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Posted on Tue, Jun. 18,
Robert Harrison, received awards for W.W. II duty
The Mercury News of San
A MEMORIAL TO
Born: March 18, 1925, in Amsterdam, NY
Died: June 10, 2002, in Palo Alto, CA
The book is ``DD 522: Diary of a Destroyer,'' by Ron Surels. It tells the story of the USS Luce, the ship her father, Robert Harrison, served on during World War II as a radioman. It was sunk on May 4, 1945, in the Battle of Okinawa by Japanese kamikaze planes. Of a complement of 312, 126 sailors went down with the Luce.
Mr. Harrison tried with all his might, he would later recall, to pry the hands of fellow radioman Max Wannowsky -- first violinist for the popular Xavier Cugat Band before joining the Navy -- from the railing as the destroyer began to slip beneath the sea about 8:15 a.m., his family said.
``He pulled his hair and he pulled his hands but Bob couldn't get him to let go and he went down with the ship. It was Bob's most vivid memory and it haunted him'' the rest of his life, said his wife of 15 years, Maxine Harrison of Palo Alto.
Born in Amsterdam, N.Y., to Irish immigrant parents, the dimpled Mr. Harrison sang in the Presbyterian Church choir and acted in school plays, once playing Philip Nolan in ``Man Without a County.'' But four months after Pearl Harbor, he quit high school at age 17 and joined the Navy -- following the advice of his father, who had earned a Silver Star in France in World War I and steered his son away from the infantry. Two years later the USS Luce would enter Pearl Harbor with Radioman (RM1) Robert Harrison aboard.
He served through World War II, earning European, African, Mideast and Asiatic-Pacific campaign medals, the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with two bronze stars and the Republic of Philippines Presidential Unit Citation, among other honors. The Luce earned five battle stars.
He served during the Korea and Vietnam eras and retired in 1962. After stints as a civilian employee of the Navy in Oakland and at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, he spent 26 years running Walter's Upholstery Shop on South Murphy Street in Sunnyvale before retiring in the early 1970s.
Mr. Harrison suffered heart problems for years and a minor stroke two years ago. He died unexpectedly of heart failure on June 10 on his Palo Alto patio, while drinking a glass of his favorite scotch and smoking one of his often-present cigars, his wife said. He was 77. ``He was fun,'' she said. ``You met him once and never forgot him, he had that Irish charm and he could charm the socks off you. He had nothing bad to say about anything; he was just an extremely likable person,'' his wife said.
"He was a very happy man," daughter Nicholls said. "But he carried a lot of the war with him. As I grew older, I understood and saw beyond the smile to some of the pain."
Indeed, it was not until 1985 when survivors of the USS Luce sinking had a first reunion that Mr. Harrison's family, seven children and a stepson, learned what he had endured.
"I don't think he wanted his children to know the trauma he went through," Nicholls said. The book was a revelation that opened up their relationship, she said.
"He really did have a wonderful life, and he gave a lot for his country," she said. "There was a lot of sacrifice and the rewards were not always good, like the pain he carried and the thoughts ingrained in his memory."
While watching the movie "Pearl Harbor" and stroking the book that told of that sacrifice, Nicholls said she "was really feeling a lot of empathy and compassion for those young men" who were on the Luce.
She said, "My dad was real proud of his country. And I am very proud of him."
The second Luce (DD-522)
down by Bethlehem Steel Co., Staten Island, N.Y.,
24 August 1942 launched 6 March 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Stephen B. Luce,
Jr., wife of Rear Adm. Stephen B. Luce's grandson and commissioned 21
June 1943, Comdr. D. C. Varian in command. Luce
departed New York
unit of the Southern Attack Force., TF
79, Luce sortied
from Manus, Admiralty Islands, 11
the assault on Leyte 20 to 23, October, she patrolled outside
LST-transport areas providing air cover. Between 1 November
and 12 December, Luce sailed from Manus to New Guinea on escort and
ASW patrols, and from 12 to 27 December supported the Houn Gulf, New
landing operations. On 27 December she got underway to screen transports
for the Lingayen attack and landings. She arrived in the operating area
9 January 1945 screening LSTs and
78. She fended off all enemy
FROM THE OFFICERS AND
Requiescat in pace!
he rest in peace!