One Year Ago

One year ago today, my grandfather John Baker passed away at the age of 94. He was telling stories about his time in the US Coast Guard until the very end of his life. I hope all the readers of this site enjoy the stories, photographs, and history that he left us.

Rest in peace Grampa Jack.

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Updates to “1943 – USS Duane Signaling Navy Blimp” Post

I would like to thank Mark Lutz, who is a visitor of this site for sending me some great information regarding WWII blimps. He has sent me what is likely some much more accurate information than I had previously posted about the photo below. He has also sent over some excellent information regarding WWII blimps that I have shared here as well. You can view my original post here to get a little bit of background.

A 10-man US Navy Blimp works with the US Coast Guard Cutter Duane offshore in the Atlantic Ocean in 1943. A Blinker light, which can be made out in the Blimp's car, provides safer communication than radio, which a U-boat's direction finder could home in on.

Here is Mark’s best guess at the photograph’s events:

While the photo could have been taken during convoy makeup in Newfoundland early in 1943, for one of Cutter Duane’s Newfoundland-Iceland-Britain convoys, I think the winter weather would have discouraged photography. The man at the signal lamp is too heavily dressed for Cutter Duane’s late 1943 convoy escort service in the Caribbean (Guantanamo and Trinidad).

If it is a convoy makeup photo, then Boston to Cassablanca convoy service in mid 1943 seems most likely, with the possibility the photo was taken outside New York as New York ships joined.

Cutter Duane escorted a number of convoys from Boston to Casablanca (North Africa) in mid 1943. Blimp crews, high enough to see much further than a ship crew could, would supervise convoy formation, and then turn the convoy over to a U-boat protection escort such as CGC Duane. If the photo was taken offshore Boston, the Blimp is from ZPG-11, South Weymouth, MA, which is near Boston.

Here are some alternate possibilities:

The photo might have been taken during Duane’s anti-U-boat training in Casco Bay, Maine, on 27 May or the 2nd time 24 September 1943.  ZPG-11 had a detachment mooring tower in NAS Brunswick, Maine, on Casco Bay.   If so, the Blimp could be training with Cutter Duane, or the Blimp could be a high observation platform, providing feedback to Cutter Duane.  The Navy encouraged photo documentation of such training.

Duane’s Boston to Casablanca convoys picked up additional ships outside of New York. If the photo is outside of New York, the Blimp is from ZPG-12, Lakehurst, NJ (South of New York). There are a fair number of Blimp convoy escort related photos in existence; this could well be another one.

Duane did attack a number of U-boats during 1943.  It is possible the photo shows Blimp – Cutter cooperation near the coast – the Blimp helping to pinpoint the U-boat, and the Cutter supplying underwater microphones and depth charges.  I think this is a slim possibility – people were preoccupied when there was evidence of a near-by U-boat.

More Information About Blimps in WWII:

The K-type Coastal Patrol Blimp of WW2 carried magnetic anomaly detection equipment which could sense submerged submarines if it flew over them, radar which could even spot a periscope a mile away, marker dye and night marker flares to drop on suspected submarine locations, a crew of 10 with binoculars, and a few depth charges. It has 12 to 24 hour endurance.  Blimps could hover, or fly up to 75 mph.

K (King) Blimps were large: They had about 4 times the helium of a typical advertising Blimp of today, and 5 times the horsepower. There were ~50 K-blimps in mid 1943, and ~100 in mid 1944, based along the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coasts.

Mark also had some great background information on why the USCG Duane was sent to the Caribbean:

Why would the Duane be sent to the Caribbean?  By late 1943, U-boats moved from the US Atlantic Coast down to the Caribbean because U-boat hunting capabilities further North had greatly improved, making  it unsafe for U-boats up there.   The Caribbean was the only source for US aluminum ore (Guianas).   Oil for Britain came from Venezuela, Trinidad, and maybe Mexico, as well as Texas.   Some natural rubber came from Firestone plantations in Liberia, Africa, and up through the Caribbean.

