Recieved your letter and was very happy to hear you're getting a leave soon. I'll have my eye open for you so don't disappoint me. (page 2 - right hand side) You asked for my number - it's Ta 5636. Did you get any thing for me on your last trip? A yo-yo? Honest Check, that's me picture, I wouldn't kid you. Here I am in soem more poses. This one was telen when I was begging for hamburgers.
(page 3 - left hand side) I'll try and be good till I see you. Maybe get another fella to come up with you and then maby Annie could come too, huh? Then Joe would only be absent.
Till I see you then - take care of yourself - have a couple hamburgers on me O.K.? Send me the bill.
Later the Pride shot out to catch back up with their convoy, a trip that took two days. During their absence the convoy had been attacked again by torpedoes and another DE, the Fetchteler had been hit and sunk. The remainder of the trip was uneventful. After this trip the Pride was transferred to a submarine killer group. But in the meantime it was off to New York.
After the fray, the Pride and the Campbell headed for Algiers having on board all of the German prisoners. Coming in to dock they found admirals, generals, and panjandrum from Algiers ready to greet them and congratulate them on their bravery and prowess. It turns out the U-boat that they sunk was not just any U-boat, but U-371, the “Mediterranean Ace” who, with their 26 year-old captain, had been responsible for sinking 70,000 tons of Allied shipping.
Here is part of the story from the German perspective unknown until after the returned to Algiers. The first attack by the Pride had badly damaged the U-boat and put it out of commission. They had hit bottom, not cleverly hid out there. There they remained wedged at the bottom of the sea. The had to free themselves by working the one remaining engine and having the crew run from bow to stern. It was then that they were able to surface and set off their torpedoes before surrendering.
The picture is of William Valencheck commemorating the sinking of a sub by painting it on the side of the ship. Later generations of Coast Guardsmen would do much the same thing in their war on drugs. Pictures of snowflakes representing cocaine or marijuana leaves are painted on the side of the ship to mark significant drug busts.
The next day the Pride and Campbell were joined by three other ships, one American, one French, and one British. They knew that the U-boat must surface soon to get air and so they patrolled the area waiting for the opportunity to engage her. Soon all five ships picked up something on their sonar and headed out to the spot. The U-boat appeared but the ships had to be careful about firing for they were in close quarters and could possibly hit one of their own.
The Senegalese reported being hit by a torpedo. Soon many men were reported floating in the sea with lifejackets. It was assumed that they were from the Senegalese but it turned out that she was not damaged quite so badly. As the men were pulled onto ships it turned out that they were the crew of the U-boat. The Germans had shot off their torpedoes and then scuttled their ship, which was now going to settle on the floor of the ocean. 49 Germans including their captain were taken prisoner.
The Menges had lost 31 men, two of which were her officers. She had to be towed to the Brooklyn Navy Yard where she was grafted together with the USS Holder DE 401 which had also been hit by torpedoes. Within a relatively short spell the rejuvenated Menges would be back and patrolling along with the Pride.
The Cambell joined in the search. Depth set charges were sent down. Seeing the disturbance in the water where the underwater explosion occurred the DEs would scour the surface of the water for evidence of a hit. This U boat captain was clever. The encounter had now gone on for seven hours and daylight was creeping over the horizon and the crew exhausted. But those in the armed forces cannot stop just because they are tired. This encounter was not finished.
As it turned out there were two submarines. The first that the Menges was hunting was only a decoy. It was the second submarine that gave the distressing blow to her. The search was on for the sub at fault. Soon sonar contact was made. The Pride made a hedgehog attack but it misfired and so switched to depth charge attack. The sub continued to head toward the Mediterranean where it would be even more difficult to track her. The Pride made another Hedgehog attack but it again misfired and so tried depth charges again. The sub dove and contact was lost for the moment.
William worked in the engine room and said that it was a distressing place to be under such conditions. There were oders for more speed or less or some such thing indicating the type of events taking place above decks but exactly what was occuring was a mystery. These were moments of high anxiety but not for losing ones cool. Men were counting on you.
The Greatest Generation is disappearing. According to Veterans Administration at the beginning of this year there were approximately 5,032,591 veteran of World War II still living in the United States but they are dying at the rate of 1,136 a day. As they die so do many of their memories.Sometimes the memories die before the veteran does himself. Our Father, MoMM3c William Valencheck who served aboard the USS Pride DE 323 and who is now confronting the ravages of Alzheimer’s at the age of 87, has lost much of his memory. Though he never would talk much about his experience of WWII, he cannot now even if he were so inclined.In putting his estate together there was revealed a sizable cache of his memorabilia from WWII. There were letters from old girl friends, pictures of fellow guardsmen, drawings, and other mementos that for us are disconnected from actual people and events. Unsure what to do with all of these images of memories that are in some way treasures, his children thought to begin this blog and post the various items from week to week.The intention is not so much to focus on MoMM (Motor Machinist Mate) William J. Valencheck or even to give an in depth historical analysis of the war, but to give a snap shot of some of what a crew member aboard a U.S. Coast Guard ship during the great war held on to as memories.