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A Ship and a Sailor

The story of the uncle who didn't come home.

Today is Veterans’ Day here in the US and I’d like to share a story with you about a ship and a sailor.

The USS Sigsbee (DD-502), a Fletcher-class destroyer, was a ship in the US Navy named for Rear Admiral Charles D. Sigsbee. It began service in July of 1942 and participated in various battles in the Pacific, including the bombardment of Wake Island.

The part of its service that is personal to me, happened 14 April 1945. The Sigsbee was on radar picket off Okinawa when she was struck aft of her number five gun by a kamikaze suicide plane. Twenty-three sailors were killed in the attack.

One of those sailors was my uncle, my mom’s older brother, Callis Gwynn. He was a radioman, but when one of the gunners were killed he stepped in and, on a report from his shipmates, continued firing at the incoming plane until impact.

He was nineteen years old.

The Sigsbee’s Commander continued to fight his ship while at the same time directing damage control parties in such a way that the ship was saved.

This is a video of the Sigsbee being taken under tow while the battle is still going on.

I had no idea this video existed. It is sobering to realize I am seeing the place where my uncle died. The ship was towed to Guam for repairs where Callis’s brother, my uncle Woodruff was at the time. He recalls seeing the ship being towed in but had no idea his brother had been aboard or that he’d been killed. Every time my uncle spoke of the loss of his brother, his eyes would tear up.

When my grandma would show me the faded “missing in action” telegram, it was obvious that the loss of her son would always be an open wound. After they built the memorial in Hawaii, someone sent this to my grandmother.

 

Callus-Gwynn-Sigsbee

My father and his two brothers also served in WWII. One brother was a prisoner of war and was also wounded in Korea. His mom also received the dreaded “missing in action” telegram, though with a happier outcome.

For my family, the word “veteran” is very personal. It’s for them, for those who didn’t make it home, and for those who came home with wounds both hidden and not hidden, that I wanted to Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space to be about more than wonderful stories.

I wanted it to help veterans like those in my family.

We chose Hero Dogs to be the focus of that helping because they raise and train service dogs to improve quality of life and restore independence for US veterans.

I’m so proud of my uncle Callus, my other uncles, and my dad for their service to their country and to me. I have been blessed every day by their sacrifices.

I would like to thank everyone who purchased a copy of Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2, for helping us help veterans one dog at a time. Today is the day of our donation period.

If you’ve been on the fence about buying the anthology, now would be a great time to jump down on the side of helping Hero Dogs.

And to our veterans and to everyone who stands in harm’s way (and their families!), a great big THANK YOU. We are blessed by your service and sacrifice.

Perilously yours,

Pauline

 

8 Comments

  1. Narelle says:

    Thank you for sharing the story of your uncle. Touching and heartfelt

  2. Laurie A. Green says:

    Wonderful–though sorrowful–tribute, Pauline. Your uncles–and all of your family who served–were true heroes. The footage of the Sigsbee was amazing. What a find that must have been for you! Our Veterans do and have done so much for all of us.

    1. Thank you, Laurie! They really have done so very very much for us. I’ve seen several national burial sites for our fallen and man, do we owe them and their families.

  3. Veronica Scott says:

    Thanks for sharing the story – wow, that was really something to have the video of the Sigsbee under tow during the battle, makes the loss of your gallant uncle feel even more personal to those of us, like me, who never knew him but are so grateful for his service and sacrifice. And that of all the other veterans, as you pointed out. HUGS!

    1. Thank you! I couldn’t believe it when the link showed up and I could see his actual ship. Such brave young men! Hugs!

  4. Carol Busbee says:

    Thanks for sharing this story about your uncle. It’s helps us all remember our loved ones who have served in the military for our country. I bought your book but haven’t read it. Loved the first book of Pers in Spcae, so I know I’ll love this one too!

    1. Thank you for the kind words AND your support for Pets in Space and Hero Dogs! It means so much!

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