December 19, 2014

COG -77th Edition – Disasters

Cape Esperance, US Navy WWII era

COG -77th Edition – Disasters

My father-in-law, Loren Wilkerson, was in the Navy during World War II and near the end of the war he was on the CVE (carrier vessel escort) Cape Esperance as they made their way to Leyte Gulf for the battle that would eventually take place there.

On their way to the eventual battle, the Cape Esperance encountered one of the worst typhoons in naval history.  Named typhoon Cobra, it wreaked havoc and caused many deaths for the US Naval vessels caught in its path. If you are interested in reading more about this storm, I recommend the book Typhoon, The Other Enemy by Robert Calhoun. My husband read the book and sent it to his dad. (I didn’t get to read it before that happened, so I just ordered a copy of the book for our library today.) Even though Robert Calhoun was onboard a different ship, his experiences were essentially the same as Loren’s.

Admiral Nimitiz letter to the Pacific Fleet dated 13 Feb 1945 gives an accounting of the ships involved and the damages they suffered. Not only were ships lost, but the Aircraft Losses from Typhoon Cobra 1944 were extensive. The total of the lives lost was at least 800. At one point, Loren said the ship’s captain wanted to abandon the Cape Esperance, but the men didn’t want to do that, and they fought to save the ship instead.

It’s my goal to document Loren’s history, either in the Navy, or as a civilian, so that his descendants will know stories of his life. On July 24th of 2008 the city of Low Moor, Iowa honored their WWII veterans and my article Low Moor, Iowa Honors WWII Vets is a more extensive recounting of his experience during typhoon Cobra.

Carnival of Genealogy – 57th Edition “I read it in the news!”

Technically, I didn’t read this article in the news since it happened about nine years before I was born, but it was in the Daily Olympian newspaper in 1941. As the caretaker of the family documents and pictures, this article was one of a few about our family that made the news.

Dad never “won” anything in his life before or after the draft. Lucky him, huh? [As it turns out, the date of July 19th is important in our Yates/Wilkerson family. My cousin Linda Yates was born on that day in 1950, and our granddaughter Katrina was born on that day in 2001. :) ]


William Gale Yates 1920-1996

In 1941 his draft registration number (169) was chosen as #1 in Thurston county, WA, and rather than be drafted, he joined the Navy. He went to basic training in San Diego and then was sent to Kaneohe Bay on Oahu after the Pearl Harbor attack. The unit was then divided by alphabet, and the first half was sent to serve on the Saratoga, and the second half was sent to New Caledonia in the Loyalty Islands.  During his time in the Navy, Gale was certified as a Seaman Second Class on the 23rd of Feb. 1942 and completed a course of study at Aviation Machinist’s Mates’ School at US Naval Air Station, Seattle, WA.

One of the ships he was transported on was the USS Dixie. During this time in the war, probably when he was in New Caledonia, View Larger Map Gale had occasion to strap “Ol’ Bull Halsey into his parachute”.  Dad always thought that was pretty cool. :) The plane in the article above I believe is an F4F Grumman Wildcat.

 

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Dad’s WWII Love Letter To Mom

15-march-1944-letter-from-dad

Eighty-nine years ago today my dad was born in West Plains, Missouri to parents Will and Minnie Smith Yates.  Although Dad passed away in 1996, his life lives on through letter and photos from his past. This letter was written on the eve of his 24th birthday and he was feeling “pretty old”.

He and Mom had married in Seattle at her parent’s home on Queen Anne Hill, and way back in the 1980’s Mom and I took a trip down memory lane by going back to that house. It just so happened that the owner let us come in and look around on that sunny summer day. Mom was thrilled as she showed me her old room upstairs, and even more so to have me see the marble front fireplace which she and Dad were married in front of on February 5, 1944.

Dad’s love letter of March 15, 1944 was written from Quillayute NAS where he was working after coming back from a tour with the Navy in New Calendonia. As you read in the letter, housing was at a premium, but they did eventually find a little one room place in Forks so they could be together instead of Mom living with her parents. Mom said that place was so small they could stay in bed and reach out and light the woodstove!

I have to say, I don’t remember my dad ever calling Mom “Darling” when we were around…

Thinking of you on your special day Dad, and missing you lots.

15-march-1944-letter-from-dad

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