I’m Lucky to Have Been Born At All!

The USS Natoma Bay CVE 62 and The Battle of Okinawa

by Lucinda DeWitt, daughter of John W. DeWitt, Jr. (Feb. 5, 1926 – Feb. 14, 2018)

As part of the Commemoration of 75 years since the end of WWII (September 2, 1945), the Escort Carriers Sailors & Airmen Association asked for memories of the heroes who served and The Battle of Okinawa. This is a version of the piece I will be submitting.

Any mention of The Battle of Okinawa reminds me how close I came to never even being born.  My father, John W. DeWitt, Jr. served the U.S. Navy from 1943 through 1946.  Most of that time was spent as an Electronic Technician’s Mate on board the USS NATOMA BAY CVE 62.

Based on his stories across the years, dad’s favorite time in the Navy was spent on Majuro (part of the Marshall Islands).  Here are a photo and two of his drawings from that time.

While Majuro may have been dad’s favorite place, by far his most memorable story is of what happened to the USS NATOMA BAY on June 7, 1945 (during The Battle of Okinawa).

(For a full account of the USS NATOMA BAY’s participation in The Battle of Okinawa, please see:  https://natomabaycve62.org/logbook/Okinawa.html  )

As recorded in the LogBook compiled after the war by John Sassano and Bob Wall:

Natoma Bay is participating in her second of the ten greatest battles in history, the other being the Liberation of the Philippines. She is destined to see many of her group come and go during the long and perilous assault on Okinawa. Luck, the Grace of God, and her combat readiness is a determining factor in allowing her to survive the entire campaign.

Although we are not to emerge unscathed, we are to be fortunate enough to support and survive the entire campaign from pre-invasion to security of the island.

And later:

On 7 June we are to experience one of our most unforgetable days – here then is that day as recorded in the history of the USS NATOMA BAY:

At 0635, 7 June, after having maneuvered through typhoon weather, NATOMA BAY was closed by a Zeke, broad on the port quarter and low on the water. Changing course, it came in over the stern, fired incendiary ammunition at the bridge, and on reaching the island structure, nosed over and crashed into the flight deck. The engine, propeller and bomb tore a hole in the flight deck, 12 by 20 feet, while the explosion of the bomb damaged the deck of the foc’sle and the anchor windlass beyond repair and ignited a nearby fighter. Three of the CVE’s crew and one officer of VC 9 were wounded. One ship’s officer was killed. A second Zeke was splashed by the ship’s port batteries. The damage control party immediately extinguished the blaze and set about emergency repairs. The next strike was canceled, but the following one against Miayako Shima, took place as scheduled at 1030.

. . .

The kamikaze that hit the Big NB probably came from Formosa or an underground hangar on Myaka Jima. At the time we were hit, we were were relieving a British unit that had gone out of the area to refuel. We had been assured that the area was quiet and we should expect no trouble. How unprophetic!

Further details from the War Diary of June 7, 1945:

The blast and debris from the impact on the flight deck punctured the starboard gas tanks on an FM2 which was spotted on the catapult and set it afire. This plane, with its attendant risk, was quickly disposed of by catapulting it into the sea.

. . .

Gasoline fires on the forecastle deck were quickly controlled. The 20mm strafing fire had caused smoldering fires on the deck planking where the bullets, apparently incendiary, had penetrated. These were chopped out and repairs were immediately started on the flight deck.

. . .

The attack had left a hole in the flight deck plating 12 feet wide, beginning two feet to port of the center line of the deck and extending to port, and 20 feet in depth from a point just aft of the forward end of the deck. This hole was decked over semi-permanently and the flight deck shored up and braced across its entire forward section sufficiently so that it could be used for flyaway and catapult-launches. These repairs were completed by 1500 while the regular operating schedule was resumed two hours after the attack. From recovered fragments, it is believed that the bomb carried was a type 99 Navy SAP 63 kg bomb.

A series of photographs tell the story:

This incident led to the USS NATOMA BAY gaining the nickname “One Lucky Ship”.  The remains of the kamikaze were melted down and molded into small horseshoe charms for the men to keep as a reminder of their luck.

Little did they know that Okinawa would be the USS NATOMA BAY’s final battle:

After our escapade at Sakishima (Myaka Jima) Natoma Bay returned to her duties of supporting the troops ashore at Okinawa and flying our CAP and ASW patrols. On 24 June we were to leave the area and steam for Guam for repairs. No mention was made of retirement from the forward area and a return to the States. We were all pretty sure that with a new flight deck and a new camouflage paint job that our next destination had to be Japan itself.

