To access David's article, which includes a link to a live recorded interview, click here: Athenia article BBC
Image below accessed from BBC.com website and article.
Today is the much anticipated release in the UK of David Mearns' The Shipwreck Hunter! In addition, there is an article by the BBC News online about one of the ships in the book, the ATHENIA. Included within the article is a list of the top 5 ships that David wants to find. Number 2 is STRONG. David is remaining steadfast in his pursuit of helping us close this chapter on the men of STRONG. At the top of my bucket list is the desire to be sitting in the control room of a research vessel (and yes, I have one in mind) watching the monitors as an ROV locates the wreck of STRONG on the sea floor of the Kula Gulf. We can then lay a plaque at the site as a memorial to the grave site that it is - and let them know they were not forgotten.
To access David's article, which includes a link to a live recorded interview, click here: Athenia article BBC
Image below accessed from BBC.com website and article.
We had a great week together, visiting Norfolk Harbor for a tour of the river and the USS Wisconsin. Later that week we hit Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown. Our yearly meeting and banquet on Saturday night allowed us to pay tribute to Jim Merriman, the face of the DD 467 for so many years. Andy Hoder delivered a heartfelt and sweet tribute to our lost sailor who will not be forgotten. We miss you Jim and you will always be with us!
On to plan for next year in Annapolis, Maryland!
Another warm and beautiful day in Virginia! The group first spent about half the day at Colonial Williamsburg soaking up history and spending money in the shops. The bookstore at the College of William and Mary took a chunk of my change, and it was worth it. I visited here in 2003 and was so thrilled to come back, but never had enough time to really go through the area and see everything. We need to come back and spend a couple of days taking everything in. The photos above are of a period tavern and a young Captain Innes who regaled us mightily with his tale of defeating the British at sea and thanking our brave Navy men for their service and sacrifice.
Next, on to Jamestown settlement where again there needs to be more time spent in the spectacular and huge museum and visitor center they have set up there. At the pier are replicas of the three ships that brought the settlers to Jamestown, including the mothership the Susan Constant pictured above. When I asked the guide about the authenticity of the ships, the Susan Constant is closest to reality. Evidently there were some legal issues involving the ship back in England and 400 year old insurance records had details about the ship that aided in her recreation. Incredible!
We have the board meeting and raffle tomorrow that raises money for the STRONG Association scholarship fund. Tomorrow night is the banquet, and then we go home for another year. Seems the time passes quickly, but it's always a good time. I'll post more photos later from home. Thanks to all for tuning in!
Hello and welcome from Virginia Beach/Norfolk! People are arriving and getting ready for the 2017 reunion. We are right on the beach here with an amazing view. Hurricane Irma is making her presence known with some back winds and rough surf, churning the waters. We are so looking forward to the week and seeing old friends. Lots of interesting places to go and things to do. I'll post more updates as the week proceeds. Again, we truly miss the presence of big Jim Merriman. He's here in spirit, I know for sure.
Lots of fighter jet flyovers from the Norfolk Naval Base close by and they rattle the windows. As loud as it is, it's good to feel safe with them close by. Below is what we woke to this morning. More later!
Tomorrow the hubby Greg and I head to Virginia Beach/Norfolk for the 2017 reunion. We're really looking forward to seeing everyone again. Before we head out though, I wanted to post some information about an on line event happening this Wednesday.
A couple of weeks ago Paul Allen's Vulcan Inc. group announced they found the wreck site of the USS Indianapolis. The Indy was the ship that delivered the bomb parts that once assembled was dropped on Hiroshima by the Enola Gay. She was hit and sunk on her way back to port. There were nearly 2000 men on board. 316 men survived after 4 days in the ocean, wounded and fighting shark attacks. The wreck is located in the Philippine Sea. Allen's group will have a live internet broadcast on Wednesday evening of September 13th at 10:00 pm EST. If you are on Facebook, use this link to access the broadcast: https://www.facebook.com/PaulGAllen.Ideas/?hc_ref=ARTWoZ2SL7P7LdLn8vVx3arEZJvCPj-xmUe8UbL29KHevIQfjUOXtiD7lwcOP9R27v0&pnref=story
If you are not on Facebook, you may be able to access the broadcast from Paul Allen's website here: https://www.paulallen.com/
I'll be posting updates through the week. If you are in the path of Irma, please stay safe. Thoughts and prayers are with you!
