Intermission Stories (22)

19 year old sailor, Sol Kaslow

19 year old sailor, Sol Kaslow

Sol Kaslow

PT Boat Quartermaster

On D-Day, Sol Kaslow was a 19 year-old from Philadelphia serving on PT 508, dubbed the “Mairzey Doats” (after the popular 1943 song) as a quartermaster.  Hours before their most important mission began, the 13 men aboard Pt 508 bowed their heads and talked to God.  “It was not a crew that normally prayed.  We just didn’t do it,” said Kaslow.  “But at the time, prayer seemed appropriate.”

The small, but fast vessels of the US Navy’s Mosquito Fleet shouldered a mighty D-Day mission.  Prior to the invasion, the highly maneuverable, mahogany-hulled boats protected slow-moving minesweepers as they cleared a broad sea lane from British naval bases to the French coast.

The crew of PT 508

The crew of PT 508

Once D-Day commenced, the PTs performed water rescues, transported personnel and maintained a picket line to guard the western flank of Utah Beach’s convoy unloading area.  “We all knew if this was successful, it would change the whole scheme of things.  And we knew of the dangers involved.”

On the morning of  8 June, death pulled alongside PT 508.  Northwest of Utah Beach, a series of German mines – one! – two! – three! – dealt fatal blows to the escort destroyer USS Rich.  Kaslow said, “Absolutely split in half.”  His commanding officer would later write: “The explosion was terrific, and men were tossed injured and screaming into the water…  The whole ocean trembled and our boat jumped high in the air.”

PT 508 rushed in to aid the disabled destroyer, plucking survivors from its detached stern section, while other PT boats saved sailors from the rest of the smoking wreckage.  The blasts killed roughly 90 men – almost half of those aboard and injured another 73.

Kaslow and his WWII sailor hat.

Kaslow and his WWII sailor hat.

Fortunately, the crew of PT 508 pulled through D-Day, and the weeks that followed on the picket line, unharmed.  Kaslow marked the invasion’s 55th anniversary with a trip to Normandy.  He was taken back by the sensations and perceptions that his memory churned up.  “I was struck by the smell.  It was the dead bodies, and the ammunition had a certain odor.  And that stayed in my mind.  You think you would forget that after 55 years, but you don’t.”

Sol Kaslow, now 89, resides in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and gave this story to the Palm Beach Post for their special D-Day section.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Farewell Salutes – 

Charles Alpers – Hopewell Junction, NY; US Army, WWII

Robert Cruickshank – Calgary, Alberta, Can; RC Navy (19 yrs.), Lt., HMCS Micmac, Skeena & Mew Waterford 

Rodolpho Hernandez – Fayetteville, NC; US Army, G Co./187th RCT, Korea

Lois Mowen – Springfield, OH; US Air Force, cryptologisteaglesnelling

Donald Morrison – San Antonio, TX; US Air Force, Vietnam

Edward O’Neill – Papatoetoe, NZ; RNZ Army# 462352

Clyde Parkis – Vero Beach, FL; US Navy

Edward Ptak – BellaVista, AR; US Army, Sgt., Korea & Vietnam

William Stone III – Reston, VA; US Army, Lt.Colonel (Ret. 28 yrs.), Korea & Vietnam

James Walker – Albany, NZ; RNZ Navy # 14224

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on June 16, 2014, in WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 67 Comments.

  1. A great teacher and mentor of mine passed away last Saturday. I found out he was the exec on PT 508 during D-Day action, LT Jim Queeny. I am going to do a model of PT 508 honoring LT Queeny and the boat’s crew. I found your excellent site while researching this project. More importantly, if Mr Kaslow would like to hear more of LT Queeny, or add to the stories, I hope someone can share this news with him. Thanks everyone for keeping the stories alive.

    Rob Benson

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    • Thank you for coming by and telling this story, Rob. If you decide to put Mr. Queeny’s story and photos of the model on line – you could always do it here with the rest of us using WordPress, it easy and free and that way was your friend will be on line for future generations. [Blogging is not just for ranters any more]. Good luck with your project and I will try to contact Mr. Kaslow.

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    • Mr. Benson, I’m afraid I refrain from personal emails, but I did locate Mr. Kaslow’s address: Solis & Florence Kaslow, 128 Windward Drive, Palm Beach Gardens, FL
      I hope this helps you.

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  2. No matter how many Hollywood movies come out depicting different aspects of the war, it is really hard to envision all the complexities that made up the D-Day battle. I used to wonder why the US took so long to engage once they committed to the war. Now I understand the level of training it took, and how some of these techniques were done first during the D-Day engagement. Truly mind-blowing and brilliant. The strategic maneuvers were well thought out and though not perfect, nearly so.

