Survivor/Family Reflections – 4

Sailor Recalls Loss of Only US Carrier
By David Barber

David Bladzik Newpaper - 1David crossed the bar in December 2014

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Quilt of Valor Presented to Dean Moel
American Legion Auxiliary of Johnson County

On January 28, 2017, Dean Moel was honored for his service in WWII with a Patriotic Stars, Eagles and Flags Quilt, which was quilted by Kym Ward

Dean - Quilt of Valor PhotoDean - Quilt of Valor Certificate

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William  Dailey Dugan
A Daughter’s Story

William Dailey Dugan Website

Wasn’t he so darn cute, my dad, William Dailey Dugan, who served on and survived the sinking of the USS Gambier Bay.  He was running along the walkway (I don’t remember what he called it) with a group of other men, one his best friend, when he saw another sailor down.  He stopped to help him while the others ran on. Seconds later a shell hit just ahead of him, causing him shrapnel injuries, but all those who had been running with him were killed.  My Dad’s, typical selflessness, compassion and kindness in stopping to help a shipmate saved his life.  He and others floated in the vast ocean for three long days, fighting off sharks drawn by blood in the water; watching others lose their senses from drinking sea water and delirium from injuries.  He told of a sailor who was “out of his head”, letting go of the rope to go down to get something from his locker.  The sailor disappeared under the water, never to resurface.  Besides sharks, thirst, pain, and exposure, they lived in fear of a Japanese ship coming by and either killing them, or worse, taking them prisoner.  Mercifully, the first ship to come by was a US destroyer (I belief, or maybe a U boat, I can’t remember, but couldn’t take them on, but they contacted a larger ship to rescue them. It would be more long hours of waiting before it finally arrived to free them from their watery prison.  I’m so very proud of my late Dad (passed 1/22/2006), for his courage, but mostly for the man he was; ever gentle and kind and loving.  A devoted, loving husband to my dear late mom and devoted, loving dad to his five children.  He rests in peace at the national cemetery in Canonsburg, PA. 

Story submitted by Cheryl Cunningham, daughter of William Dailey Dugan
William crossed the bar in January 2006

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Cletus R. “Clete” Ring

Clete - Obit Photo

PLAIN – Cletus R. “Clete” Ring left this world a better place than he found it on February 3, 2017. Just shy of his 91st birthday, he was born February 15, 1926, in Plain to Raymond and Emma (Blau) Ring.

Clete enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II at the age of 17. He served on board the USS Gambier Bay CVE73, serving as a motor machinist in the engine room. On October 25, 1944, during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, his ship was sunk by enemy gunfire. Wounded badly, Clete survived two days in shark infested waters, clinging to a life raft. He was subsequently awarded the Purple Heart.

Returning to Plain after the war, Clete married Anna M. Schmitz in August of 1947. Subsequently he built and ran the Skelly Service Station in Plain for over 20 years. He also was a member of the United Steamfitters Local 601. Following retirement Clete could most often be found at his sons’ business, RingBrothers, where he would keep staff and visitors regaled with his stories and advice to all, (and on all subjects).

Clete is survived by what he undoubtedly would say is his greatest legacy, his seven children, Steve (Nancy) Ring of Scottsdale, Ariz., June (Charlie) Drott of Scottsdale, Ariz., Gail Byrne of Madison (Tim Byrne of Middleton), Betty (John) Kraemer of Paradise Valley, Ariz., Karen (John) Heinz of Scottsdale, Ariz., Mike (Nancy) Ring of Plain and Jim (Peggy) Ring of Spring Green; 16 grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; six sisters, Caroline Weiss, Elvy Weiss, Bernice Weber, Alice Swinehart, Charlotte Dischler, Audray Gerber and a brother, John (Jack) Ring.

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Clarence Harold Seever – Purple Heart
Date Unknown

Clarence crossed the bar in February 1996

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Robert L. Jordan – KIA

Robert was KIA
Article submitted by his niece, Carolyn Smith


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Lage T. Naslund Story
By Val Benton (Descendent of Family Friend of Lage T. Naslund)

Greetings to the crew of the Gambier Bay and to their loved ones.  I grew up in the tiny town of Malmo, Minnesota and on a recent visit there, I was chatting outside the general store with one of our “old-timers”, Gaylard Westerlund.  Conversation had turned to our community’s Veterans when suddenly Gaylard remarked how tragic it was that Lage Naslund had “disappeared in WWII.

