Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Unsinkable Charlie Watson!

Brushy Creek Journal
Wednesday August 31, 2016
Partly Sunny 91°F/33°C in Cedar Park, Texas
Cloudy 68°F/20°C in Falmouth, United Kingdom
Don Barrett, my old radio buddy and blogger from sent me an email telling me that he had posted a blurb about my new book, LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target!
(Amazon Books) on the home page of his web site, Don went on to tell me, OK Mike!
Das Book!
Now that you’ve written your first book, the easy part is done. Now comes the real work – PROMOTING YOUR BOOK!

Don followed that note with a flurry of follow-up emails, each with a list of suggestions on promoting my contribution to American history. It was a good list of ideas. After all, Barrett is an accomplished author himself, and his Los Angeles Radio People occupies a place of honor in my own bookcase. (Partly because I am one of the LARPs, as he calls us, and I am mentioned in his book).
My book has a way to go before it appears on the New York Times Best Seller List, or is picked up by Oprah’s Book Club, but it is starting to sell and Amazon Books is keeping tabs on my royalties. So, I can honestly consider myself an author, not just an old retired guy who dabbles in writing. And, even more than seeing sales and royalties, I’m starting to get feedback from my readers.
When I went to my email inbox this morning, I found a note from Curt Pederson, a neighbor of one of the crewmembers of LST 921, the ship that was torpedoed in the U boat attack on my dad’s convoy. That survivor, Charles “Chuck” Watson of Tumwater, Washington was the ship’s cook aboard the LST 921 and suffered severe injuries in the attack. As Pederson told me in his note, We were neighbors and friends with WWII amputee, Chuck Watson, for over 25 years.  We knew he was a cook on LST 921 and knew his ship was torpedoed.  He never knew much about August 14, 1944 until I started to print out your blog on LST 920 and your father.  You filled in so many unanswered questions.
Chuck’s ordeal is described in an eyewitness account by LST 921 crew member Lloyd Meeker, who survived the torpedo attack after a harrowing escape from the ship’s flooding engine
What was left of LST 921!
LST 920 took us to Falmouth, England to a Navy hospital, survivor Lloyd Meeker remembered. There were lots of cuts and broken bones. The cook was injured the most. The last time I saw him, he had both legs and an arm in casts. He was in traction and his jaw was wired shut. For me, it was good to get out of my oily clothing. Finally, Meeker recalled, we were told that 43 survivors and one body were taken off the LST 920. All of the rest of the men went down with the stern section. As it turns out, the ship’s cook was Curt Pederson’s old neighbor, Chuck Watson, who lost his injured leg but otherwise fully recovered from the ordeal. Watson is now 95 years old and still working in his yard.
A lot of the men who escaped from the sinking LST 921 would not have survived the attack of U  667 if it weren’t for the skipper of LST 920. Lieutenant Harry N. Schultz, who disobeyed standing orders and ordered his ship to turn around and pick up survivors instead of remaining with the convoy, which continued to steam on to Falmouth, England. Chuck Watson never knew who, specifically, was responsible for saving his life until his friend and neighbor Curt Pederson sent him a copy of LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target!
72 years have passed since that afternoon in August 1944, but it’s not too late to say Thank you for your service!, to Chuck Watson, age 95, and the other sailors who came under attack by U 667 that day.  

( MikeBo’s Blog is a wholly owned subsidiary of , and is linked to Facebook, and  Twitter and Google Plus!)
© By Mike Botula 2016

Sunday, August 21, 2016

LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target!

