Friday, September 14, 2007

WWII, One Man's Story, Part 6 of 8

I'm sure there was great heartache for the Sanders family in hearing of the death of their son William C. Sanders Jr. After the initial shock of having their worst fears confirmed they must have wondered how their son died and if his remains would be returned for burial. A little over a week after they received a telegram telling them of their son's death in battle they received the following letter describing the circumstances of his death.
NAVY DEPARTMENT
BUREAU OF NAVAL PERSONNEL
WASHINGTON 25, D. C.

7 June 1945

My dear Mr. and Mrs. Sanders,
In these days when we have so much cause to be thankful that the war in the Atlantic at last has ceased, it is with a feeling of especially deep sorrow that I write to you concerning your son, William Sanders Jr., lost in the torpedoing of the USS Frederick C. Davis on the 24th of April, 1945. Although Bill initially was listed as "missing in action", the last hopes we had for his return have vanished, and a careful review of the known facts of the tragedy has led to the sad conclusion that he is dead.

I think that you will want to know what happened to the DAVIS. At nine it o'clock on the morning of the 24th, she picked up a contact on a German submarine and went in for the attack. Midway in her run she was struck in the forward engine room by an enemy torpedo. There were few fires, and the magazines did not explode, but the blast was violent enough to break the ship's back, and she sank rapidly.

At the time of the explosion, Bill was on watch in the radio shack. The torpedo hit in the immediate vicinity, and I have no doubt that Bill never knew what happened to him. His death must have been instant and merciful. But subsequent to the torpedoing, no one saw him about ship or in the water.

Your son had been aboard his ship for a comparatively short time, but even in that time, he had adjusted himself to his new surroundings, made new friends and assumed full responsibility of his new job. He was well liked by all of us who worked with him, and we admired him for the seriousness with which he went about his work. A man of his characteristics is always a credit to his family and to his and Navy.

To have the sinking of the DAVIS occur on the very eve of victory in the Atlantic makes your bereavement a doubly tragic one. There is nothing I can say or do in any way to ease your sorrow. If peace at last has come, however, it is brave, responsible, unselfish men like Bill that have made it possible. Your loss is also very much hours, a loss to the men who knew him as a friend, and whom he befriended, to the Navy to which he was an outstanding credit, and to his country for which he died. Bill was a gallant man who went down with a gallant ship.

Sincerely,

Robert E Minerd
Ensign, USNR
Senior Surviving Officer
It must've been very hard for the family to read this letter. I imagine it was very difficult for Mr. Minerd to write this letter as well. Billy Sanders was one of over 100 seamen who lost their lives that day on board the USS Frederick C. Davis. Such tragedy. So many young lives lost.

The complete series of WWII, One Man's Story:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8

2 comments:

  1. My father, Joseph P. Fleming, was one of the survivors of the sinking of the Frederick C. Davis. I listened to him tell stories about that fateful day and the experience never faded from his memory. He lived with terrible guilt over his surviving while so many were lost. So much so that he never attended any of the Ships Reunions and kept his medals hidden in his dresser drawer. I was very proud of my dad as I am of every man who serves our country then and now. I believe there is no greater courage and I thank and admire you all as I did my dad. My dad passed away on June 1, 2004 and I keep his flag proudly on display in my living room. He was a great man to me.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for your very kind and thoughtful comments Pat. I too admire your dad, all the brave men of the Frederick C. Davis, and all the men and women who fought for freedom in WWII. As long as we think of them and write about them they will live on in infamy.

    ReplyDelete