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    • There was not only the delay of weather, but the Pacific campaigns (for a very short period) took priority.

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      • Yes, I was aware of all of that but even if you just looked at the eastern half all… the different units, each having their own specialty and specific orders to fullfill…that all others would depend on…the PLANNING was brilliant…some big thinkers were up there in the brass.

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        • Oh yes, and most of them had already had earned their chops in the way of experience in WWI. I thank you for taking so much of your spare time to catch up on the posts, Mrs P. An effort I will not forget!

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  3. You are to be commended for posting articles that bring military history to life,
    and for recognising the valued deeds of those that played their part in the conflicts
    Regards
    Emu aka Ian

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  4. Thanks for another great story. Was interesting to realize that the sights, sounds, and smells stayed wtih him for 55 years. War is such a traumatic experience!

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  5. Interesting that the smell stayed with him, even after 55 years. I wonder if that was partly why my grandfather (WW1) could never watch any war movies; it wasn’t so much the killing and violence but the remembrance of smell and noise that made him turn off the TV or walk away.

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  6. Incredible. Years and years ago we camped on Normandy Beach.

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  7. Hello there! I am such a fan of your blog- you post such interesting and meaningful content. So I have nominated you for the Sunshine Award, in recognition of your great work 🙂

    http://keepcalmandremember.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/sunshine-award/

    Like

    • I greatly appreciate your kindness and I’m thrilled you enjoy this site – but, I’m afraid I will have to decline. For the same reason that I do not have an About page, none of this site is to do with me. The men did all the work, you might say I’m a non-existent entity reporting what data is located. Please do not take offense and do continue to visit. (One of these days I need to learn how to put some sort of disclaimer about this on the side of the posts.) I thank you very much and feel honored by your gesture.

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  8. Really good story. Thanks for sharing.

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  9. The story of Charles Kaslow and PT 508 is so good and so successful , cause they took time to pray before going out , remarkable in itself. Of course those boats were invaluable to the protection of the fleets, the famous one PT109 with Jack Kennedy in charge.

    Enjoyed the story, thanks gpcox
    Ron

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    • Would PT 109 have had the notoriety if JFK had not been the Lt.? The overly-wealthy Joe Kennedy’s son drew the attention, I trust. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment, Ron.

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  10. Thank you, again. It’s my very humble honor to be able to read about these great men.

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  11. Great post and thanks for visiting my blog. No scrolling today since you just posted 🙂

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  12. I wasn’t aware of PT boats being part of the fleet… You learn something new every day…

    The odor of death for Mr. Kaslow must’ve been different to that of Smitty and Old Man Jack… His was mingled with the cold ocean spray from the Channel and burning fuel… Horrible.

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    • I would bet, Old Man Jack would recall, just as Smitty always did, was the smell of the flamethrowers. It he even saw one in a movie, Smitty would would cringe. Thank you for reading today, Koji, my dear friend.

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  13. Amazing story. Those sailors did amazing work.

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  14. gp, These great stories…all! Like this one of D-Day, Sol Kaslow, & PT 508. Thanks for what you do! Amazing personal histories! Phil

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  15. So sad to see what these young men went through and it’s interesting to hear from the survivors. Thanks GP.

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  16. Great story and pictures.

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  17. Pierre Lagacé

    Telling these stories is the most rewarding thing you can do… Soldier on GP.

    Pierre

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  18. I’ve seen the photo of the youthful Kaslow several times before now. But this is the first time I’ve read a story in connection with the picture. It’s quite a harrowing story, too.

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  19. This is one of the few PT Boat stories I’ve heard. Thanks.

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    • Certainly my pleasure, Dan. Those daring crews do get overlooked most of the time. I don’t think people really understand some of the missions they had.

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  20. I always am struck by how young they were to experience such things. Duty called and they answered; brave men and women. Thanks for another insightful post.

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  21. Thanks for pulling these recollections together – they are so much more impressive than all the fancy official ceremonies.

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  22. Reblogged this on Dead Citizen's Rights Society and commented:
    Excellent series of posts honoring our veterans and keeping alive the memories of their lives and sacrifices. May God bless them all.
    A big thanks to Mr. Cox for bringing us these stories.

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  23. A lot of fathers died on D Day. The D for me is for dad. To many sons, to many uncles and especially dads left this earth on a day of tragedy and victory. It had to be done and I am grateful for the sacrifice made.

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  24. Fascinating. I imagine one could fill a library with recollections of that one day alone – all of them different aspects of the same incredible scenes.

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  25. All these little stories are like part of a huge jigsaw puzzle, fascinating yet terrible

    Like

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