Joseph J. Sweeney - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Joseph J. Sweeney


Joseph enlisted in the Navy on March 4th, 1940. He arrived at Pearl Harbor in June of 1940 where he was stationed on the USS Raleigh. Before the attack began he was in the General Store's office having coffee and once the attack began he took off for his battle station – look out over starboard bridge. His ship did not move the entire four hours so the ship's crew was able to observe the whole attack. The 5 destroyers tied alongside the USS Whitney kept firing over their heads. "From my starboard bridge look out I kept seeing the battleships being blown up. In fact I saw daylight under the USS Arizona when it was blown out of the water. At 30,000 ton battle ship – unbelievable. The first thing everyone was wondering was what kind of ammunition that the Japanese were using – this was before the atom bomb." The USS Arizona had taken a direct hit on the forward ammunition hold. It was the hold caring the 16" shells and powder bags. "It was the loudest explosion I ever heard – I think even louder than the ammunition ship that blew up near us about a year or two later - when the USS Whitney was in the South Pacific."

"After the attack everyone seemed rather quiet. I heard no yelling other than trying to quiet the Captain down – he wanted to hoist anchor and take off. Of course no orders were received to do so." The USS Whitney did not leave Pearl Harbor until the following May after the attack. The men were kept on a regular routine repairing destroyers that would tie up alongside. After leaving Pearl Harbor the USS Whitney was sent out alone. The ship traveled at 12 knots - top speed - with no escort . "I think we must have gone almost to Chile before we turned west after doing so, we sailed past Easter Island – the island with all the stone statues around the perimeter of the island. My watch station was up in ‘the crow's nest' or the forward mast – four on four off." The USS Whitney finally dropped anchor at Tonga Tapu. "I was fortunate to get ashore twice, I think we might have been waiting for the Coral Sea Battle to subside. Then we took off farther west and dropped anchor at New Caledonia. Then I was transferred to land duty." Joseph worked on setting up a supply base and had to stay on New Caledonia for close to two years. "I was eventually transferred to payroll mostly making TPA's (Temporary Pay Accounts) for the survivors from the previous night and day battles in Bougainville and New Guinea. After making Chief Storekeeper I was transferred back to the states. I flew back in one of the "China Clippers" as far as Pearl Harbor."

Before leaving New Caledonia Joseph applied for a little "R&R" since he was so close to Australia and New Zealand. "In talking to the officer about the ‘R&R' he said – ‘You can go, but keep in mind you will have to stay out here another 18 months.' " Joseph thought about this and responded, "Another 18 months. I've been out here now 52 months and haven't been back home." So, he didn't get to Australia or New Zealand. "Eventually I was transferred to the east coast for assignment to the USS Berington – an aircraft carrier and an excellent assignment – but after the shake down cruise I was transferred to amphibious training on the York River." His training was cut short and he was transferred to California. "To this day I thank the Marines – because we eventually landed on Saipan – and the Marines were already there mopping up when we landed. I ended the war on Saipan. I had to stay until my enlistment expired." Joseph was discharged from the Navy on February 27th, 1946 at San Pedro, California.

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