Movies on the Fantail: A Sailor's Diary and Memories from Other Men of the USS Barr DE576/APD39 / Edition 1

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Movies on the Fantail is a well-organized and researched work, which details the real life experiences of 48 men aboard the USSBarr and chronicles their eyewitness accounts of some of the most memorable events during World War II. The reader experiences the tragic and dramatic moments as well as the routine and humorous ones.
The USS Barr survived being torpedoed in the Battle of the Atlantic and had a number of important firsts in the Pacific:
First ship to land troops (UDT#13/Frogmen) at Iwo Jima,
First ship to draw and return enemy fire at Iwo Jima,
Probably landed first Marine Corps Personnel (advance intelligence men) at Iwo Jima,
First ship to land troops (UDT#13/Frogmen) at Okinawa (shared with other ships with UDT's,
One of the first ships at Okinawa to come under Kamikaze attacks,
First ship to tie up and dock in the Bay of Tokyo, and
First ship into the inner harbor at the city of Tokyo.

The book has variety. The same actions/events are viewed from multiple perspectives on the ship-junior officers, gunner's mates, cooks, yeomen, water tenders and others. Also, one gets the views of American sailors and frogmen as well as British Royal Marines.
Movies on the Fantail has immediacy. The almost daily diary account and many of the flashbacks/stories of the other men were recorded at that time in their letters and journals.
Finally, this book has perspective, following the men into civilian life and telling what happened to them after the war. Over 100 previously unpublished photographs of World War II, including the atomic bomb aftermath at Nagasaki, are featured. The appendices and glossary are valuable inclusions as is the extensive index.
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What People Are Saying

James J. Thomasson
A chronicle of hardship, humor, danger, and dedication to duty. These shipmates were loyal to our country, their ship, and most of all to each other. In times of danger to our country, God always sends us His best. This book should be in every Navy Man's library.
Maxine Turner
This is not the historian's detached perspective, but experiences recorded in the rocket's red glare as it happened.
author, Navy Gray (Mercer, 1999)
Paul Stillwell
In many cases we learn of war through the eyes of generals and admirals. In this fine work, however, the reader gets the story of a single ship's role in World War II through the eyes and ears of the enlisted men and junior officers who went in harm's way and survived.
Director, History Division, U.S. Naval Institute
W. Winston Skinner
This skillful presentation captures the day-to-day work, the periodic rush of adrenalin and the moments of humor from that era. It is a valuable, first hand look at pivotal events in the history of our nation and the world.
columnist, The [Newnan] Times-Herald
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780970911001
  • Publisher: Yeoman Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2001
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 333

