USS California BB-44
Message Board
Messages 25 through 49

Dec. 29, 2012

LCDR Percy Ellsworth Leonard of Nebraska, having served on the USS California on the morning of December 7, 1941, and survived the attack on Pearl Harbor, passed away early this morning at 91years old. He was a good and honorable man.

Helga made his last years happy ones, in San Diego, California. His memory will endure through proud grandchildren, James, Stacey and Alec.

James Jones

Nov. 8, 2012

Robert Bock passed away 11/4/12 at 85. He served on the USS California at Okinawa and with TASK Force 95. Please remember him and all the other we owe.

David Yudikaitis

July 15, 2012

I am looking for the Family of R. F. McGuff. I found a book called Knotting and Splicing (I think it has to be early 1900's). Inscribed R. F. McGuff USS California US Navy. I can imagine him laying in his bunk learning his knots. I am sure his family would treasure this book he lost or sold at some point in his life?

Mike Brady

May 26, 2012

My Veteran barber:
by Chris Jackson
Sunday, May 29, 2011 9:55pm.

I get my hair cut by a former USN barber and gun crew member of the USS California. Whenever I go into the shop Wayne, the owner/operator barber with over 65 years experience, greets me with a smile and kind words. He then ask “what kind of cut do you want”? My reply is “just the standard, you know, make me look pretty for the women”. “I'll do my best!”. This 90+ year old barber then takes all of 15 minuets to cut my hair, including shaving the lower neck, and leaves me looking just like a movie extra form one of those 1930's big city, broken hart classic. It is predictable, dependable and I do look better.

Wayne started cutting hair, unofficially, before WWII, he joined the Navy and was station on the Battleship USS California. The ship was being rebuilt after being sunk at Pearl Harbor and need crew and barbers. (Three barbers from the USS Arizona, its broken and sunken hulk is a national monument in Pearl Harbor, were already on board. Wayne tells me that they were a “bit different”). So Wayne became a barber on the USS California in about 1943 and has not stopped.

While on the USS California Wayne had two duties,

1) If no one was trying to kill the ship, cut hair.
2) If it was a shooting war, he became part of the human chain that handed ammunition from the lower decks up to one of the ships 16. 5”/38 cal, Anti-Aircraft guns mounted in “tubs” along and over the sides of the ship.

Wayne is good with 1930's type hair cutting and at Anti-Aircraft ammunition passing, but he did not escape the war without loss. On 6 January the ship was supporting the landing at Lingayen Gulf in the Philippines. The entire time she was on that station there were air attacks. Both the “normal” air raids and the suicide bomb, Kamikaze kind.

During one of these raids, the California seemed to be the main target. A smaller USN destroyer assisted the larger California's air defenses, came as close as it could to the California's side. So close in fact, that one of the destroyer's 5” shells, shot at a incoming Kamikaze, passed through the Anti-Aircraft gun tub directly above Wayne's head. The +10-man crew in that tub died without knowing what hit them. Nothing stopped. Navy training was in place and working. All ships went on defending themselves. The Battleship and Destroyer continued working as a team against the determined suicidal attack and survived it.

On 6 January the USS California was hit by a kamikaze plane; 44 of her crew were killed and 155 were wounded.

If you go, or take someone, and get a hair cut at Wayne's. Look at the ships he has on the wall, ask him some questions, no need to dig or feel his pain. He has lots of other stories about old Portland too. Just enjoy the fruits of his good USN barber training, the 1930's movie extra hair cut you can get (if you ask for the “standard, regulation cut”), and our good luck to have his kind about.

(Wayne Smith video clip)

Chris Jackson
Portland, Oregon

Apr. 9, 2012

I'm and trying to find some info on my dad, Reginald Hancock, who was on the California during the Pearl Harbor attack.  I believe he was BM 1/C at the time.  I have an old framed photo of the California with his name and awards on it hanging in my office.  After Pearl he went onto serve twenty years in the navy and died in 1967.  Trying to find a ships roster for that time period or anything related. Thanks for your time and any help you can provide.  I believe he was a firefighter and the California was his first ship/duty in 1941. 

