2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 34 (Aug. 19-25): Tragedy

2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 34 (Aug. 19-25): Tragedy

“first” joined Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks on its “first” year in 2014… and what a whirlwind year that was… writing, editing and researching daily for 365 days! As much as I wanted to continue the following year, I found that I didn’t have the time to continue another year with that type of research… although I did continue blogging and writing stories at my own pace, which allowed me to write on other topics as well as family stories when ideas came my way… but I’ve often missed it. The first year were no specific weekly prompts like today… but I’m taking a different spin on them. There will be some posts on a specific ancestor, but most will be memories that spring from those prompts. Head over to 2014 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks to read about my ancestors in the first years challenge.

If you’re new to genealogy, make your “first” stop to Amy’s website for genealogy ideas or even join in on this 52 Week challenge… you learn by doing… not procrastinating! There is no right or wrong… anything you do is a start!

Naturally… “Tragedy” follows… “Comedy

A very sad event or situation, especially one involving death or suffering, tragedy of so many deaths in a family, a disastrous event, calamity, misfortune, and even laid off from work… but my Tragedy post is about hubby’s Uncle Freddie Cambino and tragedy that almost took everyone’s life on the USS Hinsdale!

Fred Joseph Cambino Served on the USS Hinsdale on that “tragic” night…

Asiatic-Pacific Campaigns
               Campaign and Dates                    Campaign and Dates
 Iwo Jima operation
Assault and occupation of Iwo Jima, 19 to 27      February 1945
Okinawa Gunto operation
Assault and occupation of Okinawa Gunto, 1 to 14 April 1945


Frederick “Freddie” Joseph Cambino was born on January 28, 1926… to parents of Joseph and Minnie Cambino (USN)

War was already in progress, and American boys were eager to join… to serve their country. Many, of legal age, quit school to join after the Pearl Harbor attack…. Freddie joined on February 13, 1943 in New Haven, CT… two years after Pearl Harbor. It was never told as to why he chose the Navy, as the family had men who had served in both the Army and the Navy… his father had served in the Army in WWI… his brothers Johnny and Frank also both chose the Army. My thoughts as to why he joined the Navy was because of his love for the water. Freddie enjoyed spending time on the water… whether clamming, fishing. or out in his boat… that was probably what led him to a life in the Navy.

Freddie entered service a short nine days later after enlistment on February 22, 1943!

His Naval records showed that he first headed to the United States Naval Training Center in Bainbridge… which was the training center at Port Deposit, Maryland. While he wasn’t far from home, I’m sure he knew he wasn’t home any longer after arriving by bus. As my husband has often told me… “once you join, you now belong to Uncle Sam… they are your mother and father, and will quickly remind you so much… anything you do, you will answer to your TI and higher ups.”

This Navy Center in Maryland had been recently activated in 1942, so Freddie was one of the first batch of new recruits to go through. Upon arrival he was given a battery of tests to determine his education and skill levels.

After tests determine the recruits’ skills, they are then trained in ordnance and gunnery, seamanship, fire fighting, physical training, and military drill. On Freddie’s paperwork, he wrote, “I’d like to go to trade school for aviation and become an aviation mechanic“. But like my husband says… “they put you where they want… no matter what you write “you’d” like!”

Halfway through boot camp, recruits had a “service week”, which generally included kitchen duty, peeling potatoes, mopping, picking up cigarette butts, etc. Recruits with desirable skills, such as typing, often ended up pounding an office typewriter rather than kitchen duties. I’m sure Freddie spent much time in that kitchen as I remember him  in the kitchen cooking whenever Steve and I visited on weekends… never did we visit without smelling a pot of sauce simmering on the stove; Freddie was usually sitting at the kitchen table whittling a new spoon or making something… and always with a smile on his face when we walked in. Steve remembers him talking about being a cook in the Navy, but he never talked about his real Navy days with us. If he cooked on that ship, then his shipmates ate well!

Recruits were trained in shipboard duties aboard the R.T.S. Commodore, a relatively large  actual “ship” built on dry land. The trainer was equipped with most of the facilities found on a real ship, including deck guns, pilot house davits, and mooring lines fastened to earth-bound bollards, so that crew members could learn casting off hawsers and other lines connecting the ship to its dock.

