian captives was over… except of course, the “Flying Column” and its thousands of liberated prisoners now themselves had to escape.

The column encountered a major Japanese fortified “roadblock” while executing their withdrawal, but in 20 minutes, reduced it to rubble, and the road “home” was cleared of resistance.

Fisher was awarded a Purple Heart, a Philippine Liberation Ribbon, a Good Conduct Medal, and an Asiatic Pacific Service Medal, and served as a president of the 44th Tank Battalion Association of WWII.

Fisher, a Bedford, Pennsylvania-born, life-long resident of Walkersville, and an honorary member of the Bay Area Civilian Ex-Prisoners of War, which had been bestowed upon him as a result of his participation in the 1945 rescue of the 3,800 civilians at Santa Tomas, passed away at the Montevue Assisted Living in Frederick, on July 11, 2000—23 days after his 100th birthday.

Corporal George Fisher, Sr. Courtesy of Family

George Fisher, Sr. and Georgia Peach. Source: Citations Magazine

Navy Vet Tony Ruopoli

by Richard D. L. Fulton

From Beirut to Eritrea

Soon-to-retire and highly decorated Frederick County Deputy, Tony Ruopoli (pictured right), served in the U.S. Navy and has been confronting the “bad guys” for more than four decades, from Lebanon to the highways of Frederick County.

Emmitsburg resident Ruopoli served in the Navy from 1980 until his retirement in 2002. He has served in missions from Lebanon to Somalia to Eritrea, as well as at home, which included recovering a valuable, prototype aircraft involved in a fatal crash in the Potomac River.

Ruopoli, who enlisted in the Navy when he was 17, was initially assigned in 1980 to serve on the U.S.S. Spruance as a mechanical engineer, working on hydraulics and the ship’s diesel engine.

He was serving aboard the Spruance, which was stationed off Lebanon in 1983, as the Lebanese war was erupting, and was present when the U.S.S. New Jersey engaged the enemy, firing her heavy guns for the first time since Vietnam at hostile positions in Beirut.

Also in 1983, Ruopoli was assigned to the U.S.S. Halyburton.  While serving on the Halyburton, Ruopoli was aboard when the ship was dispatched to Granada in October 1983 to support the Marine assault that resulted in the liberation of 36 American students that were being held as hostages by the Grenadian militia. 

During 1985, Ruopoli was assigned to Assault Craft Unit II, a unit that was involved in the invasion of Panama, which ultimately resulted in the surrender of Dictator Manuel Noriega. While with the unit, he was made chief engineer and became the first engineer to qualify as craft master.

Ruopoli was subsequently transferred to the Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit II (MDSU) after having been trained as a Navy diver. When Iran invaded Kuwait in 1991, Ruopoli found himself and other members of MDSU deployed in support of the ensuing military response.

A less pugnacious incident he was assigned was the salvage of a prototype V-22 Osprey (a “tilt-rotor” aircraft), which had crashed on July 21, 1992, into the Potomac River. “We got called to recover the aircraft,” Ruopoli said. By dusk, Ruopoli and his fellow divers had begun recovering pieces of the craft and the bodies of the crew members.

The year 1993 found Ruopoli enroute to Mogadishu, Somalia, to support Seal Teams 2, 4, and 6 in retrieving the remains of the Black Hawk helicopter that had been shot down by Somali militia (subject of the movie Black Hawk Down).

Ruopoli was then assigned to the Navy Medical Research Institute (NMRI) in 1994 to participate in developing protocols for civilian and Navy divers and to help with experimenting with gas mixtures for divers’ tanks. He was also made chief petty officer.

Ruopoli also became involved in recovering debris and bodies from the wreckage of TWA Flight 800, which had exploded and crashed into the Atlantic in 1996 off Long Island, New York. He said the recovery was especially emotional and difficult for him since “a lot of them [victims] were those of kids who were on the plane on a field trip to France.”

When the Eritrean–Ethiopian War broke out in 1998, Ruopoli and other members of his unit were deployed as part of a United Nations operation in an attempt to “assist Eritrea in becoming its own nation and (in assuring) a peaceful separation of Eritrea from Ethiopia,” he said. 

Ruopoli retired from the Navy in 2002, and then attended and completed the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) Academy, becoming a deputy sheriff, a position he continues to hold until he retires in September.

He has received citations (including medals for valor) for numerous acts of heroism while on and off duty, having saved several lives over the years, including an individual rescued from her burning home. As part of his duties with FCSO, he predominantly patrolled the north county, with some of his time on the force devoted to accident reconstruction.

Following his retirement, Ruopoli and his wife, Brenda, intend to continue with their development business, Cherry Blossom Properties.

PFC Clyde Jacob Smith

by E.A. EYLER

Photo Credit to Richard Starbird

When I was six months old, my uncle Jake moved in with us. We lived in a small house alongside Rt. 491 in an area called Lantz. At least it was Lantz until the1960s when the Lantz Post office closed, and our postmark became Sabillasville. The truth was we lived in neither. Just out in the country on a mountain saddle between the South Mountain and Catoctin ranges. My grandparents’ farm was a half mile back the road, where, on maybe 15 acres of tillable land, they raised a family of twelve children. Jake and my mom, Mildred, were born somewhere in the middle. And now, Jake had fallen out with his parents and left home.

Jake had knocked around after leaving school. He worked at Victor Cullen Sanitorium as a dishwasher and occasional projector operator, but, mostly, he had worked on the family farm and for his brother-in-law, Glenn (Junior) Willard, on his farm a mile back the road.

