Category Archives: Veterans

World War Two Survivor Story: Navy Captain John Woolston, USS Indianapolis

Within 12 minutes, the Indianapolis sank into the Philippine Sea. Of the 1,196 men on board, 900 abandoned the ship and only 317 men survived and were rescued four days later.

Bernie Fowler’s war was in South Pacific on USS Engstrom

Former Senator Bernie Fowler, now of Prince Fredrick, attended basic training at the Great Lakes naval base and went on to basic engineering school. After that, he was shipped to Viejo, California where he came aboard the destroyer escort ship USS Engstrom DE-50. On this relatively small support ship, Fowler would spend his near two-year tour during the war.

The diesel-electric powered Engstrom traveled across the Pacific to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, where the men geared up for what became, for Fowler, a run to numerous island bases in the Pacific Ocean, where some of the most horrific battles of the Pacific side of World War II were fought.

The primary operations aboard the Engstrom, and similar destroyer escorts, were to provide protective escorts for fleets near these islands. They also conducted anti-submarine warfare “sub chasing” and “picket runs” around island bases to look out for enemy submarines, ships or aircraft.

UPDATE: Alan Brylawski died in Florida – This interview with Alan Brylawski recalls the tough days of the war in Europe and horrors of Buchenwald

Alan Brylawski, 85, says funny things happen at war, though some horrors still haunt him.
“I am an optimist and humorist. I don’t take life too seriously,” the World War II veteran said.
War has been part of human culture since man got out of the cave, Brylawski says. “It’s senseless, there are no winners. We slaughter people. Everybody loses.” He said the kind of horror one man perpetrates on another during war is inconceivable, adding once the enemy is demonized everything becomes okay.
“It is either you do it or they are going to do it to you. So self-preservation says you do it first,” he said. “When you see bullets pass you, there’s no question you are under fire. At that point the enemy becomes a demon, devoid of humanity.”

D-Day Veteran Gives First Person Account of Landings on Omaha Beach

Rastus “Smokey” Holcomb served on the USS Arkansas and participated in 13 convoys across the North Atlantic, several invasions in the European theater but the biggest military action of all time was the invasion of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
The retired Navy veteran who joined the service in 1934 at the height of the depression also got married that year. But it was his service on the Arkansas on D-Day that will never leave his memory.