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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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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Condiments: Black Bean Sauce and Chili Garlic Paste

Last night I made my favorite Thai dishes: Evil Jungle Prince with Chicken and Eggplant & Bok Choy with Bean Sauce.  United Noodle (my local Asian grocery) was out of the japanese/chinese eggplants (the long skinny purple ones) so I used Thai eggplants (round and green) instead.  They don’t hold together as well in the dish, but it tasted just as marvelous as ever.

I used to be able to buy jars of Chili Garlic Paste and Yellow Bean Sauce that I liked.  But my preferred brand of Chili Garlic Paste is no longer available and the “starch” included in the Yellow Bean Sauce became suspect.  So now I make my own.

Many of the recipes for these condiments that appear online seem to be trying to imitate BAD additive- and preservative-filled versions that you might find in a jar at the grocery store.  They add thickeners like cornstarch and/or gums.  I decided to just stick to the essential flavors and make these sauces as simply as possible.  Here’s what I do:

Chili Garlic Paste

adapted from Sriracha-style hot sauce (latimes.com) and Mark Bittman’s recipe at nytimes.com

Chili Garlic Paste

I combine the ideas from the two recipes cited above and use a combination of dry and fresh chilies, soaked in boiling water with a few cloves of garlic and then pureed in food processor with salt, sugar, and some oil.  If I’m going to use the paste within a day, I just store it in a glass bowl until I need it.  If I’m going to store any of it, I heat it first (in an attempt to kill off any bacteria from the fresh garlic and chilies) and then store in the freezer.

Here are the proportions I used most recently:

  • 3 large mild dry chiles (e.g. Guajillo), stems removed
  • 6 small hot dry chiles (e.g. Szechuan), stems removed
  • 4 fresh chiles (Thai, serrano, or jalapeño), stems removed
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2-3 Tablespoons oil (sesame, canola)
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar (white or brown)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  1. Put the chiles and garlic in a small bowl and cover with boiling water.  Soak for about 30 minutes.  Drain, reserving some of the water and seeds.
  2. Cut the larger chiles into smaller pieces.
  3. Put all the ingredients into a food processor, blender, or mini-chopper.  Purée until smooth, adding oil or water if needed.
  4. Heat in small saucepan over medium heat until bubbly.  Will keep for several days in the refrigerator or longer in the freezer.

Black Bean Sauce

adapted from recipes from Closet Cooking and Mastercook II

I haven’t found a good explanation of the difference between Thai Yellow Bean Sauce and the more familiar Black Bean Sauce.  I do enjoy Black Bean Sauce, so even though it probably makes my Thai dish more “fusion,” I decided to use Black Bean Sauce in the Eggplant & Bok Choy dish instead of Yellow Bean Sauce that contains “starch” of undefined origin.

The most difficult part of making your own Black Bean Sauce is finding Salted Black Beans.  I get mine at a local Asian market in a bag that looks like this:

SaltedBlackBeans

Note that these are not the same as the black beans you would use for mexican food.  They are fermented in salt.  I store mine in the freezer.

  • 1/2 cup fermented/salted black beans
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 Tablespoon gluten-free Tamari
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  1. Place fermented/salted black beans in a small saucepan and add water.  Leave to sit to rehydrate the beans (approx. 30 minutes, can be done earlier in the day).
  2. Add all the remaining ingredients.
  3. Heat over medium heat until bubbly and thickened.  Stir occasionally.

 

 

 

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I’m BAAACCKKK!!

Yes, I’m still here.  Still cooking.  Still living with CFS and multiple food sensitivities.

I just haven’t been working so hard at modifying recipes or creating new recipes.

I’ve settled into a collection of recipes that I make fairly frequently.  (Some folks might say I’m in a rut, but I’m just relieved that cooking and eating isn’t quite so time consuming as it was when I first gave up gluten, dairy, and corn.) Most of the recipes I make now came to me from other cooks or cookbooks (so are copyrighted) and didn’t need much modification to make them gluten-free, dairy-free, and corn-free.

Still, I’ve had some requests (mostly from friends seeing pics of the food on Facebook) to share the recipes, so I will make an attempt to put some of the recipes up here or to point to their original sources for reference.

Another change in my cooking/eating came after last April when I attended a workshop on Ayurvedic Cooking at Health Through Ayurveda.  This course led me to incorporate several recipes and principles into my regular routine.  More on all that in a future post.

So here’s a list of what I eat most frequently these days.  As I add recipes (or locate them online) I’ll include links, but for now here’s my “food routine.”  Let me know in the comments if you are particularly interested in hearing more about a specific item.

Breakfast rotates between:

Lunch is almost always a “cooked salad.”  I was eating so many greens (because I love them) but sometimes having trouble digesting them.  I’d heard of pre-wilting the greens in the microwave, but the Ayurvedic Cooking workshop actually suggested that I cook them.  It really helps.  So I chop up everything I want in my salad: tomatoes, carrots, avocado, mushrooms, bok choy (for crunch), chicken, onion (not always all of these).  Toss it in a frying pan with some oil and some herbs.  While the veggies are cooking (stirring occasionally), I measure out a big salad bowl full of greens.  Once the veggies are cooked, I toss the greens in the fry pan and pop on a lid.   Cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until the greens are thoroughly wilted.  Turn off the heat.  Drizzle on some vinegar or a basic vinaigrette.  Let sit for a few minutes to cool down.  Pour into a salad bowl and enjoy!  Same great veggies, just easier to digest.

My most frequent dinner meals are:

Kichari with Sweet Potato and Swiss Chard

Roasted Chicken (from the Seward Coop) with Potatoes (or Sweet Potatoes) and Kale/Chard or Green Beans or Beets

The following dishes have also made multiple appearances:

So, a routine, but a routine with lots of variety.

Speaking of food . . . I need to go eat some dinner (tonight: leftover Green Curry with Tofu, Green Beans, and Chard).

Next post: Indian Porridges (Kichari and Savory Hot Farina)

©2015 Highly Sensitive Girl

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