But, Jake was dissatisfied. He wanted to do something more with his life. He wanted to see the world and start a career. It was 1951 and there was a war in Korea. He wanted to join the Army. Trouble was, he was only 17. And, at 17, you needed your parents to sign off, and they refused. Likely, my grandmother put her foot down. She ran the roost. So, Jake moved in with my parents.

Jake was persistent, however, and after six months, tempers cooled, and his parents reluctantly agreed to sign.

He took basic training at Fort Meade and then shipped out to Germany. Unhappy with his assignment there, he requested a transfer to Korea and arrived there on July 14, 1952.

On August 7, 1952, he was assigned Fire Direction Liaison Operator with the 57th Artillery Battalion, Charlie “C” Battery. Finally, he requested to join a Forward Observe Team and was assigned to the 31st Infantry Regiment 3rd Battalion “K” Company as a Wire Corporal. His duties were to keep communications open via radio between his Forward Observation team and the gun battery.

Per a letter received by Jake’s parents from Colonel R.A. Risden, Major General Wayne Smith’s chief of Staff:

“On 17 October 1952, (during the battle of Triangle Hill in the Iron Triangle), friendly forces engaged in an extensive offensive action against a strategic enemy-held hill, were subjected to an intense enemy mortar and artillery barrage. Private Smith was with the Forward Observer Party relaying vital communications when the radio suddenly failed. Ignoring the fierce enemy fire, Private Smith left his position of relative safety, and, moving through the impact area, secured additional batteries so communications could be restored. Upon his return, Private Smith, noticing several wounded men in danger of falling over a cliff, rushed to their aid and helped in evacuating them. Again returning to his position, Private Smith, with complete disregard for his personal safety, answered a call for volunteers to help defend the friendly positions and moved in to the forward trenches (with Riflemen of the Infantry units), where he valiantly fought off numerically superior enemy forces until he was mortally wounded by enemy fire (an artillery shell landing close to his position).”

He received the Silver Star and the Purple Heart, posthumously. He was buried January, 8, 1953, in Germantown Bethel Church Cemetery.

 According to Lt. Richard Starbird and Sgt. Howard Nease, who served with him, “Smitty was a good soldier, well-liked by his buddies. He chewed Plow Boy brand tobacco and loved the Hershey Bars in his rations. Clyde was a strong man who was good at “Tapping the Box” (keeping the radio working). He loved being a soldier. He looked forward to mail from his family and a girl named, Jennie.”

How I Came to Know My Father ~ Part 1

by Sally T. Grove

Using Her Father Chester L. Grove, Jr.’s Diary and Reflecting on What He Had Written

I was 20 years old, fresh out of college, and in my first year of teaching, a difficult first year. Why did college prepare me so little for my own classroom?

Finally, a break, a time to breathe. I went home for Thanksgiving. At home, I talked with Dad about my living situation and my finances, both in dire straits. A basement apartment, a bathroom that leaked water into the kitchen, and a landlord who lived richly and didn’t care about the problems of his tenants, even as they lived in his own basement. What should I do? Car payments! Dad had warned me not to buy a new car. Not one to listen, I bought a new Honda and was now living the consequences. I loved my shiny red Honda, but the car payments on an $8,000 per year teaching salary were a killer.

On Thanksgiving Day 1977, my father invited me to move back home to relieve the pressure. I could save some money and have some support from my family as I got my feet wet teaching. I cried that Thanksgiving and gave Dad a big hug and kiss, telling him how grateful I was and much I loved him.

A day later, while sifting through a trunk in my family’s unfinished basement, I found a small stenographer’s notebook, its brown cover worn, well-traveled, edges frayed. I opened the notebook slowly, deliberately. Its contents were gradually revealed, like the plot of a mystery novel. As the practiced and perfect handwriting came into focus, I knew this writing to be my father’s.

 “On April 15, 1943, I took my examination for the U.S. Army. It was on this day that I ate my first sandwich consisting of baloney.”

Was that my father? I had never seen him eat a baloney sandwich. In fact, I know his menu by heart: vegetables consisting of peas, corn, baked beans, and any kind of potato; meats, always dry and over-cooked—these were his meals and ours—and Friday night was tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. These are the foods that Dad liked, and these are the foods that we ate and loved. We ate like our father, all six of us, much to my Mom’s chagrin.

“The morning of April 22, my last day home, I went up Carroll Creek and caught seven beautiful trout, my last as a civilian.”

When our family visited “Poppy in Frederick” when I was small, I used to stare at the stuffed fish that adorned his dark, dusty, shadowed walls. The fish hung as a testament to his youth and his sense of adventure. My grandfather was a fisherman, and he taught my dad to fish. I have a great picture of my father (shown left), standing with a fist full of fish fanned out for the photographer’s film. Was this a picture of Dad on the day my grandfather caught the big one?

“Our train ride took us through Western Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama… We arrived at our new station, Fort McClellan, a very tired bunch of rookies… I got along very well eating most everything we got for meals, although not liking it very much…”

His first big adventure via train—how exciting! With six kids, our family’s adventures now consisted of camping in Western Maryland or a week in Ocean City. We rode bikes each morning on the boardwalk and had pancakes at Happy Jack’s Pancake House. At least in Ocean City, Dad ate what he wanted.

“I took the Air Cadet exam the 12th week of basic. The passing grade for the cadet exam is 83 and I made 100%, the 3rd highest grade… On February 16th, 1944, I made my first flight at the school and by March 11th, I had completed 10 hours of flying. I really loved flying…”

Twenty-one years old and learning to fly. I didn’t know Dad had flown planes! Why didn’t he tell us? I remember when we were little, Dad took us to “Penny-A-Pound” Day at the local airport. For a penny a pound, we could go on an airplane ride. I remember being frightened and not wanting to go. Dad convinced me it would be okay. Once in the air, I couldn’t get enough of flying. The houses and streets looked like a miniature Christmas village below. No wonder Dad loved flying.

