MELFORD VANGSTAD


Melford Vangstad enlisted January 12, 1942, and went to NRS Salt Lake City, Utah, then to USNTS at San Diego, California, and on to Armed Guard Center in Pacif- lc, California. He went then to the Armed Guard Center in New Orleans, Louisiana from where he shipped out. The SS PAN CRESENT left from Charleston, South Carolina, went to South Africa, and returned to the States. He then went to the New Orleans Armed Guard Center. On December 24, he was sent to Houston, Texas, to ship out on a new Liberty Ship, the SS BIGFOOT WALLACE There were 23 Navy boys who stayed at Rice Hotel until the ship was ready. On January 11 the WALLACE headed to Panama and on January 17, went through the locks, en route for its first stop, Fremantle, Australia. On March 3, he left for Bombay and Karachi, India. From there he sailed to the Gulf of Aden, then up the Suez Canal to Port Suez anti Port Said, where the ship was anchored. He also stopped in Haifa, Palestine, where Mel- ford joined a small group on a three-day trip to the Holy Land. On July 3, 1943, his ship left for thc invasion of Sicily. Thirty-two ships were in the convoy, which came under heavy attack for three days and nights. His ship was bombed every night. One plane was hit and Melford watched it come down. On board, the ship carried British, Canadian and Australian troops, who were unloaded in Sicily. The BIGFOOT WALLACE formed with a convoy of 14 ships on July 13, 1943, and left. Another convoy came in and took their place. On their way home, they sailed the Mediterranean, passed the Rock of Gibralter, and pulled into New York Harbor, passing the Statue of Liberty. A happy bunch of sailors was home for liberty. On February 13, 1944, he left New Orleans for Panama City to catch a new Liberty Ship, the SS RUSSELL SAGE, and on April 4, 1944, he left in a convoy of 20 ships for Panama. On April 9, 1944, the SAIGE left on a trip to New Guinea by itself. The ship ran aground on a reel', and was stranded there several days until the crew unloaded cargo and tugs pulled the ship free. After getting off the reef, the ship was on its way again to New Guinea at Milne Bay, with stops at Oro Bay and Biak and Hollandia. One hundred twenty Army men were on board and were dropped offat the next stop. On its way home, the SAGE carried an Army deserter. The deserter was found after the ship had sailed and was dropped off in San Francisco to Shore Patrol. On October 4, 1944, he left San Francisco for Portland, where he was to be relieved. After leave, Melford went back to New Orleans Armed Guard Center where he was stationed until he was dis- charged September 5, 1945. He lived in Auk Centre, Minnesota for one year until he got a job at the Osakis Creamery where was a buttermaker for 27 years. He moved to Wahpeton, North Dakota, and worked at a sugar beet plant as a boiler operator for 10 years. After retiring, he moved to Zillah on July 15, 1984. His wife, Laura is still working part time in Zillah. They have three sons: Richard in Minneapolis; Melford Jr. in Seattle; and Cut in Zillah, plus 10 grandchildren. They love it in Zillah where there is a lot of fruit. Melford's current address is P.O. Box 1326, Zillah, Washington 98953. B.D. VELASCO


B.D. "Val" Velasco of Tucson, Arizona, served as a member of the Navy Armed Guard on board the merchant ship SS MORMACSWAN from April 1943 to May 1944. With rating of RM2/C, he was also qualified s a signalman. During battle stations, he manned and fired a 20 mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft cannon. Val made three trips on the SS MORMACSWAN, the first an around-the-world trip to the Persian Gulf. The sec- ond trip was with a 96-ship convoy to London. His third and final trip was to Calcutta, India, via Capetown, South Africa, and Sri-Lanka (Ceylon). The return trip from Cal- cutta to New York was via the Red and Mediterranean Seas. After the Allied forces landed on Normandy, several hundred former armed guardsmen from the Center at Brooklyn, New York, were shipped via troop train to Cali- tbrnia to be reassigned to the Pacific Fleet. Val served on board tile attack transport USS KENTON (APA-122) as a radioman I/C as supervisor in radio central. The KEN- TON and its crew participated in the Philippines Cam- paign on Leyte and Samar and also took part in the inva- sion of Okinawa, unloading troops of the 10th Army on Orange Beach on day one of the invasion. Val remained in the inactive USNR for more than 12 years after the war ended. He is a charter member of American Legion Thunder- bird Post 41 in Phoenix, Arizona. Val retired at the age of 66 and is an associate member of the U.S. Sub Vets of WWll Cactus Chapter in Tucson. Val also keeps active by doing volunteer community service work with the United Way of Tucson. He is a member of a church group which feeds the homeless and needy. Val, also called "Baldy" by family and close friends, and his wife "Hongee" have 13 grandchildren. Val retired from the Arizona Highway Patrol with 27 years service and attained the rank of Captain. He was the district and zone commander for the patrol in Tucson for 18 years. He is a graduate of Arizona State University and has instructed in various police academies and community colleges throughout Arizona. In 1972, he attended the FBI National Academy and in that same year was a guest pan- elist at an international police-community relations semi- nar in Germany sponsored by the National Conference of Christians and Jews. In 1963, he was an instructor on a loan basis at the InterAmerican Police Academy in Pana- ma. He instructed police officers from 26 South American countries in American Police Techniques completely in the Spanish language. His current address is 1134 S. Carnegie Drive, Tucson, Arizona 85710. JOHN T. VIEIRA, JR.


