Magazine article Social Studies Review

Capturing Fading Stories

Magazine article Social Studies Review

Capturing Fading Stories

Article excerpt

Every day 1500 veterans of World War II pass away. With their passing the opportunity to capture their intimate stories is gone forever. Last summer my father, Frank V. Sabato, a navy veteran, age 85, nearly passed away. It was the swift response of the El Dorado paramedics and the Marshall Hospital medical team that revived him. Fortunately, he is once again telling his stories. I am listening ever closer; faced with the reality his "silence" will finally come. I want to help my father record and share his memories. One story he tells is especially appropriate for 4th of July. In 1942 Petty Officer Frank Sabato was engaged in the "secret war" being waged off the coast of New York City and the East Coast. Once prohibited from telling this story he now openly shares "The Lady In New York Harbor" with you.

The Lady In New York Harbor: A 4th of July Memory

By Frank V. Sabato CWO-4, U.S. Navy Retired Copyright 2001

Whenever I see a picture of the Statue of Liberty on television, or in a magazine or newspaper, I am reminded of a wartime experience I had in which the "Lady" saved my life.

During the early years of World War II, and even before, German submarines wreaked havoc on our convoys leaving U.S. coastal ports for the European war zones. I was serving in the U.S. Navy with an anti-submarine squadron, VS 1D3, composed of 12 OS2U3 planes stationed at the Naval Air Station in New York. It was better known as Floyd Bennett Airfield in Brooklyn, New York. Our assignment was to seek out enemy "subs" and to escort convoys to and from New York and other nearby east coast ports.

It was the evening of July 3, 1942, when a scout blimp off the coast of New Jersey, not far from our base, cornered a "sub". We "scrambled" one of our OS2U3 planes, with two depth charges and two 50 cal machine guns. It was about 7PM and dusk was closing in. We had to hustle.

Ensign Cohen was assigned to the flight. He chose me, a petty officer 2 class at that time, to be his rear seat spotter. It was about 7 P.M. Dusk was closing in. We had to hustle. Soon we lifted off into the dark skies. The great New York City below us was nearly invisible, as all lights on the Atlantic coast were required to be extinguished or diminished under wartime conditions. We hoped we would be able to find our home city on return from our mission. Flight in the darkness was risky business. Our squadron had lost planes of this type in similar combat situations. We suspected they were either shot down by enemy subs or they ran out of fuel and had to ditch. We made this assumption based upon reports from a few survivors of other flights our squadron had lost.

Within 2 hours after take-off we were at the target area. The blimp was waiting for us. She gave us the target by dropping a flare into the water where she determined the enemy submarine was located. We dropped our first depth charge, and then the second. We scored a "bull's eye" on the spot the blimp had marked. Now our mission was to return to base safely. In daylight hours a return flight home was easy business but we were flying home to a base hidden by the blackout. Our compass was about NNW, airspeed about 100 knots, altitude about 1000 feet. It was dark now and a nervous time. The plane hummed along nicely. Our gasoline gauge was telling us our fuel was running low. We knew the base should not be far off in the distance, but it was black all around us. We kept straining our eyes to see something familiar. Then along the horizon we saw a glimmer of light. We thought it must be New York Harbor! As we approached we could see the silhouette of the "Lady" against the shimmering waters of the bay. She seemed to reach out a guiding hand pointing toward our base. What a beautiful and welcome sight! Though unlit, her magnificence shined through the darkness. We touched down safely at our base just before the dawning of the 4th of July. We thanked Lady Liberty for guiding us home. …

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