The Navy assigned a lot of anti-submarine assets to the Caribbean in 1943, in addition to CGC Duane. Mark’s Father flew military Blimp patrol flights in the Caribbean in 1943, probably out of the Miami base, and may have flow with Cutter Duane at some time.

Again — thank you to Mark Lutz for sending in all of this information. It is incredible the amount of history that he has provided, and I hope all of the readers of this site enjoy it!

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1945 – Minor Surgery Performed by Ph. M Baker and Ph. M. Schaefer

In this photograph, my grandfather John Baker (left) can be seen performing minor surgery alongside Ph. M. Schaefer (right) on an unknown subject. Both men were Pharmacists Mates aboard the USCG Cutter Duane during WWII. This photograph was taken by Dale Rooks sometime in 1945 according to notes in the Warbook.

1945 - Minor Surgery Performed by Ph. M Baker and Ph. M. Schaefer

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1945 – “Sack Time” for Baker, Rooks and Schaefer aboard the USCG USS Duane

This is one of the few photographs from John Baker’s Warbook that features both John Baker and Dale Rooks together. This is presumably because Rooks was often behind the camera for most of the photos. It is not known who stepped in to take this photograph, but it was amongst a series that were given to my grandfather by Rooks. It was likely taken in 1945 while the USCG USS Duane was docked in Bizerte, Tunisia.

This photograph also features Schaefer, who was a Pharmacists Mate, alongside my grandfather. He appears in several photographs later in the Warbook. If any readers out there know any more information about Ph. M. Schafer, please post it up here.

From top to bottom the men are Ph. M. John Baker, Pho. M. Dale Rooks and Ph. M. Schaefer (first name unknown).

1945 - "Sack Time" for Baker, Rooks and Schaefer aboard the USS Duane

 

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1945 – Members of USCG USS Duane Crew with Shaved Heads

In this photograph, members of the USCG USS Duane are showing off their new haircuts sometime in 1945. This picture was likely taken by Dale Rooks as he would have been aboard the ship at this time.

Unfortunately, I cannot identify any of the men in the picture. The only thing I did notice was that the man on the lower right has a tattoo that starts with “Frenc”. This is probably referring to the invasion of Southern France. If you can identify any of the men, please leave a comment on this post.

1945 - Members of USCG USS Duane Crew with Shaved Heads

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June 16, 1943 – “The Duane Torpedo” interviews John Baker on his 27th birthday

Today is a very special post that actually does not come from the Warbook. I was recently contacted by a visitor to this site named Betsy Bianchi. Her father, Maurice Stephen O’Connell, served aboard the USS Duane during World War II as a Soundman. We have been chatting on and off for several weeks regarding her father and my grandfather, when she came across an amazing discovery:

An interview with my grandfather in the ship’s newspaper “The Duane Torpedo” on his 27th birthday. Equally as amazing, she found it almost 68 years later to the day it was published – June 16, 1943. She sent it to me only days after what would have been his 95th birthday. A note regarding her father “Okie” just happened to be on the same page.

The interview with John Baker is on the 4th page below, in the right hand column. The full text is as follows:

Your Interview Reporter Interviews John Baker

That lad you see striking for Pharmacist Mate is John “Drummer Boy” Baker. His nickname you may well imply due to the fact that Baker spent nearly 15 years of his life before entering the service playing the drums with well known orchestras. He played with Blue Steel of sometime back and also with the orchestra that Jan Gerber is now leading. His last job was at the Arcadia Ballroom in New York. He declares his most exciting job was while he was appearing at Hotel Lasalle in Chicago. It seems as if the orchestra was in the midst of a riot. Baker hesitated about saying more. Your reporter can well see that Baker is in love with music. Of course it’s not the girls he admires at the USO in Boston it’s just the music that the 5 piece orchestra puts out. His chielf ambition is to run a night club close to Niagara Falls and provide pleasure seekers with good music. We hope that Baker’s ambition can be reached because we all agree “Baker’s a jolly fine fellow.”

Here are all four pages of “The Duane Torpedo”.

