Saturday, December 7, 2013

We say goodbye to another World War II Veteran, James Paul Edward Reynolds

Dear Grandparents,
Please welcome sister-in-law Barbara's father, James Paul Edward Reynolds. Jim was born in Philadelphia November 25, 1924 to John J. and Madeline Catherine (Murphy) Reynolds. His father died when he was only three and he and his two brothers and sister were raised by their mother and maternal grandfather, Michael Lawrence Murphy.

Jim enlisted in the Navy October 22, 1942. After boot camp he reported to the Battleship Iowa and was among the crew when the ship was commissioned at New York Navy Yard February 22, 1943 (date was chosen because it was George Washington's birthday). Sailors who are part of the commissioning crew of a ship are termed "plank owners" and Jim Reynolds was a proud plank owner for USS Iowa BB-61. His duty aboard the Iowa provided him with a glimpse of history.

The ship left New York on February 24th for its 'shakedown' cruise along the Atlantic Coast and into the Chesapeake Bay. I expect that until that time, New York was the farthest Jim had been from his home in Philadelphia. The ship returned to the New York Navy Yard for an overhaul to fix those problems that had been discovered since commissioning. By July 9th, Iowa and her crew were ready to take their place in the war effort.

In August, USS Iowa participated in her first war patrol. She was assigned to limit the effectiveness of the German battleship Tirpitz which was staged in Norwegian waters, Norway being occupied by the Nazis. After contributing to the neutralization of the Tirpitz threat, Iowa returned to the United States and the Norfolk (Virginia) Navy Yard for maintenance, including the installation of a bath tub, in preparation for transporting President Franklin Roosevelt and the rest of the American delegation to Mers-el-Kebir, Algeria and then to Tehran. Did Jim have the opportunity for a brief shore visit in Algeria or get to see the President?
Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin, U. S. President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill
 at the Tehran Conference between November 28 and December 1, 1943.
 Photo from

The Conference allowed the three nations to coordinate their efforts against the Axis Powers of Germany, Italy and Japan. It committed Great Britain and the United States to opening an offensive in France in 1944 forcing Germany to fight on two fronts and providing the Russians with some respite. In return, the Soviet Union was to join the war against Japan. Stalin also gained concessions on Eastern Europe that were to be finalized at a later conference.

Imagine the atmosphere on board the Iowa, new crew, new ship, steaming through war torn waters with not only many civilian members of the government but the actual President! Things must have been very tense.There were many sighs of relief when Iowa docked in Norfolk December 16th with the President safe and sound.

There was probably some chances for liberty over the Christmas Holidays while the ship was in port. We don't know if Jim was able to return to Philadelphia before the ship left for the Pacific Ocean January 2nd, 1944. USS Iowa was assigned as the Flagship of Battleship Division 7, which also included USS New Jersey. Her passage through the Panama Canal to the Pacific made her the only American Battleship that fought in both the Atlantic and the Pacific.
Sailors attending Mass aboard USS Iowa circa 1944
There is a good chance that Seaman Jim Reynolds is in this crowd.
Photo from

Less than two weeks later, the Iowa was supporting the carrier air strikes against Kwajalein and Eniwetok Atolls. February 16th, she had her first opportunity to fire her big guns in combat during an attack on the Japanese Naval Base at Truk in the Caroline Islands. It was in the waters offshore of Truk, that she sank the Japanese light cruiser Katori.
It was during this first shore bombardment against Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands that the USS Iowa received her first hit on March 18th. Two Japanese projectiles (one 5 inch, one 6 inch) struck the ship, the first hitting the hull plating and the second hitting Turret 2. Luckily, neither caused significant damage.

The next three months were filled with action, including strikes against Palau, Woleai, Hollandia, Aitape and Wake Islands. USS Iowa supported the U. S. Army landings at Aitape, Tanahmerah and Humbolt Bays. They bombarded the airfield, wharf and other enemy facilities at Ponape. Shelled Saipan and Tinian and blew up an ammunition dump. In the Phillippine Sea they downed three attacking planes. The crew hardly had time to eat or sleep.

