The Journal Gazette
Fort Wayne, Indiana
July 16, 2006
USS GHERARDI (SS-637/DMS-30) DNA solves a 64-year-old mystery of missing sailor
by Frank Gray
decades, J. L. Johnson wondered what happened to the remains of his
brother, Raymond, who died in 1942, back when J.L. was just a kid living
Last year the USS Gherardi held its reunion in Jacksonville FL. Before the reunion an announcement was made in the local paper about the reunion which caused a family member of a missing sailor from the USS Gherardi, who lived in Jacksonville, to contact the Gherardi Assn President Gene Phillips.
Gene knew about the missing crewmen which occurred in Narragansett Bay RI while the USS Gherardi was anchored in the Bay early in its career as a Destroyer. The whaleboat was returning men on liberty from the shore to the Destroyer when a violent squall arose and the whaleboat capsized and I believe fifteen men were killed. Of the fifteen three were never located and have been listed as missing. The family member related that they were related to one of the missing sailors and were invited to attend the reunion.
At about the same time, Gene Phillips received a call from a Ted Darcy. Ted is a retired Marine who spends all of his waking hours trying to find missing servicemen and moving them from the MIA list to the found list. He has probably the only complete database of all MIAs and from time to time I help him by locating old burial maps in the Archives. I am also an honorary member of the USS Gherardi for having established the the history of the Gherardi from its commissioning early in WWII to the late 50s when it was decommissioned. I did research on their battle diaries and rosters and a large photo collection from which Gene made a nice video about the ships history which is about an hour long.
Anyway, Ted Darcy lives in Fall River Mass which is the town next door to my hometown of New Bedford, Mass. Both cities are very similar and are about 15 miles apart. While Ted was in the Newport Cemetery in RI recording graves, he noticed in a line of graves that there was a grave without a marker. Ted inquired of the cemetery and was told that the grave was of a missing sailor from WWII. Ted thought it deserved a marker also and had a military marker placed on the grave with the notation that he was an unknown sailor. He then began to do some research on the grave and established that this was a sailor that was found along the coast about 8 months after the capsizing of the USS Gherardi Whaleboat. After more research he had come across the story of the capsized Whaleboat and the three missing sailors. Ted deduced that the sailor most likely was one of the three missing. The problem was then to locate next of kin of the three which through my previous research Gene had the name s of the three still missing and we were then able to locate the next of kin of the three missing sailors. Ted and Gene then arranged to get DNA swabs taken from kin of the three missing sailors and Ted arranged to have the missing sailor in the grave exhumed by the Navy MIA group for DNA material and almost a year later identification has been made of the unknown. A brother was called by the Navy to tell him of the match. Further details will be forthcoming.
John D. Bowen
July 14, 2006 - Seaman 1st Class Raymond Johnson -- lost at sea in a naval tragedy in Rhode Island in 1942 -- can now receive a proper burial and gravestone.
NEWPORT -- What the unknown sailor cannot say, his bones can now tell.
Buried here during World War II, without a marker or a memorial service, the Navy seaman remained unidentified and forgotten through the years.
But more than 60 years later, the Navy has exhumed his remains from Island Cemetery and, through DNA testing, solved the mystery of who he was. Now Seaman 1st Class Raymond Johnson -- lost at sea in an all but forgotten naval tragedy in Rhode Island in 1942 -- can receive a proper burial and gravestone.
Today, the only surviving member of Johnson's immediate family is a 77-year-old brother, Jesse, of Needles, Calif. He's the last of nine siblings. Raymond, who was 17 or 18 when he died, never married nor had children.
"I don't have any great feelings about this whole thing," said Jesse Johnson, who got the news from the Navy two days ago. "Keep in mind that I was a kid who was 13. This happened over 60 years ago. Forgive me for not being emotional, but I'm not an emotional person."
A Navy casualty affairs officer will come calling at his door next week, as if his brother had only just died. Jesse Johnson will have a choice of where he wants his brother's remains reburied. He's not comfortable discussing what he plans to tell the Navy, but said he's "doubtful" he'll attend any ceremony.
The Navy's announcement this week, while providing an answer for Jesse Johnson, dashed the hopes of two other families that provided DNA believing the unknown sailor might be a relative. But the news was eagerly greeted by a Fall River veteran who devoted himself to unraveling the mystery of the unknown sailor.
