USS BELL ASSOCIATION (DD587)
IN THIS ISSUE:
I’m happy to report that spring has arrived at my home and I couldn’t be happier. The pear trees glisten in white blossoms and the tulip trees (Japanese magnolia) are splendid in shades of pink. The dogwoods are budding as well as the azaleas and will be in bloom by early April. The only problem is I can’t stay out of my yard with a rake and find that I do too much because when morning comes I can hardly get out of bed. But I do love working in the yard. Hope everyone is doing good and getting nice weather.
I hope you have your calendar marked for the reunion. Remember the dates are September 14th arrival in San Antonio. Departure date is September 18th. I have planned two tours. On Thursday we will travel up to Gruene (pronounced Green). Gruene is about a thirty minute drive out of San Antonio. Gruene is quite a unique place. In the mid-1840’s German farmers became the first settlers. A German immigrant, Ernst Gruene and his bride Antoinette, had reached the newly established city of New Braunfels in 1845, but acreage was scarce. Thus, Ernst and his two sons purchased land just down driver, and Ernst build the first home in Gruene. His second son, Henry built his home and planted his surrounding land with cotton. Having become the number one cash crop, the cotton business soon brought 20 to 30 families to Gruene’s lands. Gruene built houses in various styles including a Victorian cottage, large brick home, and a frame house for the foreman of his farm. The first mercantile store was built in 1878 and a cotton gin powered by the Guadalupe River was added soon after. Further construction during this profitable time included a dance hall and saloon, Gruene Hall, which became the center of the community’s social life.
As the town continued to prosper, a new mercantile building sprang up in 1904. However, the death of Henry in 1920 marked the downfall of Gruene’s development and good fortune. In 1922, the original cotton gin burned and was replaced down the road by a modern electric model. Yet, the economic disasters of the boll weevil and the Depression were too much for the family businesses and they went under, except for Gruene Hall, which never closed. It was not until 1974-75, when much of the Gruene estate was sold, that new purchasers arrived. New businesses were established and all of Gruene was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, Gruene is once again a thriving community. The Gristmill Restaurant has been in service since 1977 and is located beneath the Gruene water tower in an old cotton gin overlooking the Guadalupe River and considered one of the most unique dining spots in Texas. It is complete with a beer garden. I have planned for us to have lunch there and you need to have a big appetite and will never leave hungry.
On Friday, we will return to Fredericksburg for another visit to the Admiral Nimitz WWII Pacific Museum. We certainly enjoyed our visit there when we were in San Antonio in 2007.
I am having some of the problems I had when we had our reunion in San Francisco. With the oil prices going crazy it has been difficult to deal with the tour companies but I think we have reached a fair price since me nor the tour company have a crystal ball to give us an answer to what the reality will be come September. I have been dealing with Docia Williams (she was our tour guide on our last trip and she is a great negotiator). She has not been well but she is really hoping to be with us on our tours and seeing you all again. I should have everything finalized and will be sending out all the information within the next month.
…..To Kody Atkinson,
Your grandfather and my father Albert J. Brouillette served on the USS Bell together. They remained friends after WWII and occasionally visited each other and exchanged Christmas cards for many years. Today, February 4, 2011, would have been my father’s 89th birthday. He passed away from a heart attack at age 60 in 1982. My mother Irene passed away at age 72 in 2002 of a heart attack also. I continued to send a Christmas card to your grandmother Edna (Penny) in Davenport, FL. But at some point she no longer returned a Christmas card.
I was going through some photo albums today to scan some to post in my photo album on Face book and in a genealogy folder I have been keeping on our family members. Tonight, I happened to look up the USS Bell website, as I no longer receive the USS Bell in the mail. I saw your request in ghe December 2010 issue about information about your grandfather’s service on the USS Bell. I am not sure of his reputation as a photographer aboard ship. I called Ed Flowers in St Petersburg, FL (originally from the Philadelphia area) today. He remembers your grandfather George as a Yeoman, but did not know him well. He knew more of another Atkinson (from the PA/NJ area) aboard the USS Bell who became a State Trooper after his military service.
I know I ran across some photos of your grandfather and my father in their Navy uniforms but cannot find them right now. I did find some photos of your grandparents and my parents from September 1950, the week after my parents were married and on their honeymoon to New York City and Washington, DC. On the way to Washington they stopped to visit your grandparents in Collingswood, NJ. I have scanned 4 photos and their reverse sides and attached them to this email. I can remember visiting your grandparents and their two sons (Dale? And Darrell/Darryl?) in Haddonfield, NJ in 1967, on our family’s vacation to Philadelphia. Your grandfather was a car salesman for quite awhile according to my father. On this visit he was selling Toyotas and driving a 4-door Toyota Corona which was quite rare at the time but the up and coming car and brand.
