Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Three Score Years Ago
Many people know that the Japanese signed the surrender papers on the deck of the USS Missouri (BB 63) 60 years ago this weekend. Fewer know how the dignitaries got from the dock to the Missouri anchored way out in Tokyo Bay. I do. They steamed out on my dad's boat, the USS Buchanan (DD 484), pictured at right on the day the surrender was signed.
My great, great, great uncle, Harvey D. Fraley enlisted on July 16, 1861 and served the entire Civil War in the 51st Virginia Infantry. He died in Southwestern Virginia, where I and my folks are from, on July 11, 1933. My dad remembers talking to Harvey D., as he was known, about fighting the Yankee invaders in Virginia and Tennessee some 65 years before, just as my son recalls talking to his grandfather about serving on a destroyer in the Pacific some 60 years ago. That continues to amaze me--track back just five generations and we're fighting the Civil War.
The Buchanan refitted and with a new coat of dazzle camouflage. Between the two smokestacks are located the torpedo tubes. That was my dad's job, although he has informed me that by the time he got to the Pacific almost all the Japanese surface ships had already been sunk and he never got to fire even one of the torpedoes in battle. When the Buchanan was stationed off Iwo Jima and Okinawa, the destroyers were mainly used as anti-aircraft pickets against the Divine Wind (kamikaze). Pretty scary guys those determined suicide bombers. My dad says that if a plane appeared in the sky back then, they started shooting and asked questions later. To do otherwise risked letting the plane get too close to engage it effectively before it began trying to crash into them.
The Buchanan with an earlier type of camoflage scheme fueling from the USS Wasp (CV-7) while in route to the Guadalcanal-Tulagi invasion. Within 6 weeks of the taking of this picture the Wasp was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine and eventually sank. My dad says that refueling in rough seas (not like these in the picture) was terribly difficult and sometimes the hose broke and fuel went all over everyone. When the men on the Buchanan rescued a Navy pilot from the sea, and brought him back to his carrier, the 'tip' they demanded and were paid was a few gallons of ice cream or 'gedunk' as my dad still calls it today.
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He was a Torpedoes Mate on the USS Buchanan. He was in the honor guard that greeted Douglas McArthur when he boarded the Buchanan.
He had to know your Dad!
My father's nick name was "Fuf".
Did your Dad ever come to New Britain, Connecticut?
Joseph W. Parys