IN 1995, retired Marine Ted Darcy was in Island Cemetery on a research job when he came upon an unmarked grave in a row of veterans. The discovery would lead him on an 11-year odyssey to honor and identify the serviceman at his feet.
Darcy had little to go on at first. No one knew anything about the veteran. But when Darcy checked cemetery records and pored over newspaper archives, he learned of a deadly naval accident on Dec. 2, 1942.
Shortly before midnight that evening, 17 Navy sailors boarded a 26-foot whaleboat in Newport after a night out on the town. While they were being ferried to Middletown's Coddington Cove, and to their 384-foot destroyer Gherardi, rain began to fall and the winds and seas kicked up fiercely. Suddenly, a large wave swamped the boat. Then another capsized it.
Only two sailors survived being thrown into the frigid waters. Fifteen perished.
Most of the bodies were recovered, but three were never found. Eight months later, fishermen found a badly decomposed body missing a head and arms. There were remnants of a Navy uniform, leading Navy medical examiners to conclude it was one of the three missing sailors. But they couldn't determine which one.
So instead of being sent home, the unknown sailor's final resting place became Island Cemetery.
After putting the pieces of the sad story together, Darcy got local veterans to pay for a stone marker that reads, "UNKNOWN US NAVY, AUG 1943." He also started tracking down the relatives of the three missing sailors. Darcy knew the military was using DNA to identify unknown dead because he was working on similar projects as a hobby.
He reached relatives of two of the sailors, including Jesse Johnson, fairly quickly. But it took until 2003 before he finally got in touch with a relative of the third, in Florida. Only then would the Navy consider exhuming the remains, even though Darcy was confident it was Johnson.
The reason, he said, is Navy records indicated the unknown sailor was wearing an on-duty uniform. Raymond Johnson was the coxswain of the whaleboat on its fatal trip. The two other sailors who were never found, Cecil Joyner, of Jacksonville, Fla., and Jack M. Shaul, of New Lisbon, Ind., were on liberty that night.
One relative from each of the three sailor's families sent blood samples to the Navy last year. Then, in April, without notifying any of the families, the Navy quietly exhumed the skeletal remains of the unknown sailor.
On Wednesday, Jesse Johnson got a phone call. It was the Navy. There was news of his brother.
THE JOHNSON children grew up during the Great Depression in Fort Wayne, Ind. They were poor, and things only got tougher when their father died in 1936.
So when Raymond Johnson was just 13, he struck out on his own.
"He was a good kid. He would give you the shirt off his back," said Jesse Johnson, the youngest in the family and three years younger than Raymond. "He never let anyone bother me. He wasn't very big, but he was tough."
At 16, and just three months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Raymond Johnson enlisted in the Navy. By the following December, the Gherardi brought him to Newport.
Soon after the whaleboat capsized, Johnson's family heard from the Navy.
"We were told he was lost in a boat accident. That's all we was told," Jesse Johnson said.
He remembers his widowed mother taking the news hard.
"I came home from school and she was really broken up," he said. "I remember that very well."
Today, Jesse Johnson considers any special attention paid to his family or his brother unnecessary.
"We were just normal people," he said, noting that it was typical then to join the Armed Services and to do so at an early age. One of his brothers earned the Purple Heart and, like Raymond, Jesse joined the Navy at 16. "I know what the Navy is. I know what can happen. I've seen guys die. And that's just the way it is."
Darcy, who's from another generation and served in Vietnam, sees it differently. Using a vast computer database he has assembled, he is trying to solve hundreds, if not thousands, of cases of unidentified military dead.
"To go from a plot of grass and all the way to Needles, Calif., and bring the guy's brother back, it's a little out of the ordinary," he said. "I'm a veteran. I have a soft spot for these things. I don't think it's fair to throw him in the ground and not even mark it."
Vernon couple plays role in identifying remains of sailor
By Jason Rowe, Journal Inquirer – Published July 15, 2006VERNON — Nearly 64 years after a deadly naval accident in Narragansett Bay, R.I., the brother of one of the sailors who died finally knows what happened to his brother’s body.
DNA testing has successfully identified the remains of a sailor who turned up in the bay in August 1943 as Seaman 1st Class Raymond S. Johnson of Fort Wayne, Ind.
