Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Fighting Amphibians

This is an excerpt from a screenplay I ran across online authored by a Joseph F. Panicello who served aboard USS LST-533.  Even though this is a fiction, it's based on true events.  One of Joseph's characters mentions the breached LST-312 and the bomb hit of LST-313 - matching the account that Pat (312) relayed to me.  This is also verified by other fellow crew members of the 312.  The actual events within the screenplay is based on the book 'A Slow Moving Target: The LST of WWII' also written by Mr. Panicello.

Bill Krumm (312) broke into a cold sweat in the library when he
ran across this image of the 313 burning.  He wrote to Pat
saying this is the scene he saw when looking out the starboard hatch.

The Fighting Amphibians: Screenplay
by: Joseph F. Panicello  / 2007  (page 66-67)

Gela, Sicily – Day (July 1943)

The assault on Gela begins and is not so easy.  The American Rangers come under heavy machine gun fire losing a whole platoon.

EXT. Gala Shores – LATER

When the next Americans reach the shore on small craft they run into heavy gun fire, concentrations of barbed wire and unexpected mines.  Lieutenant Colonel Darby watches 300 rounds of 30 caliber ammunition bounce off Italian tanks. He drives down to the shore and sees soldiers towing an anti-tank 37mm gun off the ramp of LST 85.

COL. Darby
Men, Follow me with that gun…

They tow the anti-tank gun back to where the Italian  tank was and opened fire.  They completely destroy the Italian tank.  The rest of the Italian tanks quickly withdraw.

COL DARBY (continued)
Come on men, we got them on the run.

Several pillboxes with Italian soldiers stop their advance with machine gun fire.  Sergeant Gilbert runs behind the nearest pillbox and tosses a grenade through one of it’s firing holes.  There is a mighty explosion and before long all of the other pillboxes surrender.


While LST 85 is unloading half tracks, three German Messerschmidt  ME-109 fighter-bombers suddenly swoop down and drop bombs on the LST.  Danny, who is manning the forward 40mm gun, is blasting away at a bomber, but it still manages to drop a bomb on the deck close to Danny.  Danny is hit in the left arm with shrapnel and is thrown overboard.  His wound isn’t serious and he swims to shore.  He jumps into a foxhole for protection but is horrified to find two dead American soldiers laying there.

He peeks out and witnesses an enormous blast coming from  LST 313 which is set ablaze.  Army troops and sailors from the LST 313 abandon the ship as quickly as possible.  Danny finds an empty foxhole.  He then watches LST 312 being hauled off the beach by a tug, after it had been broached.  When the bombing subsides, Danny works his way back to LST 85 which has suffered considerable damage.

Buy the book to read the rest.  Both of Mr. Panicello's LST publications are hyper-linked above.  In the raw footage below, advance 19 minutes into video to see color footage of LST-313 engulfed in flames on the coast of Gela.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

the portal

Once upon a time there once stood a magnificent old facade at Fountain Square in Bowling Green, KY.  It was there when Gina and I moved there in 1990.  It wasn't there by the time we moved back to Alabama in 1996.

I don't know when the bank met it's demise.  Old downtown Bowling Green has always been a busy place, just down the hill from Western Kentucky University.  The Fountain Square Park graces the center of the town, still the hub of the community.  I'm sure the old Citizens National Bank facade, as beautiful as it was, had to make way for more commerce.

There was nothing on that lot but the two brick walls of the businesses on either side.  I thought it would make a great area for yet another park area, perhaps a stage for special events, perhaps another fountain in there.  That just wasn't going to be.  For some reason I thought it would be allowed to stand, reused for something.

I'd pass the old dead bank front countless times.  Each time the old face would catch my eye.  It especially had a mysterious ambiance at night.  The gaping entrance to nowhere seemed to be a portal into another time.  I could image one being able to step through there at a certain time of day, turn around and walk out into the past.  The place would've made an excellent set for a Twilight Zone.

One night I drove down there specifically to take a picture of this place.  It was a perfect night for it.  The moon hung over it, capturing the mystic quality of that old facade that was fading quickly from the present.

The way it was a long time ago.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The LST 312 Conspiracy


Excerpt from:
PT Boat Episodes:
At General Quarters in the Pacific and a Five Month Yachting Cruise in the Atlantic with a Young  MTB Captain / By: Roger M. Jones / Merriam Press 2000

USS LST 312 and PT's tied up in Chicago
October 26-28, 1945 for Navy Day.
PT 604 and 604 clearly marked. This story
indicates that the 3rd PT is the 603.
Click on image to enlarge.
When we got back to Miami, however, another very pleasant surprise greeted us. We received order on September 26th to be part of the countrywide Navy Day celebrations on October 27th.  Squadron 41 was ordered to proceed to New Orleans and PT’s of the Squadron would be ordered from there to proceed up the Mississippi –601 and 602 to Pittsburgh; 503, 604, and 606 to Chicago; 605 to Jeffersonville, Indiana; 607 to Cincinnati; 608 to Memphis; 609 and 610 to St. Louis; 611 to Evansville, Indiana; 612 to Louisville.