My father and mother attended the first USS Bell reunion in Warren, OH in the late 1970’s. My mother and I attended the 2001 reunion at the Navy Base in Newport, RI. My brother and sister joined us at the banquet in the Officer’s Quarters. After my mother passed away, I attended the 2005 reunion in Arlington, VA by myself. Kody, I will keep looking for photos of your grandfather in my father’s albums from his US Navy days aboard the USS Bell. Most of the photos are not identified. I am not sure if the photos that my father is in were taken by your grandfather. I brought this photo album to the ship reunion in 2005, but the shipmates there could only identify a few of their shipmates. Thank you for your interest in America’s Greatest Generation. Marc Brouillette (son of USS BELL Shipmate Albert J. Brouillette), Winchendon, MA.
…..While serving with the U.S. 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean (Spring 1953) a buddy and I went on liberty in Algiers. After making the rounds, we stopped at a café owned by a Frenchman, but with a clientele of Arabs. Seated at a table in rear was an old Frenchman playing an accordion. We went over to his table to listen to him play. After buying him a few drinks, I asked him to play the Marseillaise, “The French National Anthem.” As he played, the café suddenly became very quiet and all the Arabs turned meaningly towards us. At the same time, the owner came running over to our table shouting to stop playing. He then advised us to leave at once, which we did, at the time not realizing how lucky we were. Note: Spring of 1953 Algiers was still a French Colony.
…..Bill Walters, brother of Shipmate Patrick Walters
This is a story written by Bill Walters. The title is “The Ten Dollar Bill”
It was a dark and dreary night. The rain was beating on the pavement. The door to the “Happy Time Café” opened letting out a ray of light. Out stepped a tall, dark and handsome sailor. He had just spent his last dollar and it was only nine o’clock. Here he was all alone in a strange port, no money, no friends and no place left to go but back to the ship. He pulled up his collar to ward off the cold rain as he slowly walked down the narrow street that let to the pier. All of a sudden he heard soft footsteps in back of him. Quickly turning around he was surprised to see a young woman coming towards him. In the dark he could not make out her face, but the rest of her looked like
”Brigitte Bardot”. As she came closer he realized it was the beautiful redheaded bar maid from the “Happy Time Café”. As she caught up with him she reached out and pressed an old, wrinkled ten dollar bill into his hand and informed him that it had dropped out of his pocket as he left the café. At this point the sailor was too stunned to talk. So with the ten dollar bill in one hand and the beautiful bar maid in the other he started back towards the café. In the distance he could hear the ship’s bell ringing. Just then someone tapped him on the shoulder and he woke up. It was four AM. It was time to relieve the watch. The café, the beautiful girl, the ten dollar bill…..it was all in a dream.
…..I am sorry to inform you that Joe Grube (My Husband) passed away August 31, 2010. He was 84. …..Sincerely, Jackie Grube, 6214 E. Sunset Terr., Chillicothe, IL 61523
…..Edna M. Atkinson of Davenport, FL passed away April 30, 2010. Edna was born July 14, 1926 in Camden NJ to Albert & Edna Williams Henshal. She was a teacher and director working in preschool education. She is survived by her sons Dale & Daryl Atkinson & Family.
…..Gene Thompson passed away on December 15, 2009. He is buried with my mother and his wife Melva Thompson at the Willamette National Cemetery. Thank you for all you have done to preserve news about the Bell and its’ crew.
…..It is with great sadness that I write to tell you that Willard Mescher expired December 7, 2010. He enjoyed receiving the Bell newsletters.
…..Sincerely, Doris Mescher, 2006 Nautilus Lane, Newport Beach, CA 92660
…..Auther Hand passed away December 21, 2008.
……Teresa DiVeronica has had heart surgery and everything went very well. She is now in a rehab facility and I spoke with her Saturday and she was in such good spirits and doing so well with her physical therapy. She is so excited that she is feeling so good and is looking forward to going to her high school reunion in June and of course she is excited to see you all in San Antonio. I plan to visit her in the next two or three days. She will be in the rehab facility for about two weeks. Teresa’s home address is 212A West Highland Road, Monroe, GA 30565.
…..The Honorable Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy presented the annual Lone Sailor Award to Bill Cosby, who served as a Hospital Corpsman in the 1950’s, former Redskin and Dallas Cowboy Eddie LeBaron, who served in the Marine Corps in Korea; and Lanier Phillips, the first African-American Navy sonar technician. Bill Cosby commented that it was wonderful that “attention has been drawn to what you can do with the advantages you are given when you enter the armed forces.”
…..Last year when we had our reunion in Savannah, GA the city was building a WWII memorial along the Riverfront. I have bought a brick for the memorial dedicated to the USS BELL DD587. The memorial should be finished very soon.
