NED J. WENTZ, LT, USN
Ned Wentz '33
Date of birth: January 12, 1910
Date of death: November 12, 1942
From the 1933 Lucky Bag:
From the 1953 edition of the book "Double Three Roundup," published by the class of 1933:
On graduation Ned accepted a position with the Commercial Credit Corporation. In 1935 he was commissioned in the Navy and ordered to the COLORADO. In 1936 Ned went to the Finance and Supply School and was then ordered as Disbursing Officer on Admiral Halsey's staff at Norfolk. In 1939 he was sent to the Fleet Air Base at Coco Solo, Canal Zone, as Assistant Supply Officer.
Then after two years at Coco Solo Ned went to sea duty as Supply Office of the ERIE. In November of 1942 he had received orders to shore duty at Corpus Christi. Not wishing to leave the ship until his relief was well indoctrinated, Ned was still aboard the ERIE on November 12, 1942, when an enemy bomb hit the ship and both Ned and his relief were killed.
Ned had married Elizabeth Frances Simms from Charleston, West Virginia on Armistice Day in 1934. Ned had met his wife-to-be when she was a bridesmaid and he a groomsman in a wedding. They had one child Frances May, age 12, who was born in the Canal Zone.
Ned's hobbies were photography, sailing, fishing, hunting, and building anything, just so it was a boat. He and his family had set their hearts on retiring after his Naval service to a farm in Lewisburg, West Virginia, where they could really enjoy the country. Mrs. Wentz, who is now Mrs. George R. Boll, and young Frances, who is the image of Ned and an A student and interested in dramatics, live at 390 Alberta Drive, Winter Park, Florida.
Ned was lost when USS Erie (PG 50) was torpedoed by a German U-Boat on November 12, 1942 while operating near Curaçao. Though the ship was beached and 173 of her crew survived, Ned was among the seven who were killed by the torpedoes and subsequent fire.
From USS Erie:
He had been on deck shortly before the torpedoing. He was seen to go below decks to the vicinity of his stateroom. His stateroom was partially demolished by the explosion, burned and partially flooded with oil and water.
Ned has a memory marker in Colorado. His wife, Elizabeth, was listed as next of kin. (Elizabeth was twice a war widow; her second husband, a LTjg was killed in action in 1944. Her third marriage ended with her death in 1994.)
Ned James Wentz: History of His Sword
By Frances Wentz Taber (Daughter), 2 April 2013, Tallahassee, Florida
BACKGROUND: My father, Ned James Wentz, was born 12 January 1910, Haigler, Dundy Co., NE. His youthful years were spent at his family’s homestead, The Wildcat Ranch, Fort Morgan, Morgan Co., CO.
On 01 June 1933, he was graduated from United States Naval Academy. Annapolis, Anne Arundel Co., MD.
On 11 November 1934, he wed my mother, Elizabeth Frances Simms, of Charleston, Kanawha Co., WV, at Goody, Pike Co., KY.
Throughout their marriage, his tours of duty included: USS Colorado (BB-45), battleship, San Diego, Los Angeles Co., CA; Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, Philadelphia, PA; on staff of RADM William Frederick “Bull” Halsey, Jr., USS Yorktown (CV-5), aircraft carrier, Carrier Division Two, Norfolk (City), VA; US Submarine Base, Coco Solo, PCZ; USS Erie (PG-50), patrol gunboat, flagship of The US Caribbean Fleet, Balboa, Panama.
I was born, 27 May 1940, at US Submarine Base, Coco Solo, PCZ.
Shortly following 07 December 1941 and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, US Navy dependents were ordered to leave The Panama Canal Zone. My father accompanied my mother and me for our return to reside with my maternal grandparents, at Charleston, Kanawha Co., WV, on 18 March 1942.
On 30 March 1942, my father was assigned to USS Erie (PG-50), Balboa, Panama.
