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Area man closes chapter on his WW II brother’s final resting place

Robert Logue.JPG

A bittersweet journey that has lasted more than half a century has come to the end for Cascade Township resident George Logue.

A little more than a week ago, Logue, 79, received a call from the U.S. Navy confirming reports that a submarine found in 200 feet of water between the Japanese island of Hokkaido and the Russian island of Sakhalin was the U.S.S. Wahoo.

Logue has more than a passing interest in the Wahoo. His older brother Robert was among the 80 sailors who were on board the sub when it was sunk on Oct. 11, 1943, by Japanese aircraft.

"I was shook up real bad," Logue said of his reaction when he got the call from the Navy.

A Russian dive team, working with The Wahoo Project Group, an international team coordinated by a relative of the Wahoo's skipper Cmdr. Dudley "Mush" Morton, helped identify the sub, according to a Navy press release.

The exact location where the Wahoo sank and the circumstances under which it met its fate have been a mystery that has spanned decades.

Logue said his brother, who was six years his senior, was an excellent student who joined the U.S. Navy in 1938 after graduating from St. Joseph's High School. By October 1943, he had attained the rank of fire controller first class.

Robert was not supposed to be aboard the Wahoo when it embarked on its fateful war patrol, Logue said.

He sailed with the sub on Sept. 9, 1943, when it left Pearl Harbor for Midway Island in the South Pacific, but orders for him to stay at Midway so that he could be assigned to another submarine came too late. The Wahoo had already gone out to sea.

According to U.S. Navy history, the Wahoo left Midway under radio silence on Sept. 13 and, following a foray into the Sea of Japan during which it sank five Japanese ships, was expected to make contact with the Navy in late October.

When its expected arrival time came and went, search planes were dispatched to find it.

The Navy reported the Wahoo missing on Nov. 9, 1943, and on Dec. 1, announced that it was presumed lost, Logue said.

Because Robert was believed to have stayed at Midway, the Logue family was not notified that he was presumed dead.

The Logue family knew something was wrong, however.

They heard reports on the radio that the Wahoo was presumed lost, and Robert, who wrote home religiously, hadn't been heard from since before he left Pearl Harbor.

Logue's sister Marjorie, who was a Navy nurse working in Washington D.C., tried to get more information.

"She went to the Navy Department to ask about it," Logue said. "They said (Robert) was transferred off (the Wahoo)."

Any joy the Logue family may have been feeling with that news was dashed the next day by telegram they received from Western Union.

"It said, 'Sorry about the mistake,'" Logue said. "I'll tell you what, I still get choked up about it."

Logue said that, after receiving the telegram, he went down to the basement to work in his shop.

A short time later, his father came down to put coal in the furnace. Logue, who was 16 at the time, said the words his father said at that moment shaped the closeness he feels toward his family - which includes his wife Elizabeth, four sons and six daughters - to this day.

"He said, 'From now on, you're the man in the family,'" Logue said. "That was my job - to keep them together."

"I think our family is as close as any family you will find," he said.

Word that Robert had been killed offered no closure for George Logue. The Navy could only speculate about what happened to the submarine.

Initial theories were that the sub was lost due to mines or a faulty torpedo. Unknown at the time was the fact that the Wahoo had been spotted from the air by a Japanese Attack Group while it attempted to escape the Sea of Japan.

According to Logue, pilots discovered an oil slick on the water, could see the faint outline of the sub's conning tower underwater and dropped two bombs, the second of which was a direct hit.

The Navy issued no official report about the incident, Logue said.

While attending Penn State University, Logue decided that one day, he would learn the truth.

"I told people, 'Some day, I'm going to find that sub,' and they laughed at me," Logue said.

Logue contacted the National Geographic Society to get maps of the area in which the sub was presumed sunk. He also contacted a Naval captain who referred him to a Japanese officer in charge of records at the Diet Library in Tokyo.

Because the Japanese officer expected a donation in exchange for his help, and money was tight, Logue never called him.

Years went by. In 1990, Logue met Marty Schaffer, a Navy sub veteran who was spending his retirement traveling the world.

"I said, 'If you ever get to Japan, go up to the northern tip (of Japan) and see what you can find out,'" Logue said.

Schaffer did just that - and set the wheels in motion for what became an amazing series of events that united the families of Wahoo seamen with the Japanese airmen who were instrumental in sending the Wahoo to the bottom of the sea.

Schaffer was visiting Wakkanai City - a town at the northern tip of Hokkaido, Japan, that overlooks the Soya Strait in the Sea of Japan. When Schaffer inquired about the submarine at the hotel, the hotel operator led him to two old men who said they witnessed the Wahoo's sinking.

"(Schaffer) told them I was going to come over," Logue said.

In 1993, Logue visited Wakkanai City and was feted at a banquet hosted by 65 Japanese war veterans. During his visit, a Japanese naval officer produced a map on which he showed Logue the location of the Wahoo.

The recent discovery by the Russian divers confirmed the Japanese officer's claim, Logue said.

The city's mayor told Logue that he would supply a ship that would take him to the site where the sub was sunk so that a memorial service could be held there. Logue paid for the fuel, which came to about $1,000 for the six-hour trip.

That simple act of hospitality soon became a project that resulted in the Wahoo Peace Memorial, a monument that was built through funds raised by the Japanese Attack Group and relatives of the Wahoo's seamen.

Logue attended a dedication of the monument, which was designed by William Barlow, of Muncy, in 1995. Among those who helped attended the ceremony was Sugura Ichida, the pilot responsible for sinking the Wahoo.

Logue described the ceremony, which was captured by a Japanese film crew for a documentary, as one of the most touching moments of his life.

Cmdr. Morton's 82-year-old widow and a man whose wife and baby daughter were killed when a passenger ship they were on was sunk by the Wahoo, together placed a wreath at the memorial, he said.

"That was the one thing that really got me, when I saw those two old people carrying that wreath up," he said. "(They were) two people who had every right to hate each other."

One of the most moving portions of the ceremony was when the Japanese band played the Japanese national anthem as the Japanese flag was raised, then played the "Star Spangled Banner" as the U.S. flag was raised.

"Here you are, half-way around the world and a Japanese band is playing "The Star Spangled Banner," Logue said, his voice cracking with emotion.

Logue said that he holds nothing but good will toward the men responsible for his brother's death.

"The greatest thing I ever did in my life was go over there and make peace with them," he said. "It would have been a tragedy to go to my death not knowing the decency of those people."

Logue was also instrumental in erecting a local memorial to the Wahoo. He donated land along West Fourth Street in Williamsport that has become a memorial to the veterans of all U.S. wars. The park, which also contains a memorial to the Wahoo, was dedicated in 1992.

The Wahoo Memorial contains the names of the 52 U.S. Navy subs lost during World War Two. It also honors the three Williamsport residents who were submariners killed during the war - Robert Logue, David K. Sloan Jr., and Edward Szendry.

The memorial is a study in symbolism. The piers on which a Mark 14 torpedo rests form the exact shape of a submarine hatchway. The base on which the piers stand is exactly 3,505 millimeters long, which equals one millimeter for every U.S. submariner killed during the war.

"I want the world to know the kind of heroes we had in World War II," Logue said.

Robert Logue's spirit lives on, not only in the memorials he inspired, but in the family members who have followed in his footsteps. Four of George Logue's nephews attended the U.S. Naval Academy.

Nephew John Christenson was recently promoted to rear admiral and nephew Thomas Logue Jr. is a captain.

Two other nephews - John and James Ort - are retired submariners, Logue said.

© The Williamsport Sun-Gazette

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