A few weeks ago I sent out a note about the release of David Mearn’s new book, his memoir titled The Shipwreck Hunter. At present the book is only available in Australia, but at my request he sent me an advance copy for review. In service to the government of Australia he discovered the historic WW2 wrecks of the HMAS Sydney, the German raider Kormoran, and the Aussie hospital ship AHS Centaur sunk by the Japanese in WW2. Australia has awarded him the Honorary Order of Australia Medal for his service to their country, so it was natural for this first release to be there. In October the book will release in the UK, David’s home. He is originally from Weehawken, New Jersey and an all-American boy, but has lived in England with his wife Sarah and their 3 children (Isabella, Alexandra and Samuel) for most of his adult life. Amazon.co.uk is open for pre-sales and people in the US can purchase copies from there. If you want to wait until 2018, Pegasus Publishing in the US will release the book here and David will tour the US. He will make the release date and appearance schedule for the UK and for the US available to me and I will post them on the website.
In reviewing the book it’s difficult to just tell you about one specific wreck that he’s located over the decades of his career with Blue Water Recoveries, LTD and other groups. Some of the names that are easily searchable aside from the ones above are the MV Lucona, MV Derbyshire, TSS Athenia, and most recently the ships of Vasco de Gama’s fleet including the Esmeralda. Another very notable find however is the HMS Hood, the most famous British Royal Navy ship lost in WW2, and the re-finding of the Bismarck, the German battleship that sunk her. Our own Captain Joseph H. Wellings was involved with training the crew of Hood, and was on board the HMS Rodney when Bismarck was sunk. There are websites devoted to these ships and you can read about them in the book. What I’d really like to do is tell you a bit more about the scientist and humanitarian that is David Mearns.
David had mentioned to me early on that he had a write up about STRONG in the final chapter. This chapter is dedicated to the wrecks of ships and submarines he would like to find in the future including STRONG. When you look at the list of historic accomplishments he’s put forth in this book and others, I am completely in awe of the fact he considered working with me on this project to keep Strong from being forgotten when I approached him 6 years ago. After reading the book I better understand why he’s helping me, helping us, the Strong family. The job of a shipwreck hunter is very technical, complex and dependent on many branches of science that work with understanding geography, geology, ocean currents, weather, bloody large archives of historic documents, and so much more. Within the scope of all the scientific preparation, acquisition of expensive and sensitive equipment and data analysis, it’s easy to forget about the human aspect and the losses suffered. Not for David. He has a way of compartmentalizing the technical side in order to get the job done. Prior to an expedition he locates and interviews survivors and family if they are available. Once a wreck is located he is completely emotionally available to the families and others who depended on him to accomplish this monumental task. I’ve seen in his writing and in face to face conversations with him evidence of his personal commitment in honoring those lost. To me, this is what makes him successful in his work. He cares about the memories of the lost men, women and children. As proof, he’s most recently expressed his desire to help find the lost Malaysian airliner MH 370 that went off the radar March 8th of 2014. He is deeply committed to helping these families find closure. If anyone can find the plane, with his background, expertise and level of sensitivity it will be David.
This most recent book is like his others, in that they cover what life is like on board ship. You learn about all the equipment failures that cost time and money and cause unfathomable frustration when you are on a budget and deadline. You also see the triumph when the sonar finally hits on the target. But mostly, you see the human side - the history, the research and the emotion involved in this work all comes down to the people on the ships, subs or planes. David pulls it off with humor, professionalism and humanity. His desire to help us find Strong encourages me and I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish in the future. There’s always the chance that it won’t happen. If not, then I still feel fortunate that the effort got this far. However, I truly believe we will find her together and I can’t think of a better conclusion to this project.
The Shipwreck Hunter on Amazon.co.uk: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Shipwreck-Hunter-lifetime-extraordinary-discoveries-ebook/dp/B0711K16NS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1503418989&sr=8-1&keywords=david+l.+mearns
Another video interview with David Mearns, Channel 7 in Australia:
Alan Jones Radio Show: https://omny.fm/shows/the-alan-jones-breakfast-show/david-mearnomny.fm/shows/the-alan-jones-breakfast-show/david-mearns
Rush Hour Melbourne interview: https://omny.fm/shows/rush-hour-melbourne/david-mearns-the-shipwreck-hunter
Today David Mearns posted a link to a video interview on Australian television. Check it out!
Back in early June I posted a blog with a list of the 21 ships that were part of “Operation Toenails” from late June to early July of 1943. Operation Toenails was the push to land allied troops on New Georgia Island to push the occupying Japanese forces further west away from central Solomons control. One of the ships listed was the USS CROSBY DD164/APD17, a re-fitted Wickes class destroyer that was used as a troop transport. CROSBY carried 4th Marine Raiders to the landing sites at Segi Point and other areas of New Georgia Island. Soon after the posting I received an email from a man whose father was a signalman on the CROSBY, a Mr. Albert R. Johnson. His son Mark provided me with some of his father's written observations of his time in the South Pacific. I always love getting these notes from family. Albert was not on STRONG or part of Desron 21, but he was involved in the actions. One of his shared observations is about where he was when he learned of the attack on Pearl Harbor. I thought I'd share his writings in a blog.
