In the First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal (12 November 1942), a task force including the USS Barton engaged a much stronger Japanese force. The Barton launched four torpedoes before coming to a full stop to avoid collision with another ship. Two torpedoes from an enemy destroyer hit her before she could get under way again — one in her forward fireroom and the other, almost immediately, in her forward engine room.
Barton quickly broke in two and sank with the loss of most of her crew, including her captain.
My dad should have been on that ship. Instead, he was left behind at a Naval hospital in Portsmouth, NH, with a severe microbial inner ear infection he’d contracted while serving aboard the USS West Point during the Japanese bombing of Singapore. Had he been at his battle station aboard the Barton, he would have been killed. And I would not be here, nor would any of my siblings or our children.
My dad never forgot his shipmates. He’s no longer here to remember them, so I try to do that for him.
Every Memorial Day, I remember those men who died defending freedom, and I think about the lives that would never be because they perished. I also think about the microbes that made my father ill, essentially saving his life and making so many other lives possible, and I am reminded that no living thing on this planet, large or small, is insignificant.
(This is re-posted from May 2010)