It would be easy just to spend the holidays working around the house, walking on the beach, or cooking on the grill. My hope is that no matter what we do on this day, we spend at least a little time thinking about those who selflessly put themselves at risk on behalf of their families and their country. Ever the storyteller, I want to tell you a bit about the U.S.S. Thatcher.
She slid down the railways in Bath, Maine, and got her bottom wet on December 6, 1942. As part of Destroyer Division 46 she saw action in the Solomon Islands, the Philippines, and Okinawa. Before the end of the war, in 1945, her group was directly involved in 23 separate engagements and earned 12 Battle Stars for her service. In one battle, some 19 miles off the coast of Okinawa, she was attacked by a squadron of Kamikaze pilots and despite the efforts of the gun-crews, a plane flew into the port side of the ship, killing 14 sailors and wounding another 56. The sailors continued fighting despite a gaping hole and the engineers managed to keep the steam up and the destroyer underway. She survived. A testament to her crew and their sense of duty, honor, and their sheer courage. The ship and crew fought for at least one more year and then almost four years to the day from when she first met the sea, she was declared a total loss and the order came to sell her for scrap.
I didn’t know any of this until a few days ago. I was working on my book and wanted to do some research about the Naval shipyard in Bremerton, WA. One of my characters served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and I wanted to place him on a ship that ended up on the west coast. Little did I know that it would be the Thatcher. So here’s the revised beginning chapter three in my novel, “Homecoming: a soldier’s story of loyalty, redemption, and courage.” I hope you like it, but more importantly, I hope I do them justice.
Homecoming: a soldier’s story of loyalty, redemption, and courage.
Chapter 3 – Birds of a feather
Not many people are able to point at a specific date or time and say that’s the moment their life changed; that’s the moment they became connected with their present, past, and future. Bobby Connelly is one of them. Connelly grew up 30 miles northeast of San Diego in the small-town of Escondido, California. Jimmy Connelly, his dad and a Navy veteran, came to San Diego at the end of World War II. Not on a ship or a Navy transport plane, but on a train from Bremerton, Washington. The destroyer he served on, the U.S.S. Thatcher, limped into the harbor two weeks after the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, its battle scars clear for all to see. Jimmy, a Machinist’s Mate First Class, served on the destroyer from 1942 until 1945 and at the end of the war, he stood alone on the stern of the ship as it sailed into the secluded harbor. He had money in his pocket, luck in his hand, and no idea what to do with his life.