Where We Were When FDR Passed Away

by Crane-Station

USS Lacerta (AKA-29). The Lacerta was an Artemis-class attack cargo ship. (photo: wikipedia)

Ray Owings, age 91, and Letty Owings, age 89, recall their memories before and after April 12, 1945, when US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) passed away. FDR was elected for four consecutive terms, and remains the only president ever to serve more than eight years.

Letty shares:

When Roosevelt was elected in 1933, my mother didn’t have voting rites, or at least that was how the culture viewed things at the time. At that time and in that community, women did not vote, even though legally, they could. My dad and my grandfather rode together in the buggy, to vote. My dad voted for incumbent Herbert Hoover, because Hoover was the popular candidate in the small German farming community where we lived, in Missouri. But then, FDR got it.

In the coming years our lives became one leader, and one direction, and that direction was the war. When Ray got his orders in 1944, he brought me a dozen roses, to tell me. I ran out of the house to greet him. But, I was wearing slacks, and my mother followed me, irate, because she did not think that a man should see a woman wearing slacks. That is how our world has changed.

I was in front of the wind charger radio when I heard of FDR’s passing.

Ray was in the Pacific.

Ray shares:

In Fort Pierce, Florida in 1944 I was training a boat group of 160 men. They thought I was mean. I thought they were the dregs, but they turned out to be good. In December 1944, I got my orders, and we reported to the USS Lacerta. She was just being finished and they were loading stores in Norfolk, Virginia.

We cleared Norfolk on January 18, 1945 and sailed to Cuba and then the Panama Canal before heading to Pearl Harbor where we loaded hospital crew and cargo for Guadalcanal, in the Solomon Islands. There is so much water in the world. On February 23, 1945 we crossed the equator and the international date line at the same time. On February 27, we arrived in Guadalcanal, unloaded cargo and picked up a group of Marines: a 155mm Howitzer artillery group, for the Okinawa invasion.

We departed Saipan on March 27 and began to prepare for invasion. On April 1, we unloaded Marines from Guadalcanal onto the west side of Okinawa, where they joined others. There were kamikaze and also, kamikaze boats around us. The marine group on the beach needed ammunition desperately, and we lowered the boats to deliver the shells. A typhoon was close to us, the water was real rough, with 10-12 foot waves, and we were the only boat group at that time to be unloading. It was difficult in the rough seas, but we were able to do it.

We departed Okinawa on April 9, 1945 for Saipan, and on our way there, we heard on the ship’s radio that Roosevelt had died. When we arrived in Saipan on April 20, I learned by a signal sent to the ship, that my first daughter had been born, in March.

Letty adds:

There was a time when right and wrong all got changed, a time when the rules of war and the international laws all went up in the air and generals fought with one another about how to fight.

Prior to this and during the Great Depression, a man, a poor man, approached my grandfather, another poor man, at a farmers’ gathering. Radio was a recent invention. The man asked a question. It was not a question about finance. The man asked simply, “Can you help me understand the world?”

18 Responses to Where We Were When FDR Passed Away

  1. bettykath says:

    Interesting stories. These stories need to be recording before they lost to us.

    My dad enlisted late in the war as a Marine. With 2 young kids and talent on the clarinet, he was fortunate in being assigned to the base band. My grandmother’s sister enlisted early in the Marines and stayed through retirement. I just found out that my former husband had 4 brothers serving, 2 in the Army and 1 in the Navy and another who was probably in the air force doing some sort of ground duty. Two of those in the Army were actively involved at Normandy. One was permanently changed from his experiences. Neither would talk about their war experiences. The one in the Navy managed various ailments so that he always had shore duty..

    • Oh! Wow. So cool to hear you share this. My dad never did speak much at all on the events in the Pacific Theater, as you can see, until very recently, actually. A few years back, with my older brother’s planning, the five kids gave him for Christmas, the log book for the Lacerta, from the National Archives. The ship was dear to his heart. But anyway, these things change people, in ways we can never know.

