Quotes Suitable for Framing: Admiral William Halsey, Jr.

Thursday, June 9, AD 2016

There are no great men, there are only great challenges, which ordinary men like you and me are forced by circumstances to meet.

Admiral William Halsey, Jr.

Earlier this week I was watching the movie The Gallant Hours (1960), starring James Cagney as Admiral William Halsey, Jr.  (Halsey hated the nickname “Bull” that the press fastened upon him during the War.)  The film focuses on the time in late 1942 to 1943 when Halsey was theater commander during the Guadalcanal campaign.  This was in tandem with my reading of the latest bio of Halsey, Admiral Bill Halsey:  A Naval Life, by Thomas Alexander Hughes.

Halsey is an interesting figure partially because his public image is so at odds with the reality.  During World War II Halsey was the “Patton of the Pacific”, a fighting Admiral who swore as he viewed the carnage of Pearl Harbor on December 7,  that by the time the US was done the only place that Japanese would be spoken was in Hell.  Halsey in the popular perception was a rampaging bull in a Japanese china shop.

The reality was different.  Halsey, who got his wings at the advanced age of 52, was an inspired commander of carriers.  Strike quick and run was his method in the early days of the War, when his daring carrier raids on Japanese held islands in the Pacific gave a very badly needed boost to national morale.  (“I hauled ass with Halsey” was a fond remembrance of veterans of those raids for decades after the War.)   However, unlike his unwelcome “Bull” image, Halsey was a thoughtful and careful planner, who paid close attention to such un-glamorous, but essential, topics as logistics and intelligence as he plotted every move his forces made.  He was also an officer beloved of his men because of his reputation of making sure that they were taken care of regarding food, leave and mail.  Throughout his career Halsey was known as a sailor’s officer who always looked out for the enlisted men under his command.  (A typical story told about Halsey by his sailors.  On board a carrier sailors were waiting in line for some prized ice cream.  An Ensign decides to cut to the head of his line.  He suddenly hears a stream of profanity directed at him.  He turns around to chew out the sailor cussing him.  He finds out that the man yelling at him is four star Admiral Halsey who has been patiently waiting his turn in the line with his men.)

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One Response to Quotes Suitable for Framing: Admiral William Halsey, Jr.

  • I saw that gerdunk story in a Naval Institute publication. In that account it was two Ensigns, and they only saw Halsey when they demanded “Who said that?” and the Admiral stepped out of line and said “I did!”. The two then ran off.

Padre of Guadalcanal

Monday, October 26, AD 2009

BE058992Frederic Gehring was probably lucky that he was born and reared in Brooklyn.  It has always been a tough town and it prepared him for the adventurous life he was to lead.  Born on January 20, 1903,  he went on to attend and graduated from Saint John’s Prep.  Setting his eyes on being a missionary priest, he entered the minor seminary of the Vincentians, Saint Joseph’s, near Princeton,  New Jersey.  Earning his BA in 1925, he entered the seminary of Saint Vincent’s in Philadelphia.

Ordained as a priest on May 22, 1930, he was unable to immediately go to China due to military activity of the Communists in Kiangsi province.  For three years he traveled throughout the US raising funds for the missions in China, and, at long last, in 1933 he was able to pack his bags and sailed for China.  Laboring in the Chinese missions from 1933-1939 in the midst of warlordism, civil war and the invasion of China, commencing in 1937, by Japan must have been tough, but Father Gehring was always up to any challenge.  For example,  in 1938 Japanese planes strafed a mission he was at.  Father Gehring ran out waving a large American flag in hopes that the Japanese would not wish to offend a powerful neutral nation and would stop the strafing.  The Japanese planes did fly off, and Father Gehring was pleased until someone at the mission pointed out that maybe the Japanese had simply run out of ammo!  In 1939 Father Gerhring returned to the States to raise funds for the missions.

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18 Responses to Padre of Guadalcanal

  • Another great story Don.

    My oldest son is currently in Honiara on Guadalcanal with the Australia & NZ Bank as their regional corporate manager. He has sent some interesting photos back (also on Facebook) of some of the memorial sites around the island.
    He will be returning home in November after a year away – haven’t had the chance to go and visit him there, much to my chagrin – I love travel.

