Design a site like this with
Get started


Photo of John "Chick" Gigarjian (left) and my dad, John Bell Power, taken on 20 January 1945 at my parents' wedding.
John Gigarjian (left) and my dad, 20 January 1945

For the longest time, I had no idea who the fellow on the left side of this photo was. This is one of five photographs in which he appears amongst the twenty-three photos taken at my parents’ wedding, on 20 January 1945. I knew him only as my dad’s best man.

No names appear on the back of the photos. No names were written on the pages of the album that the photos once occupied. I recall that the album had a deep wine-coloured covered and was bound with rivet-like posts—two or maybe three of them—and I seem to recall a decorative cord. The pages were black (like construction paper) and the photos were held to them with photo mounting corners.

On my parents’ Certificate of Marriage, the Witnesses’ names identified Dad’s Best Man as John Gigarten.

Mom and Dad’s Certificate of Marriage

For as long as I’ve had the Certificate of Marriage, I had never paid much attention to the writing on it. I had always assumed that the Witnesses’ names were signatures. Therefore, why would someone not spell his name correctly. Of course, had I taken the time to scrutinize the document just a wee bit, I would have noticed that the handwriting was identical. It’s possible that Gladys, mom’s best friend and Maid of Honour, had written the names in. Maybe Mom did, although the handwriting doesn’t quite look like hers. The priest perhaps? Someone in the church’s office?

I’ll never know, of course.

Years ago, when the internet was still rather in its infancy, I had a trial account at Ancestry, and I searched for John Gigarten in Ancestry’s database. Nothing. Not one single result came up. I probably even used my pre-Google search engine of the day, AltaVista. Nada. It seemed that there was not a human being on the planet with the name Gigarten. It never occurred to me at the time that the name was misspelled because again, I had assumed—without close scrutiny—that he signed the document and how is it possible that he would have written the wrong name? It was nothing short of baffling.

Fast forward to October of 2017…

I had work in Boston photographing a conference, so while I was there, I visited the YF-415 memorial for the Black sailors who were killed in that disaster, which is on the site of the former Hingham Naval Ammunition Depot (now Bare Cove Park), and later that day met the divers who discovered the wreckage of the YF-415 in 2002. (It was a weird coincidence that one of the divers, Bob Foster, attended Bowling Green State University at the same time I had, and that we had a mutual friend.) When the conference was over, I took a train to New York so that I could meet one of my dad’s ship mates, Isidore “Teddy” Bertone, who has been a driving force for this research project of mine. We met while a videographer recorded our meeting. While Teddy and I talked, I showed him my parents’ wedding pictures and when the above picture of my dad and his best man came up, Teddy excitedly exclaimed, “Chick!”

He explained that “Chick” was a cook on the Zircon, and then showed me a picture from shipmate Frank DeRupo’s wedding—”Chick” was the same guy in my parents wedding pictures! He was DeRupo’s best man, too. In all likelihood, “Chick” was probably a really great guy, but I’ve also wondered if maybe he was so popular because he was the ship’s cook (SC1c) and no one wanted to get on his bad side. I also wonder how many times he served as someone’s best man.

Sailors (from left): unknown, Teddy Bertone, Frank DeRupo, Gigarjian, Anthony Susinno, Mario Saponaro

When I returned from the trip, I began in earnest seeking out more living Zircon sailors. Because the YF-415 disaster was forefront in my mind with regard to the information I was seeking, I downloaded all of the Zircon’s Muster Rolls and Reports of Changes and set about trying to figure out who was aboard the Zircon on 11 May 1944. As I created my spreadsheet, I came across the name Gigarjian on one of the muster rolls, and a light went on.

So “Gigarten” was probably due to someone having misheard a name. Or perhaps my mom and dad weren’t familiar enough with John to know how he actually spelled his name, despite that Dad had spent two years with him aboard the Zircon, so took a guess without asking him. Maybe my dad always thought his name was Gigarten.

My older brother Mike, who has been working on our family’s genealogical history for probably twenty years created a “family tree” of Zircon and YF-415 crew members using his Ancestry account. He made a profile for Gigarjian within the tree, and I uploaded the wedding photographs I have of him to the profile. Not long after that, we received a note from one of Gigarjian’s daughter’s with regard to the photographs as she had never seen them before. It occurred to me then to create a Facebook group where we could come together to share photos, stories, documents… anything related to our fathers’ service on the Zircon. As of today, the group has about 170 members representing about a quarter or so of the 400-plus sailors that served on the ship at one point during its five-year commission.

Living in these times with the internet, it’s easy to forget the days when getting in touch with someone who lived a thousand miles away was either a chore (writing letters) or a major expense (long-distance telephone calls). I recall well my mom’s frugality with regards to household expenses. For example, once I traveled to Chicago alone, and Mom wanted me to call her collect when I got there. She would refuse the call, of course, as she only wanted to know that I arrived OK.

So it probably was with my dad and his former ship mates. The cheaper long-distance rates didn’t kick in until after 11:00 P.M. on weekdays, and as my dad rarely stayed up beyond 11:30 (he’d hit the sack after watching the local news), it’s unlikely he would have called Chick. I believe that the same rates applied to the weekends, so it’s possible that if Dad had wanted to catch up with Chick or anyone else he’d served with, he would have done it at that time, but I just don’t recall him ever spending that much time on the phone with anyone. Besides, nine months out of the year, his weekends were spent either playing golf or watching it (and baseball) on television.

Harold Victor Horn

I’ve been a little remiss in getting this post together as Harold died two years ago today. I actually began writing it shortly after he died, but I knew that Teddy Bertone would feel heartsick to read about the death of yet another of his shipmates—he was already feeling blue at the time knowing that there were so few still alive. So I held off and held off and held off, thinking that the first anniversary of his death would be a good time to post. But then, the day before that anniversary, Teddy died. It was a bit much.

Because of Harold’s failing health in the last couple of years, I never got to talk to him, although I’d exchanged numerous texts with one of his daughters, Fawn, and spoke once with his wife, Jean. Fawn told me that she had begun to record conversations with him about his naval service, and because my dad said so little about his time in the Navy, I encouraged her to keep at it.

