Charles Robert “Bob” Barton
My father, Bob Barton, was 21 years old when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. After the ROTC program at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, he earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Dad enlisted in the Navy during May 1942 after graduation.
After completing a 16-week Deisel Engineering Training School at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, he served as an ensign aboard the USS Zircon from December 1942 to November 1943.
Zircon was a 235-foot private yacht taken over by the Navy for war time duty. It could travel at 14 knots and was placed in the class of Patrol Yachts (PY) named for jewels or semi-precious stones.
Dad served when German U-boats terrorized the East Coast, destroying Allied ships who were bringing needed food and supplies to a starving England. The fierce U-boats hunted in wolfpacks, or multiple submarines running close together, making it easier for them to sink a chosen Allied target.
My father’s mission on the Zircon was to accompany convoys from New York to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and keep them safe in the Atlantic Ocean . He spent his time in the deisel engine room as the engineering officer supervising 30 crewmen or up on deck as the deck watch officer.
Dad’s service took place the year before the infamous German U-505 was captured off the coast of Africa by Hunter Killer Task Force 22.3. The Allies seized the German enigma machine along with secret German code books onboard the U-505, which allowed us to break the German’s intelligence code. This material provided valuable military intelligence to the Allies and helped eliminate the threat of German U-boats in the Atlantic. Afterward, the Germans were less “successful” and less lethal in their efforts to destroy the Allies.
While my father was in the service, he and my mother, Mary Ann Michael, were engaged. Getting married depended on leave from the Zircon. “We got married when your father’s ship came in — literally.” The ceremony took place at Holy Cross Church in Mount Airy, Philadelphia on August 2, 1943. There were three other Navy officers present: Lieutenant Joseph Sakmar of New York, Lieutenant Carl Brock of Germantown, and Lieutenant S.D. Simon of Philadelphia.
My mother was a beautiful young bride who wouldn’t get to see her husband much over the next two and a half years. The Navy took him away soon after the wedding. On August 20th he reported to the Naval Airship Training Center’s Blimp Squadron Fifteen in Lakehurst, NJ.
The wedding party included my mother’s sister, Miss Helen Michael, on left and my father’s sister, Miss Dorothy Barton, on right.
My grandfather, Charles Harold Barton, and grandmother, Louise Hicks Barton, with the newlyweds.
After Naval Airship Training, he went to Subchaser Training in Miami, Florida. Then back to Philadelphia for 2 weeks of Oil Burning School. Afterward, Destroyer Escort training in Norfolk, VA, to prepare him for his next duty station aboard the USS Kendall C. Campbell, DE-443.
In 2014, while researching my father’s naval service, I met Len Nowak online who also served aboard the Campbell with my father. Len was a sonar operator, and I appreciate Len and his wife, Anita, sharing their photos and information with me.
In 2017, Carmen Trimarchi contacted me after seeing this website. I asked if he remembered my father, and Carmen said my father and Commander Warner were “the good guys, but contact was minimal due to separation of officers and crew.” Thanks to Carmen for sending me his photos and information.
Also included on this website are details of the 1/96 scale ship model my husband built of the USS Kendall C. Campbell DE-443. To help with his research, we visited the USS Slater Museum on the Hudson River in Albany, NY. The Slater museum ship is the only remaining restored destroyer escort in the world.