WAYNESBURG– Seaman Edwin “Ed” Young, 88, of Waynesburg, was unable to attend the Dec. 7 remembrance in Norfolk, Va. for crew and survivors of the USS Mahan DG-364. Mahan was on board when the battleship came under enemy fire during WWII, hit by Japanese suicide planes and the crew was eventually forced overboard.
On Monday, three sailors serving on the current USS Mahan DDG-72 presented Young with the flag that flew over the ship Dec. 15 at the Waynesburg American Legion Post 330. It was given in recognition of Young’s “faithful and dedicated service to the United States Navy and to his shipmates from a grateful nation and crew.” The flag was also part of a flag passing ceremony aboard the Mahan that was symbolic of the seven men who were lost when the ship was hit.
Young said he was “surprised” when he learned they would be coming to Waynesburg to recognize his service on Mahan. “It is just unbelievable,” he said.
Young and his shipmates came under enemy fire Dec. 7, 1944 during the battle of Ormac Bay, off the coast of Leyte, Phillipines. The Mahan took down three enemy aircraft before three Japanese suicide strikes against it caused it to burn uncontrollably. The air created by the speed of the Mahan only fanned the flames further, creating a nearly impossible situation for those aboard the ship. Explosions from the ammunition coming into contact with the heat of the fire surrounded the crew. Thirty-two of the survivors were wounded.
Young said he was not the only crew member from Waynesburg who was onboard the Mahan in 1944. He recalled a fellow sailor, Thomas Rutan of Waynesburg was among those who did not make it when the ship was attacked.
Those who survived the attack were picked up by escorts Lamson and Walke DD-723, which was then ordered to sink the Mahan by gunfire and torpedoes.
MAC Mike Shrum was one of the presenters of the flag. Shrum said the current commanding officer of the Mahan DG-364 believes in honoring history and sought to remember those who came before the current Mahan crew.
“There is a USS Mahan Association and we contacted people who served on the DG-72 through it. We heard back from five or six,” Shrum said, noting it is believed 13 to 20 survivors are still alive.
In a letter sent to the current Mahan, Young gave his definition of a shipmate. “A shipmate is someone who can count on you and someone you can count on when in the worst of circumstances; and knowing the other person will do his best to do his job and complete the mission no matter what the cost.”
The crew of the Mahan DD-364 was “shipmates in the truest sense of the word, abandoning ship only when circumstances led to an order to do so. The Mahan herself received five battle stars for her service in WWII.”