Side-by-side diptych of photographs of Harold Horn, taken in 1944 and 2018.
Harold Victor Horn, circa October 1944 and 2018

One interesting thing about Harold is that while he was born in Milltown, Delaware, he grew up in Wilmington, a little over three miles from where the Zircon was built—as a yacht for Frederick J. Fisher by Pusey & Jones—when Harold was three years old.

Harold’s Draft Registration Card

He enlisted just prior to turning 18, on 10 May 1944, the day before the YF-415 disaster, and coincidentally, sixteen years to the day before Fawn was born. In 1950, he married Jean, and they raised their four daughters—Fawn, Nancy, Kimberly, and Gail—not far from his childhood home.

After I contacted Fawn, and she and Nancy joined the Zircon Facebook group, and they shared how Harold treasured his time in the Navy, but particularly his time aboard the Zircon. The walls of their home are adorned with photos of the Zircon and a framed calligraphic version of the Zircon’s history. His love and pride of service was in such stark contrast to my dad’s tight-lipped attitude about his Navy days. Which is not to say that he neither loved nor was proud of his time in the Navy—I just wouldn’t have known one way or the other. (As I’ve mentioned previously, besides my parents’ wedding photos in which he wore his Navy Blues, there were very few reminders in the house of Dad’s Navy service.)

A Seaman, Second Class (S2c), Harold, was received aboard the Zircon on 1 August 1944 and was transferred to the PC-1087 on 25 January 1945, the same day my dad was transferred to the YMS-75. While it’s highly improbable, I like to think that they walked down the gang plank one last time together.

Diptych of two pages of the Report of Changes from the USS Zircon, noting Harold's arrival on the Zircon and his departure
USS Zircon (PY-16) Reports of Changes from 30 August 1944 and 30 January 1945
Group photos of Zircon sailors, likely all Seaman, taken circa fall of 1944. Harold Horn is in the back row, second from left.
Harold is in the back row, second from left.
Photograph of three sailors taken in a photo studio. Likely taken sometime in 1945 while Harold Horn was serving on the PC-1087. The two other sailors are unknown.
Harold (bottom right), likely with PC-1087 shipmates
History of the USS Zircon, Calligraphy by Deborah C. Adams

One of the texts I’d received from Fawn included a link to an interview she did just a few months before Harold died with retired Army veteran and author Paul Holbert, who regularly writes and video-blogs about veterans affairs. The first eight minutes of the interview is mostly pleasantries, with the discussion about Harold and his service essentially beginning at the 8:20 mark.

Paul Holbert interviews Fawn Victorie Horn Freeman about her father, Harold Victor Horn.

Of all the people I’ve spoken with since beginning this project, Teddy and Harold both seemed to have had a special affection for the USS Zircon.

Here’s a little more about Harold, taken from his obituary:

[Harold] apprenticed with T.T. Weldin & Sons in sheet metal and advanced his skills in the service. When he was discharged from the Navy, Harold finished his training and became a master sheet metal mechanic and contractor. In 1973 he opened Pencader Contractors, specializing in customized fabrication with his nephew, Harry A. Horn. Harold was a “Chevy” guy, loved NASCAR racing, and was a dedicated fan of Dale Earnhardt. In 2004, at the age of 78, he had the opportunity to drive around the Monster Mile track at Dover Downs.

Navy portrait of Harold Victor Horn
Harold Victor Horn

Isidore “Teddy” Bertone

This post is long overdue, but today seems to be a good day to get ‘er done.

A year ago today, Isidore “Teddy” Bertone died at the age of 96.

Diptych of a third or more of the Zircon's crew probably post-baseball game at Riddell's Bay, Bermuda, 1 October 1944, with a detail crop of Teddy Bertone.
Riddell’s Bay, Bermuda, 1 October 1944

It’s probably not an understatement to say that this blog wouldn’t exist without my having known Teddy. His desire to set the record straight about the events that unfolded on 11 May 1944, when the Zircon came to the aid of the exploding, burning, and sinking YF-415, is what really got the ball rolling for me to finding out more about the USS Zircon (PY-16) and every man that set foot on the ship during its five-year commission as a United States Navy vessel.

Group photo of the Zircon's mechanics taken likely late summer of 1944.
Teddy with his fellow mechanics, squatting… second from right

I’ve told this story before, but I guess it’s worth telling again that I never in my life had heard the name Teddy Bertone before 11 May 2014, the 70th anniversary date of the YF-415 disaster. On that day, I thought maybe somewhere—likely the Boston area—a newspaper would have run some kind of historical piece about what happened that tragic day. I had no luck in finding anything in newspapers, but I did manage to come across a newsletter, The Lookout (Winter 2013), published by North Atlantic Dive Expeditions, which had discovered the wreckage of the YF-415 at the bottom of the ocean on 3 November 2002. (NADE’s profile of the wreck is here.)

Photo of Teddy Bertone and Frank DeRupo sitting on the side of the Zircon, possibly in Argentia, Newfoundland, Canada.
Teddy and Frank DeRupo, possibly near Argentia, Newfoundland

In the newsletter, the author, Heather Knowles, mentions having spoken with two of the Zircon sailors, Teddy Bertone and Anthony Susinno, about the incident as they were aboard the Zircon that day, and they had mentioned (gulp!) my dad’s name. I contacted Heather to let her know of my connection and she got me in touch with Teddy’s daughter Lisa, but because I’m a weird blend of introvert/extrovert, that connection sort of stagnated for almost three years. Finally, I arranged to talk with Teddy in the spring of 2017, and scheduled a visit with him in the fall when I was scheduled to be on the East Coast for work.

Photo of Paul Beach, Teddy Bertone, Mario Saponaro, and William Barnett, posing with liquor bottles at a fake bar in a photo studio likely in Coney Island, New York.
Paul Beach, Teddy, Mario Saponaro, William Barnett, likely at Coney Island

Teddy lived with his daughter Nicole in Staten Island, so I arranged with my client to have my flight home depart from Newark, New Jersey, and when my work wrapped up, I took the train from Boston to see him. When we met, we were accompanied by a video team, whom Lisa had contacted. They were interested in doing a short documentary piece about the disaster and this sailors’-reunion-by-proxy.

