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Last survivor of USS Hoel that sank in the Pacific during WWII lives in Henrico

April 8, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 55.3%. 2 min read.

When a Navy veteran in California passed away four years ago it was believed he was the last survivor of a ship that was sunk during WWII. But there is still one survivor alive - and he lives in Henrico.

It was terrible,” said Walter Gammon.

We had a 60-acre farm,” said the 96-year-old.

“We were doing the best we could,” said Gammon.

His ship was sinking, and men were dying all around him. “He took the shot and flesh from the wound fell on my shoe,” recalled Gammon. The farm boy from Virginia had a decision: stay on the crippled ship or leap into the ocean. “I found half a life jacket.

I jumped off the bow of the ship,” said Gammon. The teen, who can’t swim, claws for air until a shipmate pulls him to a raft. “Less than 10 minutes after I jumped ship, the Hoel was gone.

I saw it go down,” he said.

“I looked back and it was all gone. ”But Gammon’s situation goes from bad to worse. “I felt like I lost my home and the few friends I made,” he said.

The sailors are floating on open waters -- alone. “We were out there all night,” Gammon remembered.

He just lost it you know?”One injured crew member dies in Gammon’s arms. “They had to take his life-jacket off and said a few words.

Sharks were eating him before night,” said Gammon. Finally, on the morning of the third day -- salvation.

American ships pluck Gammon and a few dozen battered sailors from the sea. “55 of us survivors on three lifeboats,” he said.

I’m going home. ”253 members of the Hoel’s crew perish. “It was remarkable that anyone was saved,” he said. Gammon earned a Purple Heart, and the crew awarded a Presidential Unit Citation.

“I think I was more scared than brave,” he said. After the war, Gammon returned to Virginia, married and had children.

He worked for RF&P railroad for more than 30 years. “I knew by having faith I had a chance,” said Gammon. 96-year-old Walter Gammon.

The last known survivor of the sinking of the U. S. S. Hoel. “I feel terrible every day.

I tried to make the best of it,” he said. 77 years later - memories of his struggle to stay alive and that distant ocean still - wash over him. “Every day.

It was something you don’t forget because it was so real,” he said. The story of the sinking of the U. S. S. Hoel is detailed in the book “The Last of the Tin Can Sailors. ”Bravery must run through Gammon’s family.

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