The Lowry was in the Philippines when the Japanese surrendered. We had come from Okinawa to train for the landing on the southern island of Japan. I had just suffered two major disappointments. In the middle of Okinawa I had been ordered to report as Operations Officer of Destroyer Squadron 45. This was a great job and I wanted it very much. I was depressed when the Captain had my orders cancelled. About three weeks later I was ordered to the Naval War College as one of 15 Lieutenants in the entire Pacific Fleet who had been selected to attend. In addition to being flattered I was delighted to be going home. Again Captain Miller told me I was needed on the ship for the upcoming landings and cancelled my orders. So there I was and not too happy.
Although I didn't have the duty. I happened to be on the bridge the night the Japanese gave up. Suddenly I heard shouting from a nearby carrier. Someone yelled "The Japs have surrendered". Shortly afterwards the lights started going on, port holes opened, and the shouting got louder. I couldn't realize why it seemed so strange to me. Then I understood. It was the first time in three years I had seen lights on all the ships. About that time the band on the carrier started playing the beautiful song "Going Home" from the New World Symphony. It was a beautiful piece I have never forgotten.
I walked to the wing of the bridge, looked out over the water and I started thinking of all that had happened to me over the last three years. At some I laughed such as my introduction to the South Pacific. I had boarded the Fanning (DD 385). as a new Ensign, at Noumea. New Caledonia. It was on its way to Guadalcanal. I was fresh from the Midwest. I had never seen a destroyer and was seasick. Our Doctor, Joe Tyberzy, had just the remedy. He handed me a bucket and said " use it when necessary". I was so sick I had to lay down on the wardroom transom (couch to us today). A few minutes later the general alarm sounded. I rushed up the inside ladder to my battle station. As I arrived on deck we were straddled by bombs and I was blown back down the ladder where I lay on the deck. bucket in hand. I only thought "My God I'm going to be dead before I get over being seasick."
Other recollections brought tears to my eyes. I remembered Lee Ferguson, age 18. He had been killed when the Jap plane hit Mount -II ricocheted over my head and exploaded alongside killing some and wounding many. Lee was a founder with me of the Bucket & Swab and I can see him clearly to this day and always with affection.
I was afraid. I had lived in the middle of violence, excitement, dullness, and never ending vigilance for three years. I was going home to a wife I barely knew. (we were married about three weeks after we met and still are 52 years later), a son I had never seen and a future I wasn't sure of. I wish I could say I felt elated but I must admit fear was the primary thing in my thoughts that night. It was the end of a way of life.
So it is with me now. I have been editor of the Bucket & Swab since 1986. Two of the years in between, my old friend Frank Occhiuto was good enough to take it over but he had to leave for personal reasons. Except for the last few months I have done all of the work myself. Then it got so big that I enlisted the services of my wife Jean and my daughter Diane in helping to fold and mail. Other than that, I wrote the text, personally typed the pages, folded and sealed the envelopes and mailed them myself. I did the same with the Roster I put out this year. According to my calculations I have personally prepared and mailed over 8,000 letters. I purchased a Publishing Program. taught myself how to use it and have used it in the B&S ever since. During the entire time I have never asked for, nor would I accept, a single penny of reimbursement from the Association funds for anything including stamps. I have been able to do it myself and was glad to do so. This wasn't "busy work".
During the entire period I have been and still am (at 74) the Chief Operating Officer of an international news wire with offices in the U. S., Russia, Belgium, Mexico, and Japan, with new ones now opening in China and Cairo. In the past eight years I have helped take it from a one room office to its present international state, all after the age of 65. I have attempted to leave twice and have been persuaded to stay by the other owners and the entire staff, (mostly 40 years younger than I). I was flattered but I also know it is time for me to do other things that interest me. This is my last year at the news wire as I am leaving before my 75th birthday. I have been very fortunate. My job has been a wonderful one. Exciting. interesting, stimulating and all of the things I could have ever asked for.
I am also active in a self help program that usually occupies about 10 hours of my time a week and at the same time try my best to be a good husband, father, and grandfather. I don't know how well I have succeeded but I have tried. In any event 10 Kellys are coming to the Lowry reunion to greet some of my shipmates they know and meet some of the new ones we have found.
I am looking forward to the reunion. It represents another milestone in my life. I feel I have done everything I hoped to do to make the reunion a success and it is time to turn the future over to others.
I am anticipating the selection of the new Association Officers who I know will come from those who served on that fine ship after WW 11. There are many fine men who have been of enormous help in locating their shipmates and I know that any one of them will be the proper new leaders. I will be more than happy to provide my successor with a DeskTop Publisher, the list of shipmates and all of the information I have .
I would be remiss if I didn't thank all of you for the wonderful letters, telephone calls, pictures, and memories you shared with me. It would have been impossible to do as much as I did without your never failing help, support, and good wishes. I treasure them all as I do all of my shipmates.
