Friday, December 7, 2018

Pearl Harbor: First Blood! A Sailor’s Story

MikeBo’s Blog
Sunny 80°F/27°C at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
Rain 49°F/10°C in Cedar Park, Texas
Buonagiornata miei amici,

When I sat down at my computer to write my book, LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow, Target! in 2016, I realized it was an incomplete story.  The story that my father told me and my 
brother as we grew up concerned a U boat attack on his convoy off the coast of England in August
USS Arizona Under Attack
Pearl Harbor 1941
1944. LST 920’s sister ship, LST 921 lost half its crew when it was torpedoed by the U 667, and a British escort ship, LCI(L)99 was blown out of the water by a second torpedo aimed at my father’s ship. LST 920’s Captain, Harry N. Schultz disobeyed a strict war-time order to not break away from the convoy for any reason! After repeated messages to his command requesting permission, and in spite of repeated orders to the contrary, Captain Schultz disobeyed that wartime order, in order to rescue survivors from the two ships. My father, who served as Schultz’ Executive Officer aboard the 920, never understood his Captain’s decision to deliberately disobey a wartime order to facilitate that rescue. Captain Schultz never confided any of his previous wartime experiences. It was only many years after the war, when I was researching my book and communicating with Schultz’s family, that I  became aware that the seeds of his heroic decision were planted at Pearl Harbor, on Sunday December 7, 1941.

And that, gentle reader, is my contribution to the many anniversary stories you will see on this seventy-seventh anniversary of the day that Franklin Delano Roosevelt called A Day Which Will Live in Infamy!

Sunday Morning December 7, 1941 was the perfect day in a Pacific Island paradise, until about 8
Destroyer Jarvis
o'clock that morning!  While my parents and other Americans were listening to their radios or looking at their maps to see where Pearl Harbor was located, World War Two, for Petty Officer Harry Neil Schultz, had already begun. Schultz was at Pearl Harbor, aboard the Destroyer USS Jarvis (DD 393) when the first Japanese bombs started falling on the U.S.  fleet.

In their all-out attack, the key targets for the Japanese were the battleships. They sank Arizona, California, Oklahoma, and West Virginia. USS Arizona still rests on the bottom, a war grave with more than a thousand valiant souls still aboard. In the midst of all of this flame and carnage, one scrappy destroyer, USS Jarvis, escaped to fight another day, and took her fair measure of vengeance on the attackers.

Harry N. Schultz was the oldest of seven sons born to Mr. and Mrs. Herman Schultz of 801 “A” Street, Pasco,  Washington. Pasco is inland, about 200 miles east of Seattle. By October 1943, five of the Schultz brothers – Harry, Dick, Carl, Arthur and Elmer would be in uniform serving their country, and the two youngest Schultz boys – Paul Herman, 13 and Harold Eugene, 6 would be waiting their  turn to serve. Harry had enlisted in the peacetime Navy in 1937 and was assigned to the Jarvis right
Schultz in 1937
after his basic training. When an article appeared in the Pasco Herald, praising the elder, immigrant Schultzes for their contribution to the war effort, Harry’s younger brothers were in various military branches on various wartime assignments. Arthur, 28, was a Sergeant in the Army in North Africa.  Brother Richard, 26, was a Corporal in the infantry in North Africa. Carl Schultz, 22, was in the Army Signal Corps in Australia and brother Elmer, 18, was also in the Navy.  Even though he planned on making the Navy his career, a commission as an officer was the farthest thing from Schultz’ mind on the morning of December 7, 1941.

The Destroyer Schultz served aboard was named for a heroic Navy Midshipman, James C. Jarvis, who served in the fledgling U.S. Navy during an early conflict with France. Midshipman Jarvis was born in 1787 and appointed as a Midshipman from the State of New York in 1799. As was the custom of the day, Midshipman Jarvis went to sea aboard the famed frigate Constellation. In 1800, what the history books describe as a quasi-war, broke out between the fledgling United States and its revolutionary benefactor France over freedom of the seas for American shipping. A similar dispute with Great Britain would later lead to the War of 1812. During its battle with the French frigate La Vengeance Deux in February 1800 young Jarvis was ordered aloft to secure the Constellation’s mainmast. At one point he was ordered down for fear the mast might topple. The young midshipman disobeyed the order yelling down to the officer who gave the order, My post is here. I can’t leave it. The mast crashed down, and Jarvis went over the side with the rigging and was drowned. He was 13 years old.

On the Sunday morning of December 7, 1941, Schultz was aboard the second destroyer named for Midshipman Jarvis (DD 383) moored next to another destroyer, the USS Mugford (DD 389), and their tender, USS Sacramento, a converted 1914 vintage gun boat. The after-action reports of all three ships show the Japanese attack beginning at 0758 on that Sunday morning. General Quarters was immediately sounded, and all three destroyers opened fire on the attacking aircraft. The ship’s log notes that the ship’s anti-aircraft machine guns commenced firing at 0804 hrs, with the Jarvis’ five-inch gun firing the first shot of any five-inch gun in the harbor 60 seconds later.

USS Jarvis was credited with shooting down four enemy aircraft during its escape from Ford Island to the open sea. It is believed that Jarvis was the first to draw enemy blood on that bloody Sunday. Among the seamen receiving special commendation for their action during the Pearl Harbor attack was Quartermaster First Class Harry Neil Schultz, who had been with the Jarvis since it was commissioned in 1937. So much for the wartime myth, that the Americans at Pearl Harbor were so surprised by the suddenness and ferocity of the Japanese attack, that they drew no Japanese blood on that long-ago Sunday. The crew of the Jarvis shattered that myth almost immediately.