John J. Vieira, Jr., was inducted into the U.S. Navy January 4, 1943. After taking basic training at Great Lakes, (he's never seen snow so high in his life), he was sent to Gulfport, Mississippi, for gunnery school. He shipped out of New Orleans in April 1943, on the SS MONT EVEREST, an ex-French ship flying the Pana- manian flag. He stayed with her until she was turned over to the French in March 1944 in Oran, North Africa. The SS JAMES MARSHALL was his home from March 1944, to April 1944, when she was left in Wales for repair. She had been bombed and sunk in Salerno, Italy. The USAT GEORGE WASHINGTON was an Army transport captured from the Germans during World War I. It brought him to the Brooklyn Armed Guard Center for leave. In May 1944, he shipped out of Philadelphia on the SS WINSTON SALEM, a Hog Islander. There, he met Dan Senese, who was a signalman. Dan and John were reunited at the New Jersey mini-reunion in October 1988. He served on the WINSTON SALEM until she ran aground in Buzzards Bay, Rhode Island. She was taken to Mobile, Alabama, m December 1944 for repmrs. On January 31, 1945, he joined the crew on the SS JEAN B. LEMOYNE, a Liberty Ship converted to a tank- er for refueling escorts in convoy. He served on her until August 24, 1945, and left her in Panama and was assigned to the SS THOMAS CONDON, also a Liberty Ship. He went through the Panama Canal to the Philippines, on his way to Japan. However, during the voyage, the war with Japan ended. He returned to Norfolk and was discharged in Lido Beach, New York. The majority of John's duty was in the Mediterranean, the Caribbean and the North Atlantic. His ships carried fuel, troops and even mules to bring supplies to the troops in the mountains of Italy. After the war, he joined the Naval Reserves and served for 30 years, retiring in 1981. He is retired and living on his dream farm in central Virginia with his wife, Alice, and their two sons, David and George. He has six sons and a daughter from a previous marriage and six grandchildren. John's current address is Route 2, Box 59, Stanardsville, Virginia 22973. ROBERT J. VILLARS


