Len Nowak

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SOM 2/c Leonard B. Nowak (Courtesy of Len Nowak)

Len Nowak was initially trained in Key West, FL, then reported to Quonset Point, RI, for advanced training on the USS Sylph.

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Len Nowak, new recruit

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Len’s Graduation Class (Courtesy of Len Nowak)

Ernest Borgnine, McHale’s Navy

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.

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Bermuda shakedown cruise (courtesy of Len Nowak)

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.

Goofy clear
Unofficial logo (Courtesy of Len Nowak)

I asked Len how long his shifts were on the ship, and he replied, “four hours on and eight hours off every day.”

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Sketches of weapons onboard the CAMPBELL (courtesy of Len Nowak)

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.

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Courtesy of Len Nowak (on right)

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Ribbons and Medals awarded to the CAMPBELL (Courtesy of Len Nowak)

Len authenticated features on the Campbell for my husband, Gene, as he was building the scale ship model for me.

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Len Nowak after disembarkation at San Pedro, CA, in November 1945 (Courtesy of Len Nowak)
On May 13, 2009, Len’s daughters arranged for him to be “Veteran of the Day” at Disney World, complete with a parade and ceremony. (Courtesy of Anita Nowak)

May 13, 2009. Len was presented with the flag in honor of his military service. (Courtesy of Anita Nowak)

Note:  In 2014,  I had searched online 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.  Since then,  I’ve had the pleasure of communicating Len and his wife, Anita.

Sadly, Len passed away peacefully at his home on January 25, 2020.  I will always be grateful to him and Anita for providing me with valuable information about the Campbell.

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