Just Another Guy
Since it’s June 6th and the 71 anniversary of D-day, I thought I would share a newly discovered family WWII story (unrelated to the Normandy landings, but interesting nonetheless).
Recently, I purchased (on Ebay no less!) a naval portrait of my father’s cousin, Guy Chamberlin Leavitt, the son of Charles Leavitt and Ethel Chamberlin, sister of our grandfather, Arthur Newell Chamberlin, Jr. Born in Columbus Ohio on November 12, 1920, Guy grew up in California. Guy was obviously named after Ethel’s younger brother, Guy Russell Chamberlin, who was killed in France during WWI. Here are Guy Leavitt’s high school photo and accomplishments.
As a newly commissioned Ensign, he reported to the USS Nields, which served in the Atlantic and Mediterranean during WWII.
According to the biography on the back of my photo, he “participated in the occupation of Sicily and in 1944 the invasion of Southern France. During his tour of duty, he was promoted to Lieutenant and, while serving as Gunnery Officer was awarded the Commendation Ribbon and letter for services during the assault landings in Southern France in 1944.” Here’s a picture of the USS Nields, followed by Wikipedia’s description of its relevant WWII service in the Med.
“Assigned to coastal escort and patrol duties on her arrival at Oran, on 2 May, Nields was soon drawn into a submarine chase lasting four days. On 14 May, 1944, U-666 was detected in the southwestern Mediterranean by British observation aircraft. Nields, temporarily with Destroyer Division 21, was one of the ships to answer the call. Soon afterward, Ellyson dropped the first depth charge pattern. On the morning of the 15th, oil slicks were spotted, but sound contact was lost. Another search plane sighted the submarine, now surfaced, ten miles away and running north toward southern France. The destroyers followed. At 1900 on the 16th, Nields, in a scouting line with Gleaves and Macomb, left the formation to investigate a negative sound contact. At 2157, all three destroyers made contact. Macomb illuminated the elusive quarry and opened fire. U-616 returned fire and started diving. At 2214, and again at 2231, Macomb attacked with depth charges. At 2335 and again at 2342, sound contacts were regained, but lost at 800 yards. U-616 was deep and maneuvering radically. At 2346, Nields set off an 11- charge pattern; and at 2350 began “creeping attacks”. At 0043 on 17 May, Gleaves, with Nields directing, fired an 18-charge pattern, with deep settings, which surrounded the U-boat. Contact was lost at 0044. Soon after 0100, the three destroyers, having been joined by Ellyson, Hambleton, Rodman and Eamons, commenced a box patrol, with Nields taking position third from the right end of the scouting line. At 0449, Hambleton reported a sound contact, and, at 0515, commenced firing depth charges. At 0525, she made a second attack. Finally, at 0608, U–616 surfaced and was taken under fire by the surrounding destroyers. Nields, unable to fire without endangering others in the destroyer group, watched the hunted U-boat sink at 0612 and then screened the vessels detailed to pick up the 51 survivors.
Up to the amphibious assault on southern France, Nields was employed on North African-Italian escort missions in support of Allied ground forces pushing north from Salerno, conducting patrol and escort duty off Anzio and Civitaveccia, Italy. On 15 August, in Operation Dragoodn she was off St. Raphael blocking e-boat entry into the transport area and providing preliminary bombardment and neutralization fire of “Red Beach.” During that period, incident to her covering the passageways between the islands of St. Honorat and St. Marguerite, Nields came under heavy and rapid fire from German shore batteries. She returned fire and opened the range, emerging from the encounter unscathed. Through the 30th, she patrolled along the French coast, then turned back to North Africa whence she sailed for the U.S., in the screen of Battleship Division 5, on 4 September.” (Wikipedia)
After the war, Guy stuck with the navy, achieving the rank of Commander in 1957 when he took over the USS Forrest Sherman.
In 1962 he was promoted to the rank of Captain. He retired from the navy in 1972 and died in 2007. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
I leave you with a passage from Eisenhower’s speech to the troops on D-Day:
“Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped, and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely….The free men of the world are marching together to victory. I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory. Good luck, and let us all beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.”
A great and noble undertaking, indeed.
Have a good weekend and don’t forget the significance of June 6!