Saturday, November 12, 2011

On The Other Side of the World

Frank Stevens’ parents had every reason to be worried about their son. While Frank’s letters home consistently asserted that he wasn’t permitted to inform them of his exact location, newspaper reports of the war had recently been riveting. News travels fast; headlines of a devastating attack on a far-off island near Japan, complete with photograph of beach landing, had been published within fifteen hours of the operation’s start on February 19, only five days before Frank wrote William and Agnes Tully Stevens to assure them that he was safe. By the time Sunday’s newspaper landed on the Stevens’ new front porch on February 25, 1945, flashing Joseph Rosenthal’s iconic visual of U.S. Marines’ conquest of Mount Suribachi, it served poorly as relief for the concerned parents; they had yet to hear from their son.

Where, exactly, was Frank? Based on the documents saved from that time period and passed along via family, Frank’s orders on April 18, 1944, showed him reporting to Norfolk, Virginia, for assignment to the Atlantic fleet. However, an undated note written by Will indicated that his son was headed through the Panama canal to the Pacific. Indeed, Frank’s last few letters bore the return address of a Fleet Post Office in San Francisco.

It took some searching through military records to find further information on Frank’s whereabouts. From the date he returned from leave in May, 1944, I could find no record until July 20 of that year, when he is listed as “received on board” the USS LCI (L) 707, the date the ship, itself, was commissioned.

By December 31 of the same year, Frank was still listed as on board that craft, and the muster roll shows his advance to Pharmacist’s Mate First Class (T)(LC).

Between the end of that year and the point of Frank’s last note home, the USS LCI (L) 707 made its way across the Pacific, stopping at Maui for maneuvers with other units of the Pacific Fleet Amphibious Force, then proceeded westward to provide fire support, along with other Flotilla 21 ships, for the Iwo Jima landings of February 19, 1945.

Small wonder Frank ended his note home on February 24 with the request to “pray for your loving son.”

1 comment:

  1. I wonder if Frank, as a pharmacist mate would have been on-shore serving as a medic - if so - he would have seen the horrors of thousands of dead and wounded. The tone of his letter home seems so unlike his previous ones -


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