Read an Excerpt

Excerpts from Chapter 1

The USS BARR (APD 39), formerly (DE576) was built at Bethlehem-Hingham Ship Yard, South Boston, Mass. Her keel was laid November 5, 1943, and she was commissioned February 15, 1944 - a mighty ship to join our ever growing Fleet.
At this time the Navy Department was seeing the need of ships of the DE class (fast little ships) as a protection against the submarine menace that was prevailing in the Atlantic at that time.
After a short shakedown cruise to Bermuda, she set sail from Boston to join a "killer group" in the Atlantic waters. The "killer group" of which the BARR was a member was composed of the USS BUCKLEY, U.S.S. AHRENS, USS ELMORE, USS PAYNE, USS BLOCK ISLAND, and, of course, the mighty BARR.
The "killer group" was in the Atlantic for 25 days before it pulled into Casablanca for supplies. After a few days there, the "killer group" got underway. After being out for about seven days they were attacked by a "wolf pack". This was on the night of the 29th of May, 1944. The USS BLOCK ISLAND (CV) took three "fish" and the BARR, one, during the engagement which followed. The USS BLOCK ISLAND sank (incidentally, the only carrier lost in the Atlantic waters). Reports stated that only six men were killed on the "BLOCK". However, the BARR suffered greater - with 5 killed, 12 missing and 14 wounded. The ELMORE and the AHRENS came together and sank the sub.
The BARR with 80 feet of her fantail wrecked was towed back to Casablanca where she received temporary repairs. Then she went under tow from Casablanca enroute to Boston, Mass. The recent fate was not enough for the BARR. About 600 miles out from the coast of Norfolk, she encountered a North Atlantic hurricane. The BARR was rocking like a cork in the water. (One of Bowman's famous sayings.) The course was diverted to Bermuda; the BARR stayed afloat.
One week's stay in Bermuda and she was towed on to Boston, Mass., where she underwent major repairs, and the conversion to a brand new fighting ship for the Pacific Fleet -namely an (APD). An APD is a high speed troop transport ship.
Incidentally, the "killer group" of which the BARR was a member sank six German subs prior to the fatal engagement.
This is where I came in. Some of the information above was contributed to me by my friend, Bowman. From now on, it is my story, for on the 23rd of August, 1944, I came aboard the USS BARR.
The foregoing history of the BARR is almost enough to make any fellow feel proud to be of the crew to sail her again. Once out and she was wounded, but not out of the fight. For now she was being patched up and made ready for another cruise. For days after she was hit, they half expected her to go down at any time. But she was not a quitter. True to the words, she was and still is a fighting ship.
About eight o'clock on the night of the 23rd of August, 1944, I arrived in Boston, Mass. along with a draft of about 50 men from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We were all men destined for the BARR. As soon as we arrived a big Boatswain Mate had a big truck outside South Station ready to take us to our new home. Later we were scuttled into a large building that looked more like a hotel than a barracks as we soon found out. This was the Fargo Building. We were all hoping that we would put up there for the night for it appeared to be a pretty nice place. But just as that thought was entering our minds, we got orders to load our sea bags back into the truck. We were all very disappointed.
Then off we went down to the Docks to find the USS BARR. We rode and we rode around and around the docks. No one seemed to know of a ship by that name. Finally, we came across her. It was dark and we could not see much what she looked like.
Later the O.O.D. instructed the driver to take us up to the Barracks where the rest of the BARR crew were quartered. That night I found all the crew of the BARR to be very congenial and I knew then that I was going to like sailing with such a fine bunch of boys.
The liberty in Boston was wonderful. Everyone was so nice and friendly. So unlike Norfolk, Virginia where at one time I was stationed. The Buddies Club there was one of my favorite amusement centers. It was a U.S.O. but was called the Buddies Club. Many an enjoyable liberty I spent there.
One of the favorite establishments that the crew of the BARR frequented was "Leonardes", a little Italian place by the Tremont Hotel. A fellow there played the piano every night while the crew of the BARR sat around talking, laughing and drinking beer. You could find some of the crew in there every night. They did not have dancing but overhead there was a nice little restaurant where you could get good spaghetti. Not as good as I used to have at home, but very good.
The ship was being converted as rapidly as possible. During the time I found that there was plenty of back work for the yeoman to do in the Ship's Office. So with hammers and riveters blasting away, we yeomen worked on.
Whitman was Chief Yeoman and in charge of the office. Max Glaser, Bill Stein, Michael Flannery and myself were the assistants. Time rolled on by and the BARR was looking more like a ship every day.
On November the third 1944, the BARR got underway from Boston, Mass. enroute to Norfolk, Virginia. Now, I shall put down a day by day account of my trip from home to Tokyo and back.


Baptism of Fire
We departed Boston on Shakedown Cruise to Bermuda. We were all seasick. I was raised by the water and boats, but seasick became a way of life. We departed Boston for Norfolk, Va. to join TG21.11 with the Block Island and DE-51, 575-576-686. We chased many reports, sub contacts. The Block Island aircraft had sighted a sub and directed the DE-51 to follow up on the sighting. After a long period of tracking her, she surfaced and they exchanged gunfire. After some time they decided to ram her, heaving her on top of the sub. A battle began between the two ships, using everything possible at hand. As luck would have it she backed down off the sub and she wasn't seen again. Upon her return to the Task Force, we could see her bow curled around below the water line as she rode the waves close to our ship. This is the story as we knew at the time.
On the 29th of May we heard two explosions from the Block Island. Little did we know that we were next. We were on the outside of the group as the Block Island lay dead in water without power. The next acoustic torpedo (sound wake in the water) changed course from the Block Island to the Barr, which was under power and took this torpedo into the stern.
We lost all the depth charges and men on the K guns at that time. The General Alarm sounded throughout all this time. I always remembered the sound. We transferred to the 686 and slept in the bunks of the crew as they performed their duties and moved on as they changed shifts Port and Starboard to other bunks.
Austin J. Page, Seaman

Normally, I would have been stationed in the evaporator section, after fire room, in the middle of the ship. But at the time of the torpedo hit, we were at general quarters and so I was assigned to the forward repair crew. Because of this, I luckily managed to survive the incident. The day we were torpedoed, James Mack, a friend of mine was transferred to my repair crew from the aft end repair group. Needless to say, the entire aft end repair group was lost when the ship was torpedoed. Because he was with me that day and not in the aft of the ship, Jimmy Mack always referred to me as his "Good Luck Charm". We stayed together throughout the war and returned to be discharged together.
Armand J. Marion, Machinist Mate