Tinian Island, Pacific Ocean – It’s a small island, less than 40 square miles and a flat green dot in the vastness of Pacific blue. Fly over it and you notice a slash across its north end of uninhabited bush, a long thin line that looks like an overgrown dirt runway. If you didn’t know what it was, you wouldn’t give it a second glance out your airplane window. On the ground, you see the runway isn’t dirt but tarmac and crushed limestone, abandoned with weeds sticking out of it. Yet, this is arguably the most historical airstrip on earth. The is where World War II was won. This is Runway Able. On July 24, 1944, 30,000 US Marines landed on the beaches of Tinian…..Eight days later, over 8,000 of the 8,800 Japanese soldiers on the island were dead (vs. 328 Marines), and four months later the Seabees had built the busiest airfield of WWII – dubbed North Field – enabling B-29 Super fortresses to launch air attacks on the Philippines, Okinawa and mainland Japan.
Late in the afternoon of August 5, 1945, a B-29 was maneuvered over a bomb loading pit, the after lengthy preparations, taxied to the east end of North Field’s main runway, Runway Able, and at 2:45am in the early morning darkness of August 6, took off. The B-29 was piloted by Col. Paul Tibbets of the US Army Air Force, who had named the plane after his mother, Enola Gay. The crew named the bomb they were carrying Little Boy. 6 ½ hours later at 8:15am Japan time, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Three days later, in the pre-dawn hours of August 9, a B-29 named Bockscar (pun on “boxcar” after its flight commander Capt. Fred Bock), piloted by Major Charles Sweeney took off from Runway Able. Finding its primary target of Kokura obscured by clouds, Sweeney proceeded to the secondary target of Nagasaki, over which, at 11:01am, bombardier Kermit Beahan released the atomic bomb dubbed Fat Man.
The Atomic Bomb Pit #1 where Little Boy was loaded onto Enola Gay is now glass-enclosed contains a picture showing Little Boy being hoisted into Enola Gay’s bomb bay and on the other side of the ramp is Atomic Bomb Pit #2 where Fat Man was loaded onto Bockscar.
The commemorative plaque records that 16 hours after the nuking of Nagasaki, “On August 10, 1045 at 0300, the Japanese Emperor without his cabinet’s consent decided to end the Pacific War.” This is where WWII ended with total victory of America over Japan. Most people, when they think of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, reflect on the numbers of lives killed in the nuclear blasts – at least 70,000 and 50,000 respectively. But reflect on the number of lives saved. How many more Japanese and Americans would have died in a continuation of the war had the nukes not been dropped. Yet that was not all. It’s not just that nukes obviated the U.S. invasion of Japan, Operation Downfall, would have caused upwards of a million American and Japanese deaths or more. It’s that nuking Hiroshima and Nagasaki were of extraordinary humanitarian benefit to the nation and people of Japan. On the nearby island of Saipan we learn why. Saipan is less than a mile north of Tinian. The month before the Marines took Tinian, on June 15, 1944, 71,000 Marines landed on Saipan. They faced 31,000 Japanese soldiers determined not to surrender. Japan had colonized Saipan after WWI and turned the island into a giant sugar cane plantation. By the time of the Marine invasion, in addition to the 31,000 entrenched soldiers, some 25,000 Japanese settlers were living on Saipan, plus thousands more Okinawans, Koreans, and native islanders brutalized as slaves to cut the sugar cane. There were also one or two thousand Korean “comfort women” abducted young women from Japan’s colony of Korea to service the Japanese soldiers as sex slaves. (See The Comfort Women: Japan’s Brutal Regime of Enforced Prostitution in the Second World War by George Hicks.)
Within a week of their landing, the Marines set up a civilian prisoner encampment that quickly attracted a couple thousand Japanese and others wanting US food and protection. When word of this reached Emperor Hirohito who contrary to the myth was in full charge of the war, he became alarmed that radio interviews of the well-treated prisoners broadcast to Japan would subvert his people’s will to fight. As meticulously documented by historian Herbert Bix in Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, the Emperor issued an order for all Japanese civilians on Saipan to commit suicide. The order included the promise that, although the civilians were of low caste, their suicide would grant them a status in heaven equal to those honored soldiers who died in combat for their Emperor. Suicide Cliff as it was known, over 20,000 Japanese civilians jumped to their deaths to comply with their fascist emperor’s desire – mothers flinging their babies off the cliff first or in their arms as they jumped. Anyone reluctant or refused, such as the Okinawan or Korean slaves, was shoved off at gunpoint by the Japanese soldiers. Then the soldiers themselves proceeded to hurl themselves into the ocean to drown off a sea cliff called Banzai Cliff. Of the 31,000 Japanese soldiers on Saipan, the Marines killed 25,000, 5,000 jumped off Banzai Cliff and only the remaining 1,000 were taken prisoner.
I received this from someone last year and I am sorry but I don’t know the author of the article. I thought it was so interesting I would pass it along.