The banner cover for this blog was originally shared to the Facebook group I created in November of 2017. In the early days of the group, I was only looking for family members of the sailors who were on the Zircon on 11 May 1944, the day of the USS YF-415 Disaster.
A couple of those sailors were Edwin Lathrope Oakley and Henry John Niemczyk. I originally contacted Oakley’s son, who didn’t seem very interested in this project of mine, but passed along my message to his sister. She joined the group and posted a photo of about fifty loose photos (and a few news clippings) that she had. In all honesty, I hadn’t expected that there’d be so many photographs since I don’t recall that my dad ever had any. But indeed there were, and she agreed to send them to me. I was a little disappointed that my dad wasn’t in any of them, but I was more than pleased to share them to the group once I scanned them.
A month later, I tracked down Niemczyk’s son, Mike, and invited him to join the group. It wasn’t long before he posted the group photo, taken at Riddell’s Bay in the Bahamas. On the back of the photo, his father wrote: “Riddel’s Bay – The Whole Gang” and dated it 1 October 1944. There are forty-six men in the photo, accounting for just under half of the ship’s full complement that day.
And there, in the middle-front of the group was my dad.
The feeling I had upon seeing this for the first time is almost indescribable. I can only compare it to what it must have been like finding gold at Sutter’s Mill in 1849. And, of course, it was gold for me. I can’t tell you how much I love the photograph. While seeing him on board the ship with the other Soundmen and Radiomen was trippy, in a way, since I’d never seen it before, seeing this one was something altogether different, as it showed him communing with his ship mates, some of whom he’d spent the better part of two and a half years of his enlisted life. This moment was but a sliver of a lifetime that I barely had known existed. (Recently, another Zircon sailor’s daughter sent me a copy of this for me to scan at 9600 dpi, and that’s the one I’ve included here. The print is about 2.5″ x 3.5″ and the image 2″ x 3″.)
Not long after he posted this photo, Mike shared what appears to have been a frame taken just before or after this one. I’ll call it the outtake. There aren’t quite as many men in the photo and many of them appear either getting into position or getting up. A light leak mars the image, but I like it because my dad actually looks to have a smile on his face.
I created a contour-line legend for the first photo (I suppose I should do it for the second as well) so that we, the Facebook group members, could more easily put names with the faces.
As of 27 July 2021, twenty-five of the forty-six sailors have been identified.
02. Michael William Magenheimer
04. Albert Craft Emmett
06. William Richard Salomons, Jr.
07. Joseph Henry Hoser, Jr.
08. Isidore Teddy Bertone
10. Henry John Niemczyk
11. Anthony Nigro
13. Raymond Francis Carpenter
14. Leonard Francis Therrien
16. William Arthur Green
19. Robert Forest Segar
23. George A. Krueger
25. Irwin Rubin
26. Lester Burton Wood
27. Ira LaFlorrid Zeek, Jr.
29. Angel Luis Ruiz
31. My dad
34. Rinaldo Biaggio Iannettone
35. Theodore Soltys
36. James Rudolph Burton
37. Louis Augusto Alves
38. Paul Buford Beach
39. Frank Nicholas DeRupo
40. Hervey Johnson Gibbs
41. Peter Anthony Schmanski
I’m most bummed that two of the faces are obscured by beer cans. In the outtake, the fellow who is #20 in the “good” photo is in profile, and it looks like it might be Ralph Patrick Annunziata. I think that there’s a good chance that #18 is Richard Hamilton Garrison, but since his family has chosen not to speak with me, I can’t confirm it.
A handful of other photos have since surfaced that also appear to be from the same period, maybe even the same day, at Riddell’s Bay. I hope to get scans of them but these are the best I have for the time being—mobile photos of photos. I’m 99.9% certain that my dad is in the first one. The hat he’s wearing in the group photo looks to be what he’s holding in his lap in this one. I’m also pretty sure that the fellow who had the beer can obscuring his face in the group photo also has a beer can partially obscuring his face in this one. The person who is second from left appears in so many photos I’ve seen, but I’ve been unable to figure out his name.