About two weeks later, the USS Jarvis left Pearl Harbor along with the carrier Saratoga as part of the Task Force assigned to relieve the Japanese attack on Wake Island. But, in a controversy that resounds to this day, that mission was scuttled, and the Japanese took Wake Island on December
The Wilson Brothers
23rd. In January 1942, while on an anti-submarine patrol the Jarvis rescued 182 survivors of a Japanese torpedo attack on the fleet oiler Neces. By July 1942, Schultz and the Jarvis were on their way to the Solomon Islands to take part in the invasion of Guadalcanal on August 7th. In the Jarvis’ crew with Harry Schultz were two young brothers, Lans and Billy Wilson. It would be their fate in the later action at Guadalcanal that would enter into the fateful decision by Shultz later in the war to disobey his orders. The transport ships that Jarvis was escorting came under heavy attack by the Japanese and the Jarvis took a Japanese torpedo but remained afloat. Nine of the 26 attacking Japanese planes had been able to penetrate the American defenses. Following  that battle, the Jarvis steamed to Tulagi where seven wounded crewmen were transferred to a hospital on shore. Quartermaster Harry Schultz went ashore with them to make sure they were cared for. That assignment saved his life.

The Jarvis’ skipper, Lt. Commander William Graham, Jr. then ordered the Jarvis to steam for Sydney, Australia for repairs, unwittingly ordering his ship into the maelstrom known as the bloody  Battle of Savo Island. Shortly after, she steamed across Iron Bottom Sound and ran into the approaching fleet of Japanese Admiral Mikawa’s heavy cruisers, which had mistaken the Jarvis for an American heavy cruiser. As she continued to steam westward, the Japanese again attacked her with a force of 31 planes, raking her with machine gun fire and torpedoes. USS Jarvis went to the bottom of Iron Bottom sound at 1 o’clock in the afternoon on August 9th with all hands. The two Wilson brothers, Billy and Lans were among the 233 crew members who died that day. The loss of Jarvis’ shook  Quartermaster Harry Schultz to his core. In one fell swoop, the Japanese had wiped out his entire family of shipmates.

Rising through the ranks, Schultz earned his commission in 1944, and took command of USS LST 920, a tank landing ship that saw action in Europe and the Pacific. Schultz  was one of only three
Harry Schutz in 1945
members of the LST’s crew of 110 or so who had ever been to sea. Commissioned in June 1944, LST 920 along with its sister ship LST 921 made a safe journey across the Atlantic during late July and early August 1944, and on August 14, 1944 was headed, in another convoy, from Milford Haven, Wales to Falmouth, England, when the convoy was attacked by the German submarine U 667.  The first torpedo broke LST 921 in two, and the second torpedo which was aimed at my father’s ship, blew the British escort ship LCI(L)99 out of the water.

The three attacked ships shared a common history. All three; the two LSTs and the British escort ship had been built at the same shipyard in Massachusetts – the Bethlehem Hingham Shipyard. The crews of the two LSTs trained together at Camp Bradford, Virginia prior to their commissioning. In fact, in a coincidence eerily reminiscent of the ill-fated Wilson brothers aboard the Jarvis, twin brothers were serving aboard the LST 920 and LST 921. Aboard the LST 921 was Seaman  Jerry Hendrixson, twin brother of LST 920 Seaman Harold Hendrixson. Unlike Lans and Billy Wilson, who were lost off Guadalcanal, the Hendrixson brothers were eventually reunited. I’m sure that Captain Schultz was also mindful of his other shipmates from the Jarvis, who lived through the attack on Pearl Harbor only to be lost off Guadalcanal. Thus, was put in motion for Schultz’s life-saving decision.

Following the attack on his convoy, Schultz twice ordered Radioman Fred Benck to send messages to his Command requesting permission to return and rescue survivors. Twice, his request was denied. Finally. Schultz made his decision. The order was repeated, DO NOT BREAK CONVOY! Schultz responded, TO HELL WITH HIM! LST 920 turned and returned to pick up survivors from her sister ship, LST 921. When the LST 920 eventually reached Falmouth, Captain Schultz was ordered ashore to face a court-martial. Disobedience during wartime, will not earn the offender any medals for valor.  However, Harry Schultz argued that an ancient law of the sea – rescuing the survivors of a maritime disaster – takes precedence, even in wartime. He was exonerated and returned to his ship.

LST 921 survivor  John Abrams told me many years later, We were left, all by ourselves feeling helpless. We all knew that the German sub was still in the area. Just as all hope seemed lost, we saw your dad’s ship coming back. We all realized that Captain Schultz had disobeyed orders to come back to get us. I owe my life to that man!

      Mike Botula

[Mike Botula, the author of LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target! is a retired broadcast journalist, government spokesperson and media consultant.   Mike’s book is available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble Books. You can read more about Mike Botula at]

© 2018

Sunday, November 4, 2018

LST 920 Ship’s Log-UPDATE!