Johnson was one of 15 sailors from the then newly commissioned USS Gherardi who died when the whaleboat they were traveling on capsized in the bay’s cold, stormy waters in December 1942.
The sailors were among a group of 17 returning to the ship after spending a day on leave.
And with the identification of Johnson fresh in their mind, one local couple is working to find the families of the other deceased sailors as they and other Gherardi alumni prepare to dedicate a memorial plaque in Washington, D.C.
Johnson’s remains had been buried in an unmarked grave in Newport, R.I., which was spotted in 1995 by retired Marine Ted Darcy of Fall River, Mass.Intrigued by the grave, Darcy — who had been working on an unrelated research project — looked into the grave and later concluded that it likely belonged to one of the three sailors from the Gherardi disaster whose bodies were never found.
But before any testing on the remains could occur, Darcy needed to locate the families of the three missing sailors.
He had an unexpected stroke of luck last July, when local resident Eugene F. Phillips received an e-mail from the wife of the nephew of Cecil C. Joyner, one of the three sailors whose body was never found.
Using medical records, Darcy theorized that the remains likely belonged to Joyner, who was from Jacksonville, Fla.
After receiving the unexpected e-mail, Phillips, who is president of the USS Gherardi Association, put Darcy in contact with Joyner’s family, but there were other obstacles to overcome.
Before authorities would allow the body in the unmarked grave to be exhumed for testing, the Navy required that family members of the other missing soldiers – Johnson and Jack M. Shaul of New Lisbon, Ind. – be found.
After weeks of dead ends, Phillips received a break when a newspaper reporter from Fort Wayne tracked down Johnson’s brother, Jesse, who lives in Needles, Calif.
DNA kits were sent to the families last August and the process of DNA testing the remains began.
"I’m a veteran," Darcy told the Associated Press. "I have a soft spot for these things. I don’t think it’s fair to throw him in the ground and not even mark it."
Jesse Johnson, Raymond Johnson’s only surviving family member, received word of the identification from the Navy on Wednesday.
Another chapter closed
While Darcy’s mystery has been solved, efforts to locate family members of the 12 other deceased sailors continue, Phillips said Friday.
Phillips is working on installing a plaque commemorating the disaster at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C.
When the time comes to install the plaque, Phillips would like to have family members of the deceased present.
But tracking down those family members has been next to impossible.
Phillips, who served on the Gherardi from 1951 through 1955, said he hopes the publicity surrounding Johnson’s identification might lead family members of the other deceased sailors to contact him and his wife Betty.
"This is just a chapter for us," Phillips said. "It’s an important chapter. But we have a whole lot of work to do. This is part of our family. What we call, the ‘Gherardi family.’"
Betty Phillips said the possibility of identifying one of the sailors from the 1942 accident has stirred up a great deal of interest among Gherardi alumni.
"We’ve got boxes of e-mails that are this high," said Betty Phillips, who gestured with her hand to illustrate the amount of e-mail correspondence. "We think we’ll have them bound into a book for the history of the ship."
The ship’s historian, Phillips has amassed binders of information on the destroyer, which went onto have a distinguished combat career, including an important role in the D-Day invasion of Normandy.
The ship, which was decommissioned in 1955, had the distinction of never having lost a sailor during combat.
Given the destroyer’s history, it is tragically ironic that the 15 sailors would have likely survived World War II, had they not perished in the accident in Narragansett Bay, Phillips said.
‘He was tough’
Jesse Johnson, who was three years younger than Raymond, said he and his brother grew up with their 7 other siblings in Fort Wayne during the Great Depression.
Their father died in 1936 and Raymond Johnson joined the Navy as a 16-year-old, three months before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941.
In December 1942, Raymond Johnson, the whaleboat’s coxswain, died in the accident at the age of 18.
Jesse Johnson, 77, told the Associated Press that when the Navy told his family about his brother being lost at sea, the news devastated his widowed mother.
"He never let anyone bother me," Johnson said. "He wasn’t very big, but he was tough."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Here is a list of the sailors who died during the whaleboat accident in Narragansett Bay.
Emory C. Carter Jr. – Hollywood, Calif.
