Another Sad Loss


I received an email yesterday from Joe Farkas, telling me his dad, John Farkas, has passed away.

John FarkasJohn “Joey” Farkas, age 89, of South River, passed away peacefully on Saturday March 21, 2015, at Village on High Ridge, Lake Worth, Florida.  Born in Nicholson Township, Pennsylvania he had resided in South River his entire live until moving to Boynton Beach Florida in 2013.  Mr. Farkas was a “plank owner” on the USS Boston (CA-69) and proudly served his country during WW II in the U.S. Navy from 1943 through 1946 where he received the American Theater Medal, European Theater Medal, Asiatic Pacific Medal with 9 Stars, and the Philippine Liberation Medal with 2 Stars. After his discharge from the Navy in 1946 he remained in the Naval Reserve and was called up for service during the Korean Conflict. He was employed by the United States Department of Defense until his retirement in 1983.  (obituary submitted by Joseph Farkas.)

A year and a half ago, I flew to Florida to meet John.  I was working on both Volume 2 and 3 of Baked Beans at the time, and his son Joe reached out to me.  His dad had some stories to tell about the Boston.  John and his wonderful wife Theresa welcomed me into their home.  His son Joe was there as well.  John Farkas was a big ol’ teddy bear – and I instantly felt like I was visiting an uncle that I hadn’t seen in many years.  He told me some great stories  –   and if you haven’t read the Baked Beans books  –  well, you ought to . . .  The most poignant for me was when he spoke of the Big Typhoon  –  he actually broke out in a sweat and he told me he still had nightmares about it.  I can’t tell you how awesome it was to meet John, to hear tales of my dad’s ship (my father never told us anything.).  I can’t tell you how sad I am that we lost John Farkas.

John Farkas and Steve, in John's house, June 2013

John Farkas and Steve, in John’s house, June 2013


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mom, dad and yens


Been an unusual month for me.  I’ve been recovering from knee surgery, and have been at home (not working).  I figured that after a couple of weeks, I’d have free time before I go back to work, and I could spend time writing, including doing some entries to this blog.  Best laid plans . . . .   Bill and I lost our mom just recently, and any “free time” I thought I would have went straight out the window as we attend to the almost infinite number of details that revolve around the funeral, estate, etc etc etc.

My mother and father got married the day he was discharged from active duty in the Navy.  He left Japan in the first of three waves of Boston sailors going home (from Occupation Duty) – Nov. 6, 1945.  More than a month later, he had worked his way across the Pacific, taken a train across the country, and eventually reported to the Navy Station in Baltimore, MD.  My mother had done the bold and audacious  –  unthinkable at the time  –  left her home in small-town southern Massachusetts, defied her father’s wishes, hopped on a train in nearby Worcester, MA and traveled alone to Baltimore to meet and elope with my father.

Part of the difficult task of dealing with a parent’s death, is all of a sudden you have to deal with her personal effects and plow through all the documents (financial and otherwise) she kept.  So, in my mother’s “strongbox”  (a fishing tackle box . . . . ) Bill found an age-yellowed envelope marked “Japanese Yens” In it were four paper yens: a 5, a 10, and two 50’s.  I have no idea what 10 yens was worth in 1945 Japan  –  I suspect not much.  But they are the only tangible evidence we have of his participation in a little known or talked about aspect of the Pacific War – Occupation Duty.

The Boston was one of a handful of warships that stayed behind after the Signing of the Surrender to demilitarize Japan – to capture and destroy all remaining weapons (most notably the destruction of suicide subs and speedboats – hidden in elaborate caves and tunnels all up and down the coast of Japan.)

I was surprised when Bill turned over the envelope to me.  Four pieces of paper from 70 years ago, reminding me of the incredible sacrifice that my dad and all his fellow sailors aboard the USS Boston and ALL the other navy vessels made and endured in their island-by-island conquest. It was a combat journey that led them from Pearl Harbor to the Tokyo Harbor over the course of 1 year and 10 months, with lots of blood, sweat and tears in between.