Thanks again,
Col. Joseph Hancock, U.S.A.

Mar. 11, 2012

Below is a picture of the USS California band entertaining us aboard the USS Rawlins APA-226 near the
Caroline Islands May 1945.  I am sitting behind the mine sweeper in front of the bulkhead.

John W. Parmer
24th NCB (1944-1946)

Reply 1
Mar. 14, 2012

I want to thank you for posting the picture of the band from the California playing on your ship. My brother, Lonnie Leard, was a member of that band.  I just wish there were more pictures of the band some where. After the war, he played with the Navy Band stationed in Washington D.C., until he retired as Master Chief Musician. He passed away in 1978 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. I think you can see how much that picture means to me.

Thank you,
Margaret Leard

Jan. 2, 2012

I am looking for information on my grandfather, James Lavere Facer. He was 1st gunners mate on the USS California during the attack on Pearl Harbor. He spoke to my 5th/6th grade class in Long Beach, California many years ago, but my mother decided to take me to the dentist that day. I am now interested to keep the memory of this event alive. He served in the Navy after Pearl Harbor, and I believe he was sent to the USS Indiana thereafter. I believe that he retired a Lieutenant Commander. If anyone has any information on my quest I would love it.

Thank you,
Lenora Drum

Dec. 27, 2011

I'm trying to locate any info about Geary Phillips, my Father in Law, who served on the USS California.  He entered into the Navy in 1943 and went through basic training at the Naval Station in Farragut, Idaho.  He was then assigned to the USS California upon completion of Basic.  He did advise that one of his jobs was to catch the hot, empty shell casements ejected from the five inch guns as they fired at Japanese attack planes.  I believe he would have been onboard the ship when it was hit by a Kamikaze plane in January of 1945.  Geary was originally from a small town in Iowa, Carson.  After being discharged he went back to Iowa and farmed near Osceola IA.  He has since retired and is having some health issues.  If any of you have any info, we sure would appreciate hearing from you.

Thank you,
Frank Jones

Dec. 14, 2011

My father, Zachary Pitts, served aboard the California from November 1943 until May 1945. He was a Lt. (jg) in the engine room in both B and M Divisions. I still remember as a child hearing the story of the Kamikaze attack as well as of other events aboard ship. When he wanted me to do something he would often call out, "Sweepers man your brooms. Clean sweepdown, fore and aft." It brought a smile to my face when I was visiting an aircraft carrier and I heard exactly those same words crackle over the loudspeaker just as my father had more than half a century before. He passed away in 1997 and I would appreciate hearing from anyone who remembers him.

Larry Pitts

Dec. 7, 2011

My dad, Dad Dannie LeGrange, was on the USS California, he helped re-float the ship and served on the ship for the entire war,does any body remember him?

Dannie LeGrange


Oct. 10, 2011

Looking for anyone who may have remembered my father, Alfred "Gene" or "Brick" Toman who served aboard the California during WWII. He was in radar, and served in a radar director when it was hit during the Kamikaze attacks. He received two broken ankles and severe burns. He was assigned to the California at Pearl Harbor and again after it was repaired and sent back to sea. Would like to hear from anyone who has info, thanks.

Allen Toman

Oct. 4, 2011

I am seeking information regarding Lt. Commander William Kenealy SJ. (Fr. Bill) who was ship's chaplain from 1943 to 1945. Fr. Bill was also my Uncle. He passed away in 1974 in his sleep. I read about the Kamikaze attack on the California. From what I am told Fr. Bill crawled into the damaged area to administer last rights to crew members. He also spent time after the war visiting the family members of the crew. I am also told that during some of the battles he would broadcast a “play by play” account from the bridge of what was happening.