Division Able, with Lt. Doherty as OTC departed Miami September 28th and arrived at the Naval Operating Base in New Orleans on September 30th via Key West and Pensacola, PT’s 603, 604, and 606 then departed NOLA in a convoy on October 4th with SOPUS (Senior Officer Present Afloat) on LST 312, and in company with LCI-194, LSM-13, LCI-144, LCI-122, LSM-297.

Going up the Mississippi the usual procedure was to stop at night and anchor out of the channel.  One night LST-312 anchored for the night several hundred feet off the east river bank and PT 163 tied up alongside.  That evening shortly after dark, one of my crewmen on watch topside, came to my stateroom and told me three men off LST 312 slid down the lines tying us to the LST and from our deck dove in the river presumably with the intention of swimming ashore.  We were in an isolated area with no town or any sign of life in vicinity.  I reacted quickly to the news as-if the men drowned or were going AWOL – PT 163 as the dive platform in their attempt to swim ashore would be negligent if the incident was not reported.

Presumably, the men were bored by being confined for days to LST 312 on the upriver trip and were determined to get ashore to stir up a little excitement.  Our man on watch said they dove in wearing dungarees and a T-shirt and had shoes tied to their belts.  Before dawn would they try to swim back out and try to re-board the 312 before they were missed?  If so, they might well try to get back on LST 312 by climbing back on PT 163 first, as it had a much lower free-board than the LST.  I did send a handwritten memorandum addressed to the Officer of the Deck on the LST informing him of what happened and inquiring what we should do if the men tried to board 163 on their return.  The three men didn’t try to re-board 163 and we never really learned what finally happened.  Did they ever get back the LST 312 and, if so, how?

(One theory on our boat was that it was part of a widely known conspiracy on LST 312, possible even with the knowledge of the OOD or, maybe my memorandum never got to the OOD.  Further, under the “conspiracy” theory, a pilot ladder would be lowered over the side of LST 312 into the water on the side opposite from us and the men on their return would swim to the ladder and climb aboard).

A trip on the Mississippi is generally considered to be a beautiful, romantic trip and cruises on the river are now widely advertised.  I found it the most dull, boring trip I ever made on land or sea.  With the exception of Memphis and St. Louis almost all the cities are located back several miles from the river due to long ago flooding experiences.  About all you have to look at is levees-and you have to be higher than a PT boat deck to see over them.  In 1945 there were very few bridges across the Mississippi and we could go all day without seeing any sign of life on either side of the river.  Down-bound tows were about all we saw on the up-bound run.

After the boring trip to the Mississippi, several days in St. Louis, one of the main staging points for the Navy Day Celebrations, was a particularly welcome liberty port for the crews.  The boat captains, of course, had to go into town almost every evening to attend to “official business” much to the disgust of their Executive Officers, as one officer always had to remain on board.

The PT’s were towed by LCI’s to St. Louis but from there ran under their own power to Grafton, Illinois, and from Grafton on the Illinois River to Chicago.  The landing craft types all stopped for Navy Day at ports on the river – only LST 312 and the three PT’s went to Chicago.  The railroad bridges on the Illinois River were “semi-fixed, and we proceeded up the river, crews from the railroads drover from bridge to bridge, and with jury rig gear opened each bridge.  The PT’s could have gone under the bridges but the LST was too high.  Commercial traffic regularly using the Illinois River-tugs and barges-were designed to go under the bridges.

-Roger M. Jones, Lt. (j.g.), USNR
Commanding, PT 603

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Smooth Sailing Mr. Scheid

b: Jan 4, 1920  d: Oct 23. 2013

USS LST 312 lost another one of her crew.  Commander Waldo W. Sheid USN (Ret.) Underwater Demolitions Team 3, Captain of the USS Cronin and USS Brache, Assistant Attache to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Intelligence Officer for NATO.