*body was never recovered
Fort Wayne resident Commands first ships into Tokyo Bay for Japanese Surrender
Before General MacArthur, and the USS Missouri entered Tokyo Bay in 1945 to accept the formal surrender of the Japanese to end WWII, the USS Gherardi (DMS-30)* and other ships of CominDiv 60 entered Tokyo Bay, “. . . . . for protective sweep of Tokyo Bay entrance channel ahead of transport group. . . . .” Reference: (August 30, 1945 USS Gherardi Action Report Log Book).
The USS Gherardi (DMS-30) was, at the time, functioning as the “Flag Ship” for the Commander Mine Division 60. Reference: (Deck Log – List of Officers Attached to or on Board the USS Gherardi (DMS-30) – August, September 1945)
Commander E. W. Taylor, a Fort Wayne, Indiana resident, was the “Commander Mine Division 60” (CominDiv 60).
Commander E. W. Taylor provided (in 1945) the “Name, Relationship, and Address of Next of Kin” as:
Mrs. G. A. Taylor
2613 Gay St.
The USS Gherardi (DD-637) was converted from a Destroyer to USS Gherardi (DMS-30) – High Speed Mine Sweeper in 1944.
“MISSING”, “LOST AT SEA”, SINCE 1942,
“UNKNOWN USS GHERARDI (?) SAILOR”,
IDENTIFIED, RETURNED HOME, - 2006
By Eugene F. Phillips
Typically, the responsibility of Destroyer Men, or “Tin Can Sailors”, is, to protect the fleet. On many occasions the Tin Can Sailors also protected the United States Marines, particularly during amphibious landings. There is an historic story unfolding in 2005 and 2006 whereby a former United States Marine, protected the “Memory” of a Tin Can Sailor.
The USS Gherardi (DD-637) was commissioned on 15 September 1942 at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. She spent the next six weeks on Shake Down and Training cruises within Delaware Bay. First open sea Trials and Training, began 1 November 1942, when Gherardi proceeded to Casco Bay, Maine. After one month of operations and training cruises out of Casco Bay, the Gherardi proceeded to Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island for torpedo training, and moored at the pier of the Torpedo Station Annex, Coddington Cove, on 30 November 1942. The crew was provided a short liberty.
The situation was described: “A recently commissioned ship, a green crew, and foul weather can all spell trouble. On 1 December 1942, the Gherardi was moored to a pier at the Torpedo Station Annex, Coddington Cove. This is located about four miles north of the Government Landing, Newport, Rhode Island. The crew were mostly young lads who had recently joined the Navy (90 percent were inexperienced). They were in a hurry to return to the ship from shore leave (liberty). Talking among themselves and exchanging playful banter, they let their desire to get aboard replace the caution of experience, which was still developing.” 1.
The tragic result on that night was the 26 foot motor whaleboat, with an untested crew, capsized in the stormy and turbulent waters of Narragansett Bay. Seventeen Gherardi Crew Members were plunged into the icy, dark waters, shortly after mid-night. Only two survived the night. Fifteen USS Gherardi (DD-637) Sailors died in the early morning hours on 2 December 1942.
The storm that had capsized the motor whale boat continued to increase in severity in the early hours of 2 December and even threatened the safety of the Gherardi herself. After a steel mooring cable parted, the unusual procedure of securing the USS Gherardi to the dock with the anchor chain was initiated. The entry in the ship’s log records the following: “. . . . .0445 Broke starboard anchor chain, starboard anchor secured at hawse pipe. Ran 25 fathoms starboard anchor chain to the dock. . . . . .”2.
“When dawn broke on the morning of 2 December, the bodies of five of the victims were found along the southern shore of Conanicut Island about two miles north of Jamestown, RI. . . . . .”
“Over the next eight months, eight additional bodies (remains) were recovered. . . . . .” 3.
Of the eight remains recovered during 1943, seven were identified. The final remains from the waters of Narragansett Bay were recovered on 10 August 1943. These remains were never identified. This then left Three USS Gherardi Crew Members, “Missing”. For Sixty Three (63) years after this terrible accident, the “Final Chapter” was, Three (3) USS Gherardi Crew Members are still classified as “Missing”. Today that Chapter of this historic story now reads; Two (2) USS Gherardi Crew Members are still classified as “Missing”.
