Happy 71st, Dad! Those of you who have been following me for awhile may remember last year’s memorial tribute to my dad on his 70th birthday. It was planned as a one-time post, but when I came across this letter recently, I knew I had to do something again this year.
This morning I emailed my immediate family a letter recently discovered from my father, mailed shortly after the Cuban Blockade. Dad served on the USS Waller during the Cuban Missile Crisis. What we know of Dad’s involvement in the blockade we thought only survived as anecdotes, and in what is known historically of the USS Waller’s participation in 1962. That, too, is mostly “classified” but thankfully a number of sailors from aboard the Waller and other vessels have recently been sharing information about that time of service.
I used to believe that Dad was on a submarine defending destroyers during the crisis, because we knew that he did serve on a submarine for awhile, But during the blockade, he was on a Fletcher Class Destroyer. We know that the Waller was part of “Task Force Alpha” but not a lot of detail. Click here for some photos of the Waller.
I’m sure there are many men still alive who could enlighten me about life aboard the USS Waller in 1962, and maybe one or two of them might find there way here through keytags and let us know.
In the meantime, unfortunately all letters we knew of from his time there were destroyed in a post-divorce catharsis by our mom. (Understandable for her, at the time, regrettable historically and genealogically for the family.) This recently found letter was found tucked away in the back of one of my Grandpa Work’s diaries. Grandpa Work was his new father-in-law, and I don’t think anybody knew this letter survived until we recently began a project to scan the diaries and his autobiographies to share with his descendants as a surprise Christmas present for this year. (oops, surprise!)
Grandpa Work had also served in the navy, and was present at IWO JIMA. What the two men discussed in their many conversations together I can only imagine. I just find this even more engaging because this was a letter from a Quartermaster 2 at one of America’s most memorable military events, to a Seabee who witnessed one of the most iconic, and tragic, events of World War II. Dad’s final statement about the blockade on the following page left no question as to why he only served until his term was over and chose a civilian life afterward.
More South Africa tomorrow, but today, a little bit of America, a little bit of Dad.
Happy 71st, Quartermaster Sink.