Friday, July 12, 2019

Fullbore Friday

This week, a guest post FbF. With permission of the author, I've modified a bit to protect his identity.

A little reminder that legends walk amongst us. No battle is small to those who fight it - and in forgotten places in nearly forgotten times, people give their youth, their life, and their friends so we can live the life we have today.

The least we can do is remember their deeds, and speak their names..

On a small island called Sasevale off New Georgia close to the port and airfield of Munda, the tribal chief informed me there was a US monument on the rather tiny island. I was led to a massive anchor next to a flagpole and plaque (pictured below).

Unfortunately, jungle had overgrown the monument, so it was rather unimpressive, but I was happy to note that its patron, Joe Gunterman was from Waterbury, CT, within driving distance where I lived stateside. Small world indeed.

Upon my return, I googled Joe and found he was still alive and kicking. One cold call later and I had an invitation to his house. As I pulled up, I found him at 93 bounding up the stairs to meet a shipmate and filled with unbridled excitement to describe his ship's small role in the glorious Battle of Munda.

Joe had made a lifelong pursuit of finding the anchor he had ceremoniously set on Sasevale and was well prepared for me, and my wife who joined me for the visit, with maps, charts, ship's logs, books and photographs. I had brought, with a minimum of foresight, a digital tape recorder and my attention...also my wife who was understandably a bigger hit than I.

The USS ZANE (DMS 14), was serving as a destroyer minesweep during the war and in the prelude to Munda had received orders to drop an Army company on Sasavele. The orders were delivered by a young officer named John F Kennedy to a ship who named Herman Wouk amongst its wardroom. I was blown away by the fact that these two towering figures could have possibly passed so close. Joe, of course, showed me the ships log entry noting JFKs role in delivering the ZANE's secret orders. After delivering the orders, JFK and PT109 departed to destiny while the ZANE concentrated upon her covert mission.

The ZANE moved out, pulling in close to Sasevalle during the dead of night, unsupported and as covert as possible. As they dropped the fires company ashore, they hit reef and ran aground. Luckily, the ZANE remained undetected and as the company moved ashore, they hatched a plan to get off the reef. First, the ZANE jettisoned her depth charges and they were able to reverse off the reef only to hit the aft end on yet more reef less than 100 meters aft of their position and uncharted. Finally, they dropped the anchor I would see years later to escape the reef and remove themselves to a safer position. This maneuver was captured brilliantly by a local islander in the 70s based upon only his knowledge of the island and the prevailing winds. I, and Joe, found it to be quite accurate. I still have the drawing.

Joe and the ZANE remained on station for the duration of the Battle of Munda, which was so extraordinary that multiple men won the Medal of Honor. It was my pleasure to allow Joe one last chance to relive the experience with me. A true hero. I had arrived arrogant of my own role in our recent war and left humbled by a greater man.

Joe passed away a little over a year later:
WATERBURY - Joseph E. Gunterman, 91, of Waterbury, died Thursday, November 27, 2014 at the Vitas Inpatient Unit at St. Mary's Hospital. He was the husband of the late Joyce (Becker) Gunterman to whom he was married to from 1947 until her death in 2009. 
Mr. Gunterman was born in Waterbury May 11, 1923 and was a U.S. Navy Veteran having serving in the South Pacific during World War II. He was stationed on the USS Zane, which was the model for the stories of the novel The Caine Mutiny.

After his military service Mr. Gunterman worked for SNET for forty years. He was also a builder and general contractor building many homes and condominiums in the area. He stayed active buying and selling properties up until his last illness.
Mr. Gunterman is survived by his daughter, Nancy Manoni and her husband Lee of Southington, a granddaughter, Julie Modeen and her husband Andrew of Middlebury, a great grandson, Benjamin, and a sister, Barbara Capozzi of NJ.
Friends are welcome at the Murphy Funeral Home, 115 Willow St. on Monday December 1, 2014 from 10:00 a.m. until 11 a.m. Entombment will follow in Calvary Queen of Peace Mausoleum.

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