MikeBo’s Blog
Cloudy 55°F/13°C in Falmouth, England
Clear 52°F/11°C in Cedar Park, TX
Buonagiornata miei amici

 To date, my book, LST 920! Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target! (Amazon Books)  has not made an appearance on the New York Times Best Seller List.  Nor has it been selected by Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club. Instead, it is one of those so-called vanity books that is self-published by an author who has convinced himself that he has a great story to tell.

LST 920! Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target! (Amazon Books) is the story of one day in the lives
of the crew of a World War 2 Tank Landing Ship that was attacked  by a lone German U boat on 14 August 1944 as it steamed from Milford Haven, Wales to Falmouth, England. My father, Lt. Charles Botula, Jr. was the second in command of LST 920, and he quite often told my brother and I how his life, and the lives of his crew were saved by the crew of a British escort ship, who sacrificed their ship and their lives because it was their duty to protect and defend an ally.

The incident, which became a defining moment in my father’s life occupies a few, scant lines in the ship’s log:

LST 920 Ship’s Log: Monday 14 August 1944
      1654 hours:  First hit on LST 921, directly astern of us. Presumably by torpedo.
      1654 hours: General Quarters sounded
      1656 hours: LCI #99 (British) hit by torpedo presumably
      1657 hours: All stations manned and ready; approximate position…50°54’ N, 4°45’ W
      1657 hours: Relieved on conn by Captain Schultz and went to GQ station
       Ensign John J. Waters, Officer of the Deck

After crafting an article on the incident for The Scuttlebutt,  the  publication of the United States LST Association, I decided that I had enough material to warrant writing a short book. I did not realize how many lives I would touch. Here are few of the stories I can pass along:

Able Seaman William Todd, Royal Navy, age 19 -  Good morning, I don't know a great deal
Able Seaman William Todd
about my Great Uncle William Todd as he only has one  surviving brother left and he is very frail now and cannot remember a lot.
Gillian Whittle, Seaman Todd’s great-niece.

William Todd was aboard the British escort ship that took the torpedo intended for LST 920. My father saw the whole incident. I never knew that Todd was one of the casualties until my research turned up a crew list for the British ship, LCI(L) 99.  Gillian Whittle, Seaman Todd’s grand-niece read my account of his death and wrote me and sent me the photo of her great uncle.

Bill as he was known was only 19 when he died, and he came from Chorley, Lancashire, England. I imagine he was called up when he turned 18, I don't know his birthday. He was acting able seaman and he was actually the ships cook. We as a family are very proud of him and I go to Kent, England when I can to lay flowers at the naval memorial. I am afraid I don't know much else about my Uncle, but I have his medals and I had the privilege of  wearing them proudly on remembrance parade for him one year and we keep his memory going. 

The Unsinkable Charlie Watson -  A former neighbor, Curt Pederson, wrote me about the unidentified ship’s cook that had been rescued from the sinking stern section of LST 921 by his shipmates John Abrams and Lloyd Meeker. Charlie Watson had been badly injured when the U 667’s torpedo struck his ship, but in the heat of the rescue, neither Abrams nor Meeker was able to identify the lucky ship’s cook. Watson spent months in a Navy hospital  recuperating, and eventually one of his legs had to be amputated.

I was trapped below deck, Watson told me by phone years later. Both my legs and one arm were broken. I was trying to crawl out when Meeker grabbed me and got me topside, Watson told me. Meeker got me into the water so I could be pulled onto a raft with some other guys from the ship. Then Watson told me a story that I’m sure he has told countless times since the torpedoing of his ship. All of a sudden, I could see a torpedo trail bubbling through the water, coming straight at me. All I could do was stare at it!  What happened next, I asked him? Damned torpedo zipped by right below me. It didn’t hit anything though. I told him about my father standing on the bridge of his ship earlier watching as a torpedo came straight amidships at the LST 920. At the last split-second, the British escort ship came alongside and took the U 667’s torpedo full force and was blown out of the water.

 What I didn’t know until Watson told me his story, was that my dad’s ship escaped being torpedoed a second time. As Watson was being hoisted aboard the 920, the Captain, Harry Schultz ordered a sharp turn as an evasive maneuver. Another torpedo, fired by the U 667, passed close by, but missed the ship.

Christophe Moriceau, French Diver – Following its attack, U 667 stalked my dad’s convoy for a
U 667
day or two, then unable to find other targets, it headed back to its base at La Rochelle, France. On August 25, 1944, U 667 received a dose of its own medicine when it struck a mine and sank with all hands. Moriceau continues the story from that point, Its wreck is now staying down off La Rochelle as you know but the story is more complicated than it would appear. Indeed this 70-meter-long wreck was discovered around 1973 by a diver. At that time, one knew that two Type 7 U-Boote had disappeared off La Rochelle: U 263 during deep sea trials and U 667 when coming back from her last patrol. Both in 1944.

 Moriceau dove the site in 2005 but could not firmly
Moriceau at U 667 Wrecksite
identify the wreck as U 667 because of heavy damage forward of the conning tower. There the story rests until 2014, when the hulk was finally identified through photographs by Dr. Axel Niestl
é, an expert on unterseebooten. There it rests today, off the French coast near La Rochelle with Kapitӓnleutnant Karl-Heinz Lange and the entire crew.

My father died in 1965, never knowing the identity of the German U boat that attacked his convoy, nor the names of the crew of the British escort ship that took the blast from the torpedo that was meant to sink his ship. In wartime, the enemy has no name!

C’est la guerre!

