Posted by: SJS | April 17, 2021

Coming into the dock

Bringing the boat in

In an undated photo, a group of sailors on the deck of a PT boat bring their craft into the dock. The sailor on the bow of the boat hurls a rope to an unseen sailor awaiting the boat’s arrival on the dock. The other sailors on the boat are standing by, ready to do their part to secure their PT upon its arrival.

As with so many of the photos I’ve been fortunate enough to view, this one captures a very ordinary task that made up the daily lives of the PT crews during WWII. While there was no information I was able to locate regarding this photo, the cars in the background may indicate that the picture was snapped somewhere in the United States–perhaps at the PT training center in Melville, Rhode Island.

I always cherish photos like this because it makes it easy for me to imagine my father performing similar duties on his boat, whether it was in the Mediterranean, the South Pacific, or one of the stateside training facilities he was assigned to before he was shipped overseas.

Posted by: SJS | April 9, 2021

Prince Philip — WWII service in the Royal Navy

Prince Philip in WWII

The world woke up to the news today that England’s Prince Philip–the husband of Queen Elizabeth–had passed away at age 99. He lived a long life, most of which was overshadowed by his role in the English royal family. I knew that Philip had served in the British navy during WWII and the news of his death prompted me to take a closer look at his naval career.

As it turns out, Philip was a highly capable and courageous officer in the Royal Navy. His ability to utilize searchlights to target enemy vessels gave his crewmates an advantage during nighttime encounters.

In one celebrated incident in 1943, he defended his ship from a Luftwaffe bomber that clearly had his vessel in its sights. Demonstrating enormous grace under pressure, Philip led his crewmates in hauling a wooden raft across the deck and throwing it overboard with a smoke floater on it, billowing clouds of thick, dense smoke. When the raft hit the water, it burst into flames. The flaming raft drew the attention of the approaching German bomber, distracting it from an attack on the ship.

In the accounts I read, Philip had hoped to make a lifetime career in the Royal Navy. The ascension of his wife to the English throne in 1952 after the death of her father, King George VI, however, caused a major change in plans. Philip and Elizabeth had been married since 1947. As the husband of the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth, Philip’s duties became focused exclusively on the ceremonial aspects of life in the royal family.

I’m sure that there were more than a few times over the past 69 years that Philip wished he were on a naval vessel far, far away from life at Buckingham Palace.

Philip’s wartime service in the Royal Navy was admirable and earned him the respect and esteem of his crewmates. Philips naval career is a potent reminder of the valiant work performed by all the sailors who served in the Allied naval forces during World War II.

May he rest in peace.

Prince Philip in later years

The execution of Lepa Radic 1943

Scores of women served on the front lines during WWll. I was reminded of that truth when I recently came across this photograph of the execution of young Lepa Racic by the Nazis in 1943. She served with the Yugoslavian resistance and volunteered to transport wounded fighters from the battlefield. Lepa was captured by the Nazis as she fired at them in an attempt to protect a group of injured partisans who were vulnerable to being taken by the advancing German troops.

Lepa was 17 years old when she was executed. She grew up in a small village in what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina. During the war, she served alongside her father and her uncles. The stories of Lepa’s bravery made her a legend and her fame has grown in the years since the war.

As her captors tied the noose around her neck, they offered her a way off the gallows by revealing her comrades and the identity of their leaders. Lepa responded that she was not a traitor to her comrades and that they would reveal their identities when they avenged her death. Her fighting spirit emboldened those who fought beside her.

I was struck when I learned that Lepa was the same age as my father. It was young women and men around the world who put themselves in harm’s way to fight the forces of facism, hate, and racism during World War II. They truly saved the world and entrusted it to us.

At the very least, we owe it to them to continue the fight against the evils that can all to easily reassert themselves and overwhelm all that we hold dear.

Young Lepa Radic

Posted by: SJS | March 5, 2021

PT 157 and her crew

A day in the life of PT 157

This highly revealing photo from the vast archives of PT Boats, Inc. shows the crew of PT 157 posing for a photographer in the middle of a typical day somewhere in the South Pacific. It looks as though the sailors have been summoned from their tasks so that someone can snap a picture.

Whether they are annoyed at the interruption or pleased for the opportunity to take a break from work is impossible to determine. Looking at their faces and the way they are standing, I have the strong impression that they would prefer to return to the task at hand, whatever that task might be. Photos like this are endlessly fascinating to me because it is so easy for me to picture my father standing among this group.