In 1995 a Retired United States Marine, Ted Darcy, entered the Gherardi story. While conducting a survey of British and Canadian aviators buried in the Navy Plot at Island Cemetery in Newport, Rhode Island, Ted came across an unmarked grave. A check of the cemetery records did show the date of interment, place of death and gave the name as “Unknown Navy Enlisted Man”. Through exhaustive research, over a period of several years (1995-1998), and the expenditure of considerable personal funds, Ted Darcy, believed at least one of the three USS Gherardi “Missing” could be identified. The three “Missing” Gherardi Crew Members were: (JOHNSON, Raymond S. - S1c – 2917476), (JOYNER, Cecil C. – F1c – 5561577), (SHAUL, Jack M. – S2c – 6267137)
During his research Ted submitted an application to the Department of Veteran Affairs for a headstone and it was furnished. However, no funds were provided to cover the foundation expenses. He made an extensive, unsuccessful search to obtain the required funds. Upon learning of Ted’s plight, Commander Robert Stevens, of Middleton, RI, V.F.W. Post 4487, obtained approval and donated the necessary funds. The grave site in the first half of 2006, still had an identification marker that read; “UNKNOWN” – “US NAVY – WORLD WAR II – AUG. 1943”.
Ted Darcy’s research had indicated a high probability, the remains in this grave were those of USS Gherardi (DD-637) Crew Member, Cecil C. Joyner. However, positive proof of this would only be confirmed through DNA testing and comparisons with a known Joyner Family NOK (Next Of Kin).
The missing link pin connection for the last decade had been, to obtain some contact with Family Members of Cecil C. Joyner. For a decade, all attempts to secure contact with the Joyner Family had been unsuccessful.
In early July 2005, the link pin to connect the Family of Cecil C. Joyner and Ted Darcy was a “Tin Can Sailor”, Eugene F. Phillips 5. President of the USS Gherardi Association. While in the midst of preparations for the 2005 Gherardi Reunion in Jacksonville, Florida, Gene Phillips received the following “generic” e-mail request for information:
“Hello Gene. We are doing some research into my husband’s uncle, who was on the Gherardi in 1942. His name is Cecil Joyner. He drowned in Narragansett Bay when the tender bringing him back from shore leave capsized. His body was never found. Apparently, the ship was still under training and maneuvers. His drowning happened on 12/2/1942. Would you have any info or know of anyone who (was) around (at) that time? Could you also send me any info that you have on this year’s reunion in Jacksonville please? My husband’s sister and hubby may be able to attend. Thanks.”
The initial e-mail response that day provided standard available data to the Joyner Family, from USS Gherardi Log Books, etc., in the possession of Gene Phillips. However, late into the night and through the early hours of the next morning, memories of known documents triggered alarms and sent Gene and his wife Betty searching through volumes of USS Gherardi books, logs, documents, photographs, etc., in the Phillips home library. Gene Phillips, in addition to being the President of the USS Gherardi Association is also the Ship Historian. For almost a decade, significant assistance in establishing the USS Gherardi history documentation, for the Phillips home library, has been provided by John Bowen. John is an authorized independent researcher at the National Archives. John served in the United States Army and is presently providing significant support for Veterans. John and his wife Mary Ann regularly attend USS Gherardi Reunions.
On that early morning in July, 2005, several attempts by Gene Phillips to recover additional documents on the internet were unsuccessful. However, contact was finally achieved in the early hours of the morning, and Chaplain Lt. Col. Boyd Fallwell, provided the desired web address link: (2005) http://members.cox.net/honorguard2/unknown.
Chaplain Fallwell’s Web-Site posting was Key to facilitating the connection between Eugene F. Phillips, President of the USS Gherardi Association and Ted Darcy (USMC Ret.). This web site still provides a complete summary of the dedicated and exhaustive research performed and documented by Retired United States Marine, Ted Darcy, and is titled, “UNKNOWN SAILOR”. The link pin was now in place and Gene Phillips connected Ted Darcy and the Joyner Family.
Ted Darcy is one of the Nation’s foremost authorities on “Finding America’s Missing”.4. Ted, after retiring from the U. S. Marine Corp., has virtually dedicated his life to the mission of Finding America’s WWII Missing. Finding an unmarked grave site in a military section of a cemetery, in Newport R.I., represented a challenge that Ted was predestined to accept.
