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Collection Frank S. Urbanowicz
WVM ID Number OH 1078
Object Name Oral History
Title Oral History Interview with Frank S. Urbanowicz
Date 2007
Event World War II
Narrator's Name Frank S. Urbanowicz
Interviewer's Name John Driscoll
Description In this oral history interview, Frank Urbanowicz, a Chicago, Illinois native, describes his Navy experience aboard the USS Frank Talbot in World War II and touches on his time aboard the USS Philippine Sea during the Korean War.

Born in Connecticut and educated in Chicago, Urbanowicz recalls being drafted in 1944. He describes his journey to Pearl Harbor (Hawaii) and being run across to his ship, the USS Ralph Talbot (DD 390), on a breeches buoy. He touches on shore bombardments at Tinian, Yap, and Peleliu. At Tinian, Urbanowicz recalls seeing Japanese civilians jumping off Suicide Cliff. He describes being on a twenty millimeter gun crew. He briefly talks about stopping at Eniwetok to provision and Manus, where they were indoctrinated into the Order of Neptune with cherry juice fermented on the life rafts. Urbanowicz speaks of hit and run tactics on Iwo Jima, Luzon, Formosa, Manila, and Clark Field. Low on fuel and provisions, he says the men joked that weevils in the flour were fresh meat. He describes maneuvering the Surigao Straits and doing bombing in the South China Sea, where they hit rough waters. Urbanowicz highlights the difficulty of dealing with Japanese night tactics. He describes seeing the USS Franklin and the USS Belleau Wood hit by kamikaze planes and escorting the damaged carriers back to the base at Ulithi. He relates the difficulty of capturing the downed crew of a Japanese bomber without letting them commit suicide. Urbanowicz recalls being involved in the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea, worrying about shrapnel, and shooting down planes. He highlights near-misses for both himself and his ship. Urbanowicz describes helping the Marines on Iwo Jima and watching the flags go up. With damaged sonar and gun director, he talks about five weeks in dry dock at Ulithi before being sent out to lay depth charges and do picket duty. He reports the crew was often upset by their Captain being too eager to send the ship into action. He recalls a stretch of thirty-five days with the alarm going off, so the crew couldn't even change clothes or shower. Urbanowicz speaks of being hit by two kamikaze planes, getting fires put out and flooding under control, six men being killed, and putting into dry dock at Kerama-retto. He describes the fear felt in combat-knowing what needs to be done and getting the shakes afterward. Urbanowicz recalls Tokyo Rose playing good music and threatening his ship by name. He examines the effect of the Japanese switching to daylight raids. He recalls seeing the damage and dead aboard several ships at port, and he recalls the Japanese hitting the hospital ship Comfort even though it was clearly marked with red crosses. Urbanowicz reveals the crew was upset while at Saipan because the Army had a nice set up while the Navy had to throw together their own spot. Sent to investigate debris in the water, he reports finding two life rafts with survivors from the cruiser Indianapolis. In the water for five nights and four days, he describes the survivors as having severe skin damage and shark bites, being delirious and thirsty, and not having enough life jackets.

After hearing rumors the war was over, Urbanowicz states they witnessed the surrender of Truk Island and the city of Sasebo (Japan). Sent to Nagasaki, he reports he was allowed to go ashore seven times as a mail clerk, and he details the devastation, bomb shells, and poor sanitation that he witnessed. He recalls struggling later with the VA to establish claims about radiation damage. Sailing for home, he recalls displaying a homeward bound pennant, being charged exorbitant prices at Pearl Harbor for food, and being disappointed with the homecoming celebration. Without enough points to get out, he discusses anchoring at Hilo, hearing a commotion about rats invading the ships, and, an hour after leaving, hearing a tidal wave had wiped out Hilo city. Urbanowicz reports that the Navy Department rated the Talbot as the second most combatant ship in World War II, and he emphasizes that the crew still meets and provides scholarships for attending the Naval Academy.

He briefly talks about being called from reserve duty in 1950 for the Korean War. Assigned to the USS Philippine Sea, Urbanowicz states they did thirty-day cruises. He claims, "There are no atheists on destroyers," but he says their ship was too small to have a chaplain. He recalls times that Admirals would not stop to pull survivors out of the water. Urbanowicz describes his long struggle to get compensation for hearing loss and to put a memorial in a park in Janesville (Wisconsin). He talks about marching in an ANZAC Day parade in Australia and complains that in Janesville the Disabled American Veterans were charged a head tax to march in a Memorial Day parade.
Extent and Medium of Description Analog audio recording: 2 audio cassettes (approx. 1 hour, 48 minutes)
Transcript: 24 pgs.
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Biographical Record Urbanowicz, Frank S.