Robert J. Villars was born January 10, 1925, in New Orleans, Louisiana. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy January 8, 1943, and attended boot camp in San Diego, California. Co. 43-16. He attended radio school in San Diego, com- munication school in the Naval Reserve Armory in Los Angeles, California. He was then attached to the Armed Guard Center in New Orleans. He sailed aboard the SS GRANT WOOD on a North Atlantic convoy to Loch Ewe, Scotland, and Newcastle on Tyne, England. While in convoy in the North Sea at night time, an English ship at the rear was hit either by an E boat or a torpedo plane. The ship exploded. There were para- chute flares over the English ship prior to the explosion and some crew members speculated that she may have been hit by gunfire since heavy caliber shells passed overhead. There was no sign of the ship the next morning. The con- voy was in decoy to lure the Scharnhorst, a German Battle- ship, from a Norway hideout. When the convoy arrived at Loch-Ewe, Scotland, after Christmas the crew was told that the English sank the Scharnhorst the previous night. During another trip across the North Atlantic, Robert's ship broke down and left the convoy. The steering gear was fixed and the crew was glad to rejoin the convoy. Later in the North Atlantic, the crew thought the ship was going to break up. When it reached port, reinforcing steel plates were welded from bow to stern. In the Irish Sea, the WOOD which contained 16 box cars of bombs, was rammed during an emergency turn. Villars was in the stern quarters getting ready to go on night watch. The general alarm went offand then the ship was jolted. He thought they had been torpedoed and put on his red goggles and waited for about 15 second for hatch covers and debris to fall. To his surprise, the cat walk over the deck was demolished. The ship sailed away trail- ing oil with an 18 foot split in the side. It was reported that several seamen aboard the DAVID F. HOUSTON jumped overboard and were killed when the ship backed off by reversing the propellers. The ship went into drydock at Plymouth, England, for repairs. At night during a winter storm in the North Atlantic, the crew thought a bucket broke loose in the stern gear locker. It was too rough to go out and secure. At daybreak a gunners mate went down in the rear magazine to check the temperature. The bucket turned out to be a loose 3-inch 50 caliber shell that had been bouncing around all night. Robert also sailed aboard the SS BENJAMIN D. WIL- SON. They left New Orleans in June of 1944 for the east coast in convoy to Gibraltar. A tanker in front of the ship departed for Oran, North Africa. That evening his ship moved into the tanker's position and was attacked by Ger- man torpedo bombers. A torpedo passed about 10 yards from the stern. The ship only fired one burst from its 20 mm guns. The ship proceeded through the Suez Canal to the Indi- an Ocean and then onto Colombo, Ceylon, without escort. The crew was told that Japanese submarines may not take or allow survivors and were informed about the fate of the JEAN NICOLET's crew a few weeks or so before. The game plan if torpedoed was for the merchant seamen to enter the life boats and for the gun crew to lie down in the gun tubs, hoping for the submarine to surface thinking that the ship was abandoned. Then they would try to sink the submarine. This was their only chance. The ship proceeded from Madras, India, to Lorenzo Marques Portuguese, East Africa. The captain was mur- dered on the ship and the ship left Lorenzo Marquese, passed by Capetown, and then sailed to Montevideo, South America. In Montevideo Harbor, the crew saw the scuttled pocket battleship GRAF SPEE. Leaving Montevideo, the ship proceeded south through the Straights of Magellan. The ship was loaded with nitrate in Tocopila, Chile, and headed through the Panama Canal to New Orleans. Villars next left New Orleans aboard the SS HENRY AUSTIN and sailed for the South Pacific with troops for the anticipated invasion of Japan. He arrived in the Philip- pines and the Japanese surrendered. Villars was discharged from the Navy in February 1946 at New Orleans, Louisiana, attaining the rank of Radio- man 3/C. After being discharged, he attended Loyola University and received a degree in business administra- tion. He retired from the federal government in 1987 and is currently a manager of a real estate appraisal company in Metairie, Louisiana. He married lone Miller of Reddell, Louisiana, in 1955 and they have seven children and three grandchildren. His current address is 772 Mercedes Place, Gretna, Louisiana 70056. ELMER HOWARD VINCENT


Elmer Howard Vincent was born in Granite City, Illi- nois. November 7, 1923. He worked for the C.C.C. and Commonwealth Steele Co. before joining the Navy Octo- ber 12, 1942. He was sent to boot training in Great Lakes, Illinois. After three weeks, he was sent to gunnery school in Gulf- port, Mississippi, and was a member of one of the first classes at that base. Wooden dummy guns were used in practice. After about four weeks, he was sent to the New Orle- ans/Algiers Naval Station. On December 5, he sailed on the SS JOSEPH T. ROB- ERTSON, bringing back sugar from Cuba. Then he went to New York and to North Africa, carrying ammunition and tanks. Coming from Gibraltar, they were hit but not sunk. After seven months, he went back to Norfolk, Vir- ginia, and a 30-day leave. He was sent back to New Orleans, Louisiana, and in July he left on the GEORGE M. COHAN, for England and Russia and back to Savannah, Georgia, then back to New Orleans. He left on the SS KENDALL for 30 days, but the ship leaked badly and returned to port. He then served on the USAT FLORIDA for seven months. While on six weeks' shore duty at the New Orleans Naval Station, he married his wife, Doris, August 26, 1944. He then shipped out on the SS YORO for five months. He went from New Orleans to LaCeiba, Hondu- ras, bringing bananas. On April 12, 1945, the day President Roosevelt died, he left Panama on the tanker SS WOLF MOUNTAIN for the Pacific. In December it went to New York and on December 15, 1945, he was discharged from the Navy at the Naval Station on the Lakefront in New Orleans. He worked for Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Co. from 1952 to 1980. He has a son and a daughter and five grandchildren. He now resides at 20181 Chandler Street, Covington, Louisiana 70433.



Click to return to index page


Click to return to main page