Tag Archives: U.S. Navy

Gobsmacked!

I am absolutely blown away. In writing my autobiography, or a couple of memoirs, whatever-the-hell-it-is I’m doing, I’ve found it necessary to do some research to confirm things like locations, relationships, personal history, even a little genealogy.

I’ve never been big on family history, but I’ve been told or have heard things throughout my life that fill in a few blanks. For instance, as far as I know my paternal grandfather was an orphan from Poland who settled in (what I grew up knowing as) “The Ukraine.” His last name, as my father spelled it, was Wladofsky. My mother’s maiden name was Moldofsky and, since the suffix “sky” means “from”, I’m pretty sure that means her family was from Moldova, which borders Ukraine to the southwest. There is also a town in the far east of Poland, right on the border of Ukraine, called Wlodowa. It’s conceivable that’s where Wladowsky (Wladofsky, Wladovsky) comes from.

Regardless, as I’ve said I haven’t really been terribly interested in discovering much of this. However, I have on occasion attempted to search the database of the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation to see if I could find anything. I’ve not been successful, until today.

The real irony here is that I haven’t found anything about my paternal grandparents or my maternal great grandparents (my maternal grandparents where born in the U.S.) but I finally found a listing of someone. It’s not an immigration record, though. It’s a record of my father returning to New York, via Dublin, Ireland from a Murmansk Run during WWII. He was born in Chicago, but quite high school to join the U.S. Navy and was deployed aboard the U.S.S. William H. Webb.

All these years I thought he was aboard a United States Navy vessel, but I know now he was part of the Navy referred to as the Navy Armed Guard. These were small detachments of sailors who manned the guns on merchant ships. I believe the William H. Webb was a merchant ship outfitted with guns that were manned by the 29 sailors aboard a vessel which also included 41 merchant seamen. My father was the lone radioman.

Here’s what is said about the Navy Armed Guard: “The U.S. Navy Armed Guard was a service branch of the United States Navy that was responsible for defending U.S. and Allied merchant ships from attack by enemy aircraft, submarines and surface ships during World War II. The men of the Armed Guard served primarily as gunners, signal men and radio operators on cargo ships, tankers, troop ships and other merchant vessels. Disbanded following the end of the war, the Armed Guard is today little known or remembered by the general public, or even within the Navy. But without the courage and sacrifice of the men of the Armed Guard, victory in World War II would have been much more difficult and taken much longer.” https://www.armed-guard.com/.

He seldom talked about it, but when I was a child I learned early not to be near his arms when waking him up for dinner. He came out of sleep ready for action. I always “knew” the reason, but never felt it quite as clearly as I do now. I’m attaching a portion of the document that’s the very first thing I’ve ever encountered about his service, other than a certificate he received on February 23, 1944 upon their vessel crossing above the Arctic Circle which I’ve had since his death in 1984. I had to fight back tears. I’m still getting goose bumps.

I don’t expect to suddenly go off in a full-blown genealogical search for my roots, but I have found a few other threads I’d like to pull on. I must, however, ensure it all serves my greater purpose, which is finishing this book (whatever) of mine fairly soon. Certainly before the end of next year.

PS – His name before he and my mother changed it when they got married, was Isadore Edward Wladofsky and he was a Radioman 3rd Class aboard the William H. Webb, all of which is included in the full document of which I’m sharing only a part.


The Beat Goes On

Cartoon

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

One of the reasons I’ve decided to write about my experiences with the peace and justice movement in the late sixties and early seventies – specifically about a group of peace activists who dedicated huge amounts of time and energy providing organizational and security expertise – is because I believe there’s a concerted effort to marginalize those activities and their contribution to ending an unjust and predatory war.

