EDWARD BARKLEY - First of all, I think your organization is extremely important and helps teach people just what a "CVE" is/was. Even with what little my dad told me, I should have been able to understand better. He would tell me it was a "baby flattop" which meant nothing to me. (We are all so insulated in our work I would probably not be able to explain all the acronyms and nicknames in the job I had for 30 years either) It used to frustrate him trying to answer my questions – some of which I still don't have answers to. Like, what is the difference between a destroyer and a destroyer escort, or what is/does a commodore do – is he the senior captain in a group of ships, what REALLY is the difference between a commissioned and non-commissioned officer, a reserve officer and regular. I don't think I ever really understood that the Kalinin Bay was an aircraft carrier, because he spoke so little about the aviators and what THEY did. I just envisioned it as a battleship. I think I would have understood better if he said; okay, these were smaller versions of the regular aircraft carriers – they carried a crew of 900 as opposed to 2200 in the big carriers like Enterprise, they had about 25 aircraft instead of the 90 on the big carriers. . . A lot of folks like me don't understand the displacement, the speed or even the size. You could say, "These were slower/faster than the big carriers." The information about how lightly armored they were as opposed to the bigger ships also would be germane – especially in the Kalinin Bay's situation where shells would sometimes just go all the way through the ship. By the way, I also have what appears to be battle damage from some of the shells in a couple of photos.
PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE OF EDWARD BARKLEY'S EXPERIENCES DURING WORLD WAR II:
This will be a little difficult, because although my father loved talking about his time in the Navy, all 20 years of it, he (like a lot of servicemen) would not/could not talk about the battles he participated in. There were two subjects he could not communicate about. One was his own father. His father left the family before dad was born over an argument with my dad's stepsisters. So, when dad was born, he was given the surname of my grandmother's deceased 1st husband, who was the father of all his sisters. He would visit his father from time to time, but at 5 years old there was a bad argument (probably over the name), and his father wouldn't see him any longer. Dad joined the Navy 2 months after his father's death at the age of 17. His mother had to sign for him. Now dad liked saying, "When I joined the Navy, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I got to go to sleep an hour earlier at night, get up an hour later in the morning, got three full meals a day – and they PAID me!" Whenever I would try to ask him questions about his father, or about the Battle of Leyte Gulf, dad would try to answer, and would quickly get off the subject or even leave the room. He would get this far-away sad look in his eyes. He simply dealt with it by not speaking about it. Let me give you an example. I asked him if when he went on his way on the Kalinin Bay if they went through Pearl Harbor. He said yes. Knowing that many of the vessels were still there, I asked, "How did it look?" He said, "Bad." That's all he said. Yet, never did I see him turn to any addictive or self-destructive behavior. He was kind and strong toward us, and did not bring work problems home. His relationship with me was reminiscent of Dan Fogleberg's "Leader of the Band": "He left his home and went his lone and solitary way, And he gave to me a gift I know I never can repay. . . He earned his love through discipline, a thundering velvet hand, His gentle means of sculpting souls took me years to understand. . . " The last time I spoke to him was on his birthday, by telephone, two days before he died. I told him on that day, "You have been everything I've ever needed as a father." What a joy it is to have that last conversation, and that earthly ending to our relationship.
At the time he reported in October 1943 to help fit out the Kalinin Bay through its commissioning in November (a newly minted Ensign after joining as an Apprentice Seaman in 1936 and working up to Chief Yeoman) his family consisted of himself, my mother, and my oldest sister.
At Leyte Gulf in the Philippines, on October 25, 1944, he participated in the action known as the Battle of Samar that led to his task force being awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. I once asked him if he received the Purple Heart. He cryptically told me that was one medal he never wanted to earn – and he didn't, even though I found out later that everyone else in the room with him did.
My next oldest sister, not surprisingly, was born nine months after the Kalinin Bay returned to California for repairs. An older brother was born in 1950. I was born 16 years after my oldest sister, when he had already retired from the Navy. We kids would ask him about the battle, and again, he would start to answer and change the subject. What I heard regarding battles was that he said he went to get a cup of coffee and came back to find his station destroyed. Another time he said something about coming back to his station and there was a hole from a shell about eye level right above his desk. He could have been talking about other engagements. I know also that he mentioned a Kamikaze hitting his ship, but he wouldn't elaborate. My oldest sister wrote that he saw a ship go down nose first with guns still blazing as the men stayed at their battle stations. She also wrote, " If this is the time I am thinking off.. Dad said he had just received a message and ran up to the bridge with it, and the shell (or part of a shell) went out of the room right over his recently vacated desk chair, and desk which without a doubt would have killed him. I also remember one about a fella's cigarette habit habit -saving- his life as he couldn't leave his duty post in the Communications room, which hung over the side of the ship, during a battle. He keep one foot in the room and the other on the deck as he leaned out asking for a light from a passing sailor. The shack was blown off the ship and he was left straddling the side unhurt."