  • Thanks for the great article about the Padre of Guadalcanal.
    He was my instructor at St. John’s, Jamaica, NY..and we all loved him, especially his wonderful stories.
    Loved it. God Bless!

  • A beautiful story. I am glad that the good Padre lived on to do many other good works after the war was over.

    And I love the story about Ross and “The Yiddisher Mama” song. I’m sure there was plenty of mutual respect among the men of different faiths fighting that war, even if that generation did not feel the need to trumpet their “diversity” and “inclusiveness” to the world.

  • Don, I will say again that it is a small world! I know only one person who has been to Guadalcanal, a retired Methodist Minister, who was a navy corpsman with the Marines in 42. He has some interesting tales to tell!

    Helen, I envy you. In addition to being a great priest and a very brave man I also suspect he was a character and a half, and I would have loved to have heard his stories!

    Donna, I have noticed in the military that almost all differences become small ones when facing a crisis, and there is no crisis like combat.

  • The article on Father Gehring and Barney Ross was fasinating to read and is very personal to me. I have been researching the 52nd Field Hospital on Guadalcanal. I had heard about the Christmas Service from a army veteran who was with the 101st Medical Regiment with the Americal Division. People forget that the Army entered combat in Nov. ’42’ and fought along side the Marines. I have often wondered about the details of the Christmas Service as mentioned in the letter from a veteran. He humbly stated that on Christmas Eve services were held at the chapel tent and Barney Ross, ex-boxing Champ sang and played the orgin and he was quite good! I have often wondered where did the organ come from on a jungle island during some of the most savage combat of the pacific? Well now I know, thanks to Father Gehring’s personal belongings. I love the photograph and would like to use it for a unit history that I am working on for the 52nd. I plan on devoting a segment to the Ministries including the Chapel that the natives built for the cemetery dedication, and also the hospitals own chapel tent who’s altar was painted in frescos by one of the enlisted personnel. One more interesting fact that I was told by my dad who was a member of the 52nd was the death of Father Neil Doyle who was wounded on New Georgia and died on the operating table after being evacuated to Guadalcanal. He had developed gangrene in his leg and my dad donated blood for his surgery. The hospital personnel really took it hard when news spread that he had died. He was wounded giving last rites on the battlefield on Munda, New Georgia. How can I obtain copy of the picture of Gehring and Ross for my publication and consent. I would like to hear any fedback regarding this subject. By the way, Oct.26th is my birthday, this is one of the best presents ever!

  • Thank you for your comments Raymond and especially for the interesting information on Father Neil Doyle who will be a subject of one of my future posts. I will try to find where I got the picture from. I recall it took some doing. Unfortunately I have no rights to it, but I will attempt to locate the original source and post it here.

  • Thank you for replying. I am looking forward to reading your article on Father Doyle. If you haven’t researched the Archdiocese of Hartford you might consider a inquirey. Sister Irene Fortier was kind enough to send me some material on Father Doyle back in 1995. This event remained forever etched in my Dad’s memory and although it was difficult, I did eventually hear his side of the story. I have some photos of a Chatholic Chaplain saying mass inside a tent on Guadalcanal. This was before the Natives built and dedicated the chapel at the cemetery in March of ’43’. I would like to identify the Chaplain in my photos although I know there were many men of the cloth serving with different outfits. Perhaps it may be John F. Culliton,John P. Mahoney, Bishop Aubin, John P. Daly, Thomas O’Malley just to name a few who were on the island at the time. I don’t believe it is Father Gehring. If I can be of any help let please let me know. You had mentioned that you knew a Methodist Minister who was a medic on Guadalcanal. Would it be possible to forward my information regarding the 52nd Field Hospital? The army took over the Marines field hospital “C-1” after it arrived in Nov ’42’ and treated the sick and wounded from all branches of the military until evacuation was possible. I would love to hear from him.

  • Has anyone mentioned Marine Chaplain “Padre” Tom Reardon? I have gorgeous photos and article about his time at Guadalcanal. He went in with the first wave of Marines and eventually contracted malaria and left the island unconcious, before recovering in California. He is the PADRE showcased in the book and motion picutre “Guadalcanal Diary.” He was my dad’s first cousin and had an accomplished life post-war, and is still honored each year with an award at the Seton Hall University School of Law. The photos I have of him saying mass on the island are spectacular.