[Mike Botula, the author of LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target! is a retired broadcast journalist, government spokesperson and media consultant.   Mike’s book is available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble Books. You can read more about Mike Botula at]

Thursday, November 1, 2018

El Diá de los Muertos!

Huck-A-Buck Chronicles: MikeBo’s Blog
Sunny 60°F/ 16°C in Riverhead, NY
Cloudy 63°F/17°C in Cedar Park, TX
Dzień dobry, każdy!
Good Morning, Everybody!

 [An earlier version of this story first appeared on the day following Halloween in 2014.]

 Buenas Dias,
   Today is the first day of November…the day after Halloween….All Saints Day. It is also El Día de los Muertos or The Day of the Dead. It’s a national holiday throughout Mexico, and it’s widely observed
Dana, Mike, Michael Botula at Mary and Charles Gravesite
in the United States as well, particularly among our Hispanic population. The observance takes place on the first day of November, in connection with the Catholic holidays of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day. Traditions include putting up private altars honoring the deceased and decorating them with sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed. Families of the departed also visit their relatives’ graves with these as gifts. They also leave possessions of the deceased.

September 27, 2013 - Roanoke Avenue Cemetery, Riverhead, New York
I had been gone from my home town most of my adult life. While I had been born in New York City, I had grown up in Riverhead and went all the way through high school here. I had come here one sunny day in April of 1961 with my brother Packy, and our father Charles to bury our mother, Mary. On another sad day in November of 1965 my brother and I returned to bury our father, Charles. Following their funerals, my brother Packy and I set to the task of closing up the home where we had grown up and get it ready to be sold. An unseen gate slammed shut on our idyllic childhood, and we both moved on with our lives. Now, on this sunny day in September forty eight years later, “Skip” and Charlie Botula are still resting in their quiet place marked by two granite headstones, their repose shaded by an old oak tree. It’s not quite November 1st, but this is now my own personal Día de los Muertos. After visiting my parents’ graves, I walk along the path through the cemetery.  My stroll takes me on a tour of my childhood. Across the way from mom and dad is “Papa Nick” Meras, the smiling Greek man whose family still runs the confectionary where we used to gather after school. Down the way is my third grade teacher, Ramsey Walters. Around the bend is my old scoutmaster, Alton Medsger. Across the way, in a plot marked by a tall granite monument are my parents’ best friends, Fred and Beverly Alexander. Glancing down at the headstones as I walk along, I see so many family friends.

Saturday April 29, 1995-Calvary Cemetery - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
   I had come to this gravesite for the first time in 1947 with my father when I was six years old. It was the first time that death had touched our family, and I was overwhelmed by my grief. My dad’s brother, Adolf had died suddenly at the family homestead on Ward Street. Forty eight years later I had returned to say farewell to my dad’s other brother, my beloved Uncle Ted. My own dad was not here – he and my mother had passed away thirty years before and were buried back in my home town. For me, the two gravesite visits were like placing bookends on either side of important volumes of my family’s history. I viewed the moment as a flashback with the scene beginning in a chaotic drama in black and white and quickly flashing forward in time to a similar but continuing as a contemporary drama in full color. As is the custom in many Roman Catholic cemeteries, we said goodbye to Uncle Ted at a short service in the cemetery chapel and then we left to let the graves crew do its job. There were no graveside goodbyes. After the chapel farewells, my cousins, my brother and I among them, decided on our own to visit the family gravesite. There are three generations of Botula’s buried at this plot, there are other family members resting nearby. It wasn’t a Dia de los Muertos visit, that’s not part of my Czech heritage, but the sentiment was the same. For the cousins, Packy, Anna Marie, Richard and Frank and me, this became our own brief reunion. We were a close-knit group of cousins, and, we hadn’t been together in many years. Uncle Ted’s passing was a signal moment in the story of our family.

   Maybe it’s because of my own love of history, but I love to visit old cemeteries. There are so many stories there. The catacombs, church crypts and necropoli of Rome, colonial era cemeteries along the eastern seaboard of the United States, Gold Rush and Frontier cemeteries in California, Nevada and Arizona. Our own Arlington National Cemetery. There is the small family gravesite behind an old Victorian home in Mariposa, California. The people that own the house acquired the small family burial ground when they acquired the property and now care for it with the same loving care as if it sheltered members of their own family. I think as I walk along that the history of any society lives in its cemeteries.

After all my adventures in life, I now understand that this is where I must return some day, even as a symbolic gram or two of ash. Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem comes to my mind.
            ''This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.''

October 31, 1992 Halloween – Santa Ana Cemetery - Santa Ana, California
   Now, let’s go back to a sunny Saturday afternoon on Halloween weekend 21 years before. My wife, Donna and I are on a guided walk through the old, historic cemetery in Santa Ana, California. Our walk takes us past the graves of many notable local historical figures. There are mayors, prominent members of the clergy; a famous Sheriff, Theo Lacy, is buried here, too. The headstones read like a “Who’s Who” of our county. As we walk along, we notice something else. Here and there, people have gathered for what appears to be a picnic. They’ve spread blankets at the gravesites and set down their picnic baskets. Most of them have placed bouquets of flowers at the headstones with lighted candles. I see them praying, saying grace and then lifting glasses in their toasts. Curious, I approach a family gathered around one of the graves. “Good afternoon,” I greet them. Nice day for a picnic, isn’t it? They smile and nod. But, why have a picnic in a cemetery? I ask. El Dia de los Muertos,” the woman said in a soft, accented voice. It is El Día de los Muertos, or The Day of the Dead.  Today, we come to the cemetery to honor members of our families who have passed on and to pray for them. She continued. We want to let them know that even though they have left this life, they are still part of our family. I had never heard of such a custom. The woman went on to explain to me that it is a holiday in Mexico and more important to Mexican culture than Halloween itself. I was quite moved.

