Tuesday, November 11th is Veteran’s Day here in the US. I’ve been thinking about my mother’s first cousin, Frank Wengert, all this weekend and wishing I’d listened more intently to his stories of World War 2 and his service in the Navy.
I discovered a website that lists the names of crew members on-board the USS Madison. The website also gives the names and numbers of those who are contacts for reunions. So I took a chance, and called Mike Butler. I wanted to know more about the crew’s experiences on-board the Madison and possibly learn a bit more about my mother’s first cousin, Frank Wengert.
Uncle Frank, as I came to know him, was a gunner on-board two different destroyers in World War 2. I knew he had seen a lot, and vaguely remembered some of his stories about his experiences. He was a funny man, always very witty and good humored. He was a fantastic story teller, and I regret never having the hindsight to record him telling his experiences in World War 2.
Today, thanks to Mike Butler Fire Controlman Second Class on-board the USS Madison DD425, I did get to see a clearer picture of what these courageous young men endured during their years together on the USS Madison. Frank’s story comes first. Then, if you press the arrow at the end, you’ll get to listen to Mike Butler tell his own story. I’d love to hear more, so stay tuned for possibly more from Mister Butler.
Frank Wengert joined the US Navy in September of 1942. Three months later he was a crew member on-board the first of two destroyers that would become his homes for the duration of the war years.
The first Destroyer was called the USS Eberle DD430, which is an “ordinary destroyer.” He boarded the ship in December of 1942. Frank’s sleeping quarter’s were anywhere he could find on deck, and he only slept in a bunk when the previous occupant was killed on duty. This destroyer made 9 crossings from New York to Casablanca.
Frank’s second destroyer experience was on-board the USS Madison DD425. He recalls receiving the “V” for victory sign from Winston Churchill as the then Prime Minister of Britain stood on the bridge of a British destroyer that passed by the USS Madison leaving Naples in Italy.
The Madison brought Uncle Frank and all the other crew members on-board to two of the most horrific incidences of World War 2.
Frank and others, such as crew member Mike Butler, witnessed the aftermath of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis and were sent to retrieve the dog tags from the bodies that remained. The Indianapolis lost almost 900 men, and most were eaten by sharks.
The USS Madison was in Tokyo Bay as the Japanese surrendered, and thus ending World War 2.
Below is an audio interview of Mike Butler. Mister Butler recounts his experiences on-board the USS Madison and the events of the USS Indianapolis as well as going ashore in Tokyo.
My thanks to Mike Butler who took the time to talk to me today, and for his service in World War 2. Thanks to all our Veterans for their service.
Mister Butler mentions Ulithi Island as the place where supplies were dropped off and then picked up by war ships and repairs on ships were performed.