We recently attended the re-union of our ship, the USS Irwin
(DD-794) in Colorado Springs accompanied by shipmate Bill Soroka
of Youngstown and his wife Helen.
most important ingredient of any type of reunion is gathering
with those who were part of that segment of your life.
the case with these shipmates, especially with the surprise
appearance of Boatswain Mate Jack Bove, our legend, our John
Wayne. Not the John Wayne who saw his wartime action in
back lots of the Hollywood movie studios, but the swashbuckling
combat heroes he portrayed on the screen.
been hoping since our first get together that he would someday
bosun is the life blood of Navy ship, and Jack
was the epitome of
A regular Navy man who was there for the crew on all
occasions, including sewing the canvases for burials at
On shore he was true hell-raiser, living by his theory of work
hard, play hard, and sometimes he played so hard he ended up in
the brig. In San Francisco, those returning to the ship
from leave were greeted by the sight of Bove shackled to the
quarterdeck for some infraction.
He said he never became a Chief Petty Officer because of some
trivial misunderstandings like the time in Casablanca when the
van he was driving ran over a French Police-man.
He was never punished too harshly; the officers thought
too much of him and once at sea he was indispensable.
He retired from the Navy in 1971 and has been
married to a Japanese
woman, his fourth wife,
for 32 years.
They both work as civilians at the U.S. Naval base in Yokosuka
I had a personal reason for locating Bove. It
related to an incident on October 24, 1944 in the South Pacific
and his encounter with a close friend and fellow J&L
pipe-fitter, the late James Kelliher.
Jimmy was a 17 year old aviation mate on the aircraft
carrier USS Princeton that was sunk that day in the Battle of
Subiyan Sea in Leyte Gulf. He was one of the 646 Princeton
survivors rescued by the Irwin.
I wasn't aboard at that time but Jimmy always told of this
muscular red-bearded sailor who pulled him to safety from the
It was Jack Bove. After some 55 years I felt good in
telling him that Jim and his family and friends were forever
grateful that he saved his life.