   In our society, visits to loved one’s graves can be infrequent and generally very brief. Flowers can be placed at the headstone and a prayer said. But, long spans of time can pass before a return visit is made, if ever. Gone forever and easily forgotten. At that moment, I realized that I had not visited my parents resting place in more than 30 years. Our cemetery walk this day took place on Halloween. The next day would be the first day of November, All Saints Day and El Dia de los Muertos. I could feel the connection here. I could almost hear the grandmother talking to her family as they picnicked six feet above her. I could feel the love and respect these family members were showing their loved ones. Later, as we continued along our walk, I thought of my own parents who were buried far away from where I lived now and made a promise to myself to honor them one day in the tradition of El Dia de los Muertos.

Friday, October 19, 2018 - Roanoke Avenue Cemetery, Riverhead, New York
    Now, it is the weekend of my 60th Anniversary of my graduation from Riverhead High School, and I have brought my son Michael and my daughter Dana with me on this visit to my home town. Michael is accompanied by his wife Laura. Michael accompanied me on a similar pilgrimage in 2003. Neither Dana nor Laura has ever been to Riverhead. Neither Michael nor Dana had ever known their grandparent. “Skip” and Charles Botula had both died by the time my children had been born.

Michael and Laura had flown in from Rome to attend the reunion with me. Dana had flown up from Austin, Texas with me. Now, we were going to keep an appointment that was not on the reunion schedule of events. First a stop at the Riverhead Flower Shop on East Main Street, where I ordered two small bouquets for the visit to the cemetery.  Then we drove along Main Street toward our lunch destination in Aquebogue a few miles to the east of downtown.
   Along the way I pointed out landmarks that were part of my growing-up years. There was the Methodist Church on the left, where the entire family attended, and I had gone to Sunday School. Across the street, still there, was the Rendezvous Restaurant, my favorite watering hole as I became an adult. As we drove eastward, I continued to point out the landmarks that were part of my childhood. Just over the railroad tracks, still standing, was the apartment building that my  parents moved into when they first came to Riverhead in 1940. Then, a short distance down Main Street, just  past the old A & P Supermarket that had been converted into the new Riverhead Town Hall, was the little house where my brother Packy and I had grown up. The little house, now obscured from view by shrubs and trees is still there. A few miles to the east, on the right side of the Main Road, I pointed out Aquebogue Elementary school, where I had attended first grade at five years of age, because the school did not offer a kindergarten program.  Then, we arrived at our lunch destination, the Modern Snack Bar, which has been feeding eastern Long Islanders its famous menu of home cookery since 1950.

After lunch, we drove back into town to pick up to the bouquets for our trip to the cemetery. Then, in the tradition of El día de los muertos, it was time for my son and daughter to visit their grandparents. Michael and Dana placed the flower bouquets at the sides of the gravestones, and Dana scraped away the moss that had begun to form. As I pointed out the headstones of other family friends and neighbors nearby, I explained that the tradition of El día de los muertos, is not a time for grieving. It is, in fact, a family reunion.   In that moment, I truly understood what the Mexican woman had told me in the Santa Ana Cemetery years earlier. This has now become part of my own family’s tradition, even though my trips back to my home town usually don’t coincide with El Dia de los Muertos on the first of November. And, it has more meaning for me than the Halloween celebration.

[Mike Botula, the author of LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target! is a retired broadcast journalist, government spokesperson and media consultant.   Mike’s book is available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble Books. You can read more about Mike Botula at]
© Mike Botula 2018

Sunday, October 28, 2018

The Grave of the U 667!

MikeBo’s Blog
Cloudy 48°F/9°C at La Rochelle, France
Sunny 83°F/28°C at Cedar Park, TX
Buonagiornata miei amici:

When I returned from my high school reunion, I checked the Email inbox attached to my website  There, I found a message that began….
      I’ve read with great interest your website and particularly the items dealing with your father and
U 667 in 1944
the story of LST-920.
      I’m a French diver and with friends of mine we created about 20 years ago a non-profit making association whose aim is to discover, dive and reconstruct the story of wrecks sunk off the French shores.
      We are specialized with U-Boote which are numerous around our coasts.

My mind hurtled from a class reunion filled with warm childhood memories to a watery wreck site off the coast of La Rochelle, France. The writer was Christophe Moriceau, and he had actually dived to the site where the U boat that attacked my father’s ship, LST 920, off the coast of England during World War 2. That’s when I realized that my journey, following in my father’s footsteps during his wartime Odyssey, was not yet over.

LST 920 Ship’s Log: Monday 14 August 1944

1654 hours:  First hit on LST 921, directly astern of us. Presumably by torpedo.

