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November 24, 2017

News:

2015 San Pedro Prep Softball Preview -

Friday, May 1, 2015

Art Preview: ‘Non-Native’ by Ingrid Dietrich -

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

San Pedro Prep Baseball 2015 Preview -

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Recapping The Final Gaffey Street Community Workshop -

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Tiffany Torres Bears Down For Success At POLA High -

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

San Pedro Fish Market Launches Scholarship Contest -

Thursday, January 15, 2015

San Pedro’s Rita Fiorenza Is A Basketball Revelation -

Thursday, January 15, 2015

‘No Lane Reductions’ As Gaffey Street Redevelopment Plans Move Forward -

Friday, January 9, 2015

San Pedro Prep Sports 2014 Fall Review -

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

LAPD Harbor Division and Philie B’s Pizza To Host Charity Events This Weekend -

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

San Pedro Holiday Parade Returns Sunday with a Twist -

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Winter Wonderland Comes To The Waterfront -

Monday, December 1, 2014

One-Way Streets May Come to Downtown San Pedro -

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

San Pedro’s Two Newest Volleyball Skyscrapers: Allison Kittell & Tracy Folchi -

Monday, November 10, 2014

San Pedro and POLA Prep Girls Cross-Country Preview: Running For More Glory -

Thursday, November 6, 2014

International Craft Beer Festival Comes to Crafted This Weekend -

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Second Workshop for Urban Greening Project Receives Warm Reception from Community -

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Construction of Mixed-Use Apartment Complex on Gaffey Could Begin Next Spring -

Thursday, September 25, 2014

UPDATE: Blaze Inside Port of L.A. in Wilmington Nearly Contained; Air Quality Deemed ‘Safe’ -

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

San Pedro High Football Off To Another Strong Start -

Monday, September 22, 2014

Veterans Feel at Home Aboard USS Iowa

Bob DeSpain was 16 when he learned the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the USS Tennessee, which happened to be the ship his brother Herb was serving aboard.

DeSpain said it was this day, on Dec. 7, 1941, that he knew he would join the Navy after his birthday in December.

He did just that.

On Dec. 29, 1941, DeSpain was headed to Farragut, Idaho. After 100 hours on a coal steamboat, DeSpain, a Long Beach-native covered in black coal dust, saw his first snowfall.

“It was freezing,” he said. “I always figured I would be sent to San Diego for basic training, but boy was I mistaken.”

DeSpain, after training, became part of the original crew for the brand new USS Hoel. After months of training exercises, the ship departed for Hawaii in October of 1943.

Nearly two-years later, DeSpain said he and his shipmates could see the Japanese ships on the horizon. He said the “silhouette was like a dream.”

He was in the morning chow line when he heard and felt the first explosion. He rushed to his battle station as the Hoel was taking on heavy fire from the Japanese.

“They were firing on us from so far away we couldn’t see them at first,” he said. “We were in a desperate position, and had to move fast, zig-zagging violently, the acceleration was too much for the Hoel, and the ship began shuddering from the vibration of the screws.”

DeSpain said he and a shipmate began making a smoke screen from the ships stacks and smoke generators to provide a smoke shield of cover.

“We were being hit hard, and then suddenly a Jap shell hit the 20 mm gun tub on the fantail,” he said.  “The hole was big enough to crawl through, and that was the beginning of the end for the Hoel.”

As the ship slowly began to sink stern first, DeSpain laid on the deck not sure if he was wounded from all the blood and gore that had flowed down from the gutters.

“As the water rose up to the fantail onto me, it finally dawned on me that the Hoel was doomed, and I slid off into the ocean,” he said.

DeSpain spent three days and three nights in the ocean, clinging to a net that was attached to a raft. He had given up his lifejacket to an injured shipmate shortly after hitting the water.

He still remembers “lashing himself” into the net to keep from drowning when sleeping.

“It was a terrible feeling. We really didn’t know if we would ever be rescued,” he said. “But I’ll never forget seeing that LCI (Landing Craft Infantry) and knowing we were getting out of there.”

DeSpain is one of the dwindling number of World War II veterans left, and on Friday, he was honored to be able to tell it again.

“Anytime I step foot on a ship it is like coming home,” he said. “I fought like hell for three years to get the USS Iowa to San Pedro — I wrote letters, I attended every meeting, and to be able to step on this ship, right here in my backyard, it is special to me.”

DeSpain is one of the many veterans that volunteers on the USS Iowa each and every day.

“It’s special to me,” he said. “It’s special to all of us — it’s home, this is where our brothers are, and in many ways, I feel like bringing the USS Iowa to dock here, was like bringing my lost shipmates home.”

And DeSpain isn’t the only veteran who feels this way, on Friday, six veterans walked aboard the USS Iowa with their heads high, full of pride, and all in preparation for this weekend’s Veteran’s Day celebration.

The Battleship Iowa and the City of Los Angeles are hosting the Second Annual Veterans Appreciation Festival on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Councilman Joe Buscaino said it’s “appropriate to be having the event in San Pedro, on such an iconic ship that’s filled with so much history.”

“Originally, two years ago, the idea was to have a parade to honor veterans,” Buscaino said. “But after much discussion with veterans, they said they didn’t want a parade, that they just wanted to be recognized in an event that also provided various resources for veterans.”

Buscaino said with the number of men and women returning home from war, providing resources is of the “utmost importance.”

“It’s the least we can do for these men and women who have served our country,” he said. “At the very least, they deserve a bed and a job — and that’s why we implemented more resource booths at this year’s festival.”

The event is free and open to the public, and will include live music, food trucks, children’s activities, as well as the Patriotic Harley Riders. In addition, there will be resource and information booths for veterans that will cover a wide variety of topics, including health, education and job opportunities.

There will be also special tour aboard the USS Iowa. The tour is free for veterans and active duty military Saturday through Monday. Families of veterans and active duty military members can also enjoy the tour for free on Saturday only.

The inaugural festival took place last year, the first year the USS Iowa was docked on Veterans Day in San Pedro.

Event Information:

What: Veterans Appreciation Festival

When: 10-4 p.m. Saturday

Where: Berth 87 in the parking lot next to the USS Iowa, 250 S. Harbor Blvd., San Pedro

Parking: Available on site for $1 an hour; free parking and shuttle service available at 22nd Street and Sampson Way

Admission: The festival is free to the public. The USS Iowa will also offer free tour passes for veterans Saturday through Monday, and for veterans and their families on Saturday only.

More Information: www.portoflosangeles.org/; www.pacificbattleship.com

Photo: Bob DeSpain speaks on board the USS Iowa on Nov. 8, 2013 (photo by Joshua Stecker)
Comments
One Response to “Veterans Feel at Home Aboard USS Iowa”
  1. Timothy DeSpain says:

    Proud of my Uncle! Love you dearly.

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