“… arrived at Santa Anna Army Air Base on the 23rd, after a very exciting trip across the U.S., my first. After taking the test for three straight days, I was a classified pilot but then the tragedy came. An order came from Washington, calling back all cadets who were former ground force students and so my dreams of flying were crushed on April 1, 1944 by a single piece of paper.”

I guess that’s why my father didn’t tell us…his dream was shattered. What other dreams did Dad have for his life? Most of what I know of my father revolves around the time he spent with his family. Were we part of his life dream?

Courtesy Photo of Chester L. Grove, Jr. in Uniform

Courtesy Photo

Robert McPherson Gardiner

by Terry Pryor

Lt. Robert McPherson Gardiner in uniform. Courtesy Photo

Although born in Denver, Colorado, Robert McPherson Gardiner spent his childhood and youth at the Auburn home in Catoctin Furnace. It was from here that he joined the Army in 1943.

This is, in part, his story. I did not know him, but I am married to his nephew, Christopher Orth Gardiner, who has regaled me with wonderful stories of this man and his lifetime accomplishments.

Headquarters

308th Field Artillery Battalion

APO 78, U. S. Army

GLH/hip

8 August 1945

Subject: Recommendation for Award

To:  Commanding General, 78th Infantry Division, APO 78, U. S. Army.

1. Under the provisions of AR600-45, as amended, it is recommended that ROBERT. M. GARDINER, First Lieutenant, 0528776, Field Artillery, Battery “C”, 308th Field Artillery Battalion, present for duty, be awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action in connection with military operations against the enemy on 17 January 1945.

2. Detailed Description of Incident: Lt GARDINER, a Field Artillery Forward Observer, was with an Infantry company assigned the mission of holding a piece of high ground and a pill box in the vicinity of Rafflesbrand, Germany. On 17 January 1945, the Germans attacked in force to retake this ground and to reoccupy the pill box. The Infantry Lt GARDINER was supporting was driven from the dug in positions in front of the pill box, leaving it exposed to the enemy. Realizing the importance of the position, Lt GARDINER held his ground and continued firing on the enemy in spite of the fact that his position was overrun. The Germans subjected the pill box to heavy artillery and mortar fire, wounding Lt GARDINER and killing his radio operator. Lt GARDINER then himself operated the radio and continued to observe the enemy. The results of his accurate calls for artillery fire were devastating and were greatly responsible for the disorganization of the planned attack by the Germans. He continued to call for and adjust fires for a period of six hours until the ground was again secured by our own Infantry. This artillery played an important part in repulsing the enemy and driving them from the hill. Although wounded, this Officer remained at his observation post for 48 hours, continuing to bring artillery fore down on the enemy at every suspicious move. Lt GARDINER distinguished himself throughout combat as being one of the most dependable, aggressive, and courageous forward observers in the 308th Field Artillery Battalion. His aggressiveness, personal courage and heroic action are in accordance with the highest military traditions.

* Unfortunately, this letter is missing the last part of the page, but he was awarded that Silver Star that he so deserved.

The following is from the November 16, 2018, Wall Street Journal, by James R. Hagerty.

Robert Gardiner, Wall Street Giant, Helped Sears With ‘Socks and Stocks’ Strategy

Army veteran was part of building Dean Witter into a powerhouse and launching Discover credit card.

Stay put or flee? Atop a hill in Germany’s Hürtgen Forest in January 1945, Robert Gardiner, a 22-year-old Army officer, had to make a quick decision.

As his unit faced swarming German troops, he was in a concrete pillbox and responsible for directing artillery fire. He stayed, even after mortar fire briefly knocked him out and killed his radio operator. With blood trickling down his back, Mr. Gardiner took over the radio duties to provide cover for his troops.

The 6-foot-7 Army officer, nicknamed “Stretch,” might have made an easy target, but he survived and returned home to launch a career on Wall Street, where nothing ever seemed to fluster him. He was deeply involved in two mergers that helped transform the securities industry from a gaggle of small partnerships into a business dominated by global companies.

Mr. Gardiner, who died Nov. 3 at the age of 95, headed Reynolds Securities when it merged into Dean Witter in 1978, creating one of the largest Wall Street firms. In 1981, he was president of Dean Witter Reynolds when Sears, Roebuck & Co. paid about $610 million for the firm as part of its strategy of offering financial services—including insurance, real-estate brokerage and investment funds—alongside refrigerators and underpants.

Robert MacPherson Gardiner was born Nov. 17, 1922, in Denver. His family had a candy business in New York but had moved to Colorado with the hope that cleaner air would help his father, Clement Gardiner, recover from tuberculosis. The elder Mr. Gardiner died when Robert was 9, and the family relocated to a dairy farm near Frederick, Md. (Auburn) He attended the Trinity-Pawling boarding school in Pawling, N.Y., where he was on the basketball team.

At Princeton University, he majored in history and participated in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. He wore an Army uniform and marched to classes and meals.

“I remember practicing slouching and bending my knees to appear shorter when measured so that I would qualify for the Army’s height limit,” he wrote later. After graduating from Princeton in 1943, he was inducted into the Army. In October 1944, he was shipped to Europe. As an artillery forward observer, he wrote, “I served as the eyes of the gunners.” He was awarded Silver Star and Purple Heart medals for remaining in the exposed pillbox in the Hürtgen Forest. He also won a Bronze Star and a Belgian Croix de Guerre.

