Mr. Eleuterius’ classes had the privilege to meet an “eye witness to history” on Wednesday, February 8, when Mr. Hugh Wingo told about his some of his experiences as a Navy gunnersmate during World War II. He served in the Pacific from 1940 until 1945. He retired from the Navy in 1959 as Chief Gunnersmate and he currently resides at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport.
Mr. Wingo served on the USS Benham which fortunately was at sea at the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor where the destroyer was based. He was a part of the Task Force in which Colonel Jimmy Doolittle’s bombers launched from the USS Hornet to raid Tokyo. Mr. Wingo emphasized that Doolittle’s successful raid did much to raise the morale of the American people as well as those serving in the military.
“The Battle of Midway Island was the turning point in our war against Japan,” Wingo told the class. After engaging in combat, his ship picked up 750 survivors from the mortally damaged USS Yorktown . His ship also survived after Japanese torpedoes destroyed the USS Hammann as the USS Benham and Hammann were trying to save the Yorktown. Mr. Wingo shared pictures of the survivors in the water as the USS Benham crew worked to save them.
Later, however, his ship did not survive a torpedo attack near Savo Island and the crew was ordered to abandon ship on November 15, 1942. Despite the loss of three destroyers, Mr. Wingo declared it to be a great surface battle win for the USA.
The USS Lexington CV-16 was his next assignment. From September 1943 until September 1945, he was a part of 35 major battles and island-takings. “With the end of the war, we entered Tokyo Bay and dropped anchor off Yokohama on September 5, 1945. We were the first American fleet carrier to enter Tokyo Bay,” shared Mr. Wingo.
Thank you, Mr. Wingo, for sharing your memories with St. Patrick students. Thank you for your service to our country. Please come back soon.