My father was there

Leopoldville Forums Post A Message My father was there

This topic contains 7 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  ann hurtuk 1 year, 9 months ago.

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  • #735

    keharty
    Participant

    My father was on a minesweeper in the area when they received word that the Leopoldville had been torpedoed. His ship tried to assist in the rescue and my father jumped into the icy water and attempted to save his fellow sailors. Sadly, all the men he pulled out of the water had died. He later received a medal for his bravery which I still have today. My father didn’t like to talk much about this as it brought him great sadness. I also have a photo of him receiving his medal as well as a hand written diary he kept over several days during the D-Day invasion. Neal Smith 1919-2012.

    • This topic was modified 2 years, 9 months ago by  keharty.
    #737

    columbus
    Participant

    Your Father was certainly very brave and willing to risk his life to save the soldiers in the water.

    At the 60th Anniversary Commemoration in Arlington National Cemetery, one survivor commented that, when he was in the water, he was more frightened than cold. He was wearing his winter underwear and speculated that soldiers who were not wearing their winter underwear would experience the effects of the cold water sooner. There is no way to know if this played a part in your father’s situation.

    #749

    jpetrusk
    Participant

    My father was on a minesweeper and in the area as well. It was the YMS 358. He never talked about it either, but I understand that they were called to help but ended up retrieving bodies from the waters. Was your dad on the YMS 358?

    #802

    marywallisballin
    Participant

    My father was on the Leopoldville and was one of the survivors. His name is Thomas E. Wallis. He is now 96 and I’m happy to say still alive. When younger he and my mother would attend the Panther reunions. He wouldn’t talk about this until the late 80’s or 90’s. Partially because of the secrecy they were sworn to, and partially because it caused him so much grief. It was a source of stress in my mother and father’s marriage for many years. My mother always said my father was a different man when he came home from Europe and once he started to speak of the that unforgettable night, it was better understood. My father saved many men that night pulling them out of the water onto a tug (as he describes it). He was fortunate because he was on the top deck when the torpedo hit and a strong swimmer. He always has felt he should have been able to save more men. I am glad I have been able to hear the stories of that night from him in recent years. I wish I would have known about the 70th anniversary commemoration. I don’t think my father was aware of it. Not that he could have attended. We live in CA and he was 95 at the time. I am sure of those that did survive, there aren’t too many of these brave men left to tell the story.

    #822

    ann hurtuk
    Participant

    i have yet to communicate with one survivor who knew my mom’s only brother, pvt james p coen from the bronx, he was a medic. I imagine he chose to not try to survive but rather aid others, being a medic himself. Maybe your father knew this name. tomorrow, nov 20, 2015 would be his 100th birthday if he were still living.

    #826

    marywallisballin
    Participant

    To Ann Hurtuk,
    I am sorry to say but my father passed away this fall. At 96 we knew it could happen at any time. We are fortunate that he didn’t suffer long. But unfortunately I can’t ask daddy for you any longer.
    Sincerely,
    Mary Wallis Ballin

    #827

    ann hurtuk
    Participant

    I have an interesting story about a six year boy in California, whittier whose uncle was on the Leopoldville. Some months ago I spoke with a priest about the Leopoldville, saying no doubt u ever of the Leopoldville, And he replied he could top what I said. Then he told me of his friend who on Christmas eve was gathered with friends/family for a huge Christmas eve party, 1944. He was age six. And at one point, he said STOP. We cannot celebrate, my uncle is drowning!!!!!! Maybe they thought the kid was crazy. But his heart spoke truth. That hour near france in the cold English channel his UNCLE was drowning.

    #828

    ann hurtuk
    Participant

    To Mary wallis Balin, thank you for your reply to me. My uncle, jim coen, I am sure worked diligently saving lives, comforting many etc. He was one of the troops medics and graduated or attended fordam university. He was going to become a priest. He was a very holy man. His pastor at Holy Cross Church on w 42nd st. NY city, was the famous fr. duffy of world war one, jim was 17 when fr. duffy died and fr duffy gave him his gold watch for his education. Jim would of turned 100 this month. My mom was suspicious, she worked in the pentagon, and finally found someone to spill out the truth. So I knew all my life about the leopoldville and my ritual from childhood was always to pray Christmas eve for all who died on this ship. Religiously I put this as high priority EVERY Christmas eve since I was about age ten. Sometimes had dreams of all thanking me. This year, 2015, will be no exception

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