After the war, he became a research analyst at the Wall Street firm A.M. Kidder & Co. Five years later, he jumped to a bigger firm, Reynolds & Co. He soon found he was unhappy there and wrote a letter of resignation. The firm’s founder asked why he was leaving. “I told him it was a lousy firm, and I told him why it was a lousy firm,” Mr. Gardiner recalled in a 2005 oral history. “Instead of throwing me out on my ear, he said, ‘Why don’t you become my assistant?’ Maybe we can do something about it.’”

By 1958, Mr. Gardiner was managing partner of Reynolds as it opened offices across the U.S. and in Canada. Reynolds eventually merged with Dean Witter, which was strong on the West Coast, creating a national firm to rival Merrill Lynch.

The 1981 takeover offer from Sears was too generous to refuse, he said later. Sears soon promoted him to CEO of Dean Witter. Financial-services kiosks popped up in hundreds of stores. By the time Mr. Gardiner retired in 1986, however, the kiosks still weren’t producing much business for Dean Witter. The retailer abandoned its “socks and stocks” strategy in the early 1990s. Dean Witter ended up as part of Morgan Stanley.

Though investment kiosks in Sears stores didn’t work out, the idea of combining a securities firm, an insurer and a real-estate broker was sound, Mr. Gardiner said in the oral history. The best solution, he suggested, would have been to keep them together and spin off the Sears stores. One lasting business that emerged from the combination was the Discover credit card, which he helped launch.

In his later years, he served as an adviser to Morgan Stanley and had an office in the World Trade Center. He tended to show up early at the office and start his day by tipping his fedora to the receptionist. On Sept. 11, 2001, he was stuck in traffic near the Holland Tunnel, saving him from the terrorist attack.

Mr. Gardiner was a longtime trustee of the Boys’ Club of New York and endowed a school at a Boys’ Club summer camp. He also supported the Guggenheim Museum and the Trinity-Pawling School, among other causes.

Mr. Gardiner is survived by Elizabeth Walker Gardiner, whom he married in 1975. An earlier marriage ended in divorce. He is also survived by three of his four children and two grandchildren.

Friends recalled his relentless optimism. When the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 23% in one day in October 1987, he assured colleagues it would quickly rebound. In his early 80s, he was still hoping to improve his golf score. After he had a stroke on his 89th birthday, doctors didn’t expect him to walk again. “I disregarded their prognosis,” he said later in an interview with a Pawling school publication.

He regained mobility with help from a walker and enjoyed six more years of shuttling between homes in Gulf Stream, Fla., and Far Hills, N.J. “I like to be in New Jersey when the tulips are blooming,” he said. “I’m a big fan of tulips.”

by Priscilla Rall

WWII Thurmont Nurse Follows Troops: Part 3

We continue with the story of Army nurse Mary Catherine Willhide as she nursed wounded American soldiers after the Battle of the Bulge. While stationed in Malmedy in Germany, Mary endured the explosions from German bombs for months in late 1944.

She was on night duty on December 16, sitting near a stove as she wrote a letter home. A bomb hit so close that it knocked the pen out of her hand. This is how she found herself in the middle of the Battle of the Bulge.

According to Mary, “you couldn’t hear anything for the terrible explosions…one knocked out the corner of one of our buildings. About a dozen people were killed in Malmedy about a half-mile away.” On December 17 at breakfast, the colonel told the nurses that paratroopers had dropped between Malmedy and Eupen, 30 miles away. There was to be a counterattack, but no orders had been received so far.

Around noon, infantry troops began jumping out of trucks right at the hospital’s front gate! Mary could hear the fire of small arms in the direction of Malmedy. At three in the morning, a nurse tore into Mary’s room to tell her that there was fighting in the streets of Malmedy and there was to be an emergency nurses’ meeting.

For the next two days, the casualties were heavy and her hospital had nearly 300 patients. Then, Mary noticed a very unsettling activity. All the traffic was now in reverse, including the tanks!

The nurses’ meeting took all of three minutes! The hospital staff was ordered to pack, and Mary wisely dressed as warmly as she could. Fifteen minutes later, they got the word that they were to be evacuated, and the colonel asked for five volunteers to remain at the hospital. Apparently, there were no orders from headquarters, as there was another hospital in Malmedy and no nurses were left behind when they evacuated. The patients were being evacuated as far as possible in “trucks, ambulances, or anything we could get.”

As luck would have it, all nine of the trucks assigned to Mary’s hospital were still there. Forty nurses were placed in one truck. In the afternoon, the nurses from the field hospital at Waimes arrived with a harrowing tale to tell. They had just gotten out ahead of the Germans. Apparently, Mary’s headquarters had called the corps commander four times before they were given the order to evacuate. Mary wryly noted that if they had been told on the morning of the 17th, they would have had time to pack up all of the valuable hospital equipment. Unfortunately, they had to leave all of their medical equipment behind with seven enlisted men and one officer as guards. They worked through the night and had everything packed by 6:00 a.m. on the last truck, also carrying the last load of patients. According to a letter sent to her parents, Lt. Willhide was forced to move three times in one night during the worst of the Battle of the Bulge.

“Fortunately an engineer battalion held the Jerrys back after they had orders to retreat,” Mary wrote. An infantry division and an armored division had already started from above Aachen, but they didn’t arrive until Sunday afternoon and the rest the next day. It was too late. According to Mary, that was the trouble. If they took our troops out of the Aachen area, then the enemy could break through there. “In other words, we were biting off more than we could chew.”

Soon, the British moved into Aachen and the U.S. brought our troops south. According to Mary, “it was the airplanes that defeated the Germans who didn’t have enough support, and the Americans tore up their supply lines.”