During the last half of 2005 and the first half of 2006, Ted Darcy and the U. S. Navy have provided guidance and assistance to the Joyner Family, Shaul Family and the Johnson Family. There was a dedication to bring the story of the “UNKOWN SAILOR” to a compassionate and complete conclusion. The DNA identification procedures and protocol, however, were known to be potentially fraught with possible time delays and disappointments.
There was no guarantee of a result; however, it was initially believed the research work by Ted Darcy shifted the odds in a positive direction, toward the Joyner Family. It was also believed, if the DNA results were not positive for the Joyner Family, there would still remain a high probability that at least one other “Missing” USS Gherardi Sailor would find his way home after Sixty Three (63) years.
We in the USS Gherardi Association, prayed for and received a successful and compassionate conclusion to the story of the “Unknown USS Gherardi (?) Sailor” in 2006.
Without the Investigative Research by Ted Darcy (USMC Ret.), starting in 1995, the Identification of the “Unknown Sailor” would not have been possible.
Gherardi Association often refers to itself as the “Gherardi Family”.
Our experience of involvement in the “Unknown Sailor” story, and the
participation of Tin Can Sailors, has given “Family” a broader
meaning. We now have a better understanding and appreciation of the USS
Gherardi’s relationship and place in the “Tin Can Sailor Family”.
From our first, unannounced visit to the Tin Can Sailor (TCS) busy
second floor offices, in Somerset, MA, on July 12, 2005, to the ongoing
communications, TCS Staff has truly made us feel like “Family”.
The first Posting and Publication of the “Article Of Interest” in 2005,
on the TCS web-site, was the Documentation Anchor, Credibility Link, and
Basis for other News Media around the USA, to publish the story of the
USS Gherardi Unknown Sailor. Tin Can Sailors web-site posting was
instrumental in locating the NOK of “Missing” USS Gherardi Crew Member,
Gene Phillips and his Wife Betty had reviewed, in considerable detail, Darcy’s summary report “Unknown Sailor”, posted on Chaplain Falwell’s Web-Site, prior to the initial meeting with Darcy. The Phillips’ conclusion from this review was, the “Unknown” most likely was not on Liberty that night, but rather, a member of the ill fated Boat Crew. (Johnson was the only member of the Boat Crew not recovered and listed as “Missing”).
At their first meeting on July 12, 2005, Darcy told Phillips he had on file information for the Next of Kin (NOK) of only One of the Three “Missing” USS Gherardi Sailors. This contact was with Jane (Shaul) Ryan, Sister of Jack Shaul. Ted Darcy was very pleased to now have a connection with the NOK of the Joyner Family through Gene Phillips, President of the USS Gherardi Association.
The Judge Advocate General (JAG) Report, of the Newport accident, confirmed Johnson was the Coxswain of the USS Gherardi (DD-637) Boat Crew, December 2, 1942.
USS Gherardi Crew Member, Jim Wildman, who was serving on the USS Gherardi at the time of the Newport accident on December 2, 1942, after independently reviewing the available Research data on July 16, 2005, also concluded, the “Unknown”, “. . . must be Johnson.”
Further, if one would be prone to consider “Omen”, additional facts uncovered on the US Navy Memorial Foundation Web-Site are interesting. The US Navy Memorial Web-Site maintains a section entitled, “Lost At Sea Log”. A search of the “Lost At Sea Log” will show only Two of the Three “Missing” USS Gherardi Sailors, “Lost At Sea”: Cecil Joyner and Jack Shaul. (It was as though King Neptune was saying, Raymond Johnson is not Lost At Sea, he is just “Unknown”). Darcy attributed the US Navy Memorial error to “typical bureaucratic inefficiency”, noting that the data at the US Navy Memorial, most likely came from the “American Battle Monument Register”, which also does not list Johnson as Missing.
All of this analysis and conjecture, concerning Johnson as the “Unknown” was very carefully kept in Confidence as the DNA Identification protocol went forward in 2005 and 2006.