Teddy Bertone and Otto Boerner in a small boat on a rocky shore in Bermuda
Teddy and Otto Boerner in Bermuda

Teddy and I and Lisa sat at the kitchen table, with photos sprawled in front of us, and at some point, Teddy proudly showed me his dress blues which he’d kept all those years. He was as proud of his service as anyone I’ve ever known, but according to Lisa, it had only been relatively recently that he’d begun to talk about it. It became important to him that the YF-415 story be told accurately. In a way, his wish became my command and I began using every possible resource to track down other living Zircon sailors, in the hope that I’d find someone else who was aboard that fateful day in 1944.

Photo of Otto Boerner, Teddy Bertone and George Humphrey walking on  Queen Street in Hamilton, Bermuda. (Circa 1944)
Otto Boerner, Teddy, George Humphrey on Queen Street, Hamilton, Bermuda

One of my favourite moments in that first meeting with Teddy occurred when I was showing him my parents’ wedding photographs via my tablet. Dad’s best man was one of his shipmates—a man whose name I never knew as a kid because I never bothered to ask what it was. (Or maybe I asked my mom and she couldn’t recall.) Anyway, as I swiped through the photos, I came to one in which Dad appeared with his best man.

“Chick!” exclaimed Teddy.

Photo of the author's father (right) with his best man, John "Chick" Gigarjian, taken at Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Staten Island, New York, 20 January 1945.
John “Chick” Gigarjian and my dad

He was so excited. Which got me excited. He then pulled out a photograph from the wedding of another Zircon sailor, Frank DeRupo, to show me that John “Chick” Gigarjian was also Frank’s best man.

Frank DeRupo Wedding Party… Teddy is second from left.

When I got home from New York, I immediately began searching for other living Zircon sailors who were on the ship that day, and eventually located two. one of whom, Richard Hamilton Garrison, I later hooked up with Teddy for a reunion by phone. I also set up a Facebook group, and as I found more families of Zircon sailors, I invited them to the group. Teddy loved being able to commune with the children and grandchildren of many of the men he served with on the Zircon, regularly contributing comments and photos. He was the lifeblood of the group.

Photo of the author and Teddy Bertone, 16 October 2017 in Teddy's home in Staten Island, New York.
Me and Teddy

I regret that I didn’t talk with Teddy as often as I would have liked. I occasionally sent off emails to Nicole asking various questions about his quotidian life aboard the ship, or if questions specific to the YF-415 incident popped into my head. I had arranged to talk with him on—as it turned out—the day after he died.

I’m getting a little emotional as I write this because I never would have imagined getting to know one of my dad’s World War II shipmates, much less becoming friends with one, and wanting to share with him every little nugget of information I found out about the Zircon or one of the four hundred or so men that came and went during its five-year commission as a naval vessel.

As I mentioned, he was as proud as anyone I’ve known to have served in the U.S. Navy and on the Zircon, his only seaward assignment during the war. And after waiting eighty-years, this Italian immigrant from the town of Castiglione in Sicily was proud, too, to finally become a United States citizen.

Image of the front of Isidore "Teddy " Bertone's Draft Registration Card.
Teddy’s Draft Registration Card

There are many. many questions I never got around to asking Teddy, but a couple occurred to me as I was writing this. The first is, where did the name “Teddy” come from? I asked Lisa and Nicole, who asked Teddy’s brother, Vincent, and no one seems to be quite sure. It possibly had to do with someone having trouble saying Isidore. A Teddy Bear might somehow have been involved as well (What?!?). I wonder if someone mistook “Isidore” for “Theodore” at some point, Teddy being a common nickname for Theodore in those days.

The second was: how did he feel about being at war with his native country Italy? His best friends aboard the ship (Tony Susinno, Frank DeRupo, Mario Saponaro, all of whom were born in New York)—whether by chance or by choice—happened also to be Italian. And, of course, his naval duty was essentially related to the German presence in the Atlantic, but he had to have been torn.

Photo of Isidore "Teddy" Bertone, taken by the author on 16 October 2017 in his home in Staten Island, New York.
Isidore “Teddy” Bertone, 16 October 2017, Staten Island, New York

Teddy, we hardly knew ye.

The Pilot Boat New York, Part II

The path to discoveries often take unexpected turns.

Recently, I did another newspaper archive search for articles about the Zircon’s life after World War II. Specifically, I was looking for somethinganything about the ship after John W. Mecom, Sr. purchased it from the Sandy Hook Pilots Association. It had served for about twenty years in New York Harbor by that time, and was about forty-three years old.

I couldn’t find anything substantive, although in my previous post I wrote about possibly having found it’s post-New York name. (Heavy emphasis on possibly.) I then searched again for anything about the ship when it was still the New York. Of course, trying to search for a ship with that name can be futile—to say the least—when there’s a city and a state by that name and probably thousands of businesses with it in their names.

I did an eBay search for Sandy Hook Pilots Association with the thought that maybe, just maybe someone have a press photograph of the ship for sale. I got lucky a couple of years ago when I purchased a copy of a press photo of the ship taken when it was undergoing the conversion from Navy vessel to pilot boat. So, you never know!

I found nothing on eBay, but somewhere, somehow along the way, I found a reference to the book, Always On Station: The Story of the Sandy Hook Ship Pilots, by Francis J. Duffy After looking to see if Duffy might still be alive (he isn’t), I found that he was associated with the Steamship Historical Society of America (SHSA), whom I contacted to see if perhaps the group happened to have a photo of the New York in its collection. Sure enough it does.

Aimee Bachari, SHSA’s Education Director, let me know that she had two negatives of the ship on hand, but no means in-house by which to scan the them. As a matter of wanting to know exactly what she had (I expected 35mm negatives), I asked her if she wouldn’t mind holding a negative up to a diffused light source and taking a photo of it with her mobile. I half-expected that she’d tell me to take a hike, but a day or two later, I got an email with this photo attached. A big, beautiful 4″ x 5″ negative! And well-exposed to boot!

I took the image into Photoshop, inverted from a negative image to a positive, corrected the perspective a little bit, converted it to black and white, and cropped it to get rid of most of Aimee’s hand. I cropped it again to little more than the ship.

In this form, it’s not great, but it is nonetheless gold.

Yesterday, I contacted a photo lab about a mile from where SHSA’s offices are to see how much it would cost for scans of the negatives (surprisingly not much) and then emailed Aimee to offer to pay for them. I’m even willing to pay additional as a donation. I’ve yet to hear back.