Tom Hayden was one of the people I spent those years working with . Here’s a recent post from Tom’s website/blog. He writes, “We must call for inclusion in the memorial dialogue to prevent a false narrative of Vietnam [that] will lead to Vietnams without end.” Here, also, is an excerpt from a response to a request from Vietnam Veterans for Factual History, located in Missouri City, TX. (http://vvfh.org/):

“One reason I believe it’s hard to arrive at a true reckoning is that it would require an admission by too many authorities in the government and media that they lied – or distorted the truth, or were ill-informed themselves – when they sent millions of young Americans into dubious battle.

“But I believe it’s possible at grass-roots level, all across the country, for people like ourselves to engage in honest truth-digging and exchange of perspectives about those most intense years of our lives.”

My intent is to tell the story of a group who fought very hard — and who risked much — to bring an end to that war, from my perspective and through the recounting of my experiences. Knowing my memory has probably faded and, in any event, is incomplete because I wasn’t everywhere, I am contacting those people with whom I worked back then. Tom is one of them. You can read more about it at his Peace and Justice Resource Center. Here’s a link to the post I’m quoting from.


A Generation Gone

Eddie Ladd with his bestie, Fred DiBiase

Eddie Ladd with his bestie, Fred DiBiase

Tomorrow would have been my father’s 89th birthday. It’s also a couple of months into the 30th year since he’s been gone. Over a generation has passed since he died a couple of months shy of his 60th birthday. I don’t think of him that much anymore, but when I do I miss him; sometimes terribly. Like so many men of my generation, I had a very stormy relationship with my father. He was a veteran of the U.S. Navy and had served during World War II, and survived the deadly Murmansk runs through the North Atlantic. I know his time aboard ship affected him deeply. I made the mistake – though not very often – of waking him when I was standing too close to his hands and arms. He did not wake well, especially when I was young. I learned to stand back and gently touch his foot or call out to him.

He was raised by a very stern Russian-Polish immigrant who I never got to meet. Assuming my father learned much of how to be who he was from his father, I figure Max Wladofsky was a stern and difficult man to please. My old man really wasn’t capable of showing too much affection, nor was he capable of much in the way of praise. For years after his death, I found myself thinking (after something special had happened to, or because of, me) “I can’t wait to tell Dad.” Of course, that was followed immediately by the recollection he was gone and would never know of it, or have the opportunity to be proud of me. I wanted desperately to please him. Fortunately, in the final years of his life he and I settled our differences somewhat, and finally began building what I’d like to think would have been a wonderful friendship . . . had he not died so very young.

He really was a loving man, but I believe circumstances conspired to make it difficult for him to show affection and acceptance. He was a member of what we now refer to as “The Greatest Generation”, a generation of hard, stoic men who “saved us from Fascism” and, after the war was won, brought home the bacon. When he left the service, he was able to purchase a modest, new home in Panorama City, a suburb in the San Fernando Valley, just north of Los Angeles. I grew up in the 50s and 60s, and have to say much of my life was pretty idyllic by most standards, thanks to his dedication to his family and his hard work.

He was, I believe, scarred forever by his experiences during the war as well. He never saw combat as a soldier, but he spent weeks aboard ship, in convoys being hunted by German U-Boats and sailing through waters in which hypothermia would have killed survivors of a torpedoed ship within minutes. I doubt many on those ships slept very soundly. I’m sure he didn’t.

I hardly ever saw him when I was a young boy, as he worked six days a week at the Grand Central Market, in downtown Los Angeles. He left the house before I arose and frequently didn’t get home until after I was in bed, asleep. Sundays were usually spent with other members of our extended family and, if memory serves, the adults kept mostly to themselves and the kids played together. I got to know my cousins pretty well, but I didn’t get to know my father until much later.

Because I had been told most of my life that I was exactly like my father, I spent quite a few years after his death thinking 59 would likely be the end of the road for me. Since I’m now 66, I’m thankful that didn’t turn out to be the case. Still, I think I would gladly give up a few years if I could have had a few more to enjoy with my father. I wish he were here so I could wish him one more happy birthday tomorrow. I guess I’ll have to content myself with spending a few minutes writing this post and thinking about him . . . and how much I really do miss him.


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