1654 hours: General Quarters sounded

1656 hours: LCI #99 (British) hit by torpedo presumably

1657 hours: All stations manned and ready; approximate position…50°54’ North, 4°45’ West

1657 hours: Relieved on conn by Captain Schultz and went to GQ station

Ensign John J. Waters, Officer of the Deck

What followed in the hours ahead became a true story of wartime heroism! A stubborn skipper
LST 920 Captain Schultz
– Lieutenant Harry Neil Schultz - who disobeyed strict, wartime orders who brought his ship back to the scene of the attack, and then under the watchful eyes of the predator who attacked his convoy dispatched his crew to rescue the survivors. Under wartime rules, the surviving ships in the convoy were ordered to proceed onto Falmouth, England, the convoy’s original destination.  After an exchange of radio messages with his command, Captain Schultz ordered the LST 920 to come about and return to the scene of the attack.

My father, Lieutenant Charles Botula, Jr. had come to the bridge when General Quarters sounded and saw a second German torpedo coming directly toward LST 920, when the British escort vessel steamed between LST 920 and the oncoming torpedo. LCI(L) 99 was blown out of the water!

The U-boat, U 667 followed LST 920 over the next day or so, looking for another target. Finally, it left the convoy and proceeded back to its home port of La Rochelle, France and the hero’s welcome usually given to U boat crews. But, in a twist of fate, U 667   struck a mine and sank with all hands.

In his email, Christophe Moriceau informed me that the wreck of the Type 7 U 667 was
LST 920 - France 1944
discovered in 1973 by a diver looking for the final resting places of two unterseebooten – U 263, lost in 1944 during sea trials and U 667, returning from her last patrol. Moriceau himself dove the wreck in 2005. His first attempt at locating the wreck of U 667 ended in failure. But, on his second dive found what he believed to be the remains of U 667. Unfortunately, the bow of the sub was so heavily damaged from striking the mine, that it was impossible to see the tell-tale Schnorchel (snorkel) that the U 667 was equipped. Moriceau snapped some photographs and left the dive site without firmly identifying the submarine. He did, put a note in a bottle about his quest and set the bottle, with his note inside, back into the sea.

Moriceau’s story doesn’t resume until 2014, when the note was finally read by an Austrian man, Christian Hirsch, who organized a dive on the site of the U 667. According to Moriceau, Hirsch’s mother had known one of the crewmembers of U 667 when she was a young nurse during the war.
My Dad, Lt. Charles Botula, Jr.
After diving the wreck, Hirsch sent his photographs to Dr.  Alex Niestl
é, a noted German U-bootewaffe specialist, who identified the wreckage as the remains of U 667. I am hoping now that Christophe Moriceau can provide me with some photographs of the U 667 wreckage.

My father died in 1965, never knowing even the number of the U boat that had attacked his convoy or the fate of its crew. A few of the crew members of the LST 920 and LST 921 did extensive post-war research on the attack.  Ensigns Don Joost of LST 921 and Don Reed of LST 921 were very helpful when I began researching my book in 2003. Their research into identifying the U boat that attacked their ships had taken many years. But, the skipper – Captain Harry Schultz, and his executive officer, my father – Lt. Charles Botula, Jr. never knew the rest of the story.

I can thank a French diver, Christophe Moriceau, for helping to solve a family mystery. Merci, mon ami!

[Mike Botula, the author of LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target! is a retired broadcast journalist, government spokesperson and media consultant.   Mike’s book is available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble Books. You can read more about Mike Botula at]

Thursday, October 25, 2018

We Did the Huck-A-Buck!

The Huck-A-Buck Chronicles:
MikeBo’s Blog for Thursday 25 October 2018
Clear 50°F/ 10°C in Riverhead, NY
Cloudy 70°F/21°C in Cedar Park, TX
Dzień dobry, Panie i panowie!
(Good Morning, Ladies and Gentlemen!)

Any youngster who ever went to school at Aquebogue Elementary knows from HUCK-A-BUCK!  But, most of the folks who read my blogs never went to Aquebogue Elementary School. First, it’s 
pronounced AQUA-BOGG. It’s a native American word. HUCK-A-BUCK in plain ol’ eastern Long Island
Michael, Dana, Laura, MikeBo

I attended Aquebogue Elementary for one year before my parents moved into town and I finished growing up in Riverhead, New York. During that year, 1946, I made some life-long friendships: Tom Medsger, Ginny Kratoville, “Bubbie” Brown, Susan Downs and Linda Tyte among them. When my folks bought our house on east Main Street and moved into Riverhead, I didn’t see my first grade friends until we went to high school. My brother Packy and I attended  Roanoke Avenue Elementary School, then Riverhead Junior High and then  Riverhead High School, where I graduated in 1958 at age 17. My kid brother graduated in 1963.

Good ol’ Huck-a-Buck didn’t have kindergarten, so I managed to skip the preliminaries, which meant that, at age 77, I was hobbling off to the 60th anniversary reunion of the Riverhead High School  Class of 1958. There were about sixty-five of us – surviving classmates along with our spouses and guests. The graduates followed different paths after the strains of Pomp and Circumstance faded away. Some of my classmates stayed put after graduation, living their lives in the old home town. Others left for a while – going away to college or serving their country in distance places like Vietnam. I fell into the last category. After staying around for a couple of years, I headed out and didn’t set foot in my home town until 2003. This reunion was very special. My son Michael and my daughter Dana came along with me. So did Michael’s wife, Laura. Dana and I came from Texas. Michael and Laura traveled from Rome. For me, it was a sentimental journey of the highest order.