By the time those repairs were made, the war was over.

As I read over the entire story of CVE participation in The Battle of Okinawa (in the August 2020 CVE Piper Newsletter), I was once again reminded of the huge sacrifices made by so many . . . and of just how lucky I was that my dad came home from the war . . . and 15 years later, I was born!

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Cranberry Orange Nut Quick Bread

Gluten-free Dairy-free Cranberry Orange Quick Bread

The refreshing taste of orange combines with the tartness of cranberries to make a delicious breakfast bread that’s good enough to be dessert too!!

[adapted from the Cranberry Nut Bread recipe in Annalise Roberts’ Gluten-Free Baking Classics, Second Edition, 2008]

Cranberry Orange Nut Bread

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour (I use Bob’s 1:1 Gluten Free Baking Flour) (see note below)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar (see note below)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped (may use frozen berries)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 1 Tbs. orange zest (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.  Grease a 9×5″ loaf pan then line it with parchment (see note below). Lightly grease the parchment (not absolutely necessary but helps prevent sticking).
  2. Whisk all dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine oil, orange juice, egg, and orange rind (if using).
  4. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients, stirring to mix just enough get everything moistened.  Carefully fold in the nuts & cranberries.
  5. Spread into your prepared loaf pan.  Sprinkle some granulated sugar on top (optional but gives a yummy crunchy top).
  6. Bake for 50 – 60 minutes, rotating at about the 30 minute mark. Test for doneness with a toothpick. It should come out clean.
  7. Let pan sit on wire rack for about 15 minutes, then lift bread out of pan with parchment handles and cool completely before slicing.

Notes

  • Bob’s 1:1 GF Baking Flour contains xanthan gum.  If you are using another blend that does not contain gum, add 1 teaspoon of either xanthan or guar gum to the dry ingredients.
  • I no longer use baking powder because most brands contain corn starch (and I have a corn allergy).  I use a blend of baking soda and cream of tartar as a substitute.  If you don’t have cream of tartar and do have baking powder and baking soda you can use 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder plus 1/2 teaspoon baking soda in place of the baking soda and cream of tartar listed in the recipe above. Send me a message if you want the formula for baking soda + cream of tartar = baking powder.  It’s a bit complicated because the corn starch is just a filler, so you’re really only replacing the other aspects of the baking powder.
  • If you use an 8″x12″ piece of parchment it will fit nicely and give you “handles” on the sides to help remove the bread from the pan later.

©2018 Lucinda DeWitt

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My First Year in New Jersey

This post is very similar in content to the “Holiday Newsletter” I sent out this year to folks for whom I have snail mail addresses.  The rest of my friends/family/Facebook acquaintences are being directed here.  I hope 2018 allows me to get back to posting about my adventures in gluten-free, dairy-free, corn-free baking and cooking!

Me standing in front of my new home in Whiting NJ. It is one story, slate blue and white, with an attached garage.My New Home in Whiting NJ

2016 and 2017 have been extremely busy, exciting, and exhausting years for me. In 2016 I moved from my 100-year-old house in snowy Minneapolis, MN to live nearer to my family in New Jersey.  On September 26, 2016, after a three-day drive (1200 miles) with my old cat Marvel, I arrived at my parents’ house in Manahawkin, NJ where we stayed for six months while I looked for a house nearby.  On February 14, 2017 I finally closed on a house in Whiting, NJ, 20 minutes away.  Marvel and I moved in at the end of March.

The house (built in 1980) needed a new refrigerator, roof, garage door, and hot water heater as well as all new carpet, a fresh coat of paint inside, and many other minor repairs. There are still many projects to complete and quite a few boxes waiting to be unpacked (once I figure out where to put all that is in them), but it’s starting to feel more like “home”.

Besides moving into and working on the house, the year has meant reconnecting with family and getting to know my new surroundings including:

