5:50 | Hank Sturgess was in college when he joined the Navy and they told him to finish and then report to Midshipmen's school. A brief stay at Notre Dame was followed by a an intense, shortened session at Northwestern University. He was ready for the Pacific fleet. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
Keywords : Albert Hank Sturgess Jr. Johnstown PA Atlanta GA Emory University Midshipmen's school University of Notre Dame Gene Tunney Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) Clint Castleberry Northwestern University North Fulton High School
He was first in his class at Midshipmen's school and he got his first choice of assignments, a destroyer. Hank Sturgess joined the USS Radford at Tulagi while the battle for Guadalcanal was raging nearby. He got an immediate baptism of fire on a routine patrol. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
Hank Sturgess was trained as a torpedo officer, but when he joined the crew of the destroyer USS Radford, the skipper said what he needed was a radar officer. The new technology was secret and destined to be highly important for the rest of the war. It was on the job training for the young ensign, who helped convince a skeptical admiral that it would work. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
He had no technical knowledge about RADAR, but Hank Sturgess was a fast learner in using it. Part of his job was keeping track of friendly ships and planes. His ship was fast and heavily armed with guns, torpedoes and depth charges. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
The goal was to intercept and destroy Japanese ships. RADAR Officer Hank Sturgess had help finding the enemy convoys from the coast watchers, civilian residents with hand cranked radios who acted as spotters. His ship was assigned a dangerous mission, to move in at night right in front of one of these task forces and lay a mine field. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
The destroyer USS Radford was being refueled and restocked when word came of a large Japanese task force moving in. During the battle that ensued, the ship made a frontal assault on the enemy, firing a bank of torpedoes and speeding off. As they maneuvered away, RADAR officer Hank Sturgess got a contact on his screen that could not be identified. Part 1 of 3. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
The men of the USS Radford were desperately trying to rescue as many of the men in the water as they could. The men were from her sister ship, the USS Helana, and three times the rescuers had to break away to fend off Japanese attacks. After a near miss from an enemy torpedo, Hank Sturgess and the rest of the Radford's crew managed to pull 500 survivors from the water. Part 2 of 3. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
With 500 survivors of the sinking of the USS Helana on board, the men of the USS Radford received a hero's welcome back at Tulagi. Hank Sturgess felt badly about leaving some men behind, but with the help of a civilian coast watcher, most of them were eventually recovered. Part 3 of 3. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
The USS Radford was part of an ad hoc task force dispatched to deal with Japanese ships spotted in the area. When the cruiser Leander from New Zealand suffered a crippling blow from a torpedo, the Radford escorted her back home to Auckland. This led to a training layover in New Guinea for RADAR officer Hank Sturgess which included a Bob Hope show and maybe the best party he would see until the war was over. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
As the Navy prepared to move beyond the Solomon Islands, a large fleet assembled at Fiji. Hank Sturgess had Shore Patrol duty the first night of leave on the island. It started out well, bit soon the sick sailors began showing up. Back at sea, an important task on his ship was the rescue of downed airmen. This led to a peculiar arrangement with the aircraft carrier crews. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
During one battle, the destroyer USS Radford was guarding some small carriers when a Japanese submarine got in close and sank one. Soon, Hank Sturgess picked up a blip on SONAR and the fast ship closed in to seek revenge. On another occasion, a well known pilot was missing and the men of the Radford joined the search. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
The USS Radford became part of MacArthur's fleet at New Guinea and began protecting troop transports and making shore bombardments. On one mission, they were covering slow ammunition barges when a lookout yelled. In came four kamikazes. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
Hank Sturgess had mastered the new RADAR technology in the heat of battle, and after one last mission, he returned stateside to become an instructor. He was an officer on the USS Radford, a very highly decorated ship. Before he could rejoin the fleet, the joyous news of the Japanese surrender sent him home instead. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
The paratroopers traveled through Belgium to the cheers of onlookers, but they were miserable in the open trucks. Rock Merritt says it was the coldest he's ever been. There had no cold weather gear except snow shoes as they rushed to defend Allied gains in the Battle of the Bulge. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
The Russians were close enough that the American POW's could hear the fire in the distance. Their guards roused them all and put them on the road in a forced march, leaving their camp in Poland and heading for Germany. It was seventy nine days of freezing cold out in the open, with very little food. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
Jack Houston had just helped his buddy dress a wound when he volunteered to return to the Okinawa hilltop where they were getting the enemy cleared out. When he got the jump on three of them, his muzzle flash gave him away and he had to leave in a hurry. He flung himself off the hill where he came face to face with a rifle. Part 5 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
Two engines were out, a third smoking, and they were were losing airspeed and altitude, but they were flying level and pointed home. Then time ran out for the B-17 and Don Scott had to slip down the hatch into the slipstream. Part 2 of 3.
The first operation for the 4th Division was the landing on Roi-Namur. Lawrence Snowden remembers that, though it was an easy victory, valuable combat experience and important lessons were imparted on the Marines.
After a nerve-wracking mission to bomb Tokyo and a typhoon, B.E. Vaughan and the destroyer O'Brien suffered a second kamikaze attack which killed all three of his hometown pals who served with him on board. Then, began the grim task of collecting the personal belongings of the dead and preparing them for burial at sea.