A colonel from headquarters came and asked for three volunteers to come with him. Of course, Mary volunteered! She claims that the nurses weren’t too scared until the colonel asked them if the German strafed their jeep, could they make it to the gutter! “We said, brother, you won’t have to tell us more than once!”

He took them to Spa, Belgium, just 10 miles from Malmedy. They met the rest of the unit there. The main drive was towards Stavelot, Belgium, and then further south through St. Vith toward Bastogne. On Monday, December 18, we moved again to Hartze “where we had our closest call.” They stayed there just one night as the battle raged on only 10 miles east of them. Luckily, they moved out just two hours before the Germans took the place. “Thank God we were always just a jump ahead of them.” She realized just how fortunate they were when she saw the ragged and starving POWs from the concentration camps. On the 19th, they moved to Huij, Belgium, where they helped the 102 Evacuation Hospital, which was inundated with the wounded. “It was like Normandy all over again.”

Although Lt. Willhide doesn’t mention it in her letter, she received the Bronze Star with a citation for meritorious service on January 4, 1945. The citation reads “For meritorious service in connection with military operations as an anesthetist, 67th Evacuation Hospital, semimobile from 17 June 1944 to 27 November 1944 in France, Luxembourg and Belgium.”

Then, most of the hospital staff went on to Namur, where the Germans made their deepest penetration. Mary stayed there until January 7 and then went on to the 51st Field Hospital. From there, she went to Duren, which was in complete ruins. It took the men three days to clean it out. “There were dead Germans in the cellar and in the attic where they were housed.”

On March 25, Mary moved to Bonn, where she stayed at the Pathological Institute by the Rhine River. Next stop, Huborn, the next largest hospital since St. Mere Eglise. There, they cared for 30 Russians, all with head injuries. “If you ever saw a mess, that was it. No one spoke Russian, and they were afraid of us and wouldn’t stay on the operating room table, so I put them to sleep on the run!”

On May 4, they moved to Bayreuth, Bavaria, 280 miles by truck, taking 12 hours.

Mary went through Frankfort to Nuremberg, where she saw Hitler’s Stadium. Finally, the long-awaited V-E Day came. But there was still work for Mary. She moved to Marienbad, Czechoslovakia, a lovely resort town, where they set up yet another hospital on June 1. As time went on, Mary noticed that the Germans were less hostile towards the Americans. “Never have I seen a more bedraggled, dirty, sullen people than the German soldiers, who were all along the road. They were walking, riding in horse-drawn vehicles, trucks, and every imaginable mode of travel.” They had thrown the dice and lost.

Now Capt. Willhide, Mary Catherine finished out her tour of duty and then served in the Maryland State Department of Health. She died on February 15, 2001, at her home on Flanagan Road and is buried in Weller’s Cemetery in Thurmont.

by Priscilla Rall

WWII Thurmont Nurse Follows Troops: Part 2

We continue with the story of Mary Catherine Willhide as she nurses wounded American soldiers in Normandy. She noted in a letter home that there was no distinction between officers and enlisted men, with officers often helping enlisted men if the need arose. Mary was in a 400-bed hospital with everything attached; pharmacy, a generator for lights, X-ray equipment, all under tents. They had extra tents for patients in shock and those waiting for surgery. Mary was devastated by the number of badly injured patients waiting for treatment lying on the ground. She noted that they never complained, knowing how many severely injured soldiers were being treated but just asked for some food.

On Monday, July 17, 1944, another hospital temporarily took over their facilities so that the doctors and nurses could get some much-needed sleep. Then, on July 19, Mary’s hospital moved three miles down the road or about three fields over. Every night Mary could hear the American’s flak from the US “ack-ack” guns as the German planes flew over the hospital. “We slept with our helmets on” and “pieces would fly past so close you could hear the whiz,” Mary wrote in a letter to her family. The front was just 7 miles away and American soldiers were battling for St. Lo. Donald Null of Frederick was fighting there with the 115th Infantry and his brother, Austin, with the 30th Infantry, was killed there.

The breakthrough came on July 26, and Mary and her fellow nurses stood on the bank along the field and watched the American planes, 15 in each squadron. They flew from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the afternoon. They reminded Mary of wild geese flying. She also saw five Allied bombers shot down. “They would blow up in mid-air and leave a long black streak of smoke from the sky to the ground.” Tragically, some of the bombers didn’t get far enough over the enemy lines and they bombed our own troops. The casualties were heavy.

“On the night of July 31, we were told at 10 p.m. that we had one hour to be ready to move out. So we went three to four miles east of St. Lo, and the terrain there was the worst so far. We were in a field that our men took three times before we were able to hold it. There were large craters, holes and many mines not yet set off,” Mary wrote. Near our tent were three to four dead cows, plus the bodies of soldiers killed a week before. “It was another horrible sight never to be forgotten.” In fact, 13 soldiers were injured when a mine exploded, and one was killed. “How the rest of us escaped, God only knows because the engineers didn’t demine the place until after we had been there a week.” The smell, hot weather, and flies made life miserable. There were many critically injured soldiers, many with abdominal wounds that required colostomies. Their dressings changed every few hours. Mary and her team stayed there for 15 days.

On Aug. 15, Mary was moved to Mortain and the war was going fast. They were 75 miles behind the front and set up in an apple orchard. They were treated to steak and fresh eggs every day! “We only had a few bad days and then we were finished! We even got to see Reims. On August 31 we traveled 240 miles in two days and we ended up just 20 miles east of Paris at Pierre la Vie. On Labor Day I saw Paris, bought perfume and saw Napoleon’s tomb, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Arc de Triumph and the Eiffel Tower!” Mary wrote.