My second oldest sister wrote, "Dad never talked much about the war and battles, but I have a memory of him telling me about a shell that came through the side of his ship, and that the reason he was not hurt was that he dropped something and bent down to get it. He said that something went over his head and killed his shipmate, who was behind or next to him. I assume that was the same incident. I never asked him for more information, because I could tell the memory was still very painful for him, even though it was 15 or 16 years later."
FOLLOW UP DOCUMENTARY INFORMATION:
To put this in perspective, I found in my dad's records a very warm and personal letter he wrote to the first commanding officer of the Kalinin Bay, Charles Randall Brown, on December 3, 1946 on his promotion to Rear Admiral. Brown replied just 10 days later. Brown had left the ship and was replaced by Thomas B. Williamson on October 3, 1944, before the battle on October 25. My dad said, "You had left a well trained crew, admiral. It would have done your heart good to have seen the boys under fire – they were grand. I heard many officers and men say that you were responsible for the efficiency – I agree!" Yet, he did not mention any of the casualties from that battle – not the wounded, not the dead. It was probably something you just didn't do. You compartmentalized those things.
Another letter he wrote to a friend in the Navy after the war referred to the battle in an offhand way, "We got ventilated off Samar," and "I learned that Sherman was right. War is Hell." Which was something for him to use anything approaching a curse word. Never did I hear him use one. He could dress me down with an almost clinical but controlled manner. On the only occasion I know of when a civilian boss reprimanded him, he said, "I've been chewed out by experts." Based on a similar statement from one of his shipmates, I have a feeling some of those experts were on the Kalinin Bay.
In his letter to Admiral Brown, he did call the ship by its nickname, the "Lucky K"; but obviously, his division was one of the unluckiest of the crew. He served in Communications and was the Secret and Top Secret Mail Officer. Five sailors on that ship died in the Battle of Samar – an incredibly low total. However, 4 of the 5 men were either radiomen or radarmen. (There were also several pilots assigned to the Kalinin Bay that were killed in the battle)
Perhaps too, some of the reluctance to talk about the battle might be due to how seriously he took confidentiality and military secrets. In his career, he held several sensitive roles – particularly as a Flag Secretary of a cruiser division, Communications Officer at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory during several of the nuclear tests in the 1950's, and as the Staff Communication Officer of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet Antisubmarine Defense Forces. Just writing this down makes me wonder if I'm speaking out of turn. Since radar was brand new for WWII, particularly in its application for fire control, he still in the 1970's might not have wanted to talk about it. He certainly was reluctant to talk about operations in those other areas – with the exception of the time one of the nuclear tests had a bigger "bang" than expected and contaminated the airplane he was in with radiation. A story in and of itself.
MY DAD SPEAKS THROUGH OTHER INDIVIDUALS:
A year or two after my father died, I was eating lunch with a coworker at a cafe. He had served in the United States Navy during the 1970's, and he liked telling stories of his time aboard ship – especially after I told him of my dad's naval career. On one occasion, he was on deck as they were in port and an airplane lost power and crashed into a mountain at the edge of the base and began to burn. As he and his fellow crewmen were still watching with horror, an officer came up to them, "Get some body bags and take that truck over there and go up the mountain road as far as you can and retrieve all the bodies you find." There were I believe nine bodies in the wreckage. He ended this gruesome story by saying, "I've never been able to stand the smell of liver and onions since."
A moment later his face transformed to an expression of concern, "Are you okay? What's wrong? Your face just turned as white as a sheet!" I said, "My father could never stand the smell of liver and onions."