It was their third mission over Berlin and they were heading home. Four German fighters pounced on the B-24 and it was engulfed in flame and going down. Clyde Burnette fought for consciousness as the other crew in the back of the plane bailed out. He woke in free fall with no idea how he had made it out, and soon he was in German custody. Everyone made it out of the plane except George "Danny" Daneau, the nose turret gunner, who went down with the aircraft.
Several of the German weapons were far superior to his own, according to Frank "Lindy" Fancher. The Panzerfaust bazooka and the MG 42 machine gun were two that he really liked and he had more than one occasion to turn them on their makers. Sometimes he got orders that made no sense to him, like the time he was sent to a defensive position in a place that was impossible to defend.
Hal Puett joined the Navy ahead of the draft in 1942. He was sent to radio school where he was top of his class and earned a rare Radioman's rating while still there. Finding some action was his goal but the Navy had other ideas and made him an instructor at Pre-Flight school, teaching communications to student pilots.
One of the units from his group was surrounded and outnumbered by a large German force and Frank "Lindy" Fancher's platoon was ordered to keep the road open so they could escape. Later, back in a supposed safe area, he couldn't sleep and was the first to hear over the radio that the German armor was coming.
Frank "Lindy" Fancher had to get his unit across a mine field into some bunkers where they would guard a Ruhr River crossing. Halfway across the mine field, someone sneezed, a flare went up and the machine gun fire started. He inched his way out of there, but before it was over, he would cross that field several times to aid the wounded, repair the telephone wire and get his men into the bunkers. He would also be on the receiving end of a Screaming Mimi barrage and the earned end of a Silver Star.
His battlefield commission from Stromberg Hill finally caught up with Frank "Lindy" Fancher and he received his Lieutenant bars. By this time, the Battle of the Bulge was on and he was in several firefights in Belgium where the Germans had superior numbers. It was during this time that he spotted an idle tank and took off in it to help a pinned down unit.
On Kwajalein, a tiny atoll in the Pacific, the Naval personnel manning the communications station were very resourceful, says Hal Puett who was in charge there in 1945 at the end of the war. They had some appropriated steaks and some blowtorches, so you can guess how they worked that out.
It was cold and the snow was up to your waist. Your skin would stick and "burn" if you touched metal. You couldn't see through the fog during the day and you huddled together at night in snow caves because it was twenty below. That was when you weren't fighting at the Battle of the Bulge, recalls Frank "Lindy" Fancher.
The classrooms and the headquarters were on different parts of the sprawling University of Georgia campus, so the instructors at the Navy's Pre-Flight School were issued a motorcycle and sidecar to get around. Hal Puett recalls a couple of times that this arrangement went a little sideways.
They had to take the hill. Patton needed to cross the Moselle River where the German guns were targeted and Frank "Lindy" Fancher's platoon was pinned down. He was so mad that he grabbed a 30 cal machine gun and some ammo belts and charged the hill. When it was over, the crossing was secure and Fancher had won a battlefield commission.
P.G. Caudell chose Navy because his two brothers chose Army and he wanted to be contrary. There was only one problem, he weighed less than a hundred pounds and they wanted at least ten more on a recruit. (This interview made possible with the support of Vietnam Veteran, Capt. GRAHAM G. KYLE, JR.)
Rock Merritt tells the incredible story of a man he pulled from a bomb crater and sent back to the rear. He was sure the man was dead, but six years later, he got a surprising phone call. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
The amphibious training would go on all night long. Troops would climb down cargo nets into landing craft, then climb back up. P.G. Caudell was a gunner on one of the 26 boats carried by the USS Adair, an attack transport. After passage through the Panama Canal, the Adair began ferrying troops and cargo throughout the Pacific theater. (This interview made possible with the support of Vietnam Veteran, Capt. GRAHAM G. KYLE, JR.)
Rock Merritt was dug in listening to a German propaganda speaker when a machine gun started up. The paratrooper grabbed some Gammon grenades and crawled 500 yards under constant fire. He was able to walk back and the push into France continued. Part 4 of 4. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
There was a lot of gunfire during an amphibious landing, recalls Navy gunner P.G. Caudell. One night, they were stuck on a beach and were under the sights of a hidden Japanese artillery piece that was targeting them. (This interview made possible with the support of Vietnam Veteran, Capt. GRAHAM G. KYLE, JR.)
You will never forget the first combat order you are issued. Paratrooper Rock Merritt was a corporal when he was given his first real task during the invasion of Normandy. Part 3 of 4. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
You were not supposed to have a camera aboard ship, but P.G. Caudell had a miniature novelty camera that he broke down and brought with him anyway. He was wondering if the little thing would work, so he and a buddy gave it a try. (This interview made possible with the support of Vietnam Veteran, Capt. GRAHAM G. KYLE, JR.)
Rock Merritt had no knowledge of what he was training for in Nottingham, but soon the paratrooper was part of the vast invasion of Normandy. He describes the huge scope of the effort, the airplanes they used, and a unwanted responsibility he had regarding a bicycle. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
A month after the Allies began retaking Europe, Richard Delle Rose was drafted and sent to Fort Sill for basic training. He was a good shot so they put him in the infantry component of the 13th Armored Division. He was a lucky man on the way over. He avoided seasickness and got double bunk space. (This interview made possible with the support of DOUGLAS & PHYLLIS SEIBERT In Memory of Victor L. Seibert, 8th Air Force, KIA December 29, 1945.)