Sonar Technician (Surface) 2nd Class (SW) Joshua Young, from left, former Seaman 1st Class Ed Young, Command Master Chief (SW) Lewis Wilson and Chief Master-at-Arms (SW/EXW) Michael Schrum pose during a Jan. 6 ceremony in Waynesburg, Pa. (Barbara Helmeci via Navy)
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Three years to the day after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, a U.S. destroyer took three hits from suicide planes while supporting an amphibious landing in Ormoc Bay in the Philippines.
Fires forced the crew of the Mahan to abandon ship. When it was clear it couldn’t be saved, a friendly vessel sent it to the depths, ending eight years of service that included five battle stars.
Crew members of the modern-day Mahan, the fourth ship to bear the name, are more than familiar with the story, the ship’s skipper said. But telling the tale of brave sailors who served decades ago wasn’t enough.
“How do we tell these guys we care?” Cmdr. Zoah Scheneman said, recalling discussions among his ship’s heritage committee members.
The group came up with a plan: A Dec. 6 ceremony, the day before the 69th anniversary of the attack, during which Scheneman would read first-person accounts of the battle, bells would toll for those who didn’t live to tell their stories, and a wreath would be laid at sea.
Mahan sailors sent invitations to the last known addresses of the handful of men still living who served on DD 364 during the 1944 attack. Three wrote back. One, Ed Young of Waynesburg, Pa., accepted the invitation, but illness and bad weather ruined travel plans.
“We said, ‘Heck with it, we’ll bring the flag from the ceremony to you,’ ” Scheneman said.
Young, 88, accepted the honor alongside three current Mahan sailors on Jan. 6 at his local American Legion Post.
“I was really surprised,” Young said in a Jan. 9 interview.
The other two respondents also will receive flags, Scheneman said.
Then a seaman first class — he planned to strike for a rating, “but the ship was sunk before I got to,” he said — Young was 18 and in one of the ship’s 5-inch guns during the attack, according to a Jan. 9 Navy news release.
The ship’s gunners took out three kamikazes, but three got through. One hit the gun where Young was stationed. He survived; the other six men in his battery didn’t.
The Dec. 6 event honored the fallen. The Jan. 6 event was more personal, attended by about 35 of Young’s friends and family and Legion members, plus Command Master Chief (SW) Lewis Wilson, Chief Master-at-Arms (SW/EXW) Michael Shrum and Sonar Technician (Surface) 2nd Class (SW) Joshua Young — no relation.
“It was an honor to meet and interact with a Mahan World War II sailor who proudly served our nation some 70 years ago,” Shrum said in the release. “I am proud to call him my shipmate, and I am a better sailor for this experience.”
Young left the Navy shortly after war’s end. Decades later, the word “shipmate” hasn’t lost its meaning for him.
“A shipmate is someone who can count on you and someone you can count on when in the worst of circumstances,” he wrote in a letter to the ship. “It is knowing the other person will do his best to do his job and complete the mission no matter what the cost.”
It’s a message Scheneman wanted his sailors not just to hear, but to experience. And it wasn’t the only one he wanted this history lesson to send.
“We wanted to let him know, he’s important to 285 sailors on a ship in Norfolk, Va.,” the CO said of Young. “That’s part of our tradition, understanding those who’ve gone before us.”