  • Great information. I too have been collecting informatoin on the 214th Coastal Artillery (AA)regiment, attached to the Americal Division on January 1943 on Guadalcanal. My father s/sgt Robert Burns served with the HQ Battery, 2nd Battalion of the 214th CA (AA). The unit Chaplain’s name was J.F. O’Connell, he may appear in the March 1943 photo mentioned above on Guadalcanal. I would appreciate any information you can provide for this period on Guadalcanal.

  • If I come across any additional information Robert, I will pass it on to you.

  • Tom, I will have to make time to do a post on the remarkable Father Tom Reardon.

  • What a terrific story – thank you. I visited Guadalcanal about 30 times in my 5 years as the Catholic Police Chaplain with RAMSI 2004>2009. In 2006 we blessed a beautiful thached roof open sided chapel overlooking the Red Beach landing zone, where ironically RAMSI came ashore in 2003. From the altar you can look out across the Channel toward the Florida Islands and Tulagi. Conducting services there each Sunday is alive with the spirit of all the men who were killed in ’42 & ’43. I always offer prayers for the thousands who died right here in this area – Tenaru is a few miles away – you can hear the waters lapping on the beach from the chapel, and Savo Island is just around the corner to the left. If you want to visit this beautiful memorial chapel you’d have to request permission at the security gate of the RAMSI compound, called Guadalcanal Beach Resort [GBR]. The Australian Government through RAMSI largly funded the chapel with its heavy wooden pews, altar, chairs and large Christian cross prominent. Thanks again for enshrining the stories in our memories. Blessings, Rev Mick O’Donnell, former Australian Federal Police Chaplain

  • Thank you Father!

  • Here is a letter from Padre Thomas M Reardon to his sister Mary Reardon (who was Sister Margaret Thomas, Sisters of Charity) dated August 6, 1942 (the original letter is in very good condition in a scrapbook page.
    I was born 17 years later TO THE DAY and named for him: Thomas Matthew Looney. Here is his letter written on the eve of battle.

    Dear Mary,

    Remember me, your brother. I used to say, “join the convent and see the world.” Well, you can change it—join the Marines and see the world. I hope you are well and taking good care of yourself. Regards to Sister Rosalie.
    We are on the eve of battle Mary. We have full expectations of licking the enemy. All of the boys are ready! Confessions conversions communions are a big part of my life with the boys.
    My life has been hidden from you so I wouldn’t have you worry about me. You know how much I love you and how proud I’ve always been of you. Both of us can be so thankful for such a grand Mom and Pop and cousins at 276. I know your prayers follow me. Don’t worry about me—I have a job to do and am proud to be with the boys. I feel that all your prayers at home will protect me. Remember Mary your brother loves you very much too much that you should worry about me. Together as grateful children of good parents we place ourselves in the arms of Jesus for his love and consolation. Adieu–God Bless You Fr. Tom

  • Where is the best place for me to place Padre Tom Reardon’s war papers, etc.? Marine Corps Museum?

  • That is some letter Tom. I would suggest the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Museum in San Diego:

    http://www.platoonphoto.com/dayhall/index.html

  • I discovered this item online and thought it would be of interest regarding Msgr. Reardon

    Chaplain Heroes

    Chalice of Rev. Thomas M. Reardon, U.S.N.R. (1909- 1987)
    1934
    silver and gold plated
    Gift of the Reardon Family to the Archives of the Archdiocese of Newark, Seton Hall University
    Thomas M. Reardon (1909-1987) was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Newark in 1934. In 1941, before Pearl Harbor, he entered the United States Navy as a chaplain, volunteering for service with the United States Marine Corps. He was the first chaplain to go ashore with the Marines at Guadalcanal. His exploits were featured in the book and film, ?Guadalcanal Diary,? with actor Preston Foster in the leading role. Monsignor Reardon later served as Regent of the School of Law of Seton Hall University and Pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, Bloomfield, NJ.

    Inscribed ?In Memory of My Parents Thomas and Mary Reardon Chalice used at Guadalcanal Aug. 8th- Dec.2nd, 1942.? This chalice was part of Father Reardon?s ?Mass Kit,? and was used by him during the Battle of Guadalcanal.

  • Thank you Tom. Great info.