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June 25, 2004
Oroville Mercury May 15, 1945

One Ship Sunk Another Hit But Sailor Escapes

Survivor of the West Virginia, sunk by the Japanese in the Pearl Harbor attack, Stanley Way, Boilermaker 1/c of the U. S. Navy, went back into battle aboard the Minneapolis only to have that ship nearly torpedoed from under him. Way, with 15 other men, was on the third deck of the West Virginia when a Japanese bomb and six torpedoes struck, all on the port side of the ship. The lights went out in the boiler room, and almost before they could realize the general quarters order was anything but a drill, Way and his companions found themselves swimming desperately, trying to keep their heads above the fast rising water and oil. The hatch had been closed, as it always is immediately GQ is sounded, and the men were trapped. The water had risen until it was only three feet from the overhead before the hatch was “undogged,” and the men rescued 15 minutes before the ship sank. Way said he hadn’t had time to think about anything except keeping his head above water.


Taken off the West Virginia, the men still had no time to worry about what they had been through for they left the sinking ship by means of ropes stretched to the Tennessee, which had been set ablaze in the attack. Once on board the Tennessee they fought fire for hours. Later, when they were resting at a naval air base, the reaction was utter exhaustion. Assigned to the Minneapolis, Way went through the Coral Sea and Midway battles and seven smaller engagements. Then the Minneapolis became the flagship of a cruiser task force sent to stop the Japanese in their final attempt to reinforce Guadalcanal. That was the famous Fourth Salvo Battle. In it the Minneapolis was hit by a torpedo that sliced off the ship’s bow. Way had left the boiler room just five minutes before a second torpedo hit amidship, blowing up six boilers. All of the men below were killed. Way was the only one of a group of eight men standing on the second deck, who was uninjured when the boilers blew up.

Blazing away at the Japanese ahead of her, the Minneapolis had been attacked from behind by about 12 Japanese ships, Way said. He added that none of the Japanese ships got away. With only two boilers left, and no bow, the Minneapolis limped into Tulage Harbor where the men repaired the boilers and fashioned a makeshift bow out of coconut palms. It took the ship three months to get back to the states. Its first start home had ended two days later when the engines failed and a tug had to be sent out from Tulage to bring the Minneapolis back. After nearly a month of further repairs, it made the successful trip home. After reaching the states, Way was given a 30-day leave before he was assigned to the George P. Elliott, a troop transport that took men to South Sea Islands. Later Way was stationed in New Caledonia, where he spent 19 months before returning home this month.

Stu’s Notes:
WHO IS THIS 1/C SEAMAN STANLEY WAY? No wonder they’re called the Greatest Generation. When they went to war they were in for the duration, for 3 ½ years this man’s life was in serious danger. Can you imagine the strain on his family and in those days you would never hear a word for months.
My good friend and brother Ironworker Merle Eggers were one of these seagoing swabbies. He left his pretty bride, Violet in 1943 and went to sea in the Pacific. He was on an Ocean going Tug that never docked for 13 months. Can you imagine that? He tells me he didn’t do anything. Well there are man-eating sharks out there and Japanese subs and planes who usually took no prisoners. Plus the weather, typhoons don’t like ships. Merle came home to his pretty bride and had two sons, Ronnie and Rich both raised in Gridley. Violet passed on and is buried close to the Gridley Veterans Memorial. It is designated as a Military Court of Honor. It is really something to see and has a brick wall. I have 5 bricks there for my family. Some of their bricks go back to the Revolutionary War. I considered it an honor to have worked for and with Merle for so many years. He now lives in Chico with his wife Wanda.