  • October 2016  Aunt Irene and Cousin Amy came to visit to celebrate mom’s birthday. (Sadly, this is the last picture we have of my Aunt Irene.  She died on November 11, 2017 after a brief fight with an aggressive cancer.) Pictured: My sister Nancy, cousin Amy, Mom, Dad, Aunt Irene, and me.
  • December 2016  My sister Nancy and I went up to the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City for an exhibit about the Brontës and some bead shopping in the fashion district.
  • January 21, 2017  I participated in the Women’s March on Washington with childhood friend Karin Howells Kelleher, her three daughters, and other friends.
  • April 2017  A trip to the African American Museum in Philadelphia for the “Wage Peace” exhibit
  • May 2017  Another trip to the Morgan Museum in NYC.  This time for an exhibit about Emily Dickinson.  Also went to several exhibits at the New York Public Library.
  • Father’s Day 2017 Mom & Dad & I attended a Lakewood Blueclaws Baseball Game where we met several other veterans (all identifiable by their military caps)
  • July 2017 Janet visited from Illinois. Picture below: Nancy, me, Dad, Janet, Courtney the Cat, Mom
  • August 2017 My good friend Linnea visited.  We installed a new closet organizer in my bedroom, watched baseball, and went to Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, an incredible series of buildings and courtyard filled with mosaics.
  • Labor Day Weekend 2017 Stand Against Hate Rally in Asbury Park; and visit from nephew Matthew
  • October 15, 2017 Rally with Al Gore and Phil Murphy
  • October 21, 2017  Beach Cleanup at Island Beach State Park
  • Christmas 2017  Thought I would add these pics to round out the year.

A Few Gratitudes

  • Despite MANY doctor’s and dentist’s appointments with mom and dad (and lots of “daily emergencies,” there have been no new serious illnesses.
  • Marvel survived both the long drive and six months living in one little room.  She still has kidney disease, cataracts, arthritis and a bit of “kitty dementia”, but she still loves to snuggle and purr.  In fact, she would prefer I do nothing but hold her all day.
  • Several trips to the beach.  I had hoped to get myself to the beach at least once a week, but that hasn’t happened.  Still, every walk along the ocean and every moment spent listening to the waves gives me some peace. We even managed to get Dad down to the beach late in the Fall 2016.  That’s Barnegat Lighthouse behind them in the slideshow below.
  •  Of course I have to mention my joy when the CHICAGO CUBS WON THE 2016 WORLD SERIES!!!!!!!  (We don’t mention anything else that happened in November 2016.)

The year also included lots of gluten-free, dairy-free, baking and cooking . . . but I’ll summarize that in a separate post.

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Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Is anyone else feeling the need for comfort food?  I sure am!!

A few weeks ago my sister made the “Lightened Up Squash Mac and Cheese” recipe from The Chew website and cookbook.  It looked yummy, but I only had a tiny bite (because gluten and dairy).  Ever since I’ve been wanting to try a gluten-free and dairy-free version.  Made it tonight.  Excellent!!

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese (gluten-free and dairy-free)

adapted from http://abc.go.com/shows/the-chew/recipes/lightened-up-squash-mac-and-cheese-clinton-kelly

Serves 4-6
Time to prepare: 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups cubed butternut squash
  • 5/8 cup stock (chicken, veggie, or turkey, whatever you have)
  • 3/4 cup milk (I used diluted coconut milk, but any milk should do fine)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup shredded “cheddar style” non-dairy cheese (I use Daiya brand), divided
  • 1/2 pound elbow-style rice noodles (I used Tinkyada brand)
  • 1 tablespoon shortening
  • 1/2 cup gluten-free breadcrumbs (I used 4C brand)
  • 1 teaspoon Italian herb seasoning (or combination of basil, oregano, marjoram, rosemary)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (or 1 tablespoon dry) (optional)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium-high, add butternut squash, stock, milk and garlic. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer until the squash is tender (about 20 minutes).
  2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions.
  3. Once the squash is tender remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper. Blend using an immersion blender (you may need to transfer it to a deep bowl to prevent splatters). Alternatively, use a regular blender. Blend until smooth.
  4. Stir in about 2/3 of the cheese until melted. Set aside until pasta is ready.
  5. Meanwhile, heat shortening in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs and dried herbs. Cook until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside.
  6. When pasta is done, drain and add it directly to the cheesy squash mixture. Stir until everything is combined and melted. Stir in remaining cheese just before serving.
  7. Serve with the toasted breadcrumbs sprinkled on top. Garnish with chopped parsley (if using fresh).

NOTES:

  • The original recipe uses both Gruyère and Parmesan cheese in equal measure, so feel free to modify as you like.
  • I burned the bread crumbs so served it without them. It tasted great.
  • My mom and I agreed that next time we would prepare it earlier and then bake it in a 300°F oven with some of the cheese and/or buttered breadcrumbs or crushed potato chips on top.
  • The amount of salt will vary according to how salty your “cheese” is. I added 1/2 tsp salt and a shake of pepper to the squash.

Enjoy!!

©2017 Lucinda DeWitt

 

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