And he couldn't. The only time we could ever eat beef liver (which both my mom and I liked), was when my dad would go on a week-long business trip. Now, she didn't cook it every time he went out of town, but when she did, she would prepare it on Monday, and she would wash up everything that night. Not a speck would be in the house. She would hose down the kitchen with Lysol after she cleaned up. When he would arrive home on Friday, he would sniff the air and say, "You had liver and onions while I was gone." That was all he would say. He would eat whatever was put in front of him without any apparent trouble and not mention it again until the next time she cooked liver when he was gone. He always knew when she cooked it. One time, after we married and moved off, dad came to visit and he took my wife to the grocery store. He loaded her basket with all kinds of meat, and put a big package of liver on the top because as he said, "I know Brian likes it." As they rolled along, the package fell off and splattered all over the meat aisle floor. She said he looked so sheepish, and said, "I swear I didn't do it deliberately!" But he didn't argue when she said, "Just don't worry about it."
So when my coworker talked about his own experience, it was like my dad finally was given a voice to tell me about one of the horrors of war. I told my mother about it, asking her if his aversion to liver happened about that time. She was amazed. "I'll bet that was it. . ." she said. He had never told her – not from the time it happened to the time he died. Unfortunately, she was also dead by the time I got to hear, "the rest of the story."
Sometime in 2006 I read James Hornfischer's " The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors" which tells the story of the Battle of Samar. I also read "Flags of our Fathers," by James Bradley, which had a tremendous affect on me. A web site associated with the Hornfischer book gave me the opportunity to list my father's name as a member of Taffy 3. I started to get inquiries from relatives of sailors who were aboard the Kalinin Bay, and I also started contacting people on the website. That put me in touch with a certain Owen Hilton who wrote, "I was also in the communication department, a yeoman in the Executive Officer and the Captain's office. I remember the name Barkley. Did he come aboard the USS Kalinin Bay as an Ensign? Sixty-three years does something to ones memory. . . As I seem to recall, at the time of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, Ensign Barkley had been promoted to LTJG and was in radio II with us when a shell exploded in Radio II. Guntner was killed, Henry Hight got several pieces of shrapnel in his body, a piece of shrapnel drove my helmet back into my head, but didn't completely penetrate the helmet. I also got a piece of shrapnel that went up my leg about six inches. . . I am pretty sure it was your father who was in radio II with us. Ask him if he remembers. . ."
Well of course, as you can imagine, this was incredible news for me and my sisters. Again, it was like our dad was finally able to tell us what he went through. I emailed him back to inform him that my father had died several years before, and that he had not told us much about the battle. He followed up with a return email that elaborated on what he had told me earlier: "I shared the same battle station with your father for over a year. The information I give you is first hand and pretty accurate considering it is 62 years old. Radio Two was the battle station for five or six men: your father, me - Owen Hilton, Burchard Guntner, Henry Hight and, perhaps Dwight Lee. Your father and Burchard Guntner had been called to perform some repairs to the radar, which had taken a shell hit and was out. It was beyond repair and they returned to Radio Two. I had been on the telephone where six stations were reporting to Radio Two for over an hour. I was relieved of the telephone duties just minutes before your father and Guntner returned from the radar room. I moved over to a chair to let your father set down, but Guntner sat down where I had been. We took a shell hit on the port side of the ship that passed just forward of Radio One and killed Radioman Moran in the passageway outside of Radio One. This shell continued and exploded in Radio Two after hitting more bulkheads. The explosion blew me, Owen Hilton; Henry Hight and Burchard Guntner in a pile against the port bulkhead of Radio Two. Hight was on top and came to his senses to start surveying the situation. Burchard Guntner was under Hight and was dead. I was on the bottom and had head wounds. Hight was carrying me out of Radio Two when I heard your father calling medical department: "Send a Corpsman to Radio Two. One man dead and one seriously wounded." I don't know how long I had been knocked out. And I don't know if he had been suddenly called away before the shell exploded, but I do know he was identified himself to the medical department. I will try to answer any other questions you might have, but I took some shrapnel in the leg minutes later and was in the hospital the remainder of the battle."
The Kalinin Bay's commission did not last even 3 years, considering all that ship and men went through. My dad in his letter to Admiral Brown expressed pride in being a "plank owner" of that vessel.
I am proud of my father, his service to our nation for 20 years (not just WWII), his service to the State of Texas for 20 years, and his service to his family for over 50 years. He was decent, hardworking, loving, and like so many of his generation – dedicated to duty. But I will also always honor and remember the name of Berchard Kenneth Gunter. For in a random moment, he took a shell that could have killed my dad, and I (along with my brother and sister) would have never existed. And everyone else in that room was awarded a Purple Heart – so I finally understood in a much more vivid way what my dad meant about never desiring to receive that medal. Such brave men.
Brian Owen Barkley