      He has other stories about the marines, and some of them are quite on the lighter side, I will try to tell these, in separate essays. But one of them started with this: “The marines could get booze.” The story is absolutely laugh-out-loud funny, and I don’t know what would make us think these men could ever get by without blowing off some steam sometimes. The marines were under a very heavy situation on the beach in Okinawa, for example. I admire anyone who served, I really really do. I don’t know how they managed.

  2. frsandoval says:

    Second Point of Error: Ms. Leatherman. There goes my probation.

    • Trained Observer says:

      Likely outcome: Double secret probation for you. 🙂

    • Oh! No apology needed at all, you see, it will be ten lashes with a wet noodle, LOL! Kidding. Great to have you, love your writing. It is a pleasure, thank you so much!

      • frsandoval says:

        Looks like I have met my match, Ms. Rachel. I will plea out to ten lashes but it will be an Alford Plea until I see the noodle.

        You guys do a fantastic job with this blog. Very impressive, informative and much to enjoyable. Keep up the excellent views, reporting, and links.

        • LOL! An Alford Plea it is then. The conviction will be affirmed, of course…but an excellent Hail Mary pass nonetheless.

          True story. I am eating a bowl of Ramen as I type this.

          • frsandoval says:

            That’s Funny, Ms. Rachel. I’ll plea if I am going to get lashed with Ramen Noodles. I just hope Judge Fred approves the plea agreement. Case Closed. Enjoy the rest of your evening.

  3. frsandoval says:

    I am so sorry Ms. Letterman. I am just getting myself familiar with your project and was not aware that you were a girl. Your project is quite an interesting undertaking and you all do an extra-ordinary and wonderful work. I was not expecting such an eloquent post concerning that era from a girl. I was blind-sided and I Oscar Pistored myself. My first point of error. I will not object (trusting there will not be an ineffective assistance of counsel claim) therefore, no appeal will be forthcoming. I will place myself at the mercy of you all’s court during my punishment phase and accept my well deserved sentence. Nevertheless, should you consider placing me on probation with deferred adjudication, I promise to become a loyal subscriber of your report.

  4. frsandoval says:

    Very interesting and moving post Mr. Crane-Station. My father and his brother served during the great war as foot soldiers. My Uncle was shot and taken prisoner. He was released at war’s end. My uncle on my mother’s side served as a belly gunner on a B-17 and lost a lung when a shell hit his chest and his aircraft was shot down. It was a miracle but, he survived. I am a USAF Viet Nam era veteran. In my humble view, there is still masked discrimination against women, disabled individuals, the uneducated, the poor, and others. We hold biases that are not revealed or expressed and are based on very complicated individual factors. I concluded quite some time ago that this planet can not be understood nor can it be changed.

    • Very well said, frsandoval, thank you so much for reading, and for sharing your experience and insight, much appreciated. It is a sheer miracle that either uncle survived those experiences- or you, for that matter, given the Viet Nam experience (had a brother-in-law there on the Saratoga- he never could speak of it).

      It doesn’t make sense. Was it Edgar Allen Poe who said something about us standing on the precipice of the abyss? Something like that.

      Thanks again.

      Oh, I’m a her. A Rachel, actually. Yup. I am married to Frederick Leatherman, hiding behind a screen name, LOL!

  5. Trained Observer says:

    Thank you for sharing. Fascinating that some women didn’t vote, even thought the right had been won. I have a friend (alive and well) who was a Marine radioman in Okinawa during that period, and he was mighty glad when ammunition reinforcements arrived.

    • Thank you for the read and comment, and for sharing about your marine friend, very interesting. Apparently, it was a real scene, the marines on the beach were in a dire situation, and it was extremely difficult to get the shells to them. Dangerous, and terrible weather conditions as well.

      At first, Letty (my mother) said her mother did not have voting rights, but when I questioned her more, she said it was a matter of culture, not legality. At that time, it was not considered sexist. It was just that way, at that time, and she pointed it out, as one way to show how the world has changed.

  6. crazy1946 says:

    This world we live in is a strange place. It would seem that the more things change the less they actually change… Excellent post Mz. Crane-Station…

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