At times some of the communications were emotionally sensitive. As an example, in an E-Mail to Eugene Phillips from Jane (Shaul) Ryan, Sister of Jack Shaul, Jane stated, “. . . My parents spent the rest of their lives hoping he would be found and/or some kind of news but they didn’t even get a letter from his commanding officer after the accident. Back then you just accepted the telegrams and the thank you letter for his service from the Secretary of the Navy. . . “
The next major issue to arise came when Darcy contacted the US Navy with the news about the Joyner (NOK) connection. On July 26, 2005, the Navy said they would only authorize the disinterment of the remains, in the Newport Cemetery, when DNA samples of all Three NOK of the “Missing” were available. This now started significant research on the part of the Navy, Darcy and the Phillips’, to find the NOK of Johnson.. It was Betty Phillips who made the contact with News Columnist Frank Gray, of the Fort Wayne Indiana Journal Gazette Newspaper, on August 5, 2005. Forte Wayne was the original home city listed for Raymond S. Johnson.
All the information the Phillips’ had available was forwarded to Frank Gray and he spent several days researching Newspaper Archives in Forte Wayne, Indiana. Gray then called Phillips to say, his research had not turned up any results, however, he believed this to be an interesting story and he would run a Column. Gray said “I will Shake the Bushes for you”. The Title of Gray’s first USS Gherardi Unknown Sailor column was titled: “Was headless body that of local WWII sailor?” . His column was published on August 9, 2005.
Frank Gray really “Shook the Bushes”. His title upset the other Families of the “Missing” Sailors, as well as Darcy. Gray, however, achieved his goal, when several distant Johnson Family relatives contacted him within a couple of hours of publication. These contacts led to Needles, California for the Brother of Raymond Johnson. After several attempts at telephone contact it was determined the number provided was not correct. On August 10, 2005, Phillips then offered the services of USS Gherardi Association Members located in California. USS Gherardi Crew Member Jim Justus contacted the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department in Needles, and they in turn assigned a detective to assist. Just as this assistance was getting underway, Gray called Phillips back and provided the correct telephone number for Jesse Johnson, Raymond’s Brother. Phillips then first talked to Jesse Johnson on the evening of August 11, 2005.
Jesse Johnson is also a former Sailor. Jesse served in the US Navy from September 1945-August 1951, serving on several ships. One of his duty assignments was aboard the USS Goss (DE-444). This also qualifies Jesse as a “Tin Can Sailor”.
In September 2005, the USS Gherardi held its Reunion in Jacksonville, Florida. Jacksonville, coincidently, was the home town of Cecil C. Joyner, one of the “Missing “. As an additional sign of Respect, Mr. & Mrs. Phillips invited Cecil Joyner’s Wife, Elizabeth Alderman, and his Sister, Iris McLeod to the Banquet Dinner. Also included on the guest list were Joyner Relatives, Mr. & Mrs. Watkins. At the Banquet Dinner, an added emphasis of the Historic Significance of this story, was provided by the attendance of the Commanding Officer of Naval Station Mayport, Captain Charles P. King.
In further recognition of the Historic Significance of the, “Unknown USS Gherardi (?) Sailor”, the USS Gherardi Association, at the 2005 Reunion, authorized a Second Plaque to be dedicated at the US Navy Memorial in Washington, DC. The Second Plaque in the name of USS Gherardi will be dedicated, “IN MEMORY OF THE 15 CREW MEMBERS WHO LOST THEIR LIVES DECEMBER 2, 1942 – NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND”. This plaque is sponsored by individual donations from Members of the USS Gherardi Association.
Now, in 2005, having the Three NOK contacted, the US Navy sent DNA kits to all Three Families. Although there was a small delay caused when one Family could not decide who should be the DNA donor, all DNA was submitted by October. It was interesting and helpful that Siblings of all Three “Missing” are still alive and anxious to participate by donating DNA samples.
The case remained quiet until January 2006. Darcy had contact with the US Navy and they indicated disinterment of the “Unknown” might take place in the Spring. When March and April 2006, came and went, with no further communications forthcoming from the US Navy, Darcy notified all concerned parties. He suspected a Bureaucratic Log Jam. He requested each one to contact their Congressional Representatives and request assistance to break what appeared to be this Bureaucratic Log Jam.
Phillips sent several letters to Congressional Representatives and Senators. Phillips’ last letter, requesting assistance to break the apparent Log Jam, was sent to the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, on July 6, 2006.