Here's an email correspondence from Mr. Sheid received on 10/07/2011


Received your letter with interest and pleasure.  Pat, having been aboard 312 from commissioning to decommissioning, was a true "plankowner" of the first water!  David, your uncle Pat as one of the first people I met upon coming aboard for duty.  It happened that I was so senior that the only job for me was the Executive Officer!  A little unusual for someone on his first shipboard duty as a crew member. Pat was one of the first folks I was learning from.  We served together from about September 1945 until I left the ship about April of 1946.  He was not able to attend the last reunion of the 312 because of a medical problem.  Our last reunion was in San Antonio, TX, sponsored by A.G. McDaniel and his wife Polly.  The actual operator of the reunion was their daughter, Louann Grothues, who did all of the arrangements produced a beautiful 3-ring notebook of the reunion and all of the folks who came and also of the other still known crew members.  I wonder if Pat got a copy of it, because there is a featured page or two in the book about him, as well as photos.  While we were on board together, we went to many paces including  Michigan City,IN where I joined the ship, New Orleans, Norfolk and later to Guantanamo Bay and Santiago de Cuba and also Trinidad and back to Norfolk, where I left the ship.  I looked at and enjoyed your blog.

Smooth Sailing,
Waldo "Wally" Scheid

Friday, October 25, 2013

black and white and sometimes silent

I have a great appreciation for the old movie classics, the old familiar famous faces who I will never tire.  They were old or dead when I was young.  Most are older and more are dead now that I'm going grey.

I don't recall my father enjoying many movies as much as he did the early comedians, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Charley Chase and Charlie Chaplin.  Dad and I also enjoyed the early talkies with W.C. Fields, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.  These fellows didn't just make you chuckle, they made you laugh till your belly hurt.  My brother and I enjoyed watching Marx Brothers and Three Stooges.

Several years ago while at MoonSong Songwriter's Cafe, my youngest daughter Kelsey discovered Buster Keaton's comedy on their large screen.  She found a seat close to the screen and hardly took her eyes off it.  Ever since she's been a fan of Keaton.  Both big and little sister enjoy the silent movies.  They don't mind sitting down next to daddy and watch an old flick on Turner Classic Movies or Netflix.  It doesn't bother them in the least that the sound isn't in stereo and that there's no color.  They both enjoy the show for what it is, how great it was.

Last year my 17 year old discovered William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles.  Katie sat on the couch spellbound and had her own Thin Man festival one Saturday morning~afternoon.  Timeless classics are ageless because they can touch every age that follows.
  My kids enjoy the new stuff, but it pleases their old dad that they also enjoy the golden oldies too. 

Tonight the family sat down together and watched a 1955 televised version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  It was enjoyable, but I need to get the 1941 version that starred Spencer Tracy.  I have a feeling they'll enjoy that one even more.  So it's not just the comedies they like, like their dad, they like it all.  They have a lot to discover as time goes by.  Which reminds me, they have yet to experience Casablanca.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

dearly missed

A disgruntled Jack-O-Lantern in Bowling Green, KY.

I miss Fall in Kentucky.  I grew up among the pines of Alabama.  I live in and love Alabama, but I miss all the splendidly brilliant burning colors of Fall in Kentucky.

Winter is cold and desolate.  Summer is too hot.  Spring is nice, but Fall is my favorite time of the year.  I wish the kids weren't chained to school desks this time of year, because this is the time I'd love to travel.  I'd like to head northward where the landscapes are vividly splashed with every color on God's pallet.

When Gina and I lived in Bowling Green, I always anxiously looked forward to Fall.  I remember the drive out to the Fall Festival at Jackson's Orchard.  Gina would always pick up a few jars of their delicious plum butter.  I'd go for their hot apple pies.  I didn't mind getting lost driving around, winding, hilly narrow country roads beneath the shade of orange, red, yellow leaves...all those beautiful trees.  I miss it.

Gina will ask me when Summer rolls around, where I might like to go.  I have nowhere calling me during those blistering hot months.  Winter break for the children and I don't care for the tourists traps of Tennessee.  If I go, I'll remain indoors, only to venture out for a meal.  If I want to go somewhere, it's never during my favorite time of the year, during the most beautiful time to venture out.  I love Fall.  I especially miss Fall in Kentucky.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

a trip not forgotten

Gina and I traveled a lot before we had children.  At the time we had our own business and for a time business was good.  We had the time to travel and we did a good bit of it.  Most of the trips involved continuing education for Gina.  Before '96 I was also touring and playing a good bit.  I loved it when Gina could accompany me.  It wasn't as fun when situations changed and she could no longer join me.  I like being with my girl.

This picture was taken in Washington, DC in August of 1995.  Gina was expecting our first on that trip.  I remember driving up Hwy 95 with an expectant mother who was ill.  She had insisted on the Washington trip.  There was an excellent hand splinting class that she didn't want to miss.  She spent most of the week at the hotel in Arlington, a very nice hotel, that the conference was held.  With Gina in class, I had a lot of time to kill on my own.