I then set about to determine where the photograph had been taken by opening up Google Maps and scanning the Manhattan and Brooklyn shorelines in 3D mode to see if I could recognize the buildings. They look pretty distinct to me, so I was hopeful. But then, the photograph was taken 29 May 1951, and there’s the possibility that the buildings were no longer there.

I contacted a friend of mine back in Michigan who grew up in New York to see if she might recognize the buildings. As luck would have it, she has an 85-year-old uncle who worked on the New York City waterfront during the 1950s. She sent him the photo and he immediately recognized the Whitehall Building, which is just above the boat in the middle of the 1951 photo.

Via Google Earth, this is the area where the ship was photographed. The Whitehall Building appears to have been having some work done on its façade when the image was recorded as there is black fabric covering the south side of the building.

The waterfront area has change quite a bit as almost all of the docks have been replaced by landfill.

Grand Mutter

After what seems like an eternity of not paying much attention to the Zircon, its crew, its history, and therefore this blog, something recently lit a little bit of a fire underneath me to try to find out what happened to the ship after it was sold to John W. Mecom, Sr. in 1973. So, I did a newspaper search hoping that additions to its collections of newspapers, I’d come across an article about the ship running aground in Corpus Christi in 1988.

I didn’t find anything about that incident, but I discovered an obituary in the 31 August 1986 Galveston Daily News for Bill Curry, whom Mecom had employed as the captain of his yacht.

While Curry died a couple of years before the incident in Corpus Christi, I hope that I might be able to find out from his children (I’ve attempted to contact only one as of yet, with no luck) if they know anything about the ship or have photographs or… something.

I also found this article in the 27 August 1989 Victoria Advocate which, while not about the ship per se, very possibly mentions the name that Mecom gave to to the Nakhoda/Zircon/New York after he purchased it—Grand Mutter.

I haven’t been able to find any other news stories which mention the Grand Mutter, but I’ve sent an email to Mecom’s grandson to see if at least he can confirm that that’s indeed the name that was given to it.

Just as I was about to publish this, I noticed that the latter article above mentions John W. Mecom, Jr. not John W. Mecom, Sr. Possibly it’s a typo or possibly I’m following a dead-end trail.

Edit to add (11 March 2023): After giving this considerable thought, I believe that the Grand Mutter is not the Zircon, but the yacht owned by younger Mecom.

Common Names

So far, one the biggest obstacles to locating the families of Zircon sailors has been the inability to track down those who had common names. Doing most of my research from home, I often have very little information to go by in my searches at Ancestry. The muster rolls, from which I get names, service numbers, ratings, and (most times) date and place of enlistment, occasionally provide a sailor’s home address. I’ve found this to be the case when a sailor is on leave, and likely was included as a matter of having it at hand should he be called back to the ship suddenly.

So, unless (and until) I am able to find more about what became of these sailors after the war, I can only hope someone from their respective families does a web search and finds me, and that the photos encourage them to contact me.

The next several photos include Francis James Lynch and Edward Simon, two such sailors for whom I can find virtually no viable information because there were numerous people with the same name that served during World War II.

Francis James Lynch, Coxswain
Probably also Francis James Lynch

The names were written in the photo album I received from Arthur Fleming Drant’s son, so I feel fairly certain the the names are accurate, but there’s no guarantee. The name next to the second photo (above) reads “Madera.” There was no Madera on board, but there was a Paul Magera. Mager’s son said it’s not him, and based on other photos I’ve seen of Magera, it doesn’t really look like him, despite that the tightly drawn hood obscures much of his face.

Edward Simon, Construction Mechanic, Second Class

Edward Simon is identified in the above photo, and I have another photo of him (below) with Michael Joseph Silvasie and William Bibbins Post. The face above is a bit hidden by the navigation device, so I’m not 100% sure it’s the same fellow as below. The nose looks about the same.

Michael Joseph Silvasie, William Bibbins Post, Edward Simon

I’ve sent postcards and emails to Post’s children (one of the postcards was returned as not deliverable), a postcard to someone who might be related to Silvasie, and based on connecting a few vague dots, I think I might have found a relative or two of Lynch’s.

Based on muster rolls, Lynch enlisted on 6 November 1939, a date which happens to coincide with the enlistment date on a National Guard Service Card I found belonging to a Francis James Lynch, who was born 5 August 1922 and lived at 2185 Amsterdam in New York.

The 1930 census confirms Lynches at that address, and that Lynch had a sister Irene. I also found a Virginia marriage certificate for Francis James Lynch and June Darling Young Collins, which has the same birth date for Lynch. So, I think I’m on the path. I’ve sent a note to Lynch’s sister’s daughter, so my fingers are crossed.


The above is an email I received after sending a postcard to the daughter of a Zircon sailor. Note that it’s from me!

In this day and age of Facebook and LinkedIn and twitter and Instagram, it’s almost impossible to keep oneself from being found online if you’re willing to put yourself out there. I guess that even if you don’t really put yourself out there but use the internet at all, there are data sites which collect your information and sell it. Throughout the course of my research, I have subscribed to one such data site.

The problem with these data sites, however, is that the information they provide might be outdated or just inaccurate. In my attempts to contact people I think are related to Zircon sailors, I generally look for an email address first. If the email bounces, I send a postcard. If that is returned to me as undeliverable, I look for someone else to contact. For the most part, I’m a little hesitant to call people out of the blue. I don’t know why, really. Sometimes, I think that the postcard somewhat validates my efforts a little more than a strange voice over the phone. It gives people an opportunity to find me online (I’m all over the place) and verify to a point that I’m not attempting to scam them.

When I receive photographs from other families of Zircon sailors, I get excited. My excitement is not only about something new coming to the proverbial surface, but I get excited about sharing a photograph with someone that he/she otherwise might never have seen. It also gives me what I hope to be a hook by which I can get someone to contact me.

Such was the case when I received a cache of photographs from the son of Arthur Fleming Drant. What was great about the photographs was that they were from the Zircon’s first year as a Navy vessel, and most appear to have taken in the North Atlantic near Argentia, Newfoundland, one of the Zircon’s regular ports of call at the time. Also great about the photographs: Drant had identified almost all the men in the photos. These are men whose names I’ve pored over on my spreadsheet time after time after time; names I’ve searched via Ancestry,,, Google, and other sources trying to locate someone related to them.

And so it was that I received two photographs of Joseph Cornelius Benson, Jr.

