This site attempts to tell the story of the USS Macaw, of the men who served aboard her and of the three men who died trying to save those aboard her when she sank the night of February 12-13, 1944. My father, then Lieut. (later Lieut. Cmdr.) Gerald F. “Bud” Loughman, was the ship’s executive officer. As the senior surviving officer after she sank, he was charged with handling much of the paperwork attendant on the loss of the ship. Fortunately, he held onto that paperwork. After he died on December 28, 1998, my sister discovered his files on the Macaw in a box of his papers. I had talked with him several times over the years about his experiences aboard the Macaw and more or less formally interviewed him once, but had only just scratched the surface of the story. In his files were his own account of the sinking of the ship and those of all his fellow sinking survivors, all written within days of the event, and photos of the ship taken at intervals during her death throes and of the crew before and after she sank. What follows is based on my discussions with my father, on his files, interviews with and letters from a number of his shipmates and other sources I’ll note as I go.
This is a work in progress. More than seventy years after the ship sank, many of the men who served aboard her have died, but some are still hale and hearty. I’m still trying to contact surviving crewmembers, or friends or relatives of crewmembers living or dead. Anyone who served aboard the Macaw, or who knows or knew anyone who did, or who served at the Naval Operating Base on Midway circa 1943-44, or who knew LeRoy Benny Lehmbecker, Ernest David Samed or Howard Eugene Daugherty in that or any other context, I would be very happy to hear from. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (805) 772-3501.
Clicking on some of the photos in the site will give you an enlarged view. To return to the page you were on, click on your back arrow.
Most of the Macaw sailors or relatives of Macaw sailors I have had the good fortune to contact have been generous, some extremely so, with their time and recollections — none more so than Bob Jacobsen, originally of Garibaldi, Oregon, later of Long Beach, California. Bob was a colorful and generous letter writer with a remarkably keen memory. As spotty as the following account may be, it would have been vastly more so without his help. Bob died peacefully at his home in Long Beach on February 24, 2012, at age 89. Smooth sailing, Sea Dog.
Any attempt to reconstruct events 60-plus years afterward is an inexact science at best. Despite my access to contemporary documents and Bob Jacobsen’s gold-standard recollections, I can say with moral certitude that this site contains errors of fact. They are my responsibility. I’ll continue to try to fish them out. Any knowledgeable visitor who can aid me in this regard is cordially urged to do so.
When my siblings and I were kids, my dad would often tell us en route to or from church on Sunday to pray for Lehmbecker, Samed and Daugherty. He referred to them by last name only. This instruction made an impression on me not only because he repeated it so often but also because he never, as far I recall, asked us to pray for anyone else, relatives included. I don’t recall him telling us back then who Lehmbecker, Samed and Daugherty were or why he wanted us to pray for them — he wasn’t always terribly communicative when we were kids. Nor do I recall that any of us asked. If that reticence seems odd, or to reflect a sorry lack of curiosity, my dad’s instructions to us in the postwar years tended to have a certain military flavor, and I think maybe my sister and brothers and I all figured he would construe any posing of questions in response to an order as a sign of reluctance to comply with it.
My dad died on December 28, 1998. By then, having sat him down with a tape recorder, I had a clearer picture of who Lehmbecker, Samed and Daugherty were, and I’d gotten one man’s colorful if not always entirely accurate recollections of a very ordinary ship and of the extraordinary events that transpired within and about her when she sank, and of the extraordinary role those three men, who never served aboard her, played in those events. I’ve been in touch now with relatives of all three of those men. I’ll never know as much about them as I’d like to, but I have at least a rough outline of each man’s life now, and I know why they were in my father’s thoughts every Sunday. This site is dedicated to them.
Welcome aboard …