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The USS Twiggs burning after a torpedo plane crashed into it 


Branch of Service: Navy

Rank: Gunner's Mate Second Class

Service years: 1920-1945

Honors: Purple Heart, World War II Victory Medal

Glen Rock: Lived on Cedar Street, Glen Rock

     Charles McHenry was born November 2, 1920, in Glen Rock, New Jersey attended Byrd School, Glen Rock Middle School, and graduated from Ridgewood High School in 1939. McHenry then attended Duke University. He was recognized in both high school and college for his athletic accomplishments on the track and lived on Cedar Street. After returning from Duke University, he worked as a core maker (metal casting maker) in Paterson when Franklin D. Roosevelt declared war on Japan on December 7th, 1941. McHenry enlisted a year later in the US Navy. He trained as a gunner's mate in San Diego, California, and was assigned to the USS Twiggs, a Fletcher-class destroyer captained by H.J. Abbett

     On the Twiggs, McHenry participated in the invasion of Mindoro and Luzon Islands of the Philippines, the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the assaults on Iwo Jima and Nanpo Shoto, and the Battle of Okinawa. On June 16, 1945, the USS Twiggs was bombed by a Japanese torpedo plane and sank.  The following is an excerpt of the letter a surviving officer of the Twiggs sent Victorine McHenry, Charles's mother:

   "...I will try to give you a picture of general conditions before the attack. It was late in the evening and we had secured from routine general quarters and set a special watch in preparation for shore bombardment, which called for continuous shooting throughout the night. Nearly all the men who were not on watch had gone to their quarters to rest as they had the later watch. We were just a few thousand yards off the southern tip of Okinawa, when a Japanese torpedo plane made a surprise attack, getting a direct hit on our forward part of the ship including the bridge. The plane then circled and made a suicide crash, starting fires in the after part of the ship. The heat from these fires soon caused the after magazine to explode, and there was only burning oil where the TWIGGS had been. Several friendly ships near us did a fine job of rescue work.

     I do not know just what part of the ship Mac was on at the time of the attack. But death came instantly to all men in the forward part of the ship from the first explosion. The TWIGGS sank in friendly waters through which our ships pass daily, and the ships near us picked up all survivors very quickly. All land was shortly thereafter in American hands, and due to the length of time that has passed with no report of him, there can be no hope for his survival. Mac had done a fine job on the ship and was very well liked by his shipmates.

     Nothing that I can say will lighten the burden which is yours at this time, but I do want you to know that Mac had done his part in the team work which made the TWIGGS a good fighting ship. On numerous occasions our guns saved the ship by excellent marksmanship when attacked by suicide planes. It was indeed a tragedy to lose so many of such a fine group of men as we had aboard the TWIGGS, and who had performed so well when given a chance. I hope the knowledge of Mac's splendid service and devotion to duty will give you some comfort and courage. Those of us who survived extend our heartfelt sympathy. 

                                                                Very sincerely,

                                                                Oscar N. Pederson

                                                                 Lieutenant, USNR

                                                                 Assistant Communications Officer"

Born: 1920, Glen Rock, NJ

Died: June 1945, Okinawa

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