Mary’s hospital was in a nice grassy area as the Allied armies raced towards Germany. She went into Paris with others on three different days. Then they moved to Bastogne, Belgium, on September 22, 1944. From there they went to Luxemburg where there was nothing but mud. There was a ridged blackout “so you can imagine stumbling around at midnight going to work. We worked from midnight to noon. We ate only one meal to save time. We were there two weeks. A German patrol came near the hospital and one enemy was captured. One of our ambulances was lost behind the line and was told how to find us! I think sometimes that we were not meant to be captured. We were wearing our nerves on our sleeves,” Mary wrote.

They were near Kleif in Luxemburg on Sept. 25 when the Ardennes offensive started. The Americans didn’t get very far because their tanks ran out of gas and couldn’t get through the Siegfried Line. On Oct. 5, Mary moved to Stavelot, Belgium, which reminded her of home. They rested there a short time before moving on to Malmedy in old Germany, where she first encountered hostile people. “We were told by the soldiers that if the Germans counter-attacked, they couldn’t hold the line. Our first taste of the breakthrough came on December 16 at 5 o’clock in the morning. The buzz bombs averaged 10 to 15 a day from October until it became almost a frenzy,” Mary wrote. She was on night duty Dec. 16, and was sitting around the stove writing a letter when one of the bombs hit so close that it knocked the pen out of her hand. She was in the middle of the Battle of the Bulge.

by Priscilla Rall

John Henry Lehman was born in Reed near Hagerstown in 1922 to J. Henry and Elizabeth Hege Lehman. His grandfather, a Mennonite, owned and operated the Lehman’s Mill on Marsh Creek, one mile south of the Mason Dixon Line. The mill, first built in 1869, had been rebuilt three times, the last time using bricks made at the mill by Marsh Creek. The mill ground corn, buckwheat, and wheat for human consumption and for animal feed. It still had the original stone-grinding stones imported from France. His grandfather was progressive for those days. He installed a telephone in the mill and got rid of his horses and wagon, buying a truck to deliver his wares.

This upset the elders of the church, but Grandfather Lehman insisted that he was running a business and needed the phone in the mill. This might have been the reason that John was raised in the Lutheran Church. Eventually, the mill was sold to a woman who removed all of the milling equipment and then sold items made by the local women.

John’s father worked for the Western Maryland Railroad until the Great Depression hit and he was laid off.

John and his two sisters attended the Bridgeport school on the Cavetown Pike by Antietam Creek. It had one room, one stove, and one teacher. Later, they went to school in Hagerstown. The family survived the Depression, as their grandfather hired his father for small jobs and such. The Mennonites did not lose their money when the banks failed, as they only dealt in cash, which they kept in their homes, not trusting banks. The Lehmans saw many hobos during this time. John’s mother would always find enough to feed them a meal before they journeyed on, looking for work.

The family had a half-acre garden where the children would help plant, pull weeds, and harvest. At this time, they lived along the Cavetown Pike. Sometimes they would go to Hagerstown to the movies, but that was all the entertainment they had.

After graduating from the old Hagerstown High School, John went to the Bliss Electrical School in Tacoma Park for one year. Amazingly enough, Mr. Bliss had once worked for Thomas Edison! John then briefly worked for the C&P Telephone Company, but the war caught up with him. Before he was to be drafted, John joined the U.S. Navy.  A naval officer had visited the Bliss School and encouraged the boys to complete the course, saying that they would then be very useful to the Navy. So, the Navy it was!

At the Naval Yard, John continued learning about radios, even building crystals sets and one-tube radios. He returned to Bliss, which by now was under the Navy, and learned more about the budding science of radar. He then traveled to San Francisco and spent six months studying radar. Then, he was off to New London, Connecticut, to learn specifically about radar used on submarines. After finishing these courses, he traveled back across the country to Mare Island, where he joined the crew of the USS Barb (SS-220). With Captain John Waterman, John made five combat patrols in the North Atlantic and sunk one German ship. The seventh patrol began with a trip through the Panama Canal, and then off to Pearl Harbor, where Eugene Fluckey joined the crew for his final training. Waterman was old-school, and Fluckey was from the new; they clashed repeatedly. John could hear this from where he was stationed. Finally, Waterman said, “Shut up…I’m the captain!”

Commander Fluckey captained the submarine during the next seven war patrols, between March 1944 and August 1945, when the Barb sunk 17 enemy vessels. In addition, when a “hell ship” carrying Australian and British POWs was unknowingly sunk (as she had no identification) by the SS Sea Lion, the Barb raced for five days to reach the survivors just before a typhoon hit. She was able to rescue 14 Allied POWs from the SS Rakuyo Maru.

Captain Fluckey considered Lehman one of the best radar men he sailed with, noting him several times in his book, Thunder Below.

The last two patrols were particularly impressive. The Barb sank four Japanese ships, including an aircraft carrier, in the East China Sea, off the coast of China. Next, with John constantly monitoring the radar, the Barb sailed up a busy harbor on the Chinese coast, launching her torpedoes at a convoy of 30 enemy ships at anchor. This was the easy part…getting out of the harbor safely to open water was the tricky part. Then, running on the surface, she retired at high speed through the uncharted harbor, full of mines and rocks. Seaman 1st Class Layman was at his station the entire time. For this audacious feat, Fluckey was awarded the Medal of Honor and the USS Barb received the Presidential Unit Citation.

After John left the Navy, he worked for the telephone company. In 1960, he married Anne Pearce and adopted her two children from a previous marriage. They had one son, William, together. They eventually retired to Frederick at Homewood. John passed away on March 5, 2021, the last crew member of the famous submarine, the USS Barb.

