May 8, 1921-Jan 17, 2015
It is with sadness that I tell of the passing of Richard Vanderwall whose story was included in my book, World War II Legacies: Stories of Northeast Indiana Veterans.
I met Richard Marvin Vanderwall, Sr. when my mother introduced me to him at the location where they both lived at the time. Mr. Vanderwall was one of the first World War II vets I had ever interviewed so I realize now I was not properly impressed when he told me all of his exploits as a sailor. One of his stories that I included in the book spoke of nearly being involved in the invasion of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. This excerpt is from the book:
“By the time our ship reached Pearl Harbor on December 12, 1941, oil from the explosions of American ships was three inches thick on the water,” said Richard Vanderwall of Fort Wayne.
Vanderwall was a Seaman 2nd Class assigned to the cruiser USS Indianapolis in the U.S. Navy. His duties included keeping the ship’s log and being stationed on the bridge above two batteries of 8-inch guns. Such a position would result in permanent hearing loss in one ear.
The USS Indianapolis was on its way to Johnston Island, 700 miles southwest of Honolulu when the attack occurred Pearl Harbor on December 7. Upon hearing of the Japanese attack, the ship turned toward the island to aid where needed. The battle was nearly over, but the ship was not out of danger. At 1800 hours on December 12, a Japanese sub fired on the Indianapolis. Thankfully, it missed. “One of our destroyers blew him out of the water,” said Vanderwall.
He was also involved with the Battle of Attu in the Aleutian Islands in 1943. Vanderwall and other sailors involved in the skirmish earned a battle star for the endeavor.
It was thrilling to present Mr. Vanderwall with a copy of the book with his story in it last fall when it was printed. Here’s a photo that shows our excitement!
Mr. Vanderwall was always patient and had a ready smile. He was blessed with a loving family and I’m sure they miss him greatly.
Rest in peace, Mr. Vanderwall. You definitely blessed my life and many others.