Since it is often my honor to read aloud the Veterans List at Memorial Day services, I was confused at hearing a war-related name with which I was unfamiliar.  Upon further questioning, Gaylard related that he remembered Lage Naslund as being a friend of his older brother’s.  He recalled that Lage had lived in Glory (a farm community just up the road from Malmo) and that he had served in WWII and never returned.

This story intrigued me as my grandmother’s family had homesteaded in Glory.  The last of Grandma’s generation, my Great Aunt Vivian, was still living in a local nursing home– so on my next visit, I asked her if she knew anything about Lage Naslund.  Her eyes lit up as she exclaimed, “Lage! I haven’t heard that name in years!”

It transpired that in 1930 Lage Torgny Naslund was an adventurous 19-year-old when he boarded a ship in Sweden and sailed to America searching for a new life.  He settled in Glory next to my Grandmother’s home.  He became friends with her family and often helped out on the farm.  Aunt Viv recalled that she and her younger sister Eileen (just little girls at the time) would peek around the corner of the house to watch Lage washing his red hair in the rain barrel.  They thought he was the “dreamiest thing” ever!  My Aunt remembered that Lage had married a local girl named Signe Arvidson; that he had at some point gone off to war and never come back.

Lage and Signe – late 1930s

Lage - Signe - Late 1930

Wedding of Lage and Signe – 1933

Lage and Signe - Wedding / 1933I began scouring old family photos but was unable to locate one labelled “Lage”; I also was beginning to feel frustrated that no one could tell me what had actually happened to him during the war.  That’s when I set out looking for Lage!  My search took me to the local Historical Society, Veterans Office, churches/cemeteries and even the funeral home.  Finally, I held in my hand an address for Barbara Kennedy, a niece to Lage and Signe Naslund.  Unfortunately, the address I had been given was almost thirty years old…but it also was for a place I estimated to be not more than 10 miles from where I currently lived in Cloquet, MN.

So setting off on a whim and a prayer, I traversed a number of confusing country lanes until I located the house.  Imagine my excitement when Barbara Kennedy answered my knock on the door!  Tears filled her eyes when I asked her if Lage Naslund had been her uncle.  She said how strange it was that I had come at a time when the family had recently been talking and reminiscing about him.

I learned from Barbara that Lage had married her Aunt Signe in 1933 and instantly become “the best uncle ever;” a favorite of family members old and young alike.  He was a good-natured, happy man…full of laughter and life.  One of her favorite memories was of him being such a strong swimmer, he could swim across the lake with two children on his back!

After their marriage, Lage and Signe farmed for a time locally before relocating to Minneapolis where he became a cement finisher.  He took an Oath of US Citizenship in 1940 and went to Alaska to work on the ALCAN.  He later enlisted in the Navy and was WT3c on the Gambier Bay when the ship was sunk in the Battle Off Samar.  Lage’s widow Signe lived with her family during his absence, and niece Barbara recalls how heartbreakingly sad they all were to be notified after the battle that Lage was listed as MIA and later KIA.  It was the only time she saw the adult males in her family openly cry.  To this day, waves of grief wash over her when she thinks of that time in her childhood.

William Kennedy, Barbara’s husband, is a Veteran himself who did his master’s thesis on naval battles.  By listening to him and reading literature he recommended, I have come to see how horrific was the Battle of the Gambier Bay and how heroic were the sailors who fought it.  I feel overwhelming sadness at the thought that Lage (the incredible swimmer) was probably trapped in the depths of the ship with no chance for survival. But I’m glad today to have many pictures labelled “Lage” in my possession, and Barbara and I are working on a display of his photos/medals to hang in a local VFW.

Lage Torgny Naslund sailed on the Gambier Bay and lost his life in that terrible battle.  He was a Swedish immigrant who loved America…enough to adopt her as his own country and to die in her service.  I hope that in Heaven, Lage knows that he is still deeply loved and missed by his family and friends… and by a very, very grateful community.

Lage was KIA

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Eugene Lewis
Date and Location Unknown

Eugene crossed the bar in August 1973
Photo submitted by his son, Bob Lewis and nephew Dave Lewis

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Jack and Essie Pate
July 1947

Jack crossed the bar in June 1999
Essie passed in 1988
Photo submitted by his daughter Jennifer Pate

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Forest and Evelyn Pruitt
Wedding Photo – March 1944

Forest was KIA

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Rudolph Biller – December 2016