He looks like he was a character. At the time these photos were taken, he was 22. He looks about 19.

Because Benson is near the top of my alphabetically sorted spread sheet (AND he was one of the ship’s first crew members), I had attempted to locate someone from his family in July of 2018, a year ago. I received the Drant photos in January of 2019, so I was inspired to once again look for his children.

I found that Benson was married in 1946 and was divorced in 1965. He and his wife had six children… three girls and three boys. His oldest daughter was born at the Chelsea Naval Hospital in 1951. I found, too, that one of his sons died in 2003.

As I believe I’ve mentioned before, I never know what to expect when I contact someone from out of the blue. Some are thrilled that I’ve found them and want to talk about their fathers. Others are indifferent. A few—most notably the one I’ve quoted at the beginning of this post—have been rather forcefully antagonistic. It’s my guess that she hated her father. But then, I’ve recently discovered that I shouldn’t make assumptions. It could very well be that she’s just freaked out.

In her case, I had emailed her, sent a Facebook message, and sent a postcard. Upon receiving the above photographs, I decided to post them on her Facebook page (her permissions had been set to Public), figuring that she’d probably never see the Facebook message, and not knowing if she had actually received the email or postcard. I followed up with another postcard, which is when I received the above response.

This is what my scurrilous postcard message looked like (I’ve blurred the name and address to protect her privacy)…

By the way, she created an email address (with MY name as the sender) specifically for the purpose of responding to me. Which is kind of weird since it’s all too likely that I had her email address already. The thing is, I never know if people receive my emails OR my postcards unless they respond. I’ve spoken to some people who have put the postcard in a drawer or on top of their refrigerator with the intention of calling me but forget to because, well… people are busy. I can’t know what is happening on the other end of my communication attempts.

Anyway, my response to the email, although I suspect that she never again logged into the account to see it:

Dear Mrs. __________________,

While it’s clear that you created this email account specifically for me, and while you might never open the account ever again, I’ll respond nonetheless.

I don’t understand why you might be inclined to jump to the conclusion that you’re being stalked when all I’ve done is ask you to contact me about your father. If you had no interest in my query about him, you could have let me know after my first attempt to contact you. Which, by the way, I have no idea whether or not you’ve received any emails or cards. People change email addresses, move… so, I really have no way of knowing if my messages get through. Regardless, a simple “I’m not interested in your research, please don’t contact me again.” would have sufficed after the first email or postcard or however I contacted you.

For your information, I have Navy muster rolls, from which I got your father’s name (see attached). The information I gleaned from the muster rolls are: he was a Signalman, Third Class at the time the first muster (on 25 March 1941) was taken on the USS Zircon; his Service Number was 2233834; he enlisted 1 June 1937, at the Navy Receiving Station in Brooklyn, New York.

I also discovered (in other available muster rolls) that he left the ship as a Signalman, Second Class on 13 April 1942; he also served on the Omaha (CL-4), the Tuscaloosa, the PC-561, the Alfred A Cunningham (DD 752), the Montague (AKA-98), and the Macon; he was discharged in August of 1945.

Via Ancestry, I learned various family details. I found his father’s draft registration card via; I found your sister’s birth announcement, your father’s obituary, and your brother William’s obituary (where I got your name) via newspaper archives sites (all attached). It is my contact with other Zircon sailors’ families that led me to receiving two photos of your father (also attached), taken in late 1941 (likely) or early 1942, near Argentia, Newfoundland. 

I have tried to include as much information about what I’m doing in my emails, as the postcards have space limitations, but sometimes, postcards have an authenticity about them that emails might not have in this day and age of scammers. The URLs I provide on the cards, however, serve to illustrate that I’m not stalking anybody. 

And yes, this is the last time I will contact you or anyone in your family. You don’t come across as a very nice person.

The Troves

As mentioned in my last post, a couple of Zircon sailors’ granddaughters contacted me after finding me via web searches related to their genealogical research.

A couple of days ago, I received a package of photographs from one of them, and was delighted by yet another surprise. Many of the prints were in booklets of ten or so per booklet.

Zircon Photo Booklets
Booklets by The Camera House, 728 Lexington Avenue, New York City

Something that I have wondered about for some time is how the sailors came to receive the photos that have been shared here. Who took them? Who took care of having the film processed and printed? How were they distributed? Did everybody on board get all of the photos? Did sailors have the chance to order them? Considering that some men were on board for only short periods of time, it’s possible that their photos were taken and they never saw them. It’s possible, too, I suppose, that those who were on the ship the longest never saw a single photograph.

By the way, most of the prints that have been sent to me to be scanned have been two-inch by three-inch images on three-inch by four-and-a-quarter-inch pieces of paper. Considering the format, I suppose I can assume that they were taken with a 35mm camera (2:3 ratio). But can I? I’ve yet to count up the number of photographs I’ve collected since I started this project, but I’d say it’s approximately a hundred. I remain confounded as to who took the photos and how they seem to have ended up (so far) in the possession of only a handful of people.

Inside Photo Booklet
Ensigns John G. Gay and Julius Peter Wilkowski (who later changed his name to Peter J. Wills)
Back of Photo in Booklet
Perforations allow for easy removal of the photos.
The Camera House Imprint
The Camera House, Inc. imprint on the backs of the booklets

I suppose that if my research comes to nothing else, I will be glad to have discovered all that I’ve come across so far. My father brought virtually nothing back with him from his time in the Navy. Actually, it’s very possible that he had copies of some of the photographs at some point, and that I never saw them since I didn’t come along until more than ten years later. It’s possible that photographs and other Navy-related things (except for his ribbons, Navy and Marine Corps Medal, paperwork, and “Navy blankets”) were left behind in Staten Island when he and my mother moved from there to Toledo in 1951 or 1952.


For coming up on two years, I have been looking for living Zircon sailors or—in lieu of that—their family members.

Recently, I have had a couple people contact me regarding their grandfathers’ service aboard the Zircon after my searches for them had stalled. This gives me hope that there are still others out there who might be looking for information about their fathers’ or grandfathers’ or uncles’ naval service.

One of the people who contacted me, sent me photos of her grandfather, William Mortimore Newman.