Brushy Creek Journal
Sunday August 21, 2016
Cloudy with chance of thunderstorms 88°F/31°C in Cedar Park, Texas
Partly Sunny 64°F/18°C in Milford Haven, Wales
   This week marks the 72nd anniversary of what is best described as a wartime harmonic convergence, and my dad was dead-bang in the middle of it! Unlike an astrological alignment of planets that occurs once in a thousand years, or whatever the Mayan Calendar dictates, my father’s
Dad on V-J Day 1945
harmonic convergence occurred in an Allied convoy in the Dover Channel between Milford Haven, Wales and Plymouth, England in 1944. The story is a legend in the Botula family and is now the subject of my new book
LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target! It’s a story of courage and survival on the high seas during wartime, and it is also a chronicle of a personal journey for me. Here is the story:  
    My dad, Lieutenant Charles Botula, Jr. served as Executive Officer aboard the LST 920 during World War 2. His ship survived a deadly U boat attack on his convoy that sank a British escort ship and heavily damaged LST 921, the sister ship to the LST 920. The loss of life was heavy. The British ship, LCI(L)99 was literally blown out of the water.  LST 921 was torn in two, with the aft section sinking with half the crew. I’ve shared this story before. My dad, died in 1965 without ever knowing the full story. It’s taken me years to research it. Neither my Dad nor his Captain, Harry Schultz, ever knew which enemy submarine attacked them or what happened to that U boat after the attack. The same goes for most of the survivors of that terrible afternoon.
   On Monday August 14, 1944 at five minutes to five, USS LST 920 commanded by Lieutenant Harry N. Schultz and USS LST 921, under the command of Lieutenant John Werner Enge, were underway in convoy EBC 72 from Milford Haven, Wales to Falmouth, England. Suddenly they were attacked by the German submarine U667, under the command of KapitÓ“nleutnant Karl-Heinze Lange. LST 921 was hit by the first torpedo and broke in two with the aft section sinking minutes later. Some survivors scampered to safety on the bow section. Others went overboard into the chilly water. When the aft section sank, it took half of the ship’s crew to the bottom.  General Quarters was sounded on the LST 920 and Captain Schultz came to the bridge. Seeing survivors in the water, Schultz ordered his radioman, Seaman Fred Benck to send a request for permission to turn his ship around to pick up survivors. Permission was denied and the 920 was ordered to proceed to Falmouth. Years later, Benck told me what happened next. The captain came back into the radio room and said, “Benck send that message again!” He waited for the answer which was the same,DO NOT BREAK CONVOY!” Captain Schultz said, “TO HELL WITH HIM!” And we pulled out of convoy to turn back and pick up survivors!
   My father watched from the bridge of the LST 920, as the second torpedo headed straight at his ship. Just then, a British escort vessel, LCI(L)99, came alongside, took the full brunt of the torpedo and was blown out of the water. The rest of the convoy, following orders kept going toward Plymouth, England. The 920 came about and Schultz ordered two small boats into the water with Ensign John Waters in one and Ensign Harold Willcox in the other, along with nine other sailors to rescue survivors. In all, 48 survivors were rescued and brought aboard the LST 920 or sent ahead with a British escort ship, the HMS Londonderry.  Seaman Joe Wallace tells this part of the story. I remember one of the 921 crew members coming up to the bridge all wet and oily. I gave him my locker keys and location, and he showered and put on some clean dry clothes. By this time it was dark. We gathered the survivors and were on our way to Falmouth. There, I had the task of counting the departing survivors - 42 walking and 6 stretcher cases.
   I first shared this story in an article I wrote for the U.S. LST Association’s magazine The Scuttlebutt about ten years ago. Funny thing about war stories. They start taking on a life of their own.
When I started hearing from my dad’s old shipmates, I realized that there was more to the story. The entire tale has more twists and turns in it than an Alpine road. So, after doing some more research and talking to other crew members from both LSTs – my dad’s ship and the 921, I decided to try my hand at writing a book about it. The result is not exactly War and Peace or The Longest Day but it does mark my debut as an author. A lot of retired news guys like me are trying their hand at writing. And frankly, a lot of these stories, even with the best of intentions remain untold. That has a lot to do with my motivation. I think my dad’s story is a pretty good yarn! I’d hate to see it stay in a box of old papers and photographs in the closet. The story about a father who still sets a good example for his son is still bright, even after 72 years. The book is called LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target! It’s available now from the book department at - Kindle or paperback. Here’s the link:  
( MikeBo’s Blog is a wholly owned subsidiary of , and is linked to Facebook, and  Twitter and Google Plus!)
© By Mike Botula 2016