From Albert R. Johnson, Signalman USS CROSBY DD164/APD17:
“I joined the Naval Reserve on October 10, 1940 and was discharged October 3, 1945. During that four years, eleven months and twenty-four days I had many memorable experiences on the USS Crosby DD 164/APD 17. The first year December 17th, 1940 to December 7th, 1941 was spent in what was called “neutrality patrol” of the west coast of the US. Europe was involved in an all out war of the allies (England, France, Etc.) with the axis countries mainly Germany and Italy. The United States remained neutral until December 7th, 1941 just 10 days before our 1 year of active duty was to end.
At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the USS Crosby was at the destroyer base at San Diego, California for an overhaul that was to take two months. I was on liberty standing on the steps of the Broadway Street YMCA, when the word was flashed that the Naval base at Pearl Harbor, HI was under attack, and that all military personnel should return to the bases or ships. I was about five miles from the destroyer base. I had no transportation, so I began walking. I noticed armed Marines going into the bars and ordering military personnel to get out and into large trucks waiting in the middle of Broadway. It was hard to believe that we were at war.
I finally got to the base and to the Crosby. Practice ammunition, torpedoes and depth charges had to be replaced with live ammunition, torpedoes and depth charges. After eight hours of feverish labor by all hands, including the officers we got underway. Our mission was to escort the aircraft carrier Saratoga to Pearl Harbor. The Saratoga was loaded with planes, supplies and personnel needed at Pearl Harbor. Men and boys who had joined the Navy that morning were going to active duty in a war zone with no training – all they had were the necessary shots and inoculations.
As we stood out ahead of the Saratoga, people were waving and hollering “good luck”, little did anyone realize that half of the Navy ships that were guarding the west coast were leaving. The Japanese could have landed anywhere they wanted to. After a few hundred miles of screening for the Saratoga, it was decided that she would go on unescorted as the destroyers would need to fuel at sea due to high amount of oil used at flank speed.
We returned to base and were occupied chasing Japanese subs, training armed guard gun crews that would be stationed on merchant ships in convoys mainly to Europe. We also were used to train a new Marine corps group called the “Marine Raiders” - Colonels James Roosevelt (son of the President) and Edson (?) units aboard the Crosby.
In December of 1942 we were sent to Mare Island, California where we would be converted to a high speed transport. Basically the forward boilers were taken out and living spaces for a company (about 100 men) replaced the fire room and boilers. Thus, the destroyer transports were able to carry specially trained troops to lead the large landing forces into battle.
I was a signalman and on the invasions. I went into the beach with the troops to provide communication between the ship and shore party. This meant facing often severe enemy fire on the way into the beach. From February 1943 until June 1945 we made no more opposed landings into enemy held islands. In February 1943, we left San Francisco for the South Pacific.”
Thank you Mark, for sharing this information about your father. For more information on the history of the CROSBY: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ravenillini/sets/72157680268324950/
I've told you all before about David Mearns of Blue Water Recoveries, LTD. David wants to be the person to discover, film and document the wreck of the STRONG and tell her story and that of her men. He has a LONG and storied history of hunting for and finding wrecked ships and of surveying the sea floor in all capacities. This book is a compilation of decades in the business of exploring the seas. In it, he discusses the historic and important wrecks he has located. He also discusses the wrecks he hopes to find in the future, including a bit about STRONG. The book will be released in Australia in July, in the UK in October and I was told today that Pegasus Publishing here in the US has bought the rights to release it in the US in 2018. For those who want to wait for that, I will update you with the release and pre-order details when I have them. If you want a UK copy, here is the link for pre-ordering: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Shipwreck-Hunter-Discovering-treasures-treachery/dp/1760295256/ref=pd_zg_rss_nr_b_276416_7
The cost is 20 pounds British Sterling, but that converts to approximately $34.93 US dollars including shipping. I've attached an image of the UK cover to the post. David has previous books out about the Hood and Bismark from World War 2, and the Sydney, an Australian vessel sunk by the Germans. I have both of these books and they are fascinating reading. You get a perspective from David not only of the ship discoveries, but of the day to day events on board a survey vessel. This includes all the things that can go wrong and many human stories of the crew. He's an engaging and interesting author (not just kissing up here David), and is the same in person. To truly understand all that happens on a large scale expedition, these books are remarkable. I expect nothing less of The Shipwreck Hunter.
Welcome to the blog! I'm a life long Kentuckian with a degree in Anthropology, thus a nice background in research, thanks to some great profs at the University of Kentucky. Family and historical research are what float my boat, and this project has been the heart of it for a very long time now. I welcome input and ideas for blog entries, so if you have something to contribute I'll happily post it.