Through lulls in the engagements he would talk about the stars, tell stories and jokes, whatever he could do for the benefit of the crew. This could be heard through the ship's intercom by everyone below decks. Fr. Bill went on to practice law in front of the supreme court, was a strong civil rights activist and well noted law professor. I am trying to learn as much as I can about him and if anyone knew him, I would enjoy hearing from you.

George Wilson

Reply 1
Sept. 21, 2012

I have a letter that was sent to my grandparents notifying them of my Uncle Peter Anthony Scurto's death in the Kamikaze attack. It is lovely, comforting and generous and was signed by Fr. Bill. I would be happy to provide a copy if given a mailing or e-mail address. Perhaps there is someone who can provide me with more information on my Uncle. Thank you and God bless our troops past, present and future.

Jane Scurto Manarik

Sept. 13, 2011

I am looking for anyone who knew my father Glenn Edward Handly (GE 440) from when he received a high voltage shock on board. He died 10 August 2011 at 90 years of age. He was a forward 40mm gun director and Petty Officer First Class, but never said much about his time on board other than the salt water showers and the hammock bunks. He joined the crew in 1943-1944 and left after the surrender to "ride" destroyer back to California.

Thank you,
Neal Handly

June 8, 2011

My father James Logan was a marine aboard The USS California from approx. 44-45. He served as an orderly for Admiral Oldendorf. When at port he was one of his drivers. Dad always ate a little better than most of the crew he would say. He's passed on now but some great stories of Kamikaze pilots, not being able to stand the smell of lamb due to the Mutton that was cooked on the ship. He never  ate lamb for the rest of his life. Very proud of him and his shipmates.

Mike Logan

Apr. 24, 2011

I'm a journalist/historian researching a strange Pearl Harbor issue that has apparently never received public or scholarly attention. In the weeks following the attack, the Navy and Army sent death notifications to the families of some 200 sailors and soldiers who had not in fact been killed. In many instances funerals had already been held and life insurance benefits paid before the correct information emerged.

So far, I have identified more than 70 servicemen whose families went through this ordeal. The vast majority are sailors and Marines from the California. I would welcome hearing from any veterans or family members willing to discuss what such an experience was like.

Tom Wood
Nashville, Tennessee

Jan. 12, 2011

In a Little Rascals episode title "The Buccaneers" dated 1924. The Little Rascals were rescued by a battleship. The motor boat had Cal on the bow and it showed them later on the ship. I was wondering if this was The USS California (BB-44)?

Garland Summerall (USN RET)

Jan. 10, 2011

I have a photo from my Grandfathers collection during his military stint on the USS California. On the back it has the date and list of possible nicknames of some sailors. I was wondering if I could post it to see if anyone might know who they were.

Kim Perdue

Oct. 2, 1945: Back row (assumed to be from left to right): White, Norman, other names unreadable.
Front row: Donald Edward Endress of Terre Haute, Indiana, Lightfoot, other names unreadable.

Reply 1
June June 25, 2013

The caption for the picture indicates that the second individual in the top row has the name Norman. My 1st cousin once removed was Elbert Ray Norman, who was wounded on Jan 6, 1945, and died on Jan 7th, as a result of the Kamikaze attack on the California.

The message indicates that there is a date on the back of the photo. This would be helpful to determine if this is in fact Elbert Ray Norman, as there was also a Robert E. Norman assigned the California earlier in its post-Pearl Harbor period. Robert E. Norman and Elbert Ray Norman were not assigned to the California at the same time.

Elbert was buried at the American Cemetery in Manila. I'd like to provide additional information to the extended family - a picture would be a wonderful addition. A date for the picture would be a great help.

Thanks for your help, and for keeping the history of these Americans alive for those who have come later.

John Campbell
COL (ret), US Army

Note: I have added the date to the photo.
Michael W. Pocock

Reply 2
Dec. 7, 2016

I believe the man in the front row, 2nd from the left wearing the hat could be my grandfather, Cullen Pierce Baney. He was also known as "Bud." He was from Arkansas originally but later moved to South Carolina.  I was searching for some pictures from the USS California; he was a CEM. I have a formal looking group picture (jpg) but I don't have originals. Anyway, this picture (in post 33) showed up in an image search of the California. The picture looked familiar to me bc I thought it was one my parents had. I sent a screenshot to my Dad (Cullen's younger son) & he said it was his father & that he thought my uncle Cullen has that photo. The long fingers & big ears are a Baney family feature.

