Len Nowak was initially trained in Key West, FL, then reported to Quonset Point, RI, for advanced training on the USS Sylph.
Also serving on the Sylph was Ernest Borgnine, first gunner’s mate. In the 1960’s, he went on become the commander on the TV series, McHale’s Navy.
When Len finished training, he reported to the Brooklyn Navy Yard in June 1944 for his assignment as a sonar operator on the Campbell. While he didn’t remember my father, Len shared details about his own life aboard the Campbell.
Len told me how the men on the ship voted to create their unofficial logo of Goofy riding a torpedo and holding a depth charge. Len said it symbolized what they wanted to do to the enemy.
I asked Len how long his shifts were on the ship, and he replied, “four hours on and eight hours off every day.”
I asked Len if he did anything for relaxation, and he remembered berthing at the Ulithi Naval Base on the Caroline Islands at least once. Ulithi was a group of 30 islands with sand and coral floors. They were located 900 miles from Iwo Jima and 1,200 miles from Okinawa. The group of islands was called “the Navy’s secret weapon.” As many as 1,000 ships could hide in the lagoons and coral reefs as they refueled, repaired, and resupplied.
There was also a recreation center on Mogmog Island in Micronesia where enlisted men could relax and drink a ration of two beers apiece. Len said the beer was good but warm.
Len authenticated features on the Campbell for my husband, Gene, as he was building the scale ship model for me.
Note: In 2014, I went online to learn about the USS Kendall C. Campbell. A contact name for information about crew reunions was published on the NavSource website. I emailed Len Nowak and was pleasantly surprised when he replied that same afternoon. Over the last few years, I’ve communicated with Len and his wife, Anita, over email.