Posted by: SJS | June 12, 2022

AJ Waite & the USS Carondelet (IX 136)

Navy Signalman AJ Waite of the USS Carondelet

In the spring of 1945, US Navy sailor, AJ Waite from Columbus, Ohio, was serving aboard the USS Carondelet when it arrived in the Philippines to support the massive Allied offensive that would lead to the defeat of Imperial Japan and bring an end to World War II. At the same time my father, George “Red” Stahley was serving in the Philippines with Navy PT Squadron (RON) 27, the father of my good friend, Dave Waite, was serving on the Navy tanker, Carondelet, a ship that provided fuel, supplies, and maintenance to a wide range of other ships from Destroyers to landing craft.

While Red and AJ never met during those fateful days of 1945, they were united in their powerful sense of duty, their youthful idealism, and their willingness to put their lives on the line in service to our country. When Dave and I met as seminary students in the 1970s, we learned that we were both proud sons of US Navy vets. It would be many years–actually decades–before we began to discover how much our fathers had in common as they journeyed half a world away from their homes. AJ and Red had not yet reached their twentieth birthdays when they stepped forward to put themselves in harm’s way to serve their country. Wherever the Navy chose to send them, they were ready to go and do their part.

The work that AJ Waite performed on the USS Carondelet was very similar to the work of the sailors who were assigned to the PT Tenders–the ships that fueled, repaired, and supplied the PT boats. Those PT sailors on the tenders who kept the PTs in fighting trim were the backbone of the Mosquito Fleet. Besides being carpenters, mechanics, cooks and electricians, the PT tender sailors were capable fighters who engaged enemy surface vessels and submarines and withstood kamikaze attacks from the air. Red Stahley had immense admiration, respect, and gratitude for the crews of the PT tenders.

While Dave was researching his father’s Navy service in 2020, he came across the After Action Reports (AARs) of the July 1945 engagement between two PT boats of Squadron (RON) 27 and a Japanese communications tower on a dense jungle river during the steamy early morning hours long before dawn. On one of those PT boats, PT 373, my father, Red Stahley, was manning his station at the boat’s radio, staying in steady communication with his best friend, Tom Saffles, the radioman aboard PT 359.

At the time Dave was doing his research, the AARs of that July engagement had been recently declassified; he found them and sent the information to me. This has been one of the most precious gifts I have ever received. I could never express the depth of my gratitude to my good friend, Dave.

The information Dave shared with me about the USS Carondelet–an amazing story–will be shared in my next post. The legacy of AJ Waite and George “Red” Stahley represent the very best of our nation. Dave and I are fortunate sons of remarkable men–something we are mindful of every day. We are privileged to share the proud legacy they have given us and our families.

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