William Mortimore Newman
William Mortimore Newman, MoMM and CMM

Newman was received on board the Zircon 25 March 1941 as a Motor Machinist’s Mate (MoMM) when the ship was commissioned, which made him a Plank Owner, and he served until 21 August 1944, which was a pretty long time to have served on one ship. By then, he had been promoted to Chief Motor Machinist’s Mate. Newman was amongst the first hundred or so people I’d sought out as he was on board when the Zircon came to the aid of the YF-415 on 11 May 1944, and given his Chief rating, I’d hoped he’d spoken of the incident. (I have found, in speaking with Zircon family members, that officers and petit officers more likely to have talked about their service.) I thought I had found a son living in Connecticut, but I received no responses—from him or his immediate family—to several phone calls, e-mails and postcards. So, I was quite thrilled to get the email from his granddaughter, who’d found this blog while researching her grandfather. As luck would have it, Newman was in a photo I’d obtained almost two years ago.

From left: Paul Magera, unknown, Newman, unknown, unknown

I also had forgotten that Newman appeared in a photograph from the 15 August 1941 Bridgeport Post, something I’d received from the grandson of James Stoughton MacBride.

Bridgeport Post - 15 August 1941
Full names (left to right): Frank Truhn, Jr., Raymond John Battistelli, James Eli Monte, William Ganeric Petrushonis, William Sexton, Paul Magera, William Mortimer Newman, John Robert Edwards, Frederick Joseph Beloin, James Stoughton MacBride.

I have considered the possibly that others out there somewhere are researching their family members and their military history, and have listed names of Zircon sailors on my Flickr site, where many of the photos I’ve received are posted, hoping a web search would bring them my way. I’ll redouble that effort here and list the names of those who were on the USS Zircon the day of the YF-415 disaster first, then those who served with my father prior to and after 11 May 1944, and lastly, those who served prior to and after my father’s time on board. I have already been in contact with many of those listed.

Sailors on board for YF-415 disaster
Louis Augusto Alves
Gilbert Atwood Anderson
Ralph Patrick Annunziata
Edward Richard Ausfeldt
Edward F Babish
James Harold Bacha
Alvin Edward Barber
William Eugene Barnett
Stanley Baron
Paul Buford Beach
John Shissler? Beck
Richard Roy Beckwith
Robert Anthony Begandy
Frederick Joseph Beloin
Frank Walter Bernard
Frank Whittelsey Berrien
Isidore Teddy Bertone
Frank Paul Bielskis
John Erwin Bills
Douglas Cato Bird
Marvin Gordon Black
Charles Andrew Blocher
Richard Harold Blust
Otto Martin Boerner
James Rudolph Burton
Raymond Francis Carpenter
Howard Cochrane
Richard Kendall Cockey
Francis Michael Conlon
James Loren Cook, Jr.
Herman Harold Crouser
Charles LaVern Damon
Charles Brant Deer
Frank Nicholas DeRupo
Parker R Despain
Max Earl Dey
Albert Joseph DiPastina
William Louis Dommerich
Arlo Eugene Ellis
Albert Craft Emmett, Jr.
Pete Richard Federoff
Steven Knowlton Fox, Jr.
Richard Llewellyn Francis
Julius Emanuel Garber
Richard Hamilton Garrison
Benjamin Johnson Gibbs
John Gigarjian
John David Gillis
William Arthur Green
Buford Aubry Griggs
Henry George Grossman
Nicholas Gulich
Louis Monroe Harper, Jr.
Charles Frederick Havemeyer
Howard E Henry
Joseph Henry Hoser, Jr.
Joseph Ovila Huard
George Waldo Humphrey
Daniel Frederick Hurley
Sumner Kinney Hushing
Rinaldo Biagio Iannettone
Burris Beaty Jones
Randall Manuel Keator, Jr.
Gordon Denslow Kissam
George Albert Krueger
Martin John Kuck
Ned Landis Lamprecht
Charles A(ubrey?) Lea
Abraham Levy
Clarence Livingstone
Michael William Magenheimer
Paul Magera
Angelo Maiorano
Albert Frederick Manzke
Bruce Harold Martin
James Francis McGovern, Jr
James Stanley McKee
Richard Edward Mercer
Carl Lester Miller
John Mirgo, Jr.
Charles Waymon Moody
William Mortimer Newman
Stanley Thomas Niciejewski
Henry John Niemczyk
Anthony Nigro
Edwin Lathrope Oakley
Edward Daniel O’Connell
Thomas Augustine O’Neil
Henry John O’Toole
Walter Leo Parks
Richard Burton Peacock
Russell Ralph Peck
William Ganeric Petrushonis
Ardrey Vernon Peyton
James William Plant, Jr.
John Bell Power
Thomas Francis Powers
Edward Walter Ranski
Louis Rene Richards
James Michael Riley
Irwin Rubin
Angel Louis Ruiz
Joseph Lawrence Sakmar
William Richard Salomons, Jr.
Mario Pat Saponaro
Peter Anthony Schmanski
Robert Forest Segar
George Preston Seybolt
Jules George Sills
Stanley David Simon
Quay Henderson Smith
Theodore Soltys
Henry Eller Staley
Francis Joseph Suchowiecki
Anthony Charles Susinno
Andrew Mertens Swarthout
Leonard Francis Therrien
Ed Thorne
Richard Prescott True
Stornes Tucker, Jr.
Elster Johannessen Tufte
William Walter Turney
Harrison Gates White
Lester Burton Wood
Marvin Glenn Wright
Ira LaFlorrid Zeek, Jr.

*Niciejewski legally changed his name to Stanley Thomas Nichols in 1968.

