Red Toon Pt. 16: Introducing Officers of USS Leon

As Leon and her accompanying destroyer escort, USS Blackwood DE 219, made their way to Pearl Harbor, Capt. Adell worked the crew hard to make a company of them. From All Came Home (p. 160):

“In the open sea between Norfolk and Panama and then on the 12-day run from Panama to Pearl Harbor, the little escort and the big transport practiced the maneuvers invasion convoys would use, frivolously, with only the horizon to bound them in.

For many officers and men it was the first time out. They got the feel of the ship and the feel of the sea. They also got the feel of foreign liberty in Panama and never forgot it – because for 14 months there was never another liberty like it.”

Red  Toon soon met all of Leon’s officers, most of them newly trained reservists like himself. Throughout their next two years of service together, he took pictures of many of them, and—fortunately for us—wrote the names on the back.

We begin introducing some of these young men below along with any information that we have for each. Most of this information is drawn from copies of the ship’s log found at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.

As always, we ask our readers out there: If you see someone below who you recognize, perhaps your dad or your uncle or a grandpa—please contact us! Let’s share some stories and pictures.

Firstly, meet Lt. Commander Leo T. Atkinson, Engineering Officer. He was the third ranking officer aboard ship, responsible for maintaining the ship’s propulsion system as well as her life support systems, including, e.g., fresh water, heating & cooling, electrical power, and others. He hailed from Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Atkinson Exec Officer jpg

Lt. Commander Leo T. Atkinson

Three officers pictured below include two junior engineering officers who reported to Atkinson. We hope that we have identified them correctly as (l – r):

  • Robert T. L. Jones, Lieut.(jg), Engineering Watch & M Div. officer, from Sanatorium, North Carolina
  • Bob P. Roberts, Lieut. (jg), Asst. 2nd Div. officer, from Fort Madison, Iowa.
  • Michael Hubona, Lieut., Asst. Engineering officer, from Charlottesville. Virginia. (Readers of earlier posts will recall that Mike Hubona was a bridge partner of Red’s.)
Jones Roberts Hubona jpg

Officers Jones, Roberts and Hubona

 

Finally, we believe the two officers below are a pair of Lieut. (jg)s: Roger L. Johnson and Gordon R. Williams. Johnson was a radar officer from Maywood, Illinois, and Gordon was a communications officer from Los Angeles, California.

Johnson Williams enhanced

 Officers Johnson and Williams

 

Our last picture is of three boat group officers who had trained under Joe McDevitt at Ft. Pierce. They are:

Jesse Schwartz, Lieut. (jg), Asst Boat Grp. Commander, from Baltimore, Maryland

Charles R. Reeve, Ensign, Wave Guide,  from Winton Merced County, California

Orville W. Terry, Lieut. (jg), N Div. Officer and Asst Navigator, from Orient, New York

Readers will recall from earlier posts here that Orville Terry was originally appointed Joe McDevitt’s assistant boat group commander along with Red Toon. But Terry was such a proficient navigator while in training that he was transferred out of the boat group into the navigation unit. Then we suspect that Jesse Schwartz was  appointed assistant boat group commander in Terry’s place.

Schwartz Reeve Terry jpg

Officers Schwartz (front), Reeve and Terry

 

More pictures from the Toon Collection to come.

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A Reservist’s First Promotion: Red Toon Letters (Pt. 8)

In early November, 1943, Red Toon was still at Little Creek VA learning how to (man)handle the Navy’s landing craft before heading out to the Pacific. Sometimes he had time to write long windy letters home, and sometimes he wrote just a short note. This one was a short note, but he sent big news.

Novmber 3, 1943

Dearest Wife,

Have been pretty busy this week too. Got your letter saying you made it. I’m awfully sorry I couldn’t be home when you took Janice in. Maybe it’s just another grandchild, but I bet they loved her. I had sorta dreamed about carrying her in myself to show her off to my folks. Sentimental I guess but I’m awfully proud of my family, my wife & my daughter.

I got a watch for Jack but don’t know whether he’ll like it or not. Its shock proof anti-magnetic & waterproof. Its also automatic, that is need never be wound. I don’t know what Jack will think of that. It doesn’t have a sweep second hand but I couldn’t find anything else. Notice when you get it if it’s still on correct time, I’ll set it before sending.

Now for some good news. I got a promotion of sorts. I’m now Assistant Boat Group Commander in charge of Engineering. Engineering of all things! Mr. Terry and I were the two picked from our group. I knew he would be one of the two but my getting it came as a very distinctive surprise. Its a break in a way, it means a spot promotion to Lt. j.g. when we pull out so I’m very much pleased. It also carries a lot of added responsibilities & in Engineering at least will certainly contain some headaches.

I started this letter after Taps last night & got chased to bed so am finishing this morning. Nearly time for muster. Will send M. O. for $50 probably some time today.

I’m glad you got a suit. I wish I could see you in it. I wish I could see you. I love you.

                                                                                                                Warren

For many servicemen, especially those youngsters away from home for the first time, missing special family occasions made for hard duty. Red had already missed the birth of his first child, Janice; now he had missed her first visit to his parents’ home in Cisco, Illinois. A year or so later, somewhere far out in the Pacific, Red’s cabin mate, Joe McDevitt, would learn of the birth of his first child too. Shared experiences like that brought men close together.

So Mr. Toon and Mr. Terry became Joe McDevitt’s first Assistant Boat Group Commanders. But we’ve heard about Mr. Terry in earlier letters. He began his career with the boat group but was such an accomplished navigator that he  would be transferred to their ship’s navigation team.  So from November of 1943 Joe McDevitt and Red Toon worked together as a team. The Boat Group Commander led the first wave of boats to the beaches; the Assistant led the second wave. Between them, the mission was always the same: Boots on the beaches…any beach, anytime.

We searched Red Toon’s album and found  one picture of Mr. Terry. He is pictured below with two other officers. They are from left to right:

Lt. (jg) Jesse Schwartz (bottom), Boat Officer & Watch Officer, Baltimore MD

Ensign Charles R. Reeve, Boat Officer & Boat Gun Officer, Winton Merced Co., Calif

Lt. (jg) Orville W. Terry (right), Asst Boat Grp.  Comdr. & Boat Communications Officer

Schwartz Reeve Terry CLEAN

Lt. (jg) Orville W. Terry (right) August 1944