USS Wasp veteran remembers wartime raids
By K.B. Sherman, Community Reporter
Region – “Raid on Marcus Island, May 19, 1944. Shell exploded above us, blew-in escape hatch. I had my finger on the trigger and fired several rounds when I flinched. Pilot Ensign Morrison, radio operator Wydeen, turret gunner Such.”
So reads a routine entry in the Navy Flight Logbook of Edward Such, of South Grafton, who flew as the turret gunner aboard the TBF-1 Aircraft of Torpedo Bombing Squadron ONE FOUR (VT-14), embarked aboard aircraft carrier USS Wasp (CV-18) in the Pacific from 1944 to 1945.
Daughter Janet Such, formerly a planner at Jamesbury Corporation while she lived in Shrewsbury from 1975 to 1987, wishes she knew more about the story of her father’s life.
“My dad just turned 90,” she said. “I wish I had asked a lot more questions of him when he was younger.”
“I got to know a lot of his fellow vets at the VFW hall [Post 1497, South Grafton] in the last four years,” she continued, “and the camaraderie among the vets began a real interest for me about World War II and my dad’s experiences.”
“Wake Island raid, May 23, 1944: Hit. Several holes in tail of plane.”
“Enroute to Tinian Island, June 12, 1944: Crashed on launch. Rescued by (destroyer) USS Owen.”
“Pilot error,” Ed said today. “Raised the flaps too soon after we left the deck. Drank a lot of water and fuel. Was going down for good when a hand reached down from a rescue boat and pulled me up.”
These stark memories belie the quiet man who flew 44 combat missions off the pitching deck of USS Wasp during World War II. These days Ed usually spends his days at Eddy Pond Assisted Living in Auburn. During a recent discussion in the main room at VFW Post 1497, which was once upon a time Ed’s fourth grade classroom at South Grafton Elementary School, Ed recalled his time in the U.S. Navy and how time sometimes circles.
“Raids on Philippines, September 9 – 24: Bombed up the Philippines and then raced back down looking for escapees. Found two Japanese destroyers side-by-side. Went down on one. Ack Ack was tremendous, half way down aimed for other ship. Ack ack was still heavy. Released four 500-pound bombs, one landed on one side and one on other side of destroyer. Two direct hits that sank the ship.”
“[That] was confirmed by an officer I met [after the war at a reunion],” Ed added.
Ed grew up in South Grafton and has lived there his entire life. He has a daughter, Janet, and two sons. Son Robert, of Whitinsville, attended the recent discussion with his father, along with Post Commander Roland Maranda, who is a Vietnam veteran from his in-country tour in 1965-1966 with the 1st Infantry, U.S. Army, the “Big Red 1.”
Ed attended Worcester Trade High School to become a machinist. When he joined the Navy during the war, he entered to become a machinist’s mate and was rated as an aviation machinists mate, rising quickly to the rank of petty officer first class. But the Navy needed gunners more, so Ed found himself in the turret of a Grumman TBF-1 “Avenger” torpedo bomber, his hand on the trigger of a 30-caliber machine gun.
“We were a torpedo squadron, but we never carried torpedoes,” Ed said. “Instead we spent the war dropping bombs.”
“Attack on Jap Fleet at Philippines, October 26, 1944: Damaged destroyer.”
“I believe that when a third of a squadron had been destroyed in combat,” Robert said, “that squadron stood down and the rest of the crews were returned to the States for other duty. That’s what happened to my dad in early 1945.”
“Under attack by Jap planes: June 19, 1944, Marianas; September 22, 1944, Philippines; October 12-13, 1944, Formosa; October 14, 1944, Formosa; October 15, 1944, Formosa.”
Released from the Navy in early 1946, Ed returned to South Grafton and over the next 45 years continued his work as a machinist, first along side his brother at Valley Tool Company, and later at Worcester Gear. His wife, the former Eleanor Lebeau, died in 1992.
“Islands Attacked: Marcus (1 mission), Wake (1), Rota/Marianas (1), Guam (8), Iwo Jima (2), Koror/Palau (2), Anguar (1), Mindanao (2), Negros (2), Cebu (1), Okinawa (1), Luzon (1), Formosa (1), Leyte (1).”
“When he got home after the war he rarely talked about his experiences. I guess that’s common among his fellow vets,” Janet said.
“Final flight: January 4, 1946, R-4D (transport aircraft)—passenger. Total flight time: 374.4 hours. Certified to be a true record. L.D. Condon, LT, U.S. Navy. End of Log Book.”
“It’s been a long time,” Ed said. “Sometimes I can’t remember.”
His daughter, son, and Maranda help fill in the gaps. For years Ed attended USS Wasp (CV-18) reunions, but a search of the web indicates the last reunion was held in 2008. Time has taken its toll on the brave men who helped win the war. USS Wasp (CV-18), commissioned in 1943, was decommissioned July 1, 1972, and sold for scrap.
Tomorrow, the sun will rise on the placid beaches of The Marianas. The Gooney Birds will nest noisily but peacefully on Midway Island, which is now a protected wildlife sanctuary. The Philippines will bustle with the commotion of capitalism. And men like Ed Such made it all possible.
(Photos/Courtesy Ed Such)
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