Bio of Lt. Robert G. Young who served on the escort carrier, USS Gambier, sunk on October 25, 1944 off Samar during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

 

Written by his son, Philip R. Young

Email address: young23@me.com

 

Born in 1912, Robert G. Young died on February 18, 1991 at the age of 78.

Growing up in NJ & CT, my dad was a high achiever who became an Eagle Scout and the valedictorian of his high school.

After graduating from Dartmouth College, he began his career at the Travelers Insurance Co. and later became President of an insurance agency in Pittsfield, MA. In 1941, he married Ruth Baum, daughter of a noted Pennsylvania impressionist artist, Walter Emerson Baum. Mom and Dad were loving parents who were always loyal to each during their 49 years of marriage.

When Pearl Harbor was attacked, Dad first tried to enlist in the Air Force but was told that he was a few days too old to fly at the age of 29,  Instead he signed up with the Navy for an officer training program at Princeton Naval Training School to become a gunnery officer.  Then he was sent to Montara, California to train 40 men on the ocean shooting range prior to being assigned to the Gambier Bay. 

During the battle near Saipan. Lt. Young spotted a Jap plane attacking his carrier and swiveled one of his gunners around just  in time to shoot down the diving aircraft.  The episode was captured in a photo printed in Time magazine on July 24, 1944.

In a letter home, Young wrote "I am on a carrier, which is all I can say in general. I am 2nd division officer in charge of the deck and gunnery division, with 70 men to look after with the assistance of two junior officers. Recently, I qualified as "Officer of the Deck" in full charge of the ship subject only to the Captain.  These duties include "directing the helmsman, checking the signals, decoding transmissions, knowing the latest technical data, and in general being in charge of the organization and maneuvering of the ship. Aircraft activities and the movement of other ships add to the excitement.  It is the toughest watch aboard, and one where you catch the most hell, but offsetting that is the satisfaction in running the show for a few hours each day and night."

On October 25th, Lt. Young had just completed his duty as “Officer of the Deck” on the aircraft carrier and had gone below to get some breakfast just before Admiral Kurita’s force of battleships, cruisers and destroyers was spotted. In his written notes about the events, my father recalled that “Lt. Richard Elliott announced that ‘A strong task force is 25 miles astern of us & closing.’ General quarters clanged & the ship was instantly veined with snakelike files of men running to battle stations. I made my way to the bridge and joined the rush for steel helmets, talker phones & binoculars. I was to man a telephone that controlled the 40MM batteries. Suddenly geysers of water were splashing up inside our formation in salvos of 2 to 4 shells. The battleships & cruisers had opened fire from about 18 miles. We were under attack. Chaplain Carlson stood near me giving a play by play description of the action to the men below decks over the PA system. At 0715 we took the first hits. The ship gave a shudder as a salvo of heavy shells landed in the middle of the after elevator at flight deck level. Suddenly the Gambier Bay gave a violent shudder, as though she had been mortally struck. ‘The forward engine room is hit & water is rising,’ announced the bridge squawk box. At 0840 we were dead in the water. At 0842 Lt. Warren Stringer, gunnery officer, swung from the captain & screamed ‘Abandon, ship, abandon ship.’  Into my head phones I repeated, ‘Abandon ship, abandon ship.’  Then there were hundreds of us in the water. I concentrated on staying afloat and trying, unsuccessfully, to inflate my life preserver. I reached the nearest raft with my last stroke. Seaman Elledge held my head out of water until the nausea had passed. Ensign Epping called me aside and pointed below us.

Down 15 feet were several monster sharks, shadowing us.  No one became panicky at sight of them. A few violent kicks kept them at a safe distance.   Had we known that one of our shipmates who was swimming in his skivvies had been attacked and killed by a shark, we would not have been so nonchalant.  The Gambier Bay was listing badly to port now. Some ammunition, probably 40mm, was popping & flashing. As she disappeared, a cheer rose from the next group of rafts - a tribute to the only carrier ever sunk by surface shell fire.”

For approximately 43 hours, my dad and the men in his flotilla clustered around the raft which he described as “a partly submerged piece of doughnut-shaped wood in unstable condition”.  Then before dawn on October 27th, an L.C.I. troopship spotted them with searchlights and picked up the survivors. Weeks later they arrived back in San Francisco where Dad called Mom on December 2, 1944, which happened to be her birthday, to share the wonderful news of their rescue!

On December 27,1944, long time friends and Gambier Bay shipmates, Lt. Richard Elliott  and  Lt. Robert Young and their wives  were joyously reunited in Hartford for a newspaper interview about their experiences.

Harvey Charles Hagedorn Sr.
Harvey was a WWII veteran and served from July 5, 1943 until April 20, 1946. Aviation Machinist's Mate 1st Class Hagedorn served in the Navy as an Air Crewman-Aerial Gunner. He served tours on both the USS Sangamon in the Philippine Sea in the Pacific Fleet and USS Princeton. He was assigned to Carrier Aircraft Service Units (CASU) 7, CASU 55, and CASU 21. AAM1/c Hagedorn decorations include American Area Campaign Medal, Victory Medal, Asiatic Pacific Area Campaign Medal, and Purple Heart. He was honorably discharged at Great Lakes Naval Base April 20, 1946.

Harvey attended 2 years of high school and worked on his family farm. Harvey then worked as a landscaper, followed by a packager at a malted milk plant. Due to his father becoming ill, he returned to operate the family dairy farm of 20 cows. His patriotism and country’s call led him to enlist in the Navy at the age of 17. Upon his discharge he worked at the bar his father owned. Harvey later worked for a dry cleaner, as a chauffeur, beer truck driver, foundry worker, and salesman. He was a member of the VFW Post #10231 in Necedah

 

ECSAA, 1215 N Military Highway #128, Norfolk VA  23502
Telephone: 855.505.2469