My parents, Charles and Mary “Skip” Botula first came to Riverhead in 1940. Hailing from the western Pennsylvania coal country, they had both come to New York City where they married in
Charles and Mary Botula - 1937
1937.  My mom was a registered nurse and dad was a loan officer for the Personal Finance Company. He often joked that his competition for the small, personal loans the company specialized in was the Mafia and La Cosa Nostra’s notorious loan sharks. His promotion to branch manager brought the couple to Riverhead in 1940. I joined them in January 1941. Since Riverhead would not have its own hospital for another ten  years, I was born in Manhattan. Pearl Harbor was attacked in December, and dad got his commission in the US Navy in 1943. While he was off to war, my mom took me and returned to upstate New York to spend 1944 and 1945 near her parents. By December 1945, when my dad returned from the Pacific War, my kid brother, Charles Botula III, aka Packy¸ had joined us and Skip and Charlie returned to Riverhead, where we lived happily ever after until 1961 when my mom died of cancer. Shattered by the loss of his Skipper, my father died in 1965.

Packy and I both went through the Riverhead school system, although my younger brother missed out on Aquebogue School. Also, he went to kindergarten, unlike his big brother. After
Lt. "Packy" Botula 1969
graduating from R.H.S. (the Pulaski Street school, not the new one), I embarked on the career in broadcasting that I had begun at WRIV while still a sophomore, and my kid brother went off to SUNY Buffalo and a career in the US Air Force. Now, we’re both retired. Packy lives in Illinois near St. Louis with his wife Susan, and I live near Austin, Texas, not too far from my daughter Dana and my five grandchildren. Son Mike lives in Rome, Italy with his wife Laura.

I met and married Michael and Dana’s mother, Donna, in Phoenix before we moved on to California to start our family. Our children grew up in California and never set foot in their father’s home town in New York together until I brought them to Riverhead for this reunion.

The RHS Class of 1958 numbered about 117 people when we graduated on that balmy June night. It was the last of the pre-WW 2 classes to graduate from the building on Pulaski Street. Most
Graduation Night - June 23, 1958
of the graduates had grown up in and around Riverhead – Flanders, Jamesport, Wading River, Calverton, Manorville, Baiting Hollow, Mattituck, Laurel and of course, Aquebogue. Along the way, we were joined by young people who had moved from other cities and states, and even other countries. We welcomed new classmates who didn’t even speak English when they started school. They were from families who had sought new lives in the USA after their own homes in Europe had been devastated by the war.  Since my hometown already had a large population of Poles who had come to the US after World War I, many of the newcomers also came from Poland. The newcomers became part of what would be The Class of ’58, part of the Riverhead family!  For most of us, the bonds of friendship would last a lifetime. That’s what my son and daughter came to understand on their first visit together to their father’s home town. By the time we headed back to our respective homes on Sunday, Mike and Laura and Dana felt right at home.

The reunion followed our time-honored format: A reception  on Friday evening, sit-down dinner on Saturday night, and Sunday brunch to cap it off. The reception this year was at the Outerbanks Restaurant at Indian Island County Park. We had the Saturday dinner at our class favorite, Riverhead Polish Hall on Marcy Avenue. Diane Tucci  took our latest family portrait before we sat down to the Polish Hall’s famous home cooking. Finally, Sunday brunch took place  at the venerable Birchwood Restaurant, also in Polish Town, which we old-timers remember as Regula’s Corner.

In between reunion events, I took the kids on a tour of the town. We drove out to Aquebogue, past the elementary school where I attended first grade. Past the old Downs’ General Store and US
Dana, Mike and Michael Botula
Post Office building to the Modern Snack Bar. After lunch we drove up to Iron Pier Beach to gaze across Long Island Sound at Connecticut. Finally we drove back through Jamesport and back to town along Peconic Bay Boulevard.  Friday, after a stop at the Riverhead Flower Shop, we headed up to the Roanoke Avenue Cemetery where Mary and Charles Botula are buried. Michael and Dana never knew their grandparents. They had died before the kids were born. We placed the two bouquets we had brought with us, and Dana scraped the moss that had started to form on her grandparents’ headstones.

Saturday morning we drove out to Montauk Point and its historic lighthouse, built in 1796. Dana commented on the age of the lighthouse, almost 300 years. That brought a laugh from Laura, who hails from Rome, which is nearly 3,000 years old! While I waited below, Michael, Laura and Dana joined the other tourists and climbed to the top of the light house. Then we drove back to Riverhead and joined the others at the reunion.

Sunday morning, Dana and I had coffee with Michael and Laura before they headed to Newark Airport and their flight back to Rome. Dana and I went on to brunch, and then it was back to Islip for our flight back to Austin. Our sentimental journey to dad’s hometown was over.

[Mike Botula, the author of LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target! is a retired broadcast journalist, government spokesperson and media consultant.   Mike’s book is available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble Books. You can read more about Mike Botula at]

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Luck, Be A Lady! (for President!)

MikeBo’s Blog
Cloudy, Showers 83°F/28°C in Cedar Park, TX
Showers  60°F/ 16°C in Washington, DC
Buonagiornata miei amici

About ten years ago, with the ennui of retirement hanging heavily on my shoulders, I decided to return to college. Now, mind you, I was well into my sixties and well above the age of most of my
fellow students, not to mention most of the faculty at nearby San Joaquin Delta College. And, so it was, that over lunch with my History professor in the faculty lounge, I decided to  change my major from Communications to History. Thank you, Professor Wesley Swanson! If I had not changed my Major, I would not have met Victoria Woodhull, one of the most fascinating players in American politics.

