Thursday, December 01, 2005

USS Houston Legend

Alex and I dropped in on Trudy and Otto Schwarz at the end of November.
I told Otto " You look like you been rode hard and put away wet!"
.............It's been rugged. The illness, old age and being blind. He knows he is in a world of hurt. There is not much denying it.
Yet he keeps a very powerful presence regardless. He is a joy to visit with. Always something to share in news or happenings.
His son, John, made up a nice presentation box with his photo, medals and a photo of USS Houston. It is awesome. I had him go over what each one was for after I described it to him. It was a nice little history lesson for Alex. I expressed amazement and pride in the "good conduct" medal that Otto won. Otto was, from his own admission, quite a difficult ... or at least ... sassy kind of a kid in a sailor suit.
Alex was off from school today because he had a stomach ache (heard that before?) from some Chinese food he ate last night. He was OK by the time we dropped grandma off at the airport in Newark and was really up for the visit with Otto and Trudy.
Well, it was a great visit as usual. Such amazing folks (both of them). Otto is rightfully quite proud of what the Next Generation is doing. The news from the "Blue Bonnet" is always interesting, though the toll of time brings more sad notes with every issue. I was most impressed to read that Capt. Carter Conlin is now National CDR for The Naval Order of the United States! That is very good news! Not only is he a good guy, he is a great photographer! I think I can now make some points with my NYC NOUS Commandry (Hey guys! I know the National Commander!). I make the meetings nearly every month in NYC since another local fellow out here in the wilds of NJ became involved (Don Schuld is the Recorder/Secretary for the NYC Commandry). Recently we attended the Samuel Eliot Morison Award Dinner with our wives and had a great time. The award this year went to Michael G. Walling for "The Bloodstained Sea". A great story: Battle of the Atlantic. I was impressed that he talked about the "FBI" (Forgotton Bastards of Iceland). My Dad was a member, having flown with a PBY squadron (VP-84) out of Reykjavik in 1942 . Wallings book centers on the Coast Guard's roll in this battle. I can hardly wait for Hornfischer's next book about the Houston! Otto showed me Hornfischer's original manuscript today. What can I say? If you've read "The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors" you know what a great job he is doing with the USS Houston story.
I told Otto, "I still have a plan to get the "DEATH BECOMES THE GHOST" video into DVD soon". Once that is done, it will be much easier to distribute to many Educational and Public Access Stations. The better ones can even share programs online now .. by broadband internet. It is impressive how films are distributed now. (SEE COMMENT LINK BELOW FOR MORE NOTES ON OTTO) Posted by Picasa

1 comment:

Buzz Creek said...

THIS EMAIL contains some intersting notes about Otto and POWs.

Here is a link to audio of shipborne fire missions near the DMZ in the last months of the war. In one clip is the report from USS Turner Joy of their last round fired ... Jan 27, 1973 at the time of the cease fire. My ship (now virtual since the steel is long gone into the making of faux art deco furniture or something). Maybe the aluminum went into cans for Arizona Tea?

the link from O'Callahan site leads to this one as well:

The armed forces radio broadcasts (included in this group) pretty much set the time frame too.
Vic Campbell Ltjg USNR USS O'Callahan (DE-1051)71-73 now at

The USS TURNER JOY (a museum in Bremerton WA) site at or somewhere has a pretty good written narrative of the challenges the "Joy" had of firing that "last" round of the war. (Somebody said later that USS Oklahoma City ... there in 1975 to cover the evacuation, fired a "warning" round to slow the onrushing NVA troops moving in on Saigon... but 1973 was as far as we believe the END of the war for the USA combatants. O'Callahan and maybe 4 other tin cans were on the "firing line" at Point Allison with TJ for the last days of troop support for the SV Marines that tried to hold the area (we left - they died). "Irish Song" fired her last round a few hours before Turner Joy (Barleycorn? or Skiprope? ... in the audio) I think TJ is "Barleycorn" and the OTC is "Skiprope".

My friend from who visited your museum recently, sent me the link and was in awe of your project. And, it takes a lot to awe Tommy Richarme.

Another interesting note re: (see the video link)
This is a WWII story, but these sailors who survived were repatriated (as POWs of the Burma Rail - Bridge over Kwai episode) out of Saigon where for the last year of their slave labor they built railroads in Vietnam. An awesome story by Otto Schwarz, relates how ...

Once the war was over ... and before British troops arrived to lend order .. the Japanese were returned to duty in bahalf of police action to "protect" their former prisoners ... because the Viet Minh insurrection was already underway. Some of the POWS were captured with French (they look alike) and had a hard time talking their way out of execution. Some of the POW's sewed up a big US flag out of scraps and went as a group into a French quarter and rounded up French who they put in their circle of US POWs for protection and marched back to their POW prison "camp" for safety of all concerned still under 'protection' of some Japanese guards. They did this several times and saved a few hundred French, I think. Otto is now blind in BOTH eyes (for last 7 or so years) and is now having to live in a VA home in Lyons, NJ .. a recent development ... as his condition is beyond home help anymore.

Some story eh? The start of the Vietnam War by Otto 1945 (I made the film) and the end of the Vietnam war by me (see Turner Joy's last round 1973).