The faces looking into the camera on the bow deck of the 157convey a mix of seriousness, determination, and weariness from the toll that war takes on sailors and soldiers who know it up close and personal. This photo from an “ordinary” day reveals the extraordinary grit of the PT crews that worked hard to keep their boats–and themselves–ready for whatever they might be called upon to do with very short notice. They were rough, ready, and resilient.

Posted by: SJS | February 21, 2021

George J. Young in the Spanish-American War

Death notice of George J. Young/Evening Bulletin (Philadelphia) May 8, 1947

Through the diligent efforts of my sister, Joan Stahley Maleno, a precious piece of family history has been shared with us all. We now have documentation that our great grandfather, George J. Young, served as a soldier in Cuba during the Spanish American War at the end of the nineteenth century. Whether or not George served directly under the command of Teddy Roosevelt has yet to be determined. Given the relatively small size of the American force in Cuba, however, the possibilities will be enticing to explore.

My distant memories from childhood include my grandmother’s stories about her father serving in Cuba but over the years, the details became very hazy. I never forgot how Nana Stahley greatly revered Teddy Roosevelt and always felt a special connection to him through her father. Those vague memories about my great grandfather now have solid roots in the historical record. I hope to dig further into this story and unearth more details.

Before he died in the spring of 1947, George J. Young proudly saw his grandson, George (Red) Stahley, serve in the US Navy in World War II. His grandson’s decision to volunteer for one of the navy’s special services–the PT Boats–made him very proud. Nana loved to talk about her father’s affection for his grandson and there are photos of George and Red in his navy uniform standing together in front of the family home on Fishers Avenue in Philadelphia.

While I have never heard the PT sailors described as ‘Rough Riders of the Sea,’ they more than earned that title over the course of WWII. Like the cavalry and infantrymen who charged into battle with Teddy Roosevelt, those young PT sailors embarked on their small boats and launched themselves against larger, heavily armed adversaries on the water, in the air, and in land batteries. Bouncing over the open sea in their boats, I’m sure that those PT crews felt like they were riding fast and hard to take on the enemy.

The bold, daring military service of my great grandfather certainly found an echo in the navy service of his grandson, my father. What a proud and distinguished heritage has come down to our family. We are fortunate, indeed.

Teddy Roosevelt (center left in glasses) with his soldiers in Cuba 1898
Posted by: SJS | February 11, 2021

Red hated cop killers

US Capitol police officers place the remains of Officer Brian Sicknick in the Capitol Rotunda

As a person who proudly wore the uniform of the US Navy, Red Stahley always held police officers in high esteem. The way Red saw it, he served our country overseas during wartime and police officers served our country by upholding law and order here at home. The common thread was service. The uniform was emblematic of doing a service for other people. It was a sacred trust.

Red was not naïve about police officers who abused their authority, mistreated people they were supposed to serve and protect, or engaged in corrupt activities. He had no tolerance for that type of behavior and was not hesitant to make his opinion known about bad cops.

What really, really set Red off, however, was a cop killer. The death of Capitol Police Officer, Brian Sicknick, during the violent assault on the US Capitol that occurred on January 6th would have caused in my father an eruption of rage, foul language, and shock. His chronic high blood pressure would have taken a dangerous spike. His reddish complexion would have glowed even redder. Mercifully, Red did not live to see the events of that horrific day–events which may have caused him a fatal stroke.

The murder of Officer Brian Sicknick was one horror in the midst of a day filled with escalating horrors that brought destruction, chaos, injury, and deep disgrace upon the US Capitol–the hallowed symbol of American democracy. Unleashed by the violent rhetoric of Donald Trump, the toxic mob of insurrectionists, domestic terrorists, and white supremacists, swarmed over the Capitol in an attempt to subvert the work of the Congress. Were it not for the courageous work of the Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police on January 6th, things would have been unimaginably worse on that tragic day.

For my father, the events of January 6th would have offended his dignity, ignited his outrage, and hurled him into a depressive state. But it was the vicious assault on the police and the killing of Officer Sicknick that would have brought his white hot anger screaming to the surface.

It certainly had that effect on me.

A salute to honor the remains of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick

Posted by: SJS | February 6, 2021

Deck star emblem

The deck of PT 513 with the star emblem

PT 513 pulls up to a PT tender with crew members guiding her in. This photo portrays the large star emblem across her bow deck. From the air, the distinctive marking immediately identified the craft as an American vessel. The emblem provided clear evidence–to friend and foe alike–that the boat was a part of the Allied naval forces.

Every reference to the work of the PT tenders reminds me of Red Stahley’s deep respect and affection for the crews of those ships that played such a vital role in keeping the PTs in good repair and excellent fighting trim.

