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Following the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 thirty-one year old Henry joined the US Navy and began his active service on March 29, 1942 at Naval Reserve Station, Pittsburgh Pa. He was assigned stateside until May 12, 1942 and had training at Newport Rhode Island.
He was assigned to the Battleship USS Massachusetts (BB-59) (Big Mamie) as part of the original crew on May 12, 1942. This would have given him the distinction of a “Plank Owner” of the USS Massachusetts. On October 24, 1942 the Massachusetts set sail and was assigned to the Atlantic in support of the North Africa invasion. During this time they were engaged in the
Battle of Casablanca beginning on the morning of November 8, 1942. The Massachusetts sustained minimum damage during this battle from onshore shelling. On November 12 1942 the Massachusetts returned to the States for repairs, due to damage sustained at Casablanca, and to prepare for her reassignment to the Pacific theater. Henry claimed that while traveling through the Panama Canal she was said to scrape both sides due to her size. When the Massachusetts crossed the equator on her was to New Caledonia Henry became a member of the “Order of Neptune” and transitioned from a Pollywog to a Shellback a time honored Naval tradition dating back over 400 years. The Massachusetts arrived New Caledonia on March 4, 1943 and for the next few months supported South Pacific operations. Henry returned state
side on or around August 27, 1943. I am unsure how he got back stateside because the Massachusetts did not return to Puget Sound for retrofit until early May 1944 at which time Henry was already stateside. Today the USS Massachusetts is a museum and is docked at Battleship Cove in Fall River Massachusetts. An interesting note is the Massachusetts has the
distinction of having fired the US Navy's first and last 16-in shells of the war. Henry's name along with all Plank Owners names are inscribed on the forward 16-in gun battery.
Henry was stateside, more than likely, in the Washington state area waiting on his reassignment to the USS Midway (CVE-63), a Casablanca class escort carrier. The USS Midway was commissioned on October 23 1943. Again because Henry was on the first crew of the USS Midway he was a “Plank Owner” on this ship as well. Following her shakedown cruise the USS Midway embarked for the Pacific seeing action at the Mariana Islands and Saipan. On July 23, 1944 the Midway joined in the attack on Tinian furnishing air support for ground forces. From the end of July through the end of September the Midway continued with support of Pacific actions. After resupplying the Midway resumed operations and on October 3, 1944
returned to Seeadler Harbor. There she was advised that the name of the USS Midway was to be changed to the USS St Lo effective October 10, 1944. The name St Lo was taken from a key battle fought in France after the Allies invasion following D-Day. The Midway name was freed up for a larger aircraft carrier currently under construction. Point of interest to note is the new USS Midway never fought in WWII as it was not commissioned until after the end of the war. Many in the Navy feel that changing a ships name is bad luck. This proved true for the St Lo. The St Lo departed for The Philippines on October 12, 1944 in support of the invasion of The Philippines at Leyte Gulf. From the 18th of October through the 25th planes from the St Lo continued operations in support of ground forces. On October 25, 1944 a major Japanese force
of battleships and destroyers made an attack on the small central force of American escort carriers and destroyer escorts off of Leyte Gulf. The Battle of Leyte Gulf will always be considered as the last major sea battle of WWII. The St Lo as part of a small force of US ships, out numbered and out gunned, ward off the larger Japanese fleet. Surprisingly the Japanese
fleet retreated, however at 10:50 AM a kamikaze plane attack the St Lo and penetrated the flight deck, causing a massive explosion which ultimately sank the St Lo within 30 minutes.
Fortunately Henry, who was an electricians mate and normally manned the ships generators, was topside on watch. He was shot through the lower torso and was given a morphine shot by a medic. Prior to abandoning ship he was ask by another medic if he wanted another morphine shot. He refused knowing that he more than likely may have just fallen asleep on deck and never been able to get off the ship. Considering Henry always claimed he could not swim he was successful in getting on his Mae West life jacket and abandoning ship as soon as the call went out. Henry along with 746 other shipmates survived the first kamikaze attack on an American ship in WWII which resulted in the sinking of that ship. Henry lost 143 shipmates in
that sinking who will never be forgotten. After spending many hours in the shark infested waters off the coast of Leyte, Henry and many others were rescued by the USS Dennis and returned to safety. Henry returned to the United States on December 20 1944 and was assigned to Naval Air Station Olatha, Kansas. Henry was visited by his wife of two years, Eleanor. She
spent time with him there and I believe she may have worked at the base restaurant. On September 1, 1945 Henry was separated from active duty at Olatha, Kansas. He returned to Pittsburgh and to the Duquesne Brewery where he spent the next 32 years. During Henry's time in the military he was awarded the Purple Heart as well as the battle ribbons noted below.
More information on the USS Massachusetts can be found here
More information on the USS St Lo (Formally the USS Midway) can be found here
Battle Ribbons and awards awarded to all sailors on the USS ST LO

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