The internet has also proved helpful in piecing together Dad’s various transit trips across the Pacific. His first troopship experience occurred on the maiden voyage of the GENERAL HARRY TAYLOR (AP-15) for transportation to Milne Bay, New Guinea, loaded with replacement troops.
Departing from Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay the trip took 22 days with the ship running a zigzag course throughout the Pacific. The ship’s return trip consisted of picking up beleaguer Marines from Guadalcanal and returning them stateside. I have always suspected some of Dad’s trips may have been on warships. Recently his name was located on the muster list of the USS ADMIRALTY ISLAND (CVE-99), an escort carrier loaded with aircraft, supplies and troops for the Pacific. This trip un-escorted was from San Francisco to Hawaii and took about 10 days arriving at Pearl Harbor on Christmas Eve 1944! He indicated one of his trips occurred on an ocean liner converted to troopship, perhaps the Queen Mary but he was not sure of the name. However, there appears no evidence of that ship being in the Pacific when he was. During one of his layovers awaiting a ship, his small unit would spend about two weeks at Camp Elliot near San Diego. At Camp Elliot US Marines were trained as radio operators and it was here that some of the Native American codebreakers would be trained.
During this research I found out that Dad served with a number of the prominent leaders of WWII naval communications intelligence including CAPT. (later ADM) Joseph Wenger OP-20-G, CMDR Howard Hogan GS – IBM Machine Supervisor at OP-20-G; Ensign (later ADM) Ralph Cook, CMDR E.S. L. (Sid) Goodwin, CMDR Jack Holtwick, and CMDR Jack Newman, Director of Signals Communications for the Royal Australian Navy. Dad would serve under CAPT John S. Harper, FRUPAC CO, and CMDR Sam Bertolet, FRUPAC Intelligence Officer. As an ensign, CAPT Harper was the damage control officer aboard the USS WEST VIRGINIA (BB-48) during the Dec 7th Pearl Harbor attack. Also, many friendships were formed during his time in the service with other enlisted men. John Paul Steven, a Supreme Court Judge who was stationed at FRUPAC, said of his experience there — “my principle memories are of the exceptionally fine bunch of men — both officers and enlisted — who served worked in the unit.”
Although Dad never said it, you could sense he was proud of his naval service and felt it was a very important time of his life; if not the most important time of his life. However to say he loved the Navy would be a stretch. At a 50 year reunion celebrating the end of WWII in Westphalia Mo., all the veterans of his town were requested to march in the parade through town one last time. I asked my Dad what it was like to march in the parade and he replied “Oh I didn’t march in it…” “Why?” I asked somewhat surprised. “Well I did everything and went everywhere the Navy wanted me to for five years in two wars; and I’ll be damned if I was going to march in a parade when I don’t have to!”
Dad’s awards included the Good Conduct Medal; World War II Victory Medal; American Campaign Medal; Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal (one star); National Defense Service Medal, Navy Unit Commendation Medal for Communications Intelligence; Honorable Service Lapel Pin and Discharge Button. In addition, he received the Navy Commendation Medal (two stars) for his contributions at OP-20-G, FRUMEL and FRUPAC.
In addition, Dad was probably one of the few enlisted men to serve at all three of the major naval decoding centers; OP-20-G, FRUMEL, and FRUPAC during WWII. He also may have been one of the first naval reservists to hold the rating of “CT” or communications technician after it was instituted in 1947. And it might be said he was among the highest decorated “clerks” to come out of the War.
Elmer would return to civilian life after the Korean War. He was employed for 36 years with the Missouri Public Service Commission, Jefferson City, Mo., and would retire as Chief Accountant and Manager of the Accounting Department. He was married (Alice) with four children and eight grandchildren. He passed away in 2002. He was a member of the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and the Disabled American Veterans (DAV). He was a charter supporter of the WWII Memorial in Washington DC.
One final note, I don’t think many of today’s generation, unless they are with the military, understand the sacrifices our World War II generation made or maybe even be aware of the war. Essentially many of those WWII young people put their lives on hold for up to 4 years in risky and remote parts of the war. And there was no end in sight as planners thought the war would last through 1947! Truman’s decision to drop the bomb in 1945 would change all of that. That said, Dad didn’t think much of the “greatest generation” concept. He thought today’s young people were just as good as the WWII generation and in some cases better. These thoughts were expressed shortly after the 9/11 attacks. At eighty years old, he said he would be willing to go back into the Navy, if the Navy thought he could help out!
By Jim Schlueter