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Vangets, Van Buskirk & Wallington

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Jack Vangets (left), Eugene Van Buskirk (center) and Dave Wallington, c. 1944

 

Jack Vangets and Eugene Van Buskirk were lifelong friends, both from Elwood, Indiana (hometown of 1940 Republican presidential candidate Wendell Wilkie), born eight days apart in 1925. Until the Macaw reached Pearl Harbor, their lives followed remarkably parallel paths. Being the same age and residents of the same town and having last names that began with the same three letters, they tended to get lumped together a lot, and they were friends to boot. So they did a lot of things together. They went to school together, played ball together, swam at a local pool together. They both got jobs before the war at the General Motors Guide Lamp plant in neighboring Anderson, Indiana. (Their fathers both worked there, too.) They both signed up for the Navy early in 1943. They did basic training together at Great Lakes Naval Training Center north of Chicago on Lake Michigan, proceeded to Camp Pendleton outside San Diego (on the same troop train, to the best of Vangets’ recollection) and got assigned together to the Macaw, on which they shared the same rating, that of seaman 2/c, and both served on the deck crew.

Seaman 2/c Jack Vangets, Midway, c. Feb 1944

Jack Vangets

At Pearl Harbor Van Buskirk was sent to the naval hospital for treatment of a broken leg, fractured in horseplay on a raft with Vangets and one or two other shipmates on November 12 at Funafuti. Following initial treatment aboard another ship at Funafuti, the leg had failed to set properly. It was less than fully mended when word reached him in the hospital that the Macaw was preparing to weigh anchor. Van Buskirk insisted to hospital staff that he was ready to resume his shipboard duties, and to prove the point he walked on the leg, concealing the great pain that caused him. His fraud worked, but upon his discharge from the hospital he found that the Macaw had left port the day before, a day earlier than he had been told she would.

He was put on sick leave, then assigned to sentry duty at the receiving station at Pearl Harbor and later to the USS Bushnell (AS-15), a submarine tender.

During his stint as a sentry, he was challenged one day by a Marine officer who asked him whether he knew anything about the M1 rifle he did his salutes with. Van Buskirk conceded that he didn’t know the first thing about it — he was in the Navy. The Marine, taking it upon himself to educate the ignorant sailor, proceeded to completely disassemble the rifle, then was abruptly summoned inside, leaving Van Buskirk standing there with his rifle in pieces on the ground. “I could no more put that thing back together than the Man in the Moon,” he said about six decades later. Much to his relief, the Marine returned shortly — before Van Buskirk had to greet a lot of other passersby in his state of hapless disarmament — and reassembled it.

Seaman 1/c David Peter Wallington

Dave Wallington

Van Buskirk never saw the Macaw again, but he saw Vangets and their friend and shipmate Dave Wallington (seaman 1/c) of Grand Rapids, Michigan, when the two of them returned, along with most or all of the rest of the surviving crewmembers, to Pearl Harbor c. March 1944. Vangets volunteered for more sea duty and was assigned to the battleship USS Iowa (BB-61), on which he spent the remainder of the war. After returning home to Michigan on leave, Wallington found himself assigned to ABSD-1 (a.k.a. USS Artisan), the huge floating dry dock the Macaw had escorted four-fifths of to Espiritu Santo a year or so before. He served aboard her as a master at arms at Leyte in the Philippines, to which she was towed, once again in sections, for deployment closer to the ever-shrinking arena of combat after more than a year of service in the New Hebrides.

The three of them stayed in touch after the war. Van Buskirk spent some time in Chicago c. 1954-55, then visited Calhoun, Georgia, with a friend from the area, met the woman he would marry and stayed. He opened a store there in 1962 and sold antiques for 41 years. He and his wife had no children. She died in 1992. Van Buskirk died December 10, 2005.

Dave and Nancy Wallington

Dave & Nancy Wallington at their home in Grand Rapids, Michigan, June 12, 2004

Wallington attended Central Michigan University on the GI Bill after the war, and there met his future wife, Nancy, a nursing student from Muskegon Heights who became a school teacher. He studied business administration and got a job in the loan department of a bank after a year or two of factory work. They raised three children. Nancy died c. 2007 on a visit to San Francisco. Dave died in May 2011.

Vangets returned to Indiana after the war and went back to work for the General Motors Guide Lamp Division. He and his wife, n. Lois Pennington, who grew up in Martinsville, Indiana, also raised three children. He retired in 1976 and took up what he terms “the wonderful game of golf.”  In 2010 he shot an 84 — one stroke less than his age at the time. For years Vangets regularly attended USS Iowa reunions. He and Lois live in Lapel, Indiana, about twenty miles northeast of Indianapolis, in close proximity to their children and grandchildren.

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Jack Vangets with his parents, Elizabeth and Steve

 

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Jack Vangets with his sister Jeannie and her daughter Nancy

 

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Father and son, Steve and Jack Vangets

 

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Jack and friends on the home front

 

 

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Jack Vangets

 

 

Jack-with his-niece-Nancy

Jack and his niece Nancy

One Response to Vangets, Van Buskirk & Wallington

  • Norma Jean Marshall Lindsey says:

    Lois is my cousin and I am doing genealogy. I have a senior photo of Lois that I had hoped to share with her or her family. I happened only this interesting article looking for Lois and Jack. My grandfather and her father were brothers. Is there any way I can get in touch with her? Now I know they were in Lapel, IN in 2011 will give me help finding them. Small world.

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