Victoria Woodhull was the first woman to run for President of the United States! Declaring her candidacy in 1871, fifty years before women won the vote. But, Woodhull saw her opening: there was no law against a female candidate for office! In fact, Ms. Woodhull argued that women already had the vote, since the 14th and 15th Amendments, with no mention of gender, granted the right to vote to all citizens of the USA.

Born into a family of medicine show performers, young Victoria spent her youth traveling with
Victoria Woodhull
her family’s medicine show telling fortunes and peddling the remedies of her days. But she and her sister Tennie eventually became  financial advisors to tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt. That relationship was parlayed into the first New York stock brokerage owned by a woman, Woodhull, Clafin & Company. Out of that enterprise, Woodhull founded Woodhull and Clafin’s Weekly, a weekly newspaper which espoused women’s suffrage and labor reform and became notorious for its controversial subject matter such as sex education, free love, short skirts, spiritualism, vegetarianism and licensed prostitution.

Woodhull testified before the House Judiciary Committee on behalf of women’s suffrage and took her place in the top tier of the women’s suffrage movement along with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Ironically, she was unable to vote for herself as the presidential candidate of the Equal Rights Party in the 1872 election. She was in jail, charged with obscenity, for a scandalous article about the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher of Brooklyn, NY. She was a controversial, but popular person in her day. Some would say she was way ahead of her time.  It would not be until 1940 that another woman would toss her hat into the presidential ring, and that would be a Hollywood publicity stunt.

1940: Gracie Allen and “The Surprise Party!”
    Comedian George Burns’  wife and life partner needed a publicity boost for the couple’s failing
radio show, The Hinds Honey & Almond Cream Program, starring, of course – George Burns and Gracie Allen. Pre-dating by almost thirty years Pat Paulsen’s hilarious run for the Presidency in 1968, Gracie Allen used her ditzy persona  to poke fun at all things political. Her opponents were Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, Republican Wendell Willkie and Socialist Norman Thomas. Roosevelt was re-elected to an unprecedented third term. Neither Socialist Thomas nor Gracie won not one electoral vote.

1972: Shirley Chisholm, Democrat and Linda Jenness, Socialist Workers Party
    Shirley Chisholm made history in 1968 when she became the first African-American woman
Shirley Chisholm
elected to Congress. In 1972 she tried to make history for a second time by making a run for her party’s presidential nomination. Calling herself The Candidate of the People, she struggled for acceptance as a viable presidential  candidate. By convention’s end, Shirley Chisholm had placed fourth after George McGovern for the Democratic Party nomination. McGovern was defeated by Republican Richard Nixon in his re-election landslide.

1972 proved to be a twilight of sorts for the Socialist Workers Party which dissolved following the election. It’s primary candidate, Linda Jenness, a secretary from Atlanta shared the Socialist presidential candidacy with another female candidate, Evelyn Reed. Reed ran in Jenness’  place in those states where Jenness did not appear on the ballot because of her age. However, Jenness did manage to gather more than 83,000 votes in 1972.

2008: Hillary Clinton Seeks the Democratic Nomination for the first time.
   The former First Lady and US Senator from New York mounted her first quest for her party’s presidential nomination in 2008 but withdrew in June 2008 to endorse the ultimate winner and first African-American President, Barack Obama. The new President appointed her Secretary of State, a post she held until 2013.

Hillary Clinton did win her party’s presidential nomination in 2016 and won the popular vote. But, in a quirk inserted into the US Constitution by the Founders, she lost the Electoral College vote to Donald Trump 304 to 227. It remains to be seen if Clinton will try again in 2020.

2012, 2016: The Green Party’s Jill Stein.
    Jill Stein won 469,015 votes in the 2012 presidential elections, the most successful presidential
candidacy ever conducted by a woman. She returned in 2016 to face another female candidate, Democrat Hillary Clinton as well as the eventual winner, Donald Trump.

How is 2020 shaping up?
     It’s a foregone conclusion that Donald Trump will seek re-election in 2020. Just ask him. But, when Nikki Haley unexpectedly resigned as UN Ambassador, her name instantly came up as a potential GOP Presidential candidate. Over on the Democratic side, Politico Magazine identifies four women as potential candidates: California Senator Kamala Harris; Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; Kirsten Gillibrand, Senator from New York; and Senator Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota. Politico is stating flatly, Why 2020 Will Be the Year of the Woman. And  goes on to say, Democrats are pining for the karmic justice of defeating Trump with shards from a glass ceiling! I wonder what Victoria Woodhull would say to all of this.

Following the 1872 election Woodhull’s life continued to follow a tumultuous path, falling out of favor with Susan B. Anthony over her stance on free love. In 1877 with her sister Tennie,  she left New York to start a new life in England where she lived to the ripe old age of 88, dying in 1927. She had survived long enough to see women get the vote. Now, as we count the days until the midterm election in November and the next Presidential election in 2020, Victoria Woodhull’s name should be part of the conversation each time that mention is made of a female presidential candidate.

[Mike Botula, the author of LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target! is a retired broadcast journalist, government spokesperson and media consultant.   Mike’s book is available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble Books. You can read more about Mike Botula at]