Letters to ...

Search for a grandfather's World War II history

... Some answers and helpful advice for his grandson.

SilverStringer team

Editors comments: Another story with "legs". On March 8, 2008 Bob Campbell, MHS Class of 1942, wrote about the kamikaze attack on the USS Sangemon during the Battle of Okinawa on May 4, 1945."Kamikaze attack on the USS Sangemon". By coincidence, long-time SilverStringer Bob Ross was a radioman on the USS Hudson that assisted in saving the burning ship.

To the Melrose Mirror writers:

My name is Mike Ballard and my grandfather rode on this ship (USS Sangamon) in WWII. I was informed he was at the battle of Pearl Harbor. I am looking for any information about this carrier and its men to see if I can use it to better learn about what my grandfather did. I would appreciate any information you can supply me or any contacts greatly.

Thanks, Mike Ballard

Hi Mike:

Glad to help you track down your grandfather's experience with the U.S.S. Sangamon during WWII. However, my knowledge is somewhat limited because I was not a member of the crew, but rather, a Navy Flight Engineer passenger returning to the U.S. from Panama where my squadron had been decommissioned.

As for the battle of Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941) your grandfather may have been at Pearl Harbor but it wouldn't have been aboard the Sangamon. According to the history of the ship she was a converted oiler and commissioned as such in October 1940. She was converted to an Escort Carrier in February 1942. When the U.S. entered WWII she was at Naval Air Station, Argentia, Newfoundland offloading her liquid cargo. As for the Sangamon's contact with Pearl Harbor, it wasn't until January 1944 when she made contact there on her way to the assault on Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands. For further details on the history of the U.S.S. Sangamon I would suggest you do a computer search on "U.S.S. Sangamon - Wikipedia" You will find an excellent summary.

Good Luck! Sincerely,
Bob Campbell


I am sorry to say I have no personnel information on the USS SANGAMON. We happened to be close by when she got hit by a Jap Suicide plane and came alongside to provide assistance. Click on this link to the USS HUDSON home page:

Scroll to bottom of page and click on link "HUDSON HISTORY"  

Below is the paragraph where Sangamon is mentioned:
    “On 4 May the HUDSON came alongside USS SANGAMON (CVE 26), to help her fight a raging fire caused by an enemy aircraft which had crashed into her. The assignment proved to be anything but comfortable. The overhanging flight deck of the heavily rolling CVE gouged into the super-structure of HUDSON, tore away the port wing of the bridge, knocked a big searchlight off its mounting, and smashed 40mm gun mount. Desperately clearing their flight deck, crewmen of the escort carrier jettisoned a flaming airplane, only to have it land neatly on the fantail of HUDSON, starting fires there. A flaming flag bag from the carrier also was pitched on the weather deck of the destroyer. The fire was eventually brought under control but HUDSON had suffered more as a result of the fire than had the original victim. She then proceeded to Guam for repairs."

I hope the above information is helpful to you. Best of luck in your continuing research.

Bob Ross

April 3, 2009

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