USN — Official U.S. Navy photo 19-N-83952 from the U.S. Navy Naval History and Heritage Command.

USS Barb (SS-220)

by Priscilla Rall

The mission of the “Silent Service” is to “Seek, Find, and Destroy.” 

Raymond Lloyd, from near Ladiesburg, lived that mission during WWII. He started in humble beginnings, born in Hanover, Pennsylvania, to Raymond and Mary Catherine Neller Lloyd in 1921. He was the oldest of three children. His father was a machinist, but during the Great Depression, he found little work. Mary Catherine slaved at a clothing manufacturing plant, sometimes returning home in tears as the work was so hard. The family ate a lot of hominy and mush. Raymond was often sent to the store with an empty jar to get filled with dark molasses for five cents rather than the six-cents lighter variety. Sometimes, the family lacked the money to pay the electric bill and their power was cut off. They made money nipping green beans for the canning factory. They would get several large bags of beans and sit in the yard, nipping off the ends. Mary Catherine bought lots of oatmeal, as the boxes had dishes in the bottom and she prized those. In those days, Hanover had no sewage system and everyone had outhouses! There were no buses to take students to school. So, when the snow was deep, Raymond’s mother wrapped newspaper around his legs and tied them in place with twine. To help his family, young Raymond helped deliver milk, getting up at 2:30 a.m. to put the milk jars on porches and collect the empties. He also had a newspaper route in the afternoon, riding his bicycle around town. Raymond graduated from high school in 1939 and first started working with his father in a machine shop. Then, Raymond went to York, Pennsylvania, to a munitions plant, making 20-mm guns, working 7 days a week, 10 to 12 hours a day.

On December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor immediately changed the United States. Raymond was upset about it, as were all Americans. He decided to join the U.S. Navy, although his parents were not too happy about his decision. He went to Baltimore and enlisted for six years. After six weeks of basic training, Raymond volunteered for the submarine service. His first test was to hold his breath for two minutes. After passing that test, he was sent to New London, Connecticut, where a psychiatrist examined him. After that, Raymond was tested to see if he could endure 52 pounds of pressure. Then it was off to a huge water tank, 100-feet deep. To pass, one had to be able to go up 100 feet without going too fast and getting the bends. Passing that difficult test, he was off to sub-school and became Seaman 2nd Class. After a number of boring assignments, he finally was assigned to a submarine, the USS Gunnel, which was just back from North Africa and led by Captain McCain, the father of the late Senator John McCain. It held 72 enlisted men and 7 officers. Lloyd’s job was to man the periscope shears and look out for anything in the air or sea and report immediately to the captain. After three days, the Gunnel left for war patrol. His parents knew nothing about his assignment or even the name of the submarine.

The Gunnel left New London and went south through the Panama Canal, then on to Pearl Harbor, and finally to Midway Island. Lloyd’s position had him high in the air, and if the captain ordered the boat to dive, he had 15 seconds to get down the hatch before it was closed. The Gunnel was sent to the Yellow Sea and Tokyo Bay. Their mission: to seek, find, and destroy any and all enemy shipping. Once Raymond sighted a camouflaged Japanese plane flying low, and he gave the warning. Raymond got through the hatch in time and the boat dove. Then, they heard a number of depth charges go off. The sub escaped unharmed. Another time, the boat’s sonar picked up a signal, and Lloyd saw a light on the horizon. He reported this to the captain, who fired three torpedoes. One hit and exploded, but the other two didn’t explode. The Navy was plagued with defective Mark 14 torpedoes, which they blamed on the captains’ errors. At least two subs were destroyed by their own torpedoes, which made a U-turn and sunk the American subs. Captain McCain then fired two more torpedoes, but only one exploded. The Japanese freighter started sinking as its crew began firing at the Gunnel.

Later, the Gunnel picked up two heavily loaded ships on radar, riding low in the water, plus three destroyer escorts. From the surface, the Gunnel fired four torpedoes, running according to the captain, “hot, straight, and normal.” Then, someone yelled, “Oh my God, they are leaving a smokescreen.” The Gunnel started to dive as the torpedo hit the freighter, and it exploded. The enemy destroyers started dropping depth charges, and the diving officer told the captain, “We’re in trouble.” The sub submerged to 300 feet, as depth charges exploded on both sides of the boat. They knocked out the lighting system, and the Gunnel starting springing leaks. Lloyd said that they stayed submerged for “hours and hours,” as the captain ordered “silent running.” They had almost used up their battery power and oxygen when the captain ordered her to surface. Lloyd immediately climbed the periscope shears and sighted two enemy ships, and he fired two torpedoes “shot right down the throat.” One ship exploded into pieces as the Gunnel submerged. This turned into a harrowing time for the Gunnel’s crew as they could hear what sounded like grappling hooks sliding over the Gunnel, trying to grab her and bring her to the surface. They stayed submerged for two days. The temperature in the boat was 120 degrees, the emergency oxygen was about empty, and they had just enough battery power to get to the surface. Cpt. McCain called a meeting of all the crew. “We have two choices: we can surface, then flood the ship and take our chances that we’ll be rescued, or we can surface with our battle crew ready and all guns on deck.” With one voice the crew answered, “We’ll fight it out!” So, they surfaced, ready to do battle…but the seas were empty! A heavy fog concealed their position, and they slowly crept away back to Midway.

