Posted by: SJS | March 21, 2011

Belton Copp of PT 373

In the summer of 2010, I sent a letter to PT vets who had served aboard PT 373 of Ron 27.  I had received a list of names from Alyce Guthrie of PT Boats, Inc. in Germantown, TN.  What follows is the response I received from Mrs. Julie Copp, the wife of Belton Copp.  They live in Connecticut.  I have transcribed the words but here is the lovely note I received in her beautiful hand.Copp letter 2010

Dear Mr. Stahley,

     Thank you for your letter about your father + PT 373.  Belton can no longer read due to macular degeneration but I read him your letter and his eyes filled with tears – he was remembering those who didn’t make it home.  Next he asked me how the name was spelt as I said “stayly” + when I told him with an “h” he said he remembered your father – always was teased about how neatly he parted his hair, a wide part.  Belton entered Manila Bay Feb 5/6  ’45 scouting at night. I’m unsure if your Dad was aboard for B’s memory of that night is less clear now.  That was the night he (B) was shot + lost his left arm (dominant one).  The bow gunner was killed, but they escaped back to base.  Some years ago, he told his cousin of this encounter, who recorded it on film.  We are awaiting a copy of this DVD or CD (?) and when it comes I will get you a copy.  It is a recounting of that night.  Belton is 90 now.

                                               Sincerely Julie Copp

(On reverse of card) Belton was in command of 2 boats his 373 was the lead boat and engaged the big Jap ships.  His boat had 2000 +/- shots in it after that + was later used by MacArthur to enter Manila and return to Corregidor.  We have a photo of that, a photo of a painting I think.

Reverse side of Copp note               

The mission recounted in Julie Copp’s note was an historic one. PT 373 became the first Allied surface craft to enter Manila Bay since the Japanese had driven the Allies out early in the war.  And the Japanese were not about to return Manila without a fight.  PT 373 and its crew paid dearly for their boldness in early February of 1945.

Was Red Stahley aboard for that fateful mission in February of 1945?  My research continues.   Can anyone out there in the extended PT family shed light on this important night in PT history?

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Responses

  1. Steve,

    How touching this is. I think it is great what you are doing and that family and friends of your dad are helping to piece together the story. My Uncle was with the Fifth Infantry Division in all it’s battles from D-Day through the fall of Germany, but he does not like to talk about his experience. He is almost 99 and I wish he would. The funny thing is my Dad doesn’t talk about his experience in Korea, and my other Uncle’s don’t want to talk about their experience in WWII. My Uncle who was at Iwo Jima died about 15 years ago. So, I think it is great that you are piecing together your dad’s story and I am thoroughly enjoying reading your posts.

    Rich

    • Rich,

      Thanks so much for your good words. In honoring my father’s service in WWII, it has been my intention to call attention to all those brave soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines who also served with such distinction during that conflict. Your father and uncles are certainly in that category. As a veteran of the US Air Force, your own service during the Viet Nam era is highly commendable. Our nation has been so richly blessed by the members of our armed forces. Know that you all have our deepest gratitude.

      Steve

      • Steve,

        As you know I am a big Cleveland Indians fan, and one of the greatest Indians pitchers in their history, Bob Feller, also served with the US Navy as a gunner on a battleship in the Pacific during WWII. He often said that the real heroes were the ones that gave their lives in service to this country. I think he is right, but I also think that men like your Dad and his comrades also were true heroes as it must have taken a lot to check the horrible sights they saw during WWII in order to settle in and build their new life after coming home from the war. Thanks to your Dad and the other PT boaters, as well as to that whole generation for the freedom we have today.

        Rich

  2. Rich,

    I remember reading this comment of Bob Feller and being so deeply impressed by his words. I believe Warren Spahn, the great Braves pitcher, said something similiar when asked about the pressure of the World Series. As a soldier who went through the Battle of the Bulge, Spahn dismissed pitching in the World Series as “pressure.”

    Thanks for your words of support. The more I discover about my father’s service and the proud legacy of the PT boats, the more in awe I am of what those sailors were able to do in such challenging circumstances.