 

The Duane Torpedo - June 16, 1943 Page 1
The Duane Torpedo – June 16, 1943 Page 1
The Duane Torpedo - June 16, 1943 Page 2
The Duane Torpedo – June 16, 1943 Page 2
The Duane Torpedo - June 16, 1943 Page 3
The Duane Torpedo – June 16, 1943 Page 3
The Duane Torpedo - June 16, 1943 Page 4
The Duane Torpedo – June 16, 1943 Page 4 (Interview with John Baker in right column)

Thank you again to Betsy for sending this over to me, it really has made working on this blog even more special. Hopefully we can find some more picture’s of her father as we work through the Warbook!

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1945 – Morning exercises for members of 8th Fleet, North Africa

This photograph was taken while the 8th Fleet was stationed in Bizerte, Tunisia likely in the Spring of 1945. This image was believed to have been taken by Dale Rooks, although it was not signed or stamped by him. The USS Duane was stationed in Bizerte for approximately six months from late-1944 until mid-1945. During this time period, the Allied Forces had control of North Africa and the Mediterranean, so they were basically in a holding pattern.

1945 - Morning exercises for members of 8th Fleet, North Africa

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1945 – USS Duane Captain Awards Crew Members in North Africa

Within the Warbook, this photograph is labeled “Awards handed out by Captain of Duane to members of crew – North Africa, 1945″. I believe this photo was taken at the base in Bizerte, Tunisia. The boat in the background behind the crew is definitely the USS Duane, as it has the number 33 towards the bow. If looking at the overhead image, I believe that this was taken on the peninsula at the top of the picture.

1945 - USS Duane Captain Awards Crew Members in North Africa

There are a couple of mysteries with this photograph that I have been unable to figure out. First, who was the captain who was handing out the images? The official USCG history lists CAPT Robert C. Jewell, Jul 1943 – May 1945. However, the only captain’s photograph within the Warbook lists “Captain Moore” 1944-1945. The only mention of the last name “Moore” within the official USCG history lists CDR Harold C. Moore, with no dates attached.

The second mystery is who actually took the photograph. It is bound within the Warbook near other photographs that were taken by Dale Rooks. However, the photographer on the ground in the middle of the photograph bares a striking resemblance to Rooks. That being said, this may have been taken by an unknown photographer.

I believe John Baker is the 16th man (5th man in Dress Blues) from the left in the main row facing towards this camera. I believe the man directly left of him is Ph. M. Schaefer, who is in future images in the Warbook. If there are any other men who can be identified, please comment here.

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1945 – Admiral Hewitt of 8th Fleet Awards USS Duane Heroes

In this photograph, Admiral H. Kent Hewitt of the 8th Fleet can be seen giving out awards to the heroes from the USS Duane. Admiral Hewitt was previously aboard the Duane where he and Admiral Lowry took part in “Operation Anvil-Dragoon” – the Allied invasion of Southern France. The USS Hewitt was later named after him and was in service from 1974 until 2001.

The man receiving the award in this photograph is this website’s namesake – Ph. M. John “Jack” Baker. It is believed that this photograph was taken by Dale Rooks. I am not sure if there are photos of each man being awarded their medals, or if Rooks just happened to take this one because my grandfather was his good friend. This was likely taken in early 1945 while the USS Duane was docked in Bizerte, Tunisia.

1945 - Admiral Hewitt of 8th Fleet Awards USS Duane Heroes

If anyone has any more information, or can identify any of the other men in this photograph, please contact me.

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D-Day on the USS Duane – 67 Years Ago

Today is the 67th anniversary of D-Day, when the Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy during “Operation Neptune”. During this time, my grandfather was stationed aboard the USS Duane in Naples, Italy while planning was going on for “Operation Anvil-Dragoon”. Here is a repost of a photograph of the Duane taken approximately 67 years ago while at port in Naples, Italy.

August 1944 - USS Duane at Port in Naples, ItalyThank you to the men who stormed the beaches that day as it was one of the bravest acts in US military history.

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