CLARENCE W. BECKER, LCDR, USN
Clarence Becker '39
Date of birth: January 6, 1917
Date of death: May 18, 1945
From the 1939 Lucky Bag:
Clarence was lost when USS Longshaw (DD 559) ran aground near Naha, Okinawa, and was destroyed by shore battery fire. He was the commanding officer, but had taken command less than a week before (on May 12).
On the morning of 18 May 1945, following a grueling four-day period of fire support, Longshaw, en route to her patrol area, ran aground on a coral reef just south of Naha airfield, at 0719. Other attempts to free her failing, tug Arikara (ATF-98) arrived at 0945. At 1000, tug's skipper, Lieutenant John Aikin, and Radioman First Class James J Zikus, boarded to arrange recovery and communications. Towing commenced at 1100. At 1101, Japanese shore batteries opened up, hitting the water between Arikari and Longshaw. The stranded destroyer attempted to fight back as best she could; but, as she opened fire, her bow was completely blown off by a hit in the forward magazine. When efforts to save her appeared hopeless, the order "Abandon Ship" was relayed by word of mouth from the bridge. At 1105, all hands on the bridge were killed, injured, or stunned; the Longshaw's skipper, Lieutenant Commander Clarence William Becker, was reportedly there, mortally wounded, along with Radioman Zikus of the Ariaka. At 1115, the abandon ship order reached the aft fire room and engine room.
About 1200, LCI(L)-356 came alongside to remove all wounded. The ship was burning, shells were exploding in their magazines, and the decks were hot enough to cause burns; many in the rescue party were awarded medals.
The casualties included 86 dead or missing, including the skipper. (The missing were later declared dead.) In addition to the dead and missing, 95 crew members were wounded, and 113 crew members survived the sinking.
Later in the afternoon, Longshaw, battered beyond salvaging, was destroyed by gunfire and torpedoes from U.S. ships.
Clarence has a memory marker in New Hampshire.
The "Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps" was published annually from 1815 through at least the 1970s; it provided rank, command or station, and occasionally billet until the beginning of World War II when command/station was no longer included. Scanned copies were reviewed and data entered from the mid-1840s through 1922, when more-frequent Navy Directories were available.
The Navy Directory was a publication that provided information on the command, billet, and rank of every active and retired naval officer. Single editions have been found online from January 1915 and March 1918, and then from three to six editions per year from 1923 through 1940; the final edition is from April 1941.
The entries in both series of documents are sometimes cryptic and confusing. They are often inconsistent, even within an edition, with the name of commands; this is especially true for aviation squadrons in the 1920s and early 1930s.
Alumni listed at the same command may or may not have had significant interactions; they could have shared a stateroom or workspace, stood many hours of watch together… or, especially at the larger commands, they might not have known each other at all. The information provides the opportunity to draw connections that are otherwise invisible, though, and gives a fuller view of the professional experiences of these alumni in Memorial Hall.
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