It was a very unusual day that we lost the Block Island. The ocean was like glass (no waves or anything). The Barr was the lead DE on the Starboard side when we went into flight quarters to land and launch planes. . . . We were always at general quarters during flight quarters. My GQ station was on the Flying Bridge with Captain Love.
. . . The sub fired two more acoustic type torpedoes (attracted by sound) and one hit us astern and the other hit the Block Island astern. When I turned around I saw one of our shipmates, named Bennett and two depth charges about 50 feet in the air. The explosion blew all of our depth charges overboard and since we lost our rudder and propellers, we were dead in the water. We took a real beating from our own depth charges. When the Block Island went down it drifted toward us and their magazines exploded and as far as I could see the ocean seemed to rise up about four feet. If we had abandoned ship, I don't think there would have been any survivors.
Marvin A. Johnston, Electrician's Mate

Michael Gorchyca and I became friends at the Electrician's Mate School at the Naval Armory in Detroit. Mike never returned from the war because he became one of the missing on that fateful night in May of 1944. Mike's story had effects not only at his parent's home in Philadelphia, but also in Detroit where he left a wife and child. . . . Mike was on the stern that night on the "K" guns. I saw him briefly going to General Quarters, and I know he was sad, because he was worried about what he had left behind. I think often of Mike, knowing that he did not want to be where he was, and that maybe he had become associated with a new life and that the Barr and the Navy were not it.
At the time we set our depth charges, my partner and I moved toward the ready boxes which were between the three-inch gun tub and main deck cabin. That's where we were when the Barr took an acoustic torpedo on the stern. The noise was deafening, and I recall that my whole life unreeled before me. When I came to, I realized I was in the water alongside my partner. When I looked at him his whole face was covered with blood and he lay still. I thought he was dead, so I got up and moved toward the forward section of the ship on the starboard side until I found someone. I found it difficult walking, and my back was very stiff and painful. I climbed the steps toward the stack, and at that moment I heard the noise of our horn and a voice saying to me to go to the ladder to turn the horn off. It was Mr. Dickie, our Exec. I said I couldn't climb a straight ladder because I had pain in my legs and back, and he then proceeded up the ladder to quiet the noisy horn.
Daniel L. DiBono, Electrician's Mate

I was in the forward engine room when the fish hit. We lost both screws and being a turbo-electric drive I was on the throttle. We got a signal from the bridge to shut down and that's what I did.
Fred A. Carver, Electrician's Mate

When the torpedo hit, I was at my battlestation, which was aft - on the torpedo tubes. I was thrown around some and landed on the deck, but was not injured. A good friend, Brady, who was a gunner's mate was stationed on the aft gun. The impact of the torpedo bent the screws and fantail over on top of him, and he was buried in the debris. My friend, Tom Ellis, was missing in action.
Harold E. MacNeill, Torpedo Man

At the same time the torpedo hit our ship, the horn was blowing and couldn't be shut off. It was impossible to communicate because of the noise. Our Executive Officer, who was later made Captain, jumped down two decks and climbed up the smokestack to the horn and turned it off by hand. At the same time, there was a valve below deck in a compartment full of oil and water that had to be turned off. One of our Quartermasters, whose station is on the bridge, went down into that compartment and turned off the valve. The next time I saw him he was covered in oil. I recall his name as Armstrong. He received a Commendation Medal for his action as did the Captain at the time.
Erik L. Rosengren, Signalman

I was on the way to my watch duty. I think it was about a quarter to eight. I left the fantail, climbed up the ladder and the torpedo hit when I was about halfway up the ladder. I looked down and all the fantail was gone. All my clothes were in it; I didn't have a stitch of clothes except what I had on. And all my buddies that were down there - they just went - and we did not find any of them. I finally got up where I relieved the watch by the gun. After we reached the states I got a month's leave. After that, we became an APD and shipped down to the Pacific.
Francis J. Skotko, Gunner's Mate

My husband [George Sark] did lots of cooking on the ship, for most of the guys were seasick. He never got seasick. They wanted him to go for cook striker but he told them no. He was a fireman; that is what he did.
When they got hit, George said nobody lost their head. They got busy and did what they had to do to keep the ship afloat till help came. The men used blankets & mattresses from their beds to plug up the holes to keep it from sinking. My husband was 3 ft. away & never got hurt. When it hit he was thrown into the air & came down in a sitting position. First thing was plug up the holes & take care of wounded. Some got washed overboard. After they moved them, they went back to see about them & they were gone. Some asked how bad they were hurt. They told them they weren't hurt too bad. Some were hurt badly; they never told them that. He got a 30-day leave and was sent home. He was put on another ship when he went back.
Wavolene Sark, wife of George P. Sark, Seaman