I remember grabbing a bite to eat in the mornings at the hotel.  I'd then took advantage of the hotel's shuttle service and hitch a ride to the public metro.  I spent most of my mornings and afternoons hoofing around town, exploring DC.  I'd come back in the late afternoon to hook up with Gina.  She was a little jealous that I spent my days touring while she spent her days in class.  She was excited about what she was learning, but couldn't be at two places at once.  She was also pregnant, which meant she wouldn't have been up going all the places I had been on foot.

We did have some time together by the end of the week.  I was able to take her to the places I thought she'd enjoy seeing the most.  It was during that time that she asked for me to pose for the picture above.

My most favorite spot was Robert E. Lee's old home place, Arlington.  When I took Gina back there, it was dusk.  It was very tranquil and beautiful.  Arlington National Cemetery was an overwhelming experience ~ just being there.  If someone gave me the chance to go back to Washington, DC, but I could only go to one place, I'd go to the Arlington Cemetery again.

Late one night I sat and lightly played my guitar while Gina slept, and penned a song called Arlington.  I don't sing the song often, but it reminds me of that trip, and all those rows upon rows of sacrifice.

Friday, October 18, 2013


USS Fogg DE-57

I received an email a while back from Clent Vandagriff (RM3/c) regarding the USS Fogg and USS LST-312.  The DE 57 was damaged December 20, 1944 by a T-5 torpedo from U-870, about 700 miles northeast of Azores.  USS Fogg set sail on November 6 to escort a slow towing convoy to England and back.  During the return voyage to England, one of the LSTs was torpedoed and Fogg began a search for the u-boat when it too was torpedoed.  The crew worked two days to save the ship until the stern sheared off.  The majority of the crew was then evacuated, leaving a skeleton crew behind to attempt to restore buoyancy.  The Fogg, in tow, reached Azores the following day.  The crew The torpedo tore off the stern aft of frame 125, killing 15 crew members.  The ship eventually made it back to Boston for repairs.

Mr. Vandagriff's correspondence as follows:

Very interesting article about Lt. Berry.  I was aware of some of it through our correspondence until his death.  His first wife preceded him in death and he married her sister.  The DE Escort he mentioned that took a torpedo while passing the 312 stern was the USS Fogg.  She lost most of her stern.  You can make a search of the USS Fogg for a picture.  Years later Charles Cino, a member of the 312 crew received a letter from one of the officers about the USS Fogg relating the incident.  I don't have a copy of the letter.  As far as I know Cino is still alive and kicking.  The last correspondence I had with him was last Christmas.

 This is from the ship's log of the USS LST 312 for December 20, 1944:

Weather still good and speed up to 7 knots.  LST hit on port side at 1030 amidship and about to break in half.  Sub is off our stern.  1045, sub fired torpedo at us, but destroyer escort coming around our side and caught it with her stern.  Blew it nearly off.  It would have been the final straw for us if she had hit.  1050 , periscope about water firing at it.  Another escort coming down dropping cans all over the place.  He's gone now.  Hope they at least open some seams in him.  1055, our steering has gone out.  n hand steering. 1130, steering repaired back in business again.  Seems to have chased the subs and we have patrol planes overhead.


Click on image for better better view.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

resurrecting dad

The Westbrook Experience at Forrest Cemetery, 10/13/13.

Several months ago I was invited by Sherry Clayton of A Walk Through Time to portray my father, Henry Westbrook Finlayson.  I knew when I was asked that it was something that I was supposed to do.  I enjoy performing, but not acting.  I'd rather have a guitar and sing.

I knew from the start that I wasn't going to write and try to memorize a script.  I knew a good bit about dad's life and figured that I would just shave my beard, borrow a wheelchair and ad-lib it.

Back in the early eighties, dad and I were on a trip.  Mom had flown to California to visit family there.  It was the first time they had ever been away from each other for an extended period of time.  While driving to Columbia, SC, I asked dad about his band days.  It was something he rarely talked about.  His past was a mystery to me.  He seemed to have lived this entirely different life before he met and married mom.  It was a wonderful trip.  I sat there and drove our blue Malibu toward South Carolina and let dad unfold his entire story.  That trip, that moment is a special memory for me. 

I knew enough to ad-lib dad's story.  I had plenty of material stored in my head.  It wasn't going to be hard to fill a few minutes.  The hard part was keeping it short.