Candace Snyder

Oct. 29, 2010

My uncle, Harlan J. (Hi) Haynes, was on the California on Dec. 7, 1941, and was due to leave the Navy before Christmas. He was slightly injured by an explosion, but recovered to abandon ship when the order was given. He was not hospitalized at that time, but had stomach troubles for some time due to swallowing some fuel oil while swimming ashore on Ford Island. He said they later recovered machine guns from the ship and set them up on Ford Island, expecting another attack. He had nothing but praise for a junior officer who ordered counter-flooding so it did not capsize, but settle straight down in the mud. He was never on the ship after it was re-fitted, but did see it from another ship at a distance when it was shelling one of the islands. He left the service after the war as a Chief Petty Officer. As a side note, he passed away on Dec. 7, 1981 at Manchester, IA.

Carl Grimm, Jr.

Oct. 8, 2010

I am looking for information on an ancestor of my husband's who served aboard the USS California, I believe from 1940-1942, may have been a little later. His name was John Walker Cain and he was a Machinist Mate Reservist. His actual Rank/Rate was MOMM 3. If anyone remembers him or has additional info I would greatly appreciate the assistance. I am doing the research for my husband for Christmas as he's never known much of anything about his grandfather.

Thank you,
Susan (Benjamin) Cain

Sept. 22, 2010

My father Joe M. Montoya, served on the California during WWII. I have his cruise books that give history and show a lot of pictures. Would like to share them to all who had family on board. His mentor was Chief "RED" Hanson and he talked a lot about him. The books also show Equator crossing. Dad was the Royal Barber in the picture. Dad was nick named "Chief" because of his native American appearance.

Gilbert Montoya  

Sept. 21, 2010

I would like to know if anyone on the USS California between 1936 and 1939 would remember Roy Dixon who served on this ship. I would like to know what kind of personality he had, and who his wife was at that time.

Sheila Hanks

Sept. 14, 2010

Greetings to all my shipmates and family from USS Yorktown CV-5 and USS California BB-44's E-division. I'm 95 years and still doing well.

Em-2 Nelson"Holly" Hollandsworth
Norfolk, Virginia

Sept. 11, 2010

My Dad Sebastian Joseph "Joe" DeMarco (he did not use Sebastian..did not like it) was a storekeeper on the USS California between 1943-1945. I know he was stationed at Puget Sound. His nickname was Sonny. He was from New Jersey. Does anyone remember him?  He passed away in 1976.  We had a scrapbook of the USS California but it was lost.  Any information would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,
Daughter, Judy

Aug. 23, 2010

I am writing about my any information about my father, Sylvester F. (Bud) Niccum, who was a 1st class seaman on the U.S.S. California in World War II. He died when I was 10 in 1978 of cancer. I know very little about him and i'm very curious about him. I know he was severely burned when the ship got hit by a kamikaze and he was honorably discharged. He never received a purple heart of which I understand from an uncle that he was entitled to. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

Thank You,
Jill Niccum

Aug. 9, 2010

I am a retired Marine Corps officer and volunteer at the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor. We recently received a letter from a lady whose brother, Jack Alexander, was aboard the USS California on Dec 7, 1941. She was asking if we had any pictures of the USS California in Pearl Harbor on Dec 7th that she might pass on to Jack's children and grandchildren. We were happy to accommodate her request. But in addition, I'm sure that Jack's heirs would be overjoyed to hear from anyone who knew their father and grandfather and who, perhaps, had some personal vignettes about him.

Thank you,
Lt. Col. Gary Meyers, USMC (ret.)

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Messages 25 through 49
Page published Aug. 9, 2010