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]