The United States Navys' Luckest Sailor ? You decide.
My Dad, James Hiram Boulton Jr., was aboard the USS Cassin DD-372 , the USS John D. Ford DD-228, and the USS Heermann DD-228. These ships earned 11 battle stars and numerous awards including three Presidential Unit Citations (Ford and Heermann.)
Dad Joined the Navy on 10 Mar 1939. After Naval Training school he reported aboard the USS Cassin on 29 June 1939 and sailed to Pearl Harbor for duty there.
On 30 Apr 1940 now a Seaman 2nd class, he transferred to The Asiatic Fleet and reported aboard the USS John D. Ford DD-272, in Shanghai China.
On 18 Dec 1940 he changed rate and was promoted to GM3c. (Gunners Mate)
On 1 Nov 1941 he was promoted to GM2c.
On 7 Dec 1941 the USS Cassin DD-372 Dads' first destroyer was destroyed at Pearl Harbor. Dad was on board the Ford then on Patrol near Manila Bay and ordered to Cavite harbor, the Naval base in Manila bay.
At Midnight Jan 23-4 1942, the USS John D Ford led the attack at the 1st Battle Of Balikpapan(1). This was the First United States Naval Surface Battle since The Spanish American War ended in 1898 and although a tactical victory by sinking 5 Japanese ships it did nothing to slow the Japanese invasion. Very frustrating for my dad and his shipmates.
The full history of the Asiatic Fleet is legend and almost totally unheard of by the public.
The news of the "Victory at Balikpapan" was very well known in Australia, New Zealand, and Europe as the BBC broadcast the story as the first sign of resistance by US Naval Forces in the South China Sea.
Only those with short wave radios in the mainland United States learned about the battle.
There were other battles, the most noteworthy was the 1st battle of the Java sea.
HIGHLY RECOMMEND READING : The Asiatic Fleet, the fleet that didn't exist(2).
The USS John D Ford was one of the few survivors in the weeks that followed.
This ends the first David and Goliath story for dad and his shipmates during the first weeks of WWII.
There is one more coming!
On 28 May 1942 he was promoted to GM1stc and CGM signed off by then Gunnery officer Lieut. W.P Mack and Commanding officer Lieut Commander J.E Cooper. (Both become Fleet Admirals and Superintendents Of The US Naval Academy
On 6 July 1943 after the Asiatic Fleet was dissolved(3), and after Gunnery School at Washington, DC. Chief Gunners Mate James Hiram Boulton Jr reported aboard the brand new Fletcher Class(4) Destroyer USS Heermann DD-532.
On 25 Oct 1944 Dad got his revenge with the Japanese. In the greatest naval battle of world history Taffy 3's Tin Cans(5) were instrumental in the defeat of the Japanese Center Force. James H Boulton Jr was awarded a commendation for Valor for although wounded, and under intense fire, repaired a five inch gun and put it back in action for the duration of battle!
Redemption and one of the luckiest sailors of WWII, James H Boulton.
This is meant as a tribute to all the men who served in The Asiatic Fleet "the fleet that didn't exist" and on tin cans before and during WWII, dad was Lucky but there were many. Too many, who were not.
As a side note The Heermann is "credited" with firing the last shot of WWII , Shooting down what appeared to be a Kamikaze pilot. Unfortunatly it was a few hours after the Japanese surrender, so credit is dubious. ( Asked my dad about that years ago , but he just smiled)
By his son, August 2017
(1). Also called the Battle of Makassar Strait off Balikpapan, 24Jan'42.
(2). May be referring to : "The Fleet the Gods Forgot: The U.S. Asiatic Fleet in World War II" (Bluejacket Books) Aug 15, 2014, by W. G. Winslow
(3). The Asiatic Fleet was subordinated to the short lived
American-British-Dutch-Australian (ABDA) Supreme Command established 1Jan'42 at Lembang, Java . General Sir Archibald Wavell, British Army, assumes supreme command of all forces in area; LtGen George H. Brett, USAAF, is deputy commander; Adm Thomas C. Hart is to command naval forces. Dissolved 01Mar'42 with Americans to take over the entire Pacific command. The survivors of the Asiatic Fleet absorbed into the South West Pacific Area which would establish the 7th Fleet in 1943.
(4). USS Heermann DD-532 was a Fetcher Class destroyer, 175 built, numbered DD 445-DD 804, 1942-44 ; 2,100 tons , 376' in length, 36 knots ; five 5"/38 guns, twin banks of five 21" torpedo tubes ; crew 329.
John D Ford was a Clemson class destroyer with 156 built , DD-186 to DD-347 , 1919-1922 ; 1,215 tons , 314 feet , 36 knots ; armed with four 4"/50 guns and one 3" plus for banks of three 21" torpedo tubes ; crew 122.
(5). The Battle off Samar, the Philippines, on 25 October 1944, a part of the
Battle of Leyte Gulf, 23-26Oct'44. Reference "The Last of the Tin Can Sailors" by James D. Hornfischerby, 2005.
URL : http://www.ww2pacific.com/lucky.html
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