Fresh Out of High School
There is much that I do not know about my father’s service in the United States Navy during World War II. He served briefly, from 1945 to 1946. He enlisted one week after he reached 18 years old and served for one year, four months and seventeen days. When I see the Navy pictures of my Dad, the images remind me of my service in the U.S. Navy. They also remind me of our son, Matthew. If I didn’t know the picture was my Dad, I would think, “That man looks like Matt!”
Pieces of Metal
Recently, as I was looking for something for a different piece of our Winquist family history, I found a little box my mother gave me. In it was a note. The note explained the reason she passed these treasures on to me. Included were some rings my dad made while he was in the Navy. She also included some of the blanks he was using to create the rings. In the following slideshow are some pictures, including some of his high school class ring from 1945 and the rings he made. He graduated from Lane Technical High School in Chicago in January 1945. He was just seventeen. Four months later he was bound for war.
Training and Ships of 1945-1946
Because my mom saved pictures and documents from his time of service, I know several details about where he served. He started at the Great Lakes NTS and probably received training similar to what I experienced. This included making certain you could swim or survive in the water, small arms training, firefighting basics, learning to live with limited storage space and recognizing various ranks and roles in the Navy.
After that he went on to San Diego’s Camp Elliott TADCEN (Training and Distribution Center). I don’t know if he received additional training there, but I suspect he did. His first duty station after training was aboard the USS Hyde (APA-173). APA stands for amphibious assault ship. USS Hyde was a Haskell-class attack transport acquired by the U.S. Navy during World War II for the task of transporting troops to and from combat areas. During World War II his ship was assigned to the Asiatic-Pacific Theater. The following images show the destroyer escort (DE-791) and the APA my dad served aboard in WWII.
Okinawa, Ulithi and then to Norfolk.
By June 1945 the Okinawa campaign, a last step on the island road to Japan, was well underway, and Hyde sailed June 6th with cargo and troops. She arrived Okinawa July 24th, and discharged her passengers and cargo while under constant threat of air attack. She got underway for Ulithi on August 6, 1945. Ulithi is an atoll in the Caroline Islands of the western Pacific Ocean. Ulithi was a major staging area for the United States Navy in the final year of the Second World War.
During this stay at the giant staging base, Hyde received the news of the surrender of Japan. That would have been music to the ears of every sailor on board the Hyde, including my father. They had a dance in San Diego when they returned from the war.
I’m not certain how or why, but Dad’s next station was Norfolk, VA with a short time aboard the USS Malloy. I recognized the type of ship because it was numbered DE-791. During the Vietnam war, I served on a Destroyer Escort as well, the USS Bagley, DE-1069. Finally, in August of 1946, dad was discharged back to civilian life in Brooklyn New York and returned to Chicago. That was when he met my mom at a roller-skating rink. They were married in 1949 and had four children: three sons and a daughter.
Fireman Were in the Belly of the Ship
A fireman wasn’t someone who put out fires. Rather, in the days of steam-driven vessels, the fireman was responsible for keeping the fires going for the ship’s boilers. A Navy Fireman (FN) became responsible for standing engineering watches in the engine rooms and performing minor maintenance repairs. This rating is part of an apprenticeship opportunity that leads to training in various ratings in propulsion and precision welding/fabrication/plumbing. It makes sense to me that Dad went on to get his degree in mechanical engineering and worked his whole life in various engineering roles. It also explains his creation of the metal rings. The Navy decided I would be a Signalman (SM) which is far less dirty and confined. For that I am very thankful.
In hindsight, I wish would have asked my father more about his service in the Navy. I suspect he was pleased that I followed in his footsteps.
One of the ways we could identify a ship was by its “radio call sign.” If you were speaking to N-U-L-Q, you were talking to the USS Bagley. We would fly the NULQ signal flags when we were underway. When we were close to another ship, we could use high-powered, mounted, night-vision binoculars to read the flags on the ship in the distance. We could then look up the ship’s name and information in our signal code book. Here are the radio call signs for dad’s two ships and the one I was on during the Vietnam war.