A memorial to Robert Harrison


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Posted on Tue, Jun. 18, 2002
© 2001 bayarea and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

Robert Harrison, received awards for W.W. II duty

The Mercury News of San Jose, California



Robert "Bob" Harrison
Born: March 18, 1925, in Amsterdam, NY
Died: June 10, 2002, in Palo Alto, CA
Philippine Republic 
Presidential Unit Citation Badge
Navsta Midway Is, T.H. 1952
Combat Action Good Conduct 
With Silver Star
China Service
American Defense American Campaign Asiatic Pacific Campaign 
With Four Battle Stars
Mideast Campaign
WWII Victory National Defense Service
Korean Service Philippine Republic Presidential Unit Citation Philippine Liberation 
With Two Battle Stars
50th Anniversary WWII

On Memorial Day, Coleen Nicholls of Henderson, Nev., went alone after work into a theater to see the movie ``Pearl Harbor.'' As she watched, she at times reached into her purse and gently stroked the cover of a book that held the secrets to the pain that lurked beneath her father's laughter and charm.

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."


His loving wife

Maxine Harrison 
of Palo Alto

His loving children
Jeanette Marie Strange
Carol Ann Harrison
Coleen Catherine Nicholls
Robert James Harrison
Thomas Joseph Harrison
Kathleen Louise Pool
Paul Andrew Harrison
Steven Anthony Rickman

Survived by 
his first wife
Peggy Loeser
of Daily City


Lena Marie Strange
Penny Lorraine Presher
Rusty Scott Nicholls
Robert David Harrison
Jamie Lee Harrison
Sheila Marie Rodriguez
Diane Louise Pool
Sara Christine Harrison


Ashley Marie Boyle
Calvin Scott Presher
Carly Joanne Presher
Felipe Manual Chavez
Angelica Marie Rodriguez 


The second Luce (DD-522) was laid 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 
5 September 1943 and arrived in Bremerton, Wash., 28 October after visiting Trinidad and San Diego en route. She departed 1 November for Pearl Harbor as plane guard for Enterprise, and conducted gunnery training exercises in the Hawaiians until 29 November. She then steamed to Adak Island, Alaska, and from
 30 November 1943 to 8 August 1994 engaged in patrol and ASW duties off Attu Island. This duty was interrupted 1 February 1944 when she sailed from Massacre Bay, Attu, to participate in the 3 to 4 February bombardment of Paramushiru, Kurile Islands, with TF 94 of the Northern Pacific Force. Completely surprising the enemy, the attack was successful; Luce destroyed a 2,000-ton enemy freighter in the action. She returned to Attu 4 February and resumed patrol. On 13 June Luce, with TF 94, bombarded Matsuwa, Kurile Islands, and 26 June attacked Paramushiru a second time. On 8 August the ship departed for San Francisco and returned to Pearl Harbor 31 August. 

As a unit of the Southern Attack Force., TF 79, Luce sortied from Manus, Admiralty Islands, 11 October. During the assault on Leyte 20 to 23, October, she patrolled outside the 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 Guinea, 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 transports of TF 78. She fended off all enemy 
attackers and succeeded in splashing one on the 11th. In company with 40 other ships, Luce departed 11 January and fought her way victoriously to San Pedro Bay 16 January. The ship patrolled this area until 25 January when she departed for the assault on San Antonio, San Felipe area, Luzon. This operation was unopposed, and Luce sailed for Mindoro 30 January. From 2 February to 24 March she escorted resupply convoys between Subic Bay and San Pedro Bay. On 24 March she departed Leyte escorting and screening units of TF 51 which landed heavy artillery on Keise Shima for the support of the main landings on Okinawa. She was detached from this duty 1 April and assigned radar picket duty off Kerama Retto. 

About 0740, 4 May, Japanese suicide planes were intercepted by the combat air patrol in the vicinity of Luce. Two enemy planes avoided the interceptors and attacked her from the portside. Luce splashed one, but the explosion from the bomb it carried caused a power failure. Unable to bring her guns to bear in time, she was struck in the after section by the second kamikaze. The port engine was knocked out engineering spaces flooded, and the rudder jammed. At 0814 Luce took a heavy list to starboard and the order to abandon ship was passed. Moments later she slid beneath the surface in a violent explosion carrying 126 of her 312 officers and men with her. Luce received five battle stars for World War II service.
The third Luce (DLG-7) was laid down by Bethlehem Steel Co., Quincy, Mass., 1 October 1957; launched 11 December 1958; sponsored by Mrs. Felix B. Stump; and commissioned 20 May 1961, Comdr. David H. Bagley in command. 


Requiescat in pace! --------- May he rest in peace!


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