By the end of World War II, this center had trained over 244,277 recruits who transferred out to various ships and stations throughout the world.

Freddie first shipped out of Boston on the USS Lexington on March 31, 1944, as listed from the Navy muster rolls. He later debarked at San Francisco, California… and then soon embarked on the USS Hinsdale (APA-120) on Nov 30, 1944… headed to Okinawa.

uss Hinsdale

The USS Hinsdale was a Haskall-class attack transport ship of the US Navy… so named for Hinsdale County, Colorado; it was launched on July 22, 1944.

The Hinsdale sailed under the famous Golden Gate Bridge out into the warm waters of the Pacific, headed for Hawaii… first reaching Pearl Harbor on Dec. 12, 1944 with 175 passengers onboard. She next anchored at Kahului, Maui on Dec 27, 1944, where she picked up the 25th Marines, 4th Division… which consisted of 74 officers, and 1122 men. They headed to Saipan in early Feb. (1945) to join up with a fleet of ships headed toward the Japanese island for their first invasion; she encountered only calm seas and good weather as they proceeded onward to Iwo Jima.

Saipan is the largest island of the Northern Mariana Islands, a commonwealth of the United States in the western Pacific Ocean.

Freddie and his shipmates remained offshore for over a week in Iwo Jima, while embarking and disembarking troops… also serving as an auxiliary hospital ship. The Hinsdale only suffered one close call as they sat offshore; on the morning of Feb. 25, (1945) a projectile burst closeby and killed a Marine Captain on deck and wounded others.

On Feb. 27, (1945) the Hinsdale sailed for Iwo Jima… stopping again at Saipan for fuel… reaching Guam on March 3rd (1945) to disembark the casualties. After a brief rest at Guam, the Hinsdale returned to Saipan on March 9th and took on over 1,500 Marines and Sailors.

The Hinsdale transported the Marines to the Iwo Jima beach… the Marines went back and forth from beach to ship during the days of Feb. 20 – 25 until their mission was accomplished… securing the island.

Onto the next skirmish at Okinawa…

The Hinsdale left Saipan on March 27, (1945) to align themselves up with joint forces of over 1,213 ships… loaded with over one-half million troops… all headed to Okinawa.

As the USS Hinsdale approached the beachhead during the initial assault on Okinawa, “tragedy” struck on the early morning of April 1st… a suicide plane crashed into her portside, causing damage just above the waterline; it destroyed the engine room, killing all except for one man. It had been a low gray dawn that morning, which caused the plane to not be sighted early enough before it made an almost fatal assault on all aboard. As the bombs exploded, most of their machinery areas quickly flooded and all machinery inoperable except for emergency equipment. Their ship was immediately dead in the water!

Power failed instantly, leaving them with no lights, or even internal communications. Those sleeping in their bunks awoke quickly from the sounds of the bombs exploding, the boat shifting and lunging, and smoke quickly made its way throughout the boat. I can’t even imagine how anyone felt, either awake or woken… and now without communication, they all had to rely on what they had been taught! If Freddie was a cook on that ship, he probably was in the galley… suddenly without lights… now fighting his way onto the deck of the ship… knowing in his gut… that he was now fighting for his life and the life of his shipmates!

Sunday, April 1, 1945 was D-Day for Okinawa

Hinsdale ship with hole

USS Hinsdale (APA-120) showing Kamikaze damage inflicted 1 April 1945.

Freddie carried this photograph home with him… I found it crinkled in the photo album… maybe he’d always carried it in his wallet, but he brought it home… it was a memory of the night, reminding him of when he almost didn’t come home! Many family members remembered seeing this photo, but very few knew what happened, other than his ship had been hit.

The Marines were already on deck that early dark grey morning… waiting for transport when the Hinsdale was struck by the Kamikaze plane. It was the swift thinking by one man that morning, first clearing the men off topside…. then later shifted the marines from the Port side to the Starboard to counteract the almost fatal list to the Port side… otherwise the Hinsdale would have quickly took on water through that hole and their boat would have went down… causing even more tragedy that morning.

