World War II veterans reflect on anniversary of ship sinking

Posted at 4:56 PM, Oct 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-25 18:49:14-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - As the bell tolled to honor the men who died aboard the USS St. Lo, memories from more than 70 years ago became as clear as yesterday.

"I don't really have words to describe it," said Glen Osborn, who survived the ship sinking on October 25, 1944. "The things that happened were unthinkable."

Osborn and another survivor, Bob Schueler, gathered with the family members of other survivors during a ceremony at the Military Aviation Museum on Wednesday morning. A ceremony is held each year around the country, but this year Virginia Beach was chosen.

Many of the survivors have since passed away.  "Probably not in the too distant future I'll probably have a bell toll because I'm 92 right now," Schueler said.

The Navy warship became the first to sink due to a Japanese kamikaze attack off the coast of the Philippines, killing 129 men. The memories from that day can be tough to talk about, but time has made it easier. "For 50 years, I never told anybody I was in the Navy because I couldn't," Osborn said. "I would break up."

Osborn remembers vivid details of what it was like on the ship and then floating in the water. "I just watched until the ship blew up in two," he said. "Then, she just buckled and disappeared."

As he floated, he says sharks made their presence known. "Everything got quiet and then it rained a little bit," he said. "The sharks started biting at some of the guys and you were wondering if it was going to be your turn." Luckily, he eventually made it to safety.

Now, he and the others hope those memories and sacrifices won't be forgotten. "I think it's very important that we don't forget the men that we lost," Schueler said. "I don't care which war it is."