“We loved those boys on the tenders,” he stated more than once. “They took all the risks that we did and kept us shipshape all the time.” And that was high praise, indeed.

Posted by: SJS | January 19, 2021

Inauguration Day 1960

PT 109 float in Inaugural Parade for JFK on January 20, 1960

As an eight year-old boy, I was fascinated to watch the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy in January of 1960. In the parade that followed the swearing in of the new president, I was thrilled beyond words to see the float that held a replica of PT 109. I stood up, put on my sailor’s cap, and saluted as I watched that part of the parade. I was so proud, I thought I would burst. My father had spent his time in the navy serving on boats that looked just like that boat gliding down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Part of the ceremony on that memorable day featured the poet, Robert Frost. He delivered his poem, “The Gift Outright.” Standing at the podium on that bitterly cold day in the glaring sunlight, the 85 year-old Frost brought poetry into living rooms all across America. His snow white hair was whipped by the wind but his voice was strong. With the exception of the inaugural address by President Kennedy, the voice of Robert Frost is the only voice on the stage that I remember from that day.

Robert Frost delivers his poem, “The Gift Outright,” as President Kennedy looks on

My lifelong love of poetry began on that day. By the time I was in the fifth grade, the practice of committing poems to memory was a discipline that I came to cherish.

As a third grader, I could not grasp the meaning or significance of Frost’s words but his presence on the inaugural stage that day spoke volumes about the importance of literature and the arts. Watching President Kennedy paying such close attention to the poet who shared the spotlight with him sent a powerful message. It was a message that was not lost on me.

Outgoing president Eisenhower and new president Kennedy with Robert Frost

Posted by: SJS | January 11, 2021

Glad that Red Stahley never lived to see this…

Trump’s goons swarm the US Capitol

How glad I am that my father never lived to see the treasonous, murderous attack on the US Capitol in Washington DC on January 6th, 2021. As a Navy veteran who served honorably and saw action in the Mediterranean and South Pacific in WWII, he would have been horrified to see those legions of Trump’s deranged, filthy storm troopers assault the Capitol building bringing violence, death, and untold devastation to the Citadel of Democracy.

Crazed “shaman” and Trump worshipper howls in the Capitol

The images of that day will forever mark the final days of the most delusional, dangerous, and toxic man ever to occupy the office of the president. After Trump whipped up his crazed followers, he unleashed them on the Capitol, pledging to march right along with them (which, of course, he did not). And then his obedient goons stormed the Capitol leaving death and destruction in their fetid wake. That there were military veterans, state legislators, and possibly police officers in their ranks makes the horror of the assault that much worse. Even as I write these words, the demented criminals who assaulted the Capitol are being hunted down by law enforcement from Florida to Arkansas to Hawaii and everywhere else in the country.

True to form, Trump disowned his goon squad after the assault and threw them under the bus–just as he does with anyone who is stupid enough to pledge their loyalty to him. Loyalty is a one way street with Trump as everyone with half a brain knows by now.

I can only begin to imagine the words that would burst out of my father if he had witnessed the vile scenes that all of America–and all of the world–was forced to watch on January 6th. Thank God that Red Stahley,

Trump goon parades with Confederate battle flag in the US Capitol

a member of the “Greatest Generation.” never lived to see the day that the nation he fought for was brought so low at the direction of a “Commander-in-Chief” who has the mindset of a mob boss and the moral compass of a rabid hyena.

Posted by: SJS | January 6, 2021

So proud to be an American citizen

PT 362 of Ron 18 on a speed trial in 1943

My father never missed an opportunity to vote. And when election time rolled around, he never missed an opportunity to say that free and fair elections were what he fought for in WWII. He was proud to be a sailor and proud to be a citizen with the right to vote.

Although he was a man with strong opinions–opinions that he loved to argue about–there was always one question he insisted his interlocutor answer before the conversation (i.e. argument) could continue.

“Did you vote?” he would ask.

If the answer was yes, he was more than happy to jump into the conversation. If the answer was no, the political discussion was over. “We can talk about the Eagles, the Phillies, or the weather,” he would say. “But if you didn’t care enough about our country to vote in an election, then our political conversation is over.”

Those words of my father burned their way into the deepest part of my soul. As a PT sailor who did his share of time manning the deck gun like the sailor in this photo, he never lost sight of what he was fighting for in the face of Nazi fighter planes in the Mediterranean and entrenched shore batteries of Imperial Japan in the South Pacific. Every time I vote, I honor the legacy of Red Stahley and offer a prayer of thanks for his noble service to our nation.

The above photo is from the archives of PT Boats, Inc. of Germantown, TN.

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