I hope every man who can make it to the reunion will do so. Perhaps some of you will come down only for the dinner if that is all you can make. It is hard for some of us to get there but how often in our lifetimes will be be able to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the commissioning of a ship that has played such a major part in our lives.
A young friend once asked me Was that WW II the high point of your life?" "Far from it", I replied. I've had many others of the same or far greater impact. But it was a time of my life that was different from anything that ever happened before or since and I shall never forget it or cease to be happy that I experienced it when I was so young.
It was a time when I learned to put the welfare of my men before my own, to realize that, in order to stay alive. I needed their support of them and they mine. We depended on each other. They were entitled to the very best I had. I always tried to give it to them although at times I am sure they didn't understand what I was trying to do."
It was a different time of our lives, and the three eras were different in many ways. But in the 29 years the Lowry was in the Navy I know that every officer and man did the very best he could. I can tell from the letters and pictures I have received that this is so.
We also shared a way of life that will never be seen again. We used tools that are obsolete today.
I haven't even heard of a Boarding Party since my first ship, except of course in an Errol Flynn movie. I remember a time when the Captain of the Fanning asked me, as a member of the Boarding Party, if I knew the command to board a burning Japanese ship and fight the crew hand to hand.
I knew the answer but something made me say "I'm not sure. sir, but I think it must be
Unfortunately, in America, "greatness" of a Naval vessel generally involves a blood bath. In order to be "great" it seems to be necessary to be involved in some terrible battle with resulting high casualties. Usually, Destroyers "great" enough to receive the Presidential Unit Citation are examples. The Laffey, of our squadron, was hit by eight Japanese planes and four bombs and took heavy casualties. Despite these terrible wounds she continued to fight and was eventually towed in. There is no doubt that her crew rose to heights to be able to do what they did. But remember "greatness" was thrust upon her. She happened to be in a spot that required her to fight or die. I take nothing from what she did. But I wonder if many other ships would have done the same if necessary. As I read the list of Pacific destroyers I see only four who received that acclaim and were not terribly wounded in the process. One of them was the Maury (DD 401) whom I knew well. She was part of my original squadron, Desron 6, and fought gloriously without serious injury through many of the early battles.
Then there were the units of Desron 23 lead by then Commander Arleigh Burke, who went on to become Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. They were not seriously damaged though fight they did and wonderfully well from New Georgia to Bougainville and beyond. I salute and respect them all.
There were over 600 American destroyers in WW II. Only 4% (28) received the Navy Unit Citation. 3 of the 28 came from our Squadron 60. Of the 3 so honored, Ingraham took heavy casualties at Okinawa. Barton and Lowry survived with small losses. Simply put our Squadron represented less than 1 & 1/2% of all American destroyers and received 11% of Navy Unit Citations given. But how about the rest of our squadron. Weren't they entitled? Remember each ship had only about 320 personnel.
O'Brian was hit at Normandy with 13 killed, 20 wounded, hit in the Philippines with small casualties, hit again at Okinawa with 50 killed and 76 wounded. Cooper was sunk at Ormoc Bay (Philippines) while with Sumner and Moale. She engaged Jap planes, destroyers, submarines and shore batteries at the same time. She lost 10 killed and 181 wounded. The Sumner was hit at Leyte with 14 killed and 29 wounded and the Walke at Okinawa had 12 killed and 35 wounded. All were "great" to me. I never forget the Drexler who served on picket station with us, and went down fighting while suffering nearly 60% casualties.
My thoughts were best expressed by the Captain of a Navy Unit Citation destroyer who wrote :"The Commanding Officer is aware that the highest echelon of command has taken note of the performance of destroyers on radar picket stations. He doubts however, that anyone, never having been regularly assigned to such duty, can fully realize the effect which this had upon the officers and crew, particularly vessels which have witnessed successful suicide crashes on other ships and have themselves been under attack. A tension builds up, which is evident in many ways and is not relaxed by the periods between tours of duty on picket stations, largely because of the knowledge that coming assignments are "more of the same". After a certain time, the best efforts to boost morale are futile. The boys know what they are in for, and you can't fool them....All hands felt better at battle stations than at any other place. The C. 0. has nothing but praise for each and every officer and crew man, for the ship was never operated more efficiently than under these conditions."
The Lowry could have also suffered a blood bath but she was spared, although the stations on all sides of us, and ships with us, were torn to pieces.
Would the Lowry have done as well if if she hadn't been so lucky? I am certain one and all would have fought to the finish and only stopped firing when the water was over the guns. Would this have made her "great"? I don't know but I think she was "great" anyway.
No matter what we are called by others I am proud to have served in her and with you and equally proud of her crew and their record after we left.