Charles Robert Barton
My father, Bob Barton, was 21 years old when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. After the ROTC program and studies 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 Diesel 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.
The USS Zircon (PY-16) was a 235-foot private yacht taken over by the Navy for war time duty. The Zircon traveled 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 either in the deisel 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 them to break the German’s intelligence code. This material provided crucial 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.”
Their wedding 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.
Above photo, the wedding party in my father’s parents’ backyard: left to right — Carl Brock, Helen Michael, Bob and Mary Barton, Joseph Sakmar, Dorothy Barton, and Stanley Simon.
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 after the wedding. On August 20th he reported to the Naval Airship Training Center’s Blimp Squadron Fifteen in Lakehurst, NJ.
After Naval Airship Training, Dad 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.
The Campbell, a John C Butler class destroyer escort, was acquired by the U.S. Navy during World War II. The primary purpose of the Campbell was to escort and protect ships in convoy, in addition to other tasks as assigned, such as patrol or radar picket. Post-war she proudly returned home with four battle stars to her credit.
While my father never spoke of his time in the War, Lieutenant Commander Richard “Dick” Warner published his memoir aboard the Campbell. Warner said, “It was an honor to be chosen for the Navy. At the time I was at the University of California Berkeley 1,000 men applied for 75 officer positions, and those who didn’t make it went into the Army.”
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. His model was proudly displayed at the Mariners Museum and Park from August 2017 to February 2018.
To help with Gene’s 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.