Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sentimental Sunday - Granfather in WWII

Another story of my grandfather EISWERTH in the Navy during WWII.

Past Down’s of Dad’s Navy Days by Jim Eiswerth

My dad has talked about some of his days in the US Navy during and after WWII. For someone 88 years old, he still remembers several interesting things from his sailor days, including his Navy serial number!

After basic training up in the Great Lakes, dad was first stationed at the Naval Air Station at Quonset Point, Rhode Island. In the Navy dad was trained to be a sheet metal mechanic primarily in support of Navy aircraft, but ended up working long hours in the control tower at Quonset Point NAS. Later near the end of the war, dad was reassigned to the USS Helena, which was a new replacement heavy cruiser for the old Helena that sank during the Pacific war with Japan.

Late in his stay at Quonset Point, dad and his best friend Powell, who was a married guy from Portmouth, Ohio, tried to get assigned together on their next shipboard assignment. However when the orders finally came dad was paired up with Peter Ludwig, who was from St. Paul, Minnesota. According to dad, both Powell and Ludwig were outstanding mechanics.
Dad and Ludwig were sent to Norfork, Virginia for additional training before being sent to the USS Helena. At Norfork, dad said they did a lot of ship emergency type training including fire fighting. After several weeks there, they were sent to New York City via a bus. They were given 2 days liberty in New York before they were to report to Boston to board the USS Helena. As it turned out, their timing couldn’t have been better for a big party.

They arrived in New York on August 13, 1945, and Victory in Japan (VJ Day) celebrated the Japanese surrender on August 14, 1945 in New York --- although it was August 15th in Japan because of the International Date Line. VJ Day in New York filled the streets, and as dad said every military guy in the city was treated as a hero with unlimited food and drink from the men, hugs and kisses from the ladies. Unfortunately, dad and Ludwig had to be on the bus sat 3:00 PM headed for Boston, so they couldn’t stay and party like all the New Yorkers did well into the night.


After college I moved to Ohio. One year dad was talking about his Navy friends and asked me to see if I could find any of the Powell’s that still lived in Portsmouth, Ohio. Well one year I was invited to play golf at a course right off the Ohio River near Portsmouth. I asked around to see if any of the players might know of any Powell’s that lived in the area. One of the guys suggested that I check the local phone book. Well I had no luck either way. I know dad was looking forward to talking with his old sailor friend, Powell, if only I could have found him a good contact phone number.


Dad invited Ludwig to Pennsylvania after they returned from the shakedown cruise of the USS Helena. From New York, where they had arrived on the Helena for the 1945 Navy Day, they were given several days leave. Grabbing a train in New York, they headed to central Pennsylvania. Dad said Ludwig liked the area and they had a good time. I guess dad was starting to see my mom back then, because she got to meet Ludwig too. She liked seeing guys in their uniforms.

When they returned to New York, they spent several more weeks working on the Helena, while it was in port. Eventually dad and Ludwig received discharge orders. He remembers they put a bunch of similar sailors on a bus and took them to another place where they signed papers and were finally sent on their way home. Dad said when he got home, his dad was harvesting oats, so he changed in to his civilian (farmer) clothes and headed right for the fields. “Home at last, thank God I’m home at last!”

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