    I appreciate your participation in the blog, my friend.

    Steve

  3. It’s great to see this history documented before our WWII veterans pass on. The above post regarding Belton Copp is accurate to the best of my knowledge except for the name of his wife, Genie (Eugenie Tyler Copp) not Julie.

    Allyn.

    • Allyn,

      Thanks so much for your support of my efforts. I was so thrilled to receive that beautiful note from Mrs. Copp last year. To learn that Lt. Copp knew and remembered my father meant a great deal to me and all the members of our family.

      Thanks again.

      Steve

  4. Sorry news to report. Belton Copp has passed away. Below is his obituary from the Hartford Courant.

    COPP IV, Belton Allyn
    Belton Allyn Copp IV died peacefully at his home in Old Lyme Connecticut, on September 27th, 2011, at the age of 91. He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Eugenie Tyler Copp, his four children, Allyn, Lucy, Betsey, and Genie, his brother Dan Copp, and his sister Betsey Copp Halsey, eight grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews. Belton was born on May 27, 1920 to Elizabeth (Thoeming) and Belton Allyn Copp III in Chicago Heights Illinois, and was raised in Memphis Tennessee. He graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in 1938, from Yale in 1942, and that same year joined the Navy. On Febuary 7, 1945, as captain of PT boat 373, Belton led a two-boat squadron into Manila Harbor on a reconnaissance mission. He lost his left arm as a result of this action and was awarded a Silver Star for “gallantry in action,” and a Purple Heart. He was further honored when General Douglass McArthur returned to Manila on PT boat 373. In 1947 Belton graduated from Yale Law School, and was employed by ‘Waller Anderson & Smith’ in New London before starting his own firm in 1951. While attending Yale Graduate School of Conservation, he was appointed the Connecticut Commissioner of Fish and Game (1953-55). Belton was a candidate for the 2nd Congressional District in 1964, served as a governor on the Board of Education from1991 to 1996 and had an enduring interest in environmental conservation. He was a Trustee, Director or President of various land conservation organizations and other charitable institutions in Old Lyme and New London. Having lived in Old Lyme, CT since 1948, Belton was a recognizable jogger on all the roads around the area. He also took great pleasure in his ranches, one in Alberta, Canada, and one in Dubois, Wyoming. Belton delighted in philosophy, poetry and politics. A friend of every kind of person, his love of song, adventure and a job well done brought great joy to those around him.
    There will be a celebration of Belton’s life on Saturday, October 8th, at 3 p.m. It will be held at his house in Old Lyme, CT. Friends are welcome. Donations in Belton’s memory can be made to: The Conservation and Research Foundation, PO Box 909, Shelbourne, VT, 05482 or The Old Lyme Land Trust, PO Box 163, Old Lyme, CT, 06371.

    • Rob,
      Thank you very much for sending this moving obituary from the Hartford Courant. It describes the remarkable life of an extraordinary man. It was very thoughtful of you to send this beautiful tribute to Belton Copp.
      Steve

  5. Hello, My name is John Perotka. I found this site through a google search for PT 373. My grandfather is C.T. Perotka, who served with Mr. Stahley in the Pacific on PT 373. He is still living in Illinois. He has told me many stories of his time in the Navy, but mainly about being on PT 373. I have always been proud of the fact that he served during WW2. -JP

    • John,
      Welcome to the blog- it’s great to have you on board. If you have not yet seen the blog post titled “Red’s Monkey,” please check it out. It features your grandfather’s story about my father and an unusually messy day on PT 373.
      Thanks.
      Steve

  6. Correction: Belton’s wife is named Genie Copp, not Julie. I am their granddaughter and I am enjoying reading your posts.

    • Louise,

      Thanks very much. Your grandfather was a remarkable man. In my research on PT 373, I was deeply impressed to learn about his courage, his skill, and his calmness under fire.

      In the early stages of my research, I received a beautiful handwritten note from your grandmother. My apologies for misspelling her name in the post.

      I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog.

      Steve


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