Taking on the part meant shaving my beard. Dad wasn't a facial hair kind of guy.  I haven't shaved my beard in over twenty years.  That was the sacrifice for me. I waited until the night before to shave it.  I found some glasses similar to the ones dad use to wear and donned a hat to cover my bald head.  Westbrook after all had a full head of handsome hair throughout his life. If I was going to be dad, I had to cover the shiny dome.

Gina was downstairs after I shaved and dressed the part for the first time.  I sat in the chair and rolled up to her.  She looked up from what she was doing and her mouth dropped.  "How do I look?" I asked.  She said, "You look exactly like your dad," she replied.  So much so that it weirded her out.  So much so that she's not going to be hugging or kissing me until my beard grows back.

Truth is, I didn't realize the strong resemblance.  I got out of the chair, leaving the hat and glasses on and walked to the bathroom mirror.  There in the mirror was my dad looking back at me.  It was unsettling.  Almost every facial feature was dad. I gasped.

I got up early Sunday morning.  I got dressed and pulled together my props.  At the last minute I remembered I had dad's wristwatch.  I pulled it out of the drawer and put it on.  It was strange seeing it on my wrist.  Even my hands look like dads.  I loaded the car and drove down to Forrest Cemetery.  I rarely go to dad's grave because I never felt the need to visit a place where he isn't.  I knew the general area of the cemetery, but had to walk around a bit to finally find his marker.

It was a beautiful morning and I enjoyed conversations with other reenactors and event hosts before the gates were opened for the public.  As I sat there in the wheelchair, it felt surreal and awkward.  The more I sat there in the quiet and peaceful setting, 

the more I relaxed and started to enjoy the day and the moment.  I read a little scripture out of dad's Bible.  I watched people strolling across the cemetery in the distance in their period costumes.  They looked so real and the moment so believable.  I thought of the Thorton Wilder's play 'Our Town'.  The cemetery scene in the play is my favorite scene.  Outside the Forrest gates the real world became distant and the world of the past began to spin into motion.

Two o'clock came and I glimpsed the first visitors walking down the road.  I prayed, asking God to give me some seed to cast.  If I were going to portray my dad, it had to be a testament, it's what he would've done.  I wanted dad to be remembered and give the kind of talk he would've given.  I did alright, even though he was a more eloquent speaker than I am.  Though he accomplished all he wanted to accomplish in his life, his greatest pursuit was The Kingdom.

I captured his image.  I captured his mannerisms.  I told his story in an entertaining way.  My voice isn't anything like my father's voice.  I couldn't sing like my dad sang, but I did represent in a way that one could believe the man once fronted an orchestra.  I ended each presentation with the chorus of a song dad sang often when he preached, 'Til I Become Like Thee'. 

Like Thee, Like Thee, 'til I become like Thee,
Have though thy way in all my life
'til I become like Thee.

I love you dad.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

tragic time

generation after generation
Americans have come and gone
good men and women
 have lived and toiled

generation after generation
leaving life a little better
path a little higher
for their children to come

generation after generation
laboring toiling climbing
to their ceiling
hoping to become the floor
for their little ones to come

generation after generation
laboring toiling climbing
for their children to have what they had
and more
praying that the following generations
will have the same heart
the same hope
as they

generation after generation
laboring toiling climbing
trusting those who follow
follow in the path they have made
the legacy left
to increase
and give again

generation after generation
laboring toiling climbing
praying trusting
the following genernations
would never stray
that following generations
would never be
so spoiled
so selfish
so entitled
to serve themselves
leave nothing else
but the tab
for those who follow

generation after generation
laboring toiling climbing
praying the following generations
would never be so greedy
so inward
so hopeless
so bent
to spend all
that which was bought
at a price paid so dearly for

to destroy
trod over a legacy so precious
the gifts of their fathers
their father's before
something that took so long to achieve
the ceiling becomes a pit
they came took left
leaving little
or nothing
for their children
and children's children
they came took left
leaving nothing
but a world of hurt
 their father's debt to pay
we are living in a day
of takers
we are living in tragic time

Friday, October 4, 2013

wine and cheese

i am an artist
i like wine
i like cheese
i can not endure
wine and cheese
arty fart crowds
faking frivilous fawners
i like to express
see expression
i like art
rather experience it
sans superficisal
rooms where
nothing is real
on the wall
nor meeting in the hall
c'est une pipe
c'est une people
i will have my wine and cheese
at home please

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

showing the way

I believe all Americans can learn a lesson from these old WWII vets storming the barricades in Washington. This great generation has seen it before. This great generation knows how to deal with tyrants.

They led the way then ~ they are leading the way now!