USS Wasp underway and burning
USS PRINCETON and USS BIRMINGHAM POURING ON WATER
Ken Schrott, Class of 1938
“I was on the deck, taking good care to see that my lifebelt was fastened securely, as I realized my life might depend on this, when suddenly there was another terrific explosion. I woke up sometime later and I was in the water. I don’t know just what happened, but I must have been thrown from the clear from the deck.
Ken explained that the men had seen plenty of action in many parts of the world. He said that they had been to the Solomon Islands and at “battle stations” for many days, but that on this particular day, they had relaxed. He said that the men had been relieved of this duty, on the assumption that they were out of danger zone.
I and hundreds of others were asleep at the time. It was about 3 o’clock in the afternoon. I was below in the engineering department. Suddenly there was a terrific explosion. We knew we had been struck by a torpedo. It seemed to be up in “officers country”, which is the front part of the ship where the officers and messmen are quartered.
There was no time to grab my personal belonging. I lost everything and that included $10 in cash. I grabbed my lifebelt and started up the scuttle home. We couldn’t put on our belts first, because if we did then it would be impossible to get up through this hole. We had to push the belts up first, then crawl out onto the deck.
I started to put on my belt. It seemed that everything had baroken loose up front. Shells were exploding from our magazine. There was fire and smoke. Everything seemed to be bedlam.
Airplanes were dropping from suspended positions. Some of my buddies were injured, some killed by these planes. The force of the original explosion was so great that heavyh lathes, which had been bolted to the deck, were ripped loose and tossed about. Although the torpedo struck the front part of the ship and this occurred in the rear department.
I took time to fasten my belt. I wanted it to be on securely. I knew that it would be only a matter of minutes before we would be in the water. Suddenly there was another big explosion. I guess I must have been tossed into the water, because I woke up there later on.
We just had to keep swimming. We tried to move away from the water near the ship because the surface was covered with oil and there was a danger that we would be burned.
The “tin cans” (destroyers) kept darting about and picked us up whenever they got the chance. There appeared to be plenty of submarines and they had plenty of trouble avoiding the torpedoes. After two hours in the water I was rescued.
Ken said that some of the men became so frightened when they went into the water that they lost their heads entirely, and one of them, close to him, took off his belt and sank.”
Webmasters notes from this article and subsequent other publishings:
Ken was one of Peekskill’s finest horseshoe pitchers before and after WWII. Playing for the Pastime Pitching Horseshoes Club and the Brookside Horseshoe Club. He was also an outstanding basketball and baseball player at PHS. He left the US Navy as a Chief Machinists Mate and received a citation, and was awarded the Bronze Star medal and the Purple Heart. Ken said “not all of my experiences in the Navy were unpleasant, especially my marriage to Madeline Finnigan, Class of 1941, in December of 1943”. We do not know how Ken fared and survived the later sinking of the USS Princeton but for those readers who want the details of the wartime battles that the Wasp click HERE and the Princeton engaged in click HERE