Pt. 13: Call To Duty

After only a month of advanced amphibious training at Ft. Pierce, the commanding officer of the Amphibious Training Base sent a troop movement order to Joe McDevitt. If you have never seen a US Navy troop order circa 1943, the cover letter  of that important document reads as follows:





FR25-6/P16-4/00/MM                                                                                   15 February, 1944

Serial: 485



From:           Commanding Officer

To:                Lt. (jg) Joseph B. MCDEVITT, D-V(G), USNR

Subject:       Orders – Troop Movement

    1.               The following are hereby detached from their present duty with the U.S. Naval Amphibious Base, Fort Pierce, Florida and any other such duties which may have been assigned them, and when directed, Lt. (jg) Joseph B. MCDEVITT USNR will take charge of Twenty-Five (25) Four (4) man boat crews and Two (2) Five (5) man boat crews and Fifteen (15) other Enlisted Personnel and proceed immediately with Ensign Orville W. Terry (Asst. Commander), Ensign Francis W. Toon (Asst. Commander),  Ensign Charles R. Reeves, Ensign Harry W. Stauffacher, Ensign James O. Smith jr., Ensign Willard W. Trask, Ensign Merle H. Tigerman, Ensign Leon S. Eckman, Ensign Paul S. Kemner, Ensign Jesse Schwartz, Ensign Samuel W. Seidel, Ensign Alton R. Swift to New York Navy Yard. Upon arrival you will report to the Commandant New York Navy Yard for further transfer to the USS LEON, in whatever port she may be, for duty.

2.              This is a troop movement and the Disbursing Officer, U.S. Naval Amphibious Training Base, Fort Pierce, Florida is hereby authorized and directed to furnish the necessary transportation , subsistence and baggage transfers for the proper execution of these orders.

3.               The Disbursing Officer is hereby authorized and directed to close out the pay accounts of the men in your charge and deliver them to the Personnel Office.

4.               The records and accounts of the men in your charge are handed you herewith for safe delivery to their new Commanding Officer.

5.               These orders are of a restricted nature and should not be divulged to any unauthorized persons.


Attached to these orders was a complete listing of the 125 enlisted personnel who would operate and maintain 26 landing craft, including twenty-four LCVPs and two LCMs. We used that list earlier to help identify some of the sailors pictured in the Irwin Goldstein family collection (see blog posts dated March 7, March 16, and June 3, 2017.) We will try to identify more of those young heroes in future posts.

The list of fifteen officers named above will also be used in forthcoming stories to help identify officers and share pictures from the more recent Toon Family album.

If you recognize pictures or names of any of these young men, please contact us!

One final note. On precisely the same date that these orders were sent to Joe McDevitt in Florida (February 15, 1944), personnel at New York’s naval shipyard snapped the official file photo of the ship that would be home for McDevitt’s boat group for two years. She was a brand spanking new attack transport: USS LEON APA 48.

Leon Shipyard Picture

Notice to Amphibious Forces, United States Pacific Fleet: Reinforcement is on the way.




Red Toon (Pt. 3): Red Enlists in Navy’s College Graduates’ Officers Training Program

After resigning from the Army’s radar training program (Pt. 1), Red did his homework. He learned about the Navy’s V-7, College Graduates’ Naval Reserve Officers Training Program. It was designed to prepare large numbers of junior deck officers for action with the rapidly growing Pacific Fleet. Perhaps Red saw the poster below, which was widely posted at recruiting sites nationwide.

College Graduates'Naval Reserve Officers Training Program

McClelland Barclay, National History and Heritage Command


Red reported for duty in early 1943 at Cornell University in Ithaca New York. After 90 days he graduated a proverbial “Ninety Day Wonder.”  Next he reported to the introductory amphibious training program at Little Creek VA and later to the advanced training program at Ft. Pierce FL. Those programs were focused, deadly-serious efforts to make warriors of Red Toon, high school science teacher from Pleasant Plains IL,  and all his buddies. When he finally went to sea in March, 1944, he was Assistant Boat Group Commander under one Joseph B. McDevitt.

I believe the best way to understand the training those men received is to read letters they wrote home. Fortunately the Toon collection has a set of those letters. We have selected and will share a few of them here. They are especially informative, though we feel a bit intrusive reading Red’s correspondence with Norma Kathleen, the sweetheart of his life. But the letters tell us about the kind of man he was and about the work that young amphibians put in before going to war.

Early 1943 Ithaca NY


I hardly know how and what to write to my sweetheart. I got the telegram last night about eleven o’clock & I could hardly sleep all night. I know I didn’t drop off to sleep until nearly time to get up this morning. In spite of that I walked on air all day & am not tired yet. I had quite a time last night after I got the telegram, most of the fellows were in bed but I woke everyone on the deck & we really raised the roof here until about twelve. You would really be surprised to know how interested everyone here was in the great event!

Several fellows here have babies of their own well part theirs anyway & I wish I could remember all the advice and tales I heard last night. Needless to say I’ve been “Pop” Toon ever since. I like it. Have sure taken a lot of kidding about the big grin I’ve been carrying all day. Even the instructors noticed it!

Had two exams today, weren’t bad at all, have two tomorrow. I started packing up today.

The funniest thing I’ve seen happen around here was pulled this morning at first formation at six o’clock. The company commander had called us all to attention & was receiving reports from the section. The section leader in each case steps forward & says “Section ___ is formed, Sir” as he salutes. The last section had just reported & Ensign “Happy” Azaragian stepped forward saluted very smartly & said “There’s been a new addition to the Toon clan Sir.” Everyone froze for a minute then roared with laughter & “hurrahs”. The O.O.W. smiled and let it go. A month ago we’d all have landed in the guardhouse. You just don’t laugh while in formation at attention.

Everyone here is quite pleased with the name though I’ll admit most of the favor is for Kathleen & when I told them that was her mother’s name also they are doubly pleased. The Irish definitely have the upper hand here.

I know this sounds silly but they really are a swell bunch of guys and are serious I know in what they say.

Janice Kathleen must be a pretty big girl! Aren’t you awfully proud of yourself?

There are of course a million questions I’d like to ask you but you couldn’t answer them now & we’ll have time to talk this over soon.

                                                                                                 All My Love


After my first reading of this letter, I was struck with the clear respect the men in his unit displayed for Red. If the Navy was looking for leaders, they’d found one in Ithaca NY.

Not long after writing this letter, Red realized his dream. He graduated from the College Graduates’ Naval Reserve Officers Training Program and was commissioned an Ensign in the United States Naval Reserve. We believe he received a short leave and travelled home to see his wife and first child, Janice Kathleen Toon.

Next stop: Little Creek VA.

Toon Family Collection

Naval History and Heritage Command




Got Names! Revisiting the Leon’s Beach Medical Team Pictures

My friend Printy Arthur came through for us. He studied the pictures of Dr. William Lusk’s hospital corpsmen and helped us out with names. His best recollections of three first names follow. (Click on pictures to enlarge.)

Lusk W Corpsmen

(left to right)

Boches (first name still unknown)

Joe Boyette

William Lusk

Donald Bjork

Bill Alexander

So we’re missing only one first name here: Corpsman Boches’. Come on, someone help us out here!!

In the full beach team picture below, Dr. Lusk and eight corpsmen, we now have five complete names.

Battalion Medical Team enhanced

Standing ( l – r)



Bill Alexander

William Lusk

Boches (first name still unknown)

Printy Arthur


Kneeling (l – r)

Joe Boyette

Donald Bjork

Printy Arthur thinks that one of the unknown men pictured above had the last name of Atsalas. Does this ring a bell anywhere out there? We know they all came home. Families…help us out!