Sailors who served with my father prior to and after 11 May 1944
Ignacio Acack
Arthur Merrill Adams
Fausto Plaganas Apostol
Fred Gilbert Baker
Joseph Francis Baldassare
Charles Robert Barton
John Wesley Bassett, Jr.
Raymond John Battistelli
Charles Clifton Beaury
John Stuart Bennethum
John Leonard Betts
William Alfred Blair
Harry Reno Blankenship
Warren Albert Boebert
Robert Mervin Bogart
Samual/Samuel Booker
Berton Johnson Byers
James Alfred Campbell
Page Herman Carter
Thomas Joseph Casa
James Cleveland
Garrett Joseph Connolly
Chester Guy Cooke, Jr.
Carl Robert Cooper
Sylvester Craven
Dalton Burtum Creaser
Henry Robert Crum
Clarence Weed Davis
Charles James Dorrian
Robert Milton Drew
Thomas Stephen Dunstan
Jack Joseph Edwards
Burton Sandiford Evans
Victor John Fox
William Joseph Franey
Robert Lee Frederick
Michael Joseph Gaglio
William Francis Gilligan
Philip Sheldon Godfrey
Anthony George Gutsch
Richard Stanton Harbster
Eugene Hayden
Rolla Harold Hoffmeister
Albert Edward Homewood, Jr.
Harold Victor Horn
George Thomas Horrigan
Kenneth Melvin Howarth
John Joseph Howes
Edward Davis Howland
Walter Hudgins
Bernard Joseph Hughes
Daniel Johnson
Gordon Ronald Johnson
Alvin Leanda Knox
Alexander Joseph Kotarba
Edward Lawrence Larsen
James Francis Ledwith
Kenneth Jenners Libby
John William Lomas
Harold Reynolds Love
William Frederick Luthmann
Francis James Lynch
John Bistis Lyon
Francis Lawrence MacDonald
Donald M Mackie
James Marvin Marcus
Francis McDiarmid
Ulysses McFadden
John McGhie
John Charles McNicol
Richard Elmo McPhail
Henry John Meyer, Jr.
Louis Ludwig Milano
James Eli Monte
Charles Milne Morris
Edgar Vernon Neer
Orla Ezra Nichols, Jr.
Alfred Lester Nickles
Joseph Francis Nolan
Robert Davidson O’Brien
Eugene Martin O’Connell
William Henry Oesterle
James Thomas O’Hagan
Theodore Louis Ormsby
Eugene Patrick O’Shea
Julio Sabila Pacalioga
John Herbert Peach
William Edward Pitt
William Bibbins Post
Mark Foster Preston
Lawrence Augustus Pyle, Jr.
Tommie Rush, Jr.
Charles Owen Schauss
Michael Joseph Silvasie
Isiah Smith
Carl Gottlob Sommer
John Leon Sorota
Christopher Sottile
William Dixon Stevens
Carl Stone
Harrison Stone
Richard Harry Stortz
Earl Eugene Sullivan
Ernest Herbert Swaggart
Ernest Rudolph Tashea
Edwin Garth Taylor
Frank Truhn, Jr.
Benjamin Vencheski
Anthony Joseph Viviano
Oscar Truman Walker
Stanley Jerome Wazbinski
Ralph Leland Weber
John Dickson Webster
Louis Mario Weinman
Leroy Matthew Weiss
George James Welsh
James Taylor Wenman
Wellesley Plant Wheeler
David Quentin White
Edelbert Eugene Williams
Lowell Eugene Wright
Edward Lee Crain

Zircon sailors who did not serve with my father
Hartwig Achenbach
Edgar Calvin Alverson
Kenneth Alvin Anderson
Ellis William Anderson
Charles John Andres
Samuel James Andrews
Emery Joseph Arsenault
Elmer Edward (Edison?) Banner
Napoleon Beamon
Harold Beck
Allen/Allan? Terhune Benjamin
Jesse Gilbert Bennett, Jr.
Joseph Cornelius Benson, Jr.
Sidney Berkowitz
John Paul Boyd
Daniel Frederick Brach
Thomas Brader
James McKnight Bradford, Jr.
Redding A Braxton, Jr.
William Armond Brehm, Jr.
Earle Robinson Brown
George Brownlee, Jr.
Raymond Butler
Wallace Richard Carper
Raphael Cervera, Jr.
John Chencharik
Sanford Lee Childers
William Brougham Clark
Robert George Clark
Harold Eugene Clift
William John Collins
Salvatore Joseph Collusi
Burl J Cooley
Donald Gilbert Countryman
Aaron Cousin
Olin Roy Cousino
James Joseph Creevay
Edward Anthony Cronauer, Jr.
Robert P Crowder
Arthur R DeFields
Meir Hershtenkorn Degani
Ernest Leonel Descheneaux
Charles A(ddison) Dodge
A W Doherty
Richard Frederic Douglas
Arthur Fleming Drant, Jr.
Michael Duzmati
John Robert Edwards
Edward William Edwards
William Elmer Ellis
Donald Charles Elmore
Andrew Jackson Ely, Jr.
Spencer Joseph Emery Ettman
Harry Wesley Eumont, Jr.
George Joseph Fager
Lester M Ferguson
Thomas Frank Fiorini
Martin Joseph Fotusky
Frank Stevall Frazier
Emanuel Friedman
Amadeo Galli, Jr.
James L Garnes
Ira Elmer Garver, Jr.
John G Gay
Thomas Edward Gilmore
John Thomas Gleeson
John Richard Glenn
Walter Edward Gray
William Albert Greffin
Clifford Thomas Grein
Harry Roland Gustafson
George Seaman Hallman
Floyd Philip Hallstrom
Francis Charles Hanggi
George Emery Harmon
Bernard Lee Harvey
Alfred Maxwell Haseltine
James Adelbert Hauser
Earthy Lee Hawkins, Jr.
John J Hayes
Harold Berton Hendershot
Odis Henderson
Robert John Hendricks
Percy Eugene Henneman
Robert Richard Holmquist
Stephen G(arret?) Holster
Harold Wayne Hushour
Nealon Lewis Johnson
Lonnie Johnson
Homer Dowell Johnson
Joseph Johnson, Jr.
Charles Jordan
Julian Paul Kaczynski
George Richard Kaufmann
James William Keating, Jr.
Francis Woods Keefe
George Donald Kelly
Herbert Fairfax Kendall III
George Vincent Killoran
William Leroy Kirchhoff
Henry Francis Kroupa
Paul Francis Kruyer
Bernard Richard Kuprewicz
George La Roy
Arthur D LaBrecque
Clifford Everett Lamplough
John Joseph Lane
Auther Claud Lawler
Louis/Lewis E Lee
Paul Lenchuk
George Love
Alexander Lulic
Stephen Lupco
James Stoughton MacBride
Charles Wight MacQuoid
Harold Wallace Manner
Olden Manning
Thurlow Winsfield Manzie
George Ernest Marra
Donald Edward McAllister
Francis Homer McCoy
Gilbert McGhee
William H McInnis
Theodore Charles Metzing
Irwin Earle Meyer
Dwight Robert Miller
Earle McK Mitchell
Wilson Broaddus Moberly
Doris Clinton Mooney
John Earl Morgan
Joseph John Muller
Ben Ashenhurst Muse
Tolbert William Nash, Jr.
Frank White Nesbitt
Erhard Linus Olson
Michael Angelo Paladino
Will P Parker
Tilford E Patterson
Nicholas Pegan
John Louie Pineault, Jr.
Meredith Pippens
Rebo Pope
Milton Powell
William Luke Reedy
Braulio Riqueza
William James Robb
James Walter Robertson
William Gaston Robinson
William Rogers
John Francis Ronkovitz
Max Wilburn Rood
Arthur Tracy Row, Jr.
Eugene Vapor Sagaral
Servillano Sayaman
Henry Raymond Schneider
James Joseph Senft
Albert Severino
William Sexton
William Patrick Shea, Jr.
Francis Lynde Sherwood
Thomas Charles Shubert, Jr.
Solomon Silverman
Edward Simon
Joseph Edward Sims
James Howard Singleton
George W Sizemore
Lasal Smith
Joseph Emerson Spence, Jr.
Floyd Everett Spencer
Robert James Stanslow
Albert Thomas Stephens
Ray N? Stewart
Iliff Ira Strahan
James Ralph Strain
Frank Joseph Strakosch
Cornelius Martin Sullivan
Charles Julian Symington, Jr.
Herman Joseph Taroli
George Eugene Tessier
Henry Francis Thomas
Kenneth Edward Thompson
Roy M Thompson
Willie Melvin Thompson
P J Tiffany
James Edward Tiner
Joseph Michael Torres
Ernest William Turnbull
Louis George Uljon
Draper Jack Underwood
Joseph Benedict Volente
James Eugene Walker
Franklin Leroy Walter
Robie Leslie Waugh
Richard Lewis Weis
Carl J Westbrook
Daniel Wheeler
William E Whitney
Julius Peter Wilkowski**
Leroy Allen Williams
John Franklin Wilson, Jr.
Arthur Thomas Wincek
Lloyd Elmer Woodworth
Carl Young
Vincent Joseph Zemalkowski