After a 30-day pass home, Raymond returned to the Gunnel, and they left port, going south of Tokyo Bay. One night, they picked up a target and moved in. Firing torpedoes, they hit and sunk the enemy ship, but suddenly there was a destroyer heading straight for the Gunnel. Diving quickly, they counted 30-depth charges as they took to “silent running.” After things got quiet, they went to the surface and found another target, a high-masted trawler; it could be a trap. As Lloyd was on the periscope shear, he saw strange bubbles coming straight towards the Gunnel. “My God, it’s a torpedo… My God it’s another!” McCain immediately shouted, “All ahead flank rudder.” The crew watched as the torpedoes went past them, only feet away from the sub. Much later, Lloyd was given credit for saving the crew and the sub with his sharp eyes.

Lloyd was now Yeoman 1st Class, and he spent five months on Midway, keeping track of crew members and doing office work. What he remembers most is the gooney birds, or albatrosses, on the island. His next assignment was in San Francisco, censoring letters. He was then sent to Philadelphia for sub maintenance on the USS Moray, which was getting ready to be commissioned. When she was ready, Raymond sailed on her, again through the Panama Canal and on to Saipan, where they were put on lifeguard duty, picking up any airplane crew that had gone down. But, then they located a target, fired two torpedoes, and hit dead on. The freighter exploded in a ball of fire!

Then, it was back to Midway to keep a lane clear for the scheduled invasion of Japan. The atom bombs made that unnecessary, and Raymond was finally cleared to go home, except for a pesky x-ray that revealed that he had T.B. He then spent 11 months in a Navy hospital before it cleared up. His son, Jim, was born while he was in the hospital. Tragically, his first wife developed multiple sclerosis and soon passed away.

Back home, Raymond decided he wanted to go to college. First, he went to Gettysburg College and then to Johns Hopkins. Eventually, he began work as the assistant commissioner, Division of Labor and Industry, retiring after 16 years. He married Evelyn in 1953, and they moved into a home they built near Ladiesburg.

Raymond certainly followed the mission of the submarine corps to seek, find, and destroy. Few Americans know how much the submarines did to win the war in the Pacific. Fifty-two submarines were lost and 3,600 sailors did not survive. Out of four submariners, only three returned home. Remember the Silent Service when you celebrate our victory in WWII. They certainly deserve our praise.

Courtesy Photos

Raymond Lloyd

The USS Gunnel

Insignia for the USS Moray

Thurmont American Legion Post 168

The American Legion family would like to extend a big shout-out to the seniors at Catoctin High School: Congratulations on your graduation! We wish the class of 2021 a happy and successful future.

Flag Day ceremonies will be held Monday, June 14, 2021, at 6:00 p.m. The location is Thurmont Memorial Park. In the United States, Flag Day is celebrated on June 14. It commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States on June 14, 1777, by resolution of the Second Continental Congress. At the ceremony, flags will be disposed of properly, by having a flag burning ceremony.

The American Legion’s kitchen hours are Wednesday through Friday, from 5:00-8:00 p.m. Please join us for carryout (301-271-4411) or dine-in. Specials for the week are posted on our Facebook page: The American Legion Post 168.

Francis X Elder Post 121, Emmitsburg

Submitted by Kevin Cogan, Commander Post No. 121

Great hope and anticipation await us in June. Schools will be out for the summer, and families will be able to spend some much-needed time together in the outdoors. Enjoy this time, take in some sunshine and make note to the representation of our great country by where you might see our U.S. flag proudly displayed.

The United States flag was approved by congress as our nation’s flag on June 14, 1777.  June 14 commemorates this date as Flag Day. The colors represent: White—purity and innocence; Red—valor and bravery; and Blue—vigilance, perseverance, and justice. The stars represent the heavens and the stripes are symbolic of the rays of light streaming from the sun. Also, the stripes are our first 13 colonies. Our brave military takes hold of our U.S. flag and never desert its followers. It is a powerful symbol of our Americanism, as it represents us, the American people, and all the sacrifices good people have made to make it the great country we are able to live freely in today.

A few other dates of significance for June: June 6, 2021—Anniversary of the World War II Allied invasion in Normandy, France, known as D-Day (1944). During World War II (1939-1945), the Battle of Normandy, which lasted from June to August 1944, resulted in the Allied liberation of Western Europe from Nazi Germany’s control. The battle began on June 6, 1944, also known as D-Day, when some 156,000 American, British, and Canadian forces landed on five beaches along a 50-mile stretch of France’s Normandy region; June 20, 2021—Father’s Day. Let’s salute our military fathers and give thanks for all fathers on this day; June 25, 2021—The anniversary of the start of the Korean War (1950). It was a conflict between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea). The war reached international proportions in June 1950, when North Korea, supplied and advised by the Soviet Union, invaded the South. The United Nations, with the United States as the principal participant, joined the war on the side of the South Koreans, and the People’s Republic of China came to North Korea’s aid. After more than a million combat casualties had been suffered on both sides, the fighting ended in July 1953, with Korea still divided into two hostile states. Negotiations in 1954 produced no further agreement, and the front line has been accepted ever since as the boundary between North and South Korea; June 27, 2021—National PTSD Awareness Day. National Center for PTSD help:  800-273-8255 (press “1” if you are a Veteran). Anyone who wants to learn more can visit the National Center for PTSD website at www.ptsd.va.gov.

Unit #121 ALA will be hosting Trivia Night on Friday, June 11, at 7:00 p.m., and Bingo on Saturday, June 19, at 7:00 p.m.

The SAL will host the annual fishing derby held on Sunday, June 6, at the pond on Kline Farms, located between Thurmont and Emmitsburg on Rt. 15.

Meetings are held on the first Tuesday of each month. For more information, call us at 301-447-2274. Veteran regular member meetings will be held at Kumps Dam through September. 

Thank you to all who support the American Legion and our military personnel.

For God and Country!