My mother, having left me in the care of my grandparents, spent several months as a civilian, commencing 27 July 1942, at Cristobal, Panama, the new home base for USS Erie (PG-50). She was there – to be with my father, when his ship returned to her home port.
In October 1942, my father had been given orders to report to Naval Air Station, Corpus Christi, Nueces Co., TX. He returned to The United States for leave – which was spent with my mother and me at Charleston, Kanawha Co., WV, with my mother’s family, and at Fort Morgan, Morgan Co., CO, with his family. He had sought and was granted permission to return to USS Erie (PG-50) – in order to train his replacement. My mother and I were to have joined him at Texas.
On 12 November 1942, USS Erie (PG-50), while leading Convoy TAG-20, between Trinidad and Guantanamo, was torpedoed by German submarine (U-163). This occurred off the shore of Curacao. My father and his replacement were two of six officers and a Philippine officer’s mess boy killed – a total of seven lost.
We did not go to Texas.
SEVENTY YEARS LATER
Two weeks ago, a kind gentleman, Kent Eldemire, of George Town, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, contacted me. He told me that he had, in his possession, my father’s US Naval Academy sword!
This news was astounding. It is the most overwhelming lost-and-found story I have ever heard – and, it connects to me!
For years, Kent has searched The Internet – first, for my father. Then, he discovered that my father had a daughter and found her married name. His early clues were through genealogy websites, where I had postings. And, the final clue was contact information for me, through my beloved late husband’s obituary. Just two weeks ago, he found me! Kent has reiterated to me, a number of times, his appreciating that I have forever used my maiden name as a part of my full name on all documents! Without that, he would never have found me!
Kent’s late father, Enos Wellesley Eldemire (1910-1977), was first mate and senior salvage diver on the salvage tug, Killerig, which accompanied The US Caribbean Fleet, during World War II. This was a former Royal Naval vessel, owned by Merritt-Chapman & Scott, headquartered at New London, CT. Killerig was stationed at Kingston, Jamaica, and she was chartered to The US Navy. Kent’s father and other crew members attempted the salvage of USS Erie (PG-50), at Willemstad, Curacao, Netherlands Antilles, 12 November 1942 and shortly following. This was impossible – because of massive torpedo damage to the hull and further extensive destruction from fire emanating from the fuel tanks carried for the small airplane on board.
My late father’s sword was discovered. This sword has been in the possession of The Eldemire Family, since that time – for over seventy years! Both his father and Kent have long wanted to return this sword to the rightful owners, the family of Ned James Wentz. This gentleman has had a long mission!
When port activity began increasing at Willemstad harbor, following World War II, the Netherlands Antilles government requested The US Navy to remove USS Erie (PG-50). She was obstructing the harbor. The US Navy contacted my mother, in 1950 at Winter Park, FL, where we were residing, and asked if she wanted to be notified of any findings. Since I was age of ten years, I remember this – and, I have this letter, today! USS Erie (PG-50) was brought up and towed just out from the harbor – to create an artificial reef. This continues to be a popular diving site – especially for tourists and for Venezuelan residents. I have a fifteen-year friend, Venezuelan native and now US citizen, who has utilized that dive site!
My late husband, Robert “Bo” Weiss Taber, my daughter, Elizabeth Winslow McAuliffe, and I spent a day at Willemstad, while on board a cruise ship, holidays 2000. We visited a small museum, there, devoted to the memory of USS Erie (PG-50).
Since 1969, the sword has been located at Kent’s second home at Cairns, Queensland, Australia – the locale where three of Kent’s four children reside. His son, Shane, there, has located the sword, has sent me photographs and has prepared it for caring shipment to Tallahassee, Leon Co., FL. Today, the sword is en route! I am able to track every step – and, it should be safely within my possession, in three days!
Believe me, overwhelming emotion and excitement prevail…
The sword, within a proper case, is designated for my son, Francis Boll Gibbs, and his son, Couper Marshall Gibbs.