Archival Bleg

By lex, on March 26th, 2010

The commentariat here continues to impress me. I have to admit to being awfully busy at times, and when I happen to notice a comment stuck in moderation for whatever reason, it’s always reassuring to see a familiar name atop the post – I know I can just hit “accept” without having to go to the instant bother of reading the content. (Not that I don’t come back and try to read all comments, but you all do fine without me.)

And, the ability of the readership to fact-check, correct and extend these our scribblings is also impressive. With that in mind, I’m forwarding a personal request from the cher ami of Our Marianne:

Hello, Lex:
My wife, Marianne, says you may be able to help me learn the circumstances of the combat death of a friend of my youth during WW2.  He was pilot of a torpedo bomber sent into action during one of the naval battles in the South Pacific against the Japanese fleet.  His name was Lt. (jg) Julian Pitts, whose hometown was Conroe, Texas.  According to the report I heard, he survived his torpedo run against a Japanese carrier, only to have his own carrier sunk, leaving him no place to land.  When his fuel supply was exhausted, he successfully ditched his craft in the water and he and his co-pilot got into their rubber raft.  At that point, Japanese fighter planes appeared and machine-gunned the raft and killing the two men.  I would be grateful to learn the date of his death, where this took place, the name of his carrier, and the nature of the action that led to his demise.  I have tried accessing naval records, but I can’t seem to find the right buttons to push.  If you could do it, or tell me what to do, I would be grateful.  Cordially, Downs Matthews

Some preliminary Googling increases slightly my store of knowledge over this affair. The ship appears to have been the USS Block Island (CVE-21), lost off the Canary Islands and the date apparently was 29 May 1944. It was a German submarine, vice a Japanese carrier that slipped through the screen. How Lieutenant Pitts died is not clear.

What have you got?


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