MURMANSK MEMORIES

I feel compelled to write you concerning the article “A Most Creditable Action,” in the November 2005 issue, describing Royal Navy Captain Robert St. Vincent Sherbrooke and his command of convoy escorts on the memorable Murmansk Run. At 81 years of age I don’t think I’ll be telling this story much longer.

The story brought back many memories. I too made that unforgettable trip. I was a radio operator on the light cruiser Milwaukee when it was ordered to leave duty in the South Atlantic in February 1944 and proceed at once to New York to get refitted. We were then to act as an escort for one of the convoys headed toward the United Kingdom.

On completion of that voyage we were ordered to Scapa Flow, Scotland, to act as an escort for another convoy. This time we were to protect both American and British ships in a huge fleet that was destined for Russia via the Arctic Circle and Kola Bay. Once we arrived in Russia my ship, nicknamed “The Milly,” and many other vessels and their cargoes were turned over to the Russians.

When I was reading your article, I was surprised to see destroyer Obedient mentioned. After we arrived at Kola Bay and had turned over the ship to the Russians, Milwaukee’s crew was split up and transferred to British ships that would be making the return voyage. My passage was on Obedient, and what followed was a seven-day stay with the British that I would never forget.

The weather was miserable with rough seas and bitter cold. Frequent attacks by German aircraft and submarines kept us on our toes. Throughout it all, my hosts treated all of their “American cousins” like royalty. It was only after reading your article, however, that I realized just how long Obedient and its crews had been performing the hazardous convoy duty.

After reaching the UK, I continued along with the other communications personnel I had traveled from Russia with, and we were all transferred to the light cruiser HMS Capetown on May 15, 1944. We were with the British on D-Day, when we were anchored a couple of miles off the beaches helping to direct landing vessels. We remained on station for six weeks.

On July 16, 1944, we “rejoined” the U.S. Navy and reported onboard landing craft, infantry LCI-539, which took us to Plymouth, England. We then traveled to Rosythe, Scotland, where we rejoined our crew mates from Milwaukee. All of us were then sent back to the States on the liner Queen Elizabeth, and after a 30-day leave I ended up on the admiral’s staff of Amphibious Transport Division 103. This duty took me to the Pacific and 10 amphibious landings in the Philippines and Borneo.

I just thought you might like to hear from a faithful reader and someone from an American ship who also made the voyage to Russia during World War II.

Charles Bilodeau

Rochester, N.Y.

IN OKLAHOMA’S BOWELS

Thanks for sharing with us R.A. Cymerman’s reflections on his tragic experience on December 7, 1941 (“Perspectives,” December 2005). What he wrote was, to me, profound and rare. Who can forget where they were when they heard of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. We, listening to the radio, trying to understand what was really going on over there, could not even imagine the kind of thing that Cymerman and many around him were going through.

The only other firsthand account from that day I ever heard came from an acquaintance of mine many years ago. Bob Longacre was a young sailor on some destroyer. That morning, he and a fellow sailor were sitting on “swings” hanging over the bulkhead, painting an area of the hull. That’s when the attack came. They scampered to the deck to their “all-hands” stations and fired their guns at the attacking planes. The captain managed to get the destroyer out of Pearl Harbor unscathed. Longacre told me it was late in the afternoon and the ship way out to sea, when he walked by that same bulkhead and spotted his swing still hanging there. It seemed, he told me, like ages ago that he had been sitting on that swing on some tranquil duty. It would be a lot of years before things became as tranquil as that morning just before the Japanese attacked.

George N. Gianopulos

Fresno, Calif.

Just wanted to let you know that I got the World War II issue with my father’s story in it and thought it was great. Thank you so much! You did a great job, and I am so happy to see it in print. I know my father (R.A. Cymerman) would be very pleased to have his story out there as well. I hope that your readers will find it interesting. Thanks for all your work on this. I’d be interested in hearing from any readers who might have known my father or who were on Oklahoma. I can be reached at bouletboulet@gmail.com.

Lenore Boulet

Silver Spring, Md.

LOVED THE FLYING BEAR

As a “tweener” (too young for Korea and too old for Vietnam), I never got into the service but love military history. I do, however, know many World War II veterans, and my best friend is a veteran of the Battle of the Bulge. He still water-skis and is very active at 82. I am writing this letter to let you know how much I appreciate your magazine, which I get from a friend and pass on to my Bulge veteran friend. I particularly enjoyed the “Perspectives” article in the November 2005 issue, “Forgotten Heroes of the CNAC.” Having had to repair stuff on many occasions with what I had on hand made me appreciate the ingenuity of the mechanics and crewmen of the CNAC. The bear story made me laugh out loud. Keep up the good work!

Richard E. Johnson

Eureka, Calif.

FROM A YOUNG READER

Only after my grandfather’s death in 1991 did I discover that he had served in the Navy during World War II. In an effort to learn more, I began to read your magazine, starting with the November 1991 issue. With few exceptions, I have read every one since then. I enjoy it more than any other magazine I read.

When I first began learning about the war, the “for further reading” blurb at the end of each feature story would send me to my local library in search of the books you mentioned. More than 10 years later, I credit much of my love of reading to your magazine and the research it caused me to embark on. I just wanted to say thank you to World War II. I look forward to the next issue.

Chris Whatley

Kaufman, Texas

 

Originally published in the April 2006 issue of World War II. To subscribe, click here.