Action continued through the summer and into the fall. September saw USS Iowa becoming apart of Fleet Admiral William F. "Bull" Halsey's Third Fleet striking the Philippines and Caroline Islands. Then it was on to Ryuku Islands, Taiwan and Luzon. October 23rd, they headed for Leyte Gulf.

The Battle of Leyte Gulf was the largest naval battle of World War II and perhaps the largest naval battle in history. Once again, Jim Reynolds was not only a witness but a participant in this historic struggle pitting the United States and Australian Navies against the Imperial Japanese Navy. The Allies had 8 fleet carriers, 8 light carriers, 18 escort carriers, 12 battleships, 24 cruisers, 141 destroyers and destroyer escorts as well as PT boats, submarines and about 1,500 planes. On the other side, the Japanese had 1 fleet carrier, 3 light carriers, 9 battleships, 14 heavy cruisers, 6 light cruisers, more that 35 destroyers, and more that 300 planes. The Battle raged over hundreds of miles from October 23rd to the 26th.

The Allies suffered 2,800 casualties and lost 1 light carrier, 2 escort carriers, 2 destroyers, and 1 destroyer escort sunk. More than 200 allied planes were lost. The Japanese lost 12,500 men, 1 fleet carrier, 3 light carriers, 3 battleships, 10 cruisers, 11 destroyers sunk and more than 300 planes destroyed. It was an epic battle. This was the greatest loss of ships and crews ever suffered by the Japanese and led to the United States retaking the Philippines.

USS Iowa in camouflage paint circa 1944
The crew must have been exhausted by the time the anchored at Ulithi for replenishment and maintenance. There was no time to rest as they were hit by a typhoon and lost a plane that was washed over board. The website has a quote from an unnamed crew member who recounts, "It was a very scary night, the Iowa rolled to about a 45 degree angle at one point and we all held our breaths that it wouldn't happen again. As our luck went, it happened at meal time so you can imagine the condition of the deck in the mess hall." The Iowa was lucky, she escaped the storm with just damage to her shaft. In all, 24 ships were damaged and the destroyers Monoghan, Hull, and Spence were sunk and 765 sailors lost their lives.

The damage caused USS Iowa to return to the United States for repairs at the Hunters Point Shipyard in San Francisco. The ship was in drydock for the first three months of 1945. However, the war was not over for the Iowa and her crew. By April 15th they relieved the USS New Jersey off the coast of Okinawa. In May they supported air strikes against the Japanese Island of Kyushu (this gives me pause as I write because Ed and I lived in Sasebo, Kyushu from 1973-4).  Then it was time to take the war to the northern Japanese Islands of Honshu and Hokkaido. Acting in concert with USS Missouri, and USS Wisconsin, Iowa attacked Muroran on Hokkaido destroying the Nihon Steel Company and Wanishi Ironworks severely limiting the Japanese industrial machine. 
Steaming up Tokyo Bay

Finally, on August 29, 1945 USS Iowa and USS Missouri entered Tokyo Bay for the surrender of the Japanese and the landing of occupation forces. Though the papers of surrender were signed on the Missouri, Iowa and her crew stood by her side.
Line 30 of this Report of Changes of U.S.S. Iowa (BB61) lists
Reynolds, James Paul Service Number 244 38 81, Rating S2c V6 dated September 1, 1945
Image from

It had been quite a war for young Jim Reynolds who did not turn twenty-one until November 24, 1945. 

Jim passed away during the night on Tuesday, December 3rd. He will be missed by friends and family for his irrepressible personality. I'm sorry I can not be at the celebration of Jim Reynold's life today. I hope reading this will help the family understand more about his adventures and the contribution to our country he made as a young man.


The USS Iowa is now a floating museum in Los Angeles and is home to the Pacific Battleship Center. Located at 250 S. Harbor Blvd, Los Angeles, California 90731. It is open for visitation every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. My Dad also served on USS Iowa, but after the war. Still I hope to visit next time I'm in California.

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