The hero that morning was First Class Metalsmith, Jame O. Perry. Petty Officer Perry had first spotted the Kamikaze plane and in the short time he had… he saved many lives by his quick actions! He was later given the Nambu pistol the Japanese pilot was carrying. It was never discovered exactly who the pilot was in the Kamikaze plane on that early April 1st morning. It’s only known that seven Type 3 fighters (Tony/Hein) of the Hiko 67 Sentai sortied toward Okinawa early that April morning.

There were many unsung heroes that morning, and Freddie was one of them… as that was the type of man he was. Despite the early morning hit, the sailors of the USS Hinsdale were still determined to carry out their job… the job of transporting the Marines to shore!

ship being towedThe USS Hinsdale was later towed to Kerama Retto by the rescue tug, USS ATR-80, where she remained… now serving as a receiving ship for survivors of other Kamikaze attacks. Later she was towed by the USS Leo in a slow convoy to Ulithi… after a long month of work there, she was now seaworthy to sail home; she finally arrived at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in July and received a complete overhaul.

The Hinsdale departed Brooklyn in November to carry out her final voyage… returning over a thousand troops from Japan to San Francisco, California. In late January of 1946, she sailed again for the East Coast, arriving in February to the Maritime Commission, where she was decommissioned in April… stricken from the Navy list in May and later sold for scrap in 1974.

Freddie returned from the Navy… not the same boy who left… never talking about what he experienced aboard his ship… and if he did to family members… they never talked either. It was only while researching the ships Freddie served on, did I learn exactly what happened aboard the USS Hinsdale! Much of what he saw and experienced onboard, remained with him. I had only heard that nothing was ever said to the family other than “my ship had been hit“! We can only surmise what went through his mind as he raced to save his life, and shipmates on that day,,, while the USS Hinsdale was struggling offshore the island of Okinawa.

USS Hinsdale: Haskell Class Attack Transport:

  • Laid down, 21 June 1944, as a Maritime Commission type (VC2-S-AP5) hull under Maritime Commission contract (MC hull MCV 30) at California Shipbuilding Corp., Wilmington, CA.
  • Launched, 22 July 1944
  • Completed and delivered to the Maritime Commission, 14 October 1944, and turned over to the US Navy
  • Commissioned USS Hinsdale (APA-120), 15 October 1944, CDR. Edward F. Beyer, USNR, in command
  • During WWII USS Hinsdale was assigned to Asiatic-Pacific Theater:
  • Following World War II USS Hinsdale was assigned to Occupation service in the Far East from 30 December 1945 to 6 January 1946
  • Decommissioned, 8 April 1946, at Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, VA.
  • Struck from the Naval Register, 1 May 1946
  • USS Hinsdale earned two battle stars for World War II service
  • Returned to the Maritime Commission, 12 April 1946, for lay up in the National Defense Reserve Fleet, James River Group, Lee Hall, VA.
  • Withdrawn from the James River Reserve Fleet, to Stockard Steamship Corp., 31 May 1955 (Repair Program) General Agency Agreement
  • Returned to the James River Reserve Fleet by Stockard Steamship Corp., 4 August 1955
  • Final Disposition, sold for scrapping, 16 July 1974, to B.V. Intershitra, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, (PD-X-980) for $731,150.00, withdrawn from the James River Reserve Fleet, 11 September 1974.

Kamikaze (suicide attacks) Japanese military culture descended from the Bushido code of the samurai “loyalty and honor until death”, where defeat or capture brought shame upon ones family and nation. It was better to die in a successful attack than to return unsuccessful, yet alive. It is by this, that even in field combat, the Japanese were known for impaling their own stomachs with their sword/bayonet when faced with the alternative of being put into a POW camp… even with possibility of living through the war to see their families again. It was this kamikaze attack and suicide for honor mentality that caught US soldiers most off-guard and came to be one of the biggest fears when facing a foe that apparently had nothing to lose by death.

I only wish I had known what Freddie went through while spending time with him… I would have liked to have known his story… if he had wished to remember!

On August 14, 1945, Japan surrendered unconditionally to the Allies, effectively ending World War II. Japan formally surrendered on September 2, 1945 aboard the U.S.S. Missouri… anchored in Tokyo Bay.

Stay tuned for Week 35: At Work


Continue reading 2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks over HERE!

To read more Family Stories… click HERE.

© 2019, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

About Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

My blog is at: https://everyonehasafamilystorytotell.wordpress.com/
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