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Bud Loughman letter

Lieut.-Bud-Loughman

Bud Loughman

About a month and a half after the Macaw sank, Bud Loughman wrote the following letter to his lifelong friend Jack McCarthy. “Miss Sheils” was Loughman’s wife, Patricia Sheils Loughman. The object he pointed out to Paul Burton as being capable of supporting them, and on which Loughman and an enlisted man, Ship’s Fitter 2/c Nord Lester, took refuge, was a buoy. Loughman’s eliptical reference to it was in keeping with the concern about divulging in letters information of any conceivable value to the enemy. The Seal was the submarine to which Loughman was assigned after the loss of the Macaw.

 

Lieut. Gerald F. Loughman, USNR

USS SEAL, c/o F.P.O., S.F.

30 March 1944.

Dear Mac,

Now it can be told. You like unto mine wife do not always grasp my hidden utterances. This time I blame you not. You no doubt heard that the Macaw has been lost. I was on board with my captain the night she went down, February 12-13. We had grounded on a submerged reef off an island in the Pacific and were aground twenty eight days before the tremendous doom arrived. It was the most inspiring sight. The seas actually broke over our masts. The aerological reports taken there showed seas ranging between 50 & 60 feet. The ship had cradled itself into the coral & had weathered three separate storms of much lesser violence. The one of Feb 12-13 was unpredicted. We had most of our superstructure carried away and eight hours before we were forced to abandon our pilot house, we broached to the seas and were carried inch by inch into deep water. That period was pretty terrible. The water came up inch by inch as the ship gave. At 0230 there were twenty two of us in the pilot house which except for an occasional lull in the seas was constantly under water. So much so that the ports never could “breathe”. (They were cracked just enough to respond to the inboard pressure of the air when compressed by rising seas inside as well as outside the ship. In this way the ports admitted no additional water through them and when the seas went down below the level of the ports, the pressure in the room would correspondingly decrease & the ports would crack sufficiently to admit air.) However after the ship had settled so deeply as to no time have the ports above water then the CO2 content began to build up. When at 0230 12-13 Feb we left, we had no more than 18 inches of air space between ourselves & the overhead. The ship being on a fifty degree list to starboard, forced us to breathe in our little equilateral air pocket. The CO2 content became unbearable & we forced the port door open to the bridge deck. The seas were then at their highest. Fortunately due to the list of the ship & to the coaming over the door, the seas rushed in, covered the entire area to the overhead and when subsided left clean air in that pocket of 18”. It was like being under an overturned canoe. I left with the captain, nos. 21 & 22 respectively. We went topside or rather due to the listing to starboard walked on an even plane to the flying bridge hoping to make the foremast. We both simultaneously reached that deck only to meet up with a 50 footer & Loughman began what he thought was his last great struggle. I was under for a long time but escaped injury. The entire spray shields had been torn off & their remaining members were dangerously ragged. I tried for the ship again and made the rim of the stack, this being visible in the trough of a wave. I held onto it with all my force but was carried away again. I later felt myself being swept at a great rate towards the mainmast, which was atop tripod legs which supported our 45000 lb. boom. I doubled up around the ladder leading up and was then streamed aft like a wind vane. When that pressure let up I was going up a cable hand over hand when another incoming 50 footer took me off. Next time I remembered coming up and being shot through the mainmast section. I hit another shroud and hung on. I remember getting air once & then was carried out & under. When I did come up I was 150 feet aft of the ship heading swiftly out to sea. I was fine however & managed to keep my head above water from then on. I heard my skipper answer when I called there was an object capable of supporting us on my left. He kidded with me & I with him. I never heard from him again. He and that group were carried away from me and I was carried toward the beach. A strange whim of the sea carried me back out, this time near enough to that object That I was able to make it after considerable exertion. I found another of my shipmates there & we clung to it til the following morning. We were then rescued and I had five (5) small medical brandies given me, unknowingly to the various givers, which I consumed without a murmer. I was then acting captain and acted as so till all arrangements were completed regarding the ship and crew. They had me in the hospital for several days. The truth of the matter was I had a terrible hangover. I learned a lot as acting C.O. and earned the displeasure of my superiors for doing what I considered just regarding survivors leave for the men. Four of our men out of the twenty on board that night are missing besides my captain. He was more like a fighting brother. I was offered command of a sister ship to the gallant Macaw but refused flatly stating I wanted to get out of the submarine service unless I could get into submarines. They were quite surprised I turned down the offered command. The ship is reputed to be worth seven million hence you can appreciate my wonderment. However I had very definitely made up my mind that once I left the Macaw I did not want to return to another vessel in the force unless a sub. I told them I should like to be in the salvage party of the Macaw and remain on board her after she was restored. Salvage operations are undecided hence that met with no approval. It’s a most difficult job at best. Hence dear old Mac I am once again in submarines and quite happy about it all. I am writing on board now while we are underway.

Enough for the Macaw and the Seal. You should be well able to appreciate that here is some explanation for this lengthy epistle. In that I am not going to write to Miss Sheils for some time I figured I should pick out some other victim & you’re it. Your letter with pictures was very welcome. Imagine when I show Rosie O’Grady the picture of Uncle Mac. She’ll probably say verra verra bonnie and faith will ye looka at the shamrock! An Irisher is he? I received the Standard Star clipping of your picture telling of your manifold duties: Quite a fancy way to describe a snow shoveler!

The address Mac is 1712 Short Street, Berkeley, California. You can reach me more quickly through it. I hope you are well. I’m fine, now weighing in (to your surprise, no doubt) at 162 lbs. Oh! the thought of seeing “Miss Sheils” again!

P.S. The Macaw disaster was announced abt. 2 wks. ago in papers & on radio.

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