Harris Lee Stillwell

Harris Lee Stillwell served in World War II in the Pacific Theater.  He served in the U.S. Navy from January 19, 1943, until December 12, 1945.  He was assigned to the USS Corvus (AKA 26).  He was awarded the Asiatic and Pacific Battle Star.  His rank was Gunners Mate 1st Class, which meant he was responsible for the maintenance of the craft’s guns.  He was also the Gun Captain of a pair of 40mm naval guns. 

Mr. Stillwell was born in 1923 to Milo and Dolly Stillwell in Park Rapids, Minnesota.  He graduated from high school in Cloquet, Minnesota, in 1940. 

Source: Veterans’ Memorial Hall History Form; veteran’s account (see below):

"January 19, 1943, three young Cloquet men—Wally Johnson, Elwood Ferguson and I—were driven to Duluth by my mother so we could catch a bus to Minneapolis to enlist in the service.  In Minneapolis, we went to the Federal Building where we were sworn in.  The same day Wally and I were sent to Farragut, Idaho, for basic training, but Elwood was sent to Camp Pendleton, California. 

"Upon completing basic training, I was sent to San Diego for advanced training and taught electric hydraulics for one year. I was then assigned to the USS Corvus (AKA 26) at Providence, Rhode Island.  We went from Providence through the Panama Canal to the Pacific theater of action.  The Corvus had 32 officers and 275 enlisted men, and we had 30 missions, covering 56,000 miles during the year I was on board.  I was Gun Captain on twin forties and was responsible for the maintenance of all guns. 

"During General Quarters, I stood on top of the gun turret and ordered when they should fire.  Some of our high profile missions included the Invasion of Okinawa, where our ship carried 200 soldiers, 23 officers, and trucks and other mobile equipment.  They were the first to unload and hit Naha Beach.  This took over a period of 9 days.  A kamikaze was heading for our command ship, the El Dorado, so our twin forties shot it down.  Many other kamikaze came in during the week and were either shot down or were able to hit our ships.  We received orders to go to Pearl Harbor, where new engines were installed.  WHY??  We then got orders to go to San Francisco—then received orders to go to Seattle/Bremerton, where our engines were fine tuned. 

"The new engines were to give the Corvus more speed—important for the next mission.  We took on men and equipment for the 20th Air Force and departed for Tinian.  While en route, there was hush-hush talk about our cargo.  When we arrived at Tinian, all other ships had pulled out of the harbor so we could pull in to unload.  It took 4 days to unload, and our crew wasn’t allowed to do the job—this was done by Port Battalion, and all of the men we had taken on in Seattle also left the ship. 

"We spent time walking around Tinian and looking at the B 29’s—one was the Enola Gay, and our ship’s book has a picture of the plane.  When unloaded we went to Guadalcanal.  En route to Guadalcanal, the Indianapolis crossed our bow.  They had unloaded at Tinian before we did.

Shortly after we saw them, the Indianapolis was sunk by torpedoes from a Japanese submarine, with 1000 (plus) men losing their lives.  While at Guadalcanal, we got orders to go to Samar, Philippines.  We were in Samar when we got the news that a “new” bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima on August 6th—then a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9th, which brought the surrender of Japan. 

"Had the war not ended then, we were part of the fleet preparing for the invasion of Japan—and the loss of many, many more lives.  We later found out that our cargo, picked up in Seattle and unloaded at Tinian, had a direct bearing on the fate of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Our next mission was to place occupational troops in Amori, Yokahama, and Tokyo.

"We then departed for Los Angeles, and I was discharged at Fort Snelling on December 12, 1945.  Happily, all three of us who enlisted together came home, but Elwood was seriously wounded.  We all were proud to have served our country to try and preserve our freedom.  Tomorrow is Memorial Day and a time to remember and honor all who have served our country throughout the many years and wars.  Let us pray that some day countries and individuals will get along peacefully so there are no more wars."  Harris L. Stillwell - 6/2/2011

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