Unbeknownst to all parties involved, the US Navy had secretly disinterred the “Unknown” remains, back in April 2006. The fact of the disinterment was accidentally uncovered by a member of the Joyner Family, Sally Van Osdell, and confirmed by Darcy on July 10, 2006.
The US Navy contacted Jesse Johnson on July 12, 2006, to advise him, the DNA identification match was made with his “Missing” Brother, Raymond.
Congressional intervention was not required. The Navy had quietly, secretly and efficiently proceeded with the DNA Identification of the “Unknown USS Gherardi (?) Sailor”. There has been and continues to be a National interest in the story of the “Unknown” returning home after 64 years.
An excellent collection of National Press Articles relating to the “USS Gherardi Unknown Sailor – Identified”, Pictures and Other USS Gherardi Information can be accessed at: http://www.indianamilitary.org/VetGraves/ExpandMenu/VetSTART.htm. (On this page, click “Indiana Veterans’ Graves” and then USS Gherardi.)
On July 14, 2006 Ted Darcy notified all involved, via e-mail, “Case Closed”, referring to the “Unknown Sailor”. This retired Marine has performed magnificent Research in this case and many others he has successfully seen to completion. His dedication to recovering the WWII Military Missing is unparalleled. “Well Done” Ted.
However, the USS Gherardi Association, at this time considers this significant event to be the completion of only the First Chapter. The Association will be dedicating a Memorial Plaque to all Fifteen (15) Crew Members who lost their lives at Newport, Rhode Island on December 2, 1942.
We now have contact with only the Three Families of the “Missing”, related to the “Unknown” story. The USS Gherardi Association is facing the daunting challenge of locating the other Twelve (12) Families, to advise them, their Loved One will be recognized at the US Navy Memorial in Washington, DC. We would like to have as many Families as possible, represented at the Memorial Dedication.
The USS Gherardi Association is requesting assistance from all, and especially the Tin Can Sailors, to locate the Families of the other Twelve (12), USS Gherardi Crew Members. To this end, we are listing the Names and Home Towns of all those who lost their lives at Newport, Rhode Island, December 2, 1942:
CARTER, Emory Calhoun Jr. – Hollywood, CA
DINKHELLER, Melvin Roy – San Diego, CA
FISHWICK, Ralph Burrell – Cuba, MO
HARKINS, Donnie Springer – Grand Rapids, MI
HARRIS, Lester Franklin – Dunlap, KS
HUFFSTETLER, Jacob Columbus – Kings Mountain, NC
JACOBS, James Ander – Arlington, GA
JOHNSON, Raymond Shadrick – Fort Wayne, IN – “UNKNOWN” – “IDENTIFIED”
JOYNER, Cecil Curtis – Jacksonville, FL – “MISSING”
LUKASZEWICZ, Edward Walter – Easthampton, MA
MARTIN, Donald Eugene – Selma, IN
MARTIN, Wilber Edgar – Cody, WY
SASSER, Cody Ray – Barbour, AL
SHAUL, Jack Merl – New Lisbon, IN – “MISSING”
WALLACE, Ward Bell – Paden City, WV
The USS Gherardi Association, through the dedication of its Members, Friends and Families, has participated in adding a new dimension to the motto: “NO MAN LEFT BEHIND”.
The USS Gherardi Association, through the dedication of its Members, Friends and Families, is participating and praying for success with the theme: “NO FAMILY LEFT BEHIND”.
1. “Sea Classics” – May 1992 – Volume 25, Number 5 Title: “A SEA SO FAR: USS GHERARD (DD-637/DMS-30)” – By Lance Naismith “She fought two different wars in two different oceans, carrying out two different roles”
2. Deck Log of USS Gherardi (DD-637) Wednesday 2 December 1942 (04-08 watch)
3. “In Memory of AN UNKNOWN SAILOR buried in the Island Cemetery at Newport, Rhode Island, 17 August 1943”
Ted Darcy, U.S. Marine Ret.
4. “Finding America’s Missing” By Ted Darcy and Ray Emory - Published 2003
5. Eugene F. Phillips – USS Gherardi 1951-1955, President USS Gherardi Association - 2005, Life Member - Tin Can Sailors
photos courtesy of
|Page last revised 09/17/2007|