** Wilkowski changed his name to Peter J. Wills sometime after the war.

Commissioning Day, 25 March 1941

USS Zircon (PY-16) Commissioning Ceremony

The USS Zircon (PY-16) was commissioned at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on 25 March 1941, with six officers and fifty-eight enlisted men on board. During the ship’s commissioning ceremony, Captain Harold Vincent McKittrick of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, along with his assistant, Lieutenant Hugo Frank Sasse, handed over command of the newly converted Navy vessel to Lieutenant Commander Cornelius Martin Sullivan.

Captain Harold Vincent McKittrick, Lt. Commander Cornelius Martin Sullivan, Lt. Hugo FrankSasse

Below… the deck log entry for the ship’s first day as a Navy vessel…

Cover of Deck Log, 25 March 1941
List of Officers, 25 March 1941
Remarks and roster of the ship’s crew
Remarks and continuation of the ship’s roster

In this process, I learned that the first men to serve aboard a ship upon its commissioning are known as Plank Holders. The Plank Holders, therefore, of the USS Zircon (PY-16) were as follows (in alphabetical order):

Ignacio Acack, OS1c*
Arthur Merrill Adams, S2c*
Charles John Andres, S1c*
Joseph Francis Baldassare, S2c*
Raymond John Battistelli, SF2c*
John Stuart Bennethum, S1c*
Joseph Cornelius Benson, Jr., SM3c
John Paul Boyd, S1c*
Thomas Brader, EM1c
Richard Kendall Cockey, Lieut. (j.g.) D-O, USNR (Gunnery)*
Francis Michael Conlon, S2c
William Louis Dommerich, Ensign D-O, USNR (Asst. Gunnery)*
Arthur Fleming Drant, Jr., F3c*
John Robert Edwards, MM1c*
Spencer Joseph Emory Ettman, S2c*
George Joseph Fager, F2c*
Lester M. Ferguson, Matt3c
William Joseph Franey, CBM (PA)*
Emanuel Friedman, S1c
Charles Frederick Havemeyer, Lieut. D-V(S), USNR (Communication)*
Walter Hudgins, Matt1c*
Daniel Johnson, F2c
Charles Jordan, MM2c
George Donald Kelly, F1c
George Vincent Killoran, Cox
Henry Francis Kroupa, RM2c*
George LaRoy, MM2c
Edward Lawrence Larsen, GM3c*
Alexander Lulic, RM1c
William Frederick Luthmann, S2c*
Francis James Lynch, S2c
James Stoughton MacBride, CMM (PA)*
Thurlow Willis Manzie, EM2c
John McGhie, MM2c*
John Charles McNicol, QM3c*
James Eli Monte, MM1c
John Earl Morgan, SC3c
Charles Milne Morris, Y2c
Joseph John Muller, F1c
William Mortimer Newman, MM1c*
Erhard Linus Olson, CQM (PA)*
Julio Sabila Pacalioga, OC1c
Michael Angelo Paladino, CGM (AA)*
John Herbert Peach, SK3c*
William Richard Salomons, Jr., S1c*
Charles Owen Schauss, F1c*
William Sexton, EM3c
George Preston Seybolt, S1c*
Francis Lynde Sherwood, RM3c*
Michael Joseph Silvasie, S2c
Solomon Silverman, PhM1c
Edward Simon, CM3c
Theodore Soltys, BM2c*
Christopher Sottile, S1c*
Carl Stone, SM1c
Iliff Ira Strahan, Ensign E-M, USNR (Engineer)*
Cornelius Martin Sullivan, Lieut. Comdr., USN (Commanding)
George Eugene Tessier, CCStd (AA)*
Kenneth Edward Thompson, S2c*
Frank Truhn, Jr., SM1c*
Elster Johannessen Tufte, S1c*
Anthony Joseph Viviano, GM2c
Harrison Gates White, Lieut. Comdr., DE-O, USN (Executive)
Vincent Joseph Zemalkowski, SC1c*

*Zircon sailors whose children, grandchildren, or other family with whom I’ve been in contact. I’ve transcribed the names on the log as it is my hope that others whose fathers or grandfathers or uncles served on the Zircon will find this site and reach out to me.