When we were torpedoed, I was on a gun just forward of where the damage was done. It was a 1.1 gun. All the debris went flying up over the top of us. A depth charge fell down on the deck right beside one of the fellows who was up about mid-ship. Depth charges are very heavy, and this one missed him by only three or four inches. Joe Purgatorio, a gunner's mate, was on the depth charge rack. He was called forward to fix a gun just before the torpedo hit. All the men left on the racks were killed when the torpedo hit.
Ned J. Marrow, Seaman

One of the men aboard the Block Island told me he was about to abandon ship facing the Barr when we were hit by the torpedo; and he could see light under the Barr as it was blown completely out of the water.
My memory of that instance in my life, over 55 years ago, is etched in my mind and caused me many sleepless nights. I had just been assigned to the sight control of the three-inch guns on the bridge from the aft sight of the 1.1 gun. As I looked aft as we were hit, I saw one of our crew still strapped to his 20 mm cannon on the starboard side of the ship about 40 feet in the air. I don't know who he was, but perhaps I'll see him again with my Lord.
John A. Earle, Fire Controlman

On May 29, I had just been relieved of my watch and I remember two loud explosions and GQ immediately sounded. On the way to my battle station, I could hear some of the men saying the Block Island had been hit. I was at my station in the No. 1 repair party when we encountered this loud explosion and the ship lurched violently to one side. We knew then that we had been hit. Many of the men assisted the injured and prepared for abandoning ship. Fortunately, we were able to stay afloat. The very next morning, the injured and the men that were killed were taken aboard the USS Elmore. The men that died were given a burial at sea with military honors by the Captain of the Elmore.
Andrew C. Soucy, Water Tender from his personal diary and album

I was back on the torpedo rack but I wanted to be on the 3" gun. Another fellow was up on the 3" gun, and we traded places. That was on the day we got torpedoed. He got killed and I didn't. So I always thought the good Lord was looking after me - it wasn't my time. The other guy was from Rocky Mountain, West Virginia. Later a couple of guys and I went to West Virginia and visited his parents. They lived way up on the side of a mountain. They kept 80 people aboard the ship and I was one of them. They took us into Casablanca, and the rest of the DE's went in for the invasion of Normandy.
Clarence I. Priest, Seaman
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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: The Old "39"-Not a Quitter 3
Chapter 2: Shakedown Cruise-Preparations and Training 21
Chapter 3: Panama Canal-From Seasick to Old Salts 27
Chapter 4: Frisco and Hawaii 35
Chapter 5: U.D.T. Training 43
Chapter 6: Anchors Aweigh 55
Chapter 7: Iwo Jima-The Little Rock 67
Chapter 8: Guam and Ulithi-R & R 87
Chapter 9: Okinawa-Easter Parade 95
Chapter 10: Saipan-R & R 113
Chapter 11: Okinawa-Suiciders All Around 121
Chapter 12: Saipan and Manila-R & R 139
Chapter 13: Okinawa-Final Battle and Typhoons 149
Chapter 14: Rumors of Peace 167 Chapter 15: Tokyo-Movies on the Fantail 185
Chapter 16: Nagasaki-Strategic Bomb Survey 203
Chapter 17: Homeward Bound 219
History of the USS Barr 255
Officers and Crew of the USS Barr 279
History of Underwater Demolition Team Thirteen 291
Officers and Enlisted Men of UDT 13 307
Navy Rating Structure 311
The Barr Rag 317
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2001

    Little Ship , Big War

    An excellent chronical of the day-to-day lives of those men who served on a small ship during World War II. The sailor's log records experiences and thoughts as the action is taking place. Those who served and those who loved them should read this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2001

    A well done chronicle of many sailor's memories of day-to-day service life.

    Brings back life of the yesteryears of a navy service life I spent in my 20s. The movies, thelibertys, brewskies and the thrill. of the day - 'mail-call'. The adventure of young men in their first venture of their own, becoming a man. All these thoughts come back to me as if it happened just a few days ago.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2001

    Life Aboard the USS Barr

    This book conveys the experience of daily life aboard the USS Barr before, during, and after battle, as recorded in a sailor's diary. It is as close as we can come to knowing what life aboard a ship during WWII was like. Well written, wonderful photographs, and interesting memories from former USS Barr sailors.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2001

    True History

    If you like world war 11 history.This book is one that you must read.It describes what the men in the service had to live thru,and makes you feel like you are there.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2001

    a shipmate's view

    Grenga's diary captures the true emotions of the men aboard the ship during the tumultous and terrifying months of the kamikaze attacks at Iwo Jima and Okinawa and the varied emotions of typhoons, the peace signing, POW evacuation, and the bomb damage at Nagasaki It is a true picture of life aboard a courageous little ship.

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