Help us preserve this proud piece of American history. If you are a relative of, or otherwise know or knew men who served on the USS Marblehead, and as a result, can provide content on and/or photos of those men, or of the ship, or any other memorabilia from the ship, please contact spwade@gmail.com. .  Thank you very much.

  • As thoughts of World War II increasing fade, we are elevating our efforts to preserve the memory the men who saved the USS Marblehead (CL-12) - Marby to her crew - from a watery grave in the Java Sea in early-1942. Reported as sunk by the Japanese on multiple occasions following the Battle of Makassar Strait, Marby and her crew defied the odds with bravery, ingenuity, and never-say-die attitudes that inspired a nation badly in need of uplifting news in dark days of early-WWII. For three month their families thought they were dead or in captivity until they sailed halfway around the world and into New York harbor to called home. Later, they returned Marby to the fight and contributed to Allied victories in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

    A large part of our effort will be the creation of biographies for each of the 761 sailors listed as crew in the 1944 book Where Away: A Modern Odyssey, which chronicled their heroics. Who were these guys and the families and communities that shaped their characters? What did they do before war changed their lives forever? On which duty stations did they serve before and after Marby? Where did they go and what did they do after WWII ended? Just a small minority of the ship’s crew currently have biographies written about them, but we will answer the questions above and many others for each and every crew member. Our efforts to accomplish this began in earnest in 2018.

    While much was written about the ship in 1942 following her bombing off the north coast of Java and her subsequent ‘Escape from the Jaws of Death’, a lot of it was incorrect. For example, reference was often made to her 13,000-mile journey home, a figure guesstimated by journalists’ simply dividing the circumference of the Earth by two, as if the ship somehow sailed in a straight line “through” continents, rather than around them, on her 90-day voyage in crippled condition from Java, Netherlands East Indies (today’s Indonesia) to New York. Instead, we use 20,589 miles to describe her circuitous journey, a figure painstakingly calculated from the ship’s deck logs by Ray Kester, then a Radioman 3rd class aboard the ship, and later president of the reunion committees for Marby, the USS Leedstown, other ships, and eventually the entire Asiatic Fleet.

    Similarly, as time has passed and memories have faded, the oral histories the Battle of Makassar Strait and Marby’s survival have often lost focus. As a result, recollections today by sons, daughters, and other relatives of the stories they heard decades ago from their dads or granddads are sometimes imperfect. For these reasons, we have relied heavily on written records in developing the biographies. For example, when it comes to when a sailor joined or left a ship or land-based duty station, we rely on the muster rolls of the duty stations involved or on other official records.

    The Marblehead Biographies have emerged from our innovative use of Ancestry.com, and from other Internet resources such as FindAGrave.com, Newspapers.com, and Wikipedia.org. Where possible, we have also contacted relatives of the sailors to check facts, obtain photographs, and learn of new, previously unavailable stories - for example, on how and where a sailor met his wife.

    All the biographies follow the same general format; however, they are by no means carbon copies. Where sailors experienced the same event, such as the 4 Feb 1942 bombing off the north coast of Java, those biographical sections will be similar, but starting with the sailor’s place and date of birth, almost everything else will be unique to him.

    As new biographies are added, they will be ‘announced’ on our homepage for one month following their publication. So, please keep an eye out for your relative’s or friend’s biography. If you wish to expedite creation of a biography, help us preserve this proud piece of American history more quickly by emailing Steve Wade about stories or photos of the men who served aboard Marby, or about memorabilia you may have from the ship. Steve will work with you to create a comprehensive sailor biography more quickly. Thank you very much.

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