Navy archivist’s gesture a class act

Over the years I’ve sent copies of my war stories to libraries, museums and historical societies and didn’t always hear back.

That’s disappointing. You want to hear something like a thank you or we’ll be sure to include this in our research library or something like that.

But recently I had a terrific experience with the U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation in Washington, D.C.

First, the background:

For my “in their own words” Veterans Day war story in The Morning Call, I interviewed World War II Navy vet Bill Fritz of Bethlehem. He had served as an aviation ordnanceman in Brazil, arming twin-engine patrol bombers that hunted German submarines in the South Atlantic.

After the story ran on Nov. 11, I visited Bill to take him a batch of newspapers that had his story.

“Sure would be nice if the Navy Memorial got one,” he said.

Bill, who’s 91, is a plank owner of the memorial, meaning he’s an original member, and has a profile and photo of himself posted on the memorial’s Navy Log online.

I told him no problem, I’d send it, and I did that the next day. I included Bill’s address and phone number in case someone at the foundation wanted to contact him.

The very next week I got a letter from Navy Memorial Foundation archivist Robert C. Smith. It was a copy of a letter he’d sent to Bill about how pleased the Navy is to have his story. Smith said it’s been added to the Voices collection at the memorial’s Media Resource Center, which holds first-hand accounts of service.

“Yours is a fascinating one and sheds light on the essential wartime service of many who were in unusual and lesser-known areas,” Smith wrote.

He said he updated Bill’s Navy Log entry to show Fleet Air Wing 16, Belem, Brazil, as one of his duty stations. He even included a copy of the updated log, as well as a form Bill could use to list additional duty stations and awards he had received. And Smith said he’d like to use portions of Bill’s account to form a Memory page as part of his log entry.

Smith closed with: “Personally I enjoyed the opportunity to read about your service and to be able to add this account to our growing collection of historic materials.”

Wow, he really did it up right! Bill was touched and thrilled.

Now it was my turn. I emailed Smith to thank him for brightening a proud old sailor’s day.

I mentioned that my father and an uncle had been sailors during the war. My dad was a Coast Guard radio operator on patrol frigates in the North Atlantic, and my mom’s brother was a Navy aviation ordnanceman in the Aleutians. I sent the links to their pix and service info that I’d posted on the National World War II Memorial site: http://www.wwiimemorial.com/registry/search/pframe.asp?HonoreeID=2174327&popcount=1&tcount=1 for my dad, and http://www.wwiimemorial.com/registry/search/pframe.asp?HonoreeID=2233965&popcount=1&tcount=1 for my Uncle Walter.

Smith emailed back that his father had served on a Coast Guard cutter in the North Atlantic in 1942-43. He suggested I post Navy Logs on my dad and uncle at http://www.navylog.org.

I’ve submitted the info, but the logs aren’t up yet. The Navy has to vet them.

The Navy Log is a national registry of sea service with 638,000 records. You can search for a sailor by name or duty station, or enter info on someone’s service and add a photo. There’s no charge.

I didn’t know about this registry until now. It’s another good way to honor the memory of my dad and uncle, both of whom died in the last 10 years.

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