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Nick Loren, FC3c


Nick Loren 4

Nick (born Nicholas DiLorenzo) enlisted in the Navy on March 3, 1943 in New York City. He is a USS Boston Plankowner, reporting aboard on Commissioning Day, June 30, 1943. Nick left the ship on November 6, 1945 (the same day as my father.)

After the war he married his high school sweetheart and moved from New York City to Long Island. He had a long and productive career as a millwright with the Pfizer Company, and then for many years with Grumman Aircraft. He is retired and living with his wife of 68 years in Farmingdale, Long Island, New York.

Submitted by his son: former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Rear Admiral Donald P. Loren, United States Navy (retired) –  a life member of Boston Shipmates.

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From our friendly Emerald Necklace Conservancy (Boston) docent, Lola Heiler-Stillman, comes this “heads-up” about her upcoming presentation about the Temple Bell at UMass Boston:

Hi Steve – sending you some info on my latest presentation on the bell to be held at UMass Boston Harbor Campus sometime in March.  It is a “brown bag presentation” for the Osher Life Long Learning Institute (OLLI). . . . .   Will also have an info table with books, etc. including yours and a newly published one “Monumental Beauty” by Ted Lollis.

From the Course listing:

How a Token of WWII Became a Symbol of World Peace   The story of Boston’s 340-year-old Japanese temple bell from the Manpuku-ji Temple is a tale of two cities—ancient Sendai and modern Boston; a journey from war to peace; from tragedy to hope. One of 500 sacred Buddhist bells discovered by occupation forces in 1945 at an imperial naval shipyard foundry near Tokyo, the bell escaped the fate of an estimated 75,000 temple bells melted down for armaments during the war. Brought to U.S. shores by the USS Boston in 1946, it was presented to the city of Boston in celebration of Navy Day. Seven years later, the Temple Believers of Manpuku-ji formally donated it to citizens of Boston in the name of friendship and world peace. As a bonsho bell, Boston’s bell has links to a historic and sacred tradition—the post-war tolling of Japanese bells for world peace that began with Hiroshima’s peace bell on August 6, 1947 and Nagasaki’s on August 9, 1947. It continued in 1954 with the installation of the United Nations peace bell, followed in 1982 by the founding of the World Peace Bell Association (WPBA) that has donated 22 replica UN Peace Bells to major cities all over the world. In an era of global uncertainty and instability, the story of the bell contains a hopeful message of world peace.


How a Token of WWII Became a Symbol of World Peace
Facilitator: Lola Heiler-Stillman
Location: UMass Boston


Thanks, Lola, for reaching out to me so I could pass this on to the readers of this blog.


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Tokyo Rose


“Tokyo Rose” is the name Allied troops and sailors applied to English speaking female broadcasters of anti-American “morale-buster” propaganda aimed at them during WWII.  The most famous (or infamous) Tokyo Rose was Iva Toguri D’Aquino, a native Los Angelino, who by fate was visiting her parents in Japan when the War broke out.  After the war, she was tried as a traitor and released from prison in 1956.  While her story is fascinating, it is something perhaps for a future blog.

The Philippines Campaign that started on September 1, 1944, was still “in operation” by mid-January, 1945. Halsey sent Task Groups 38.1 (the Boston’s group) and 38.2 into the South China Sea on January 9, 1945.  He believed the bulk of what was left of the Imperial Japanese Fleet was anchored somewhere in French Indo China  –  most likely in CamRahn Bay.  On the night of January 9, the combined task groups slipped through the precarious and turbulent Bashi Straits (between Formosa and Luzon). CA-69 was the first heavy ship in line as they sailed into The South China Sea.

Excerpted from Baked Beans, Vol.2:    We were going through a narrow channel (Bashi).  We were the first ship of the formation in and the last one out. We heard Tokyo Rose that night say, ‘USS Boston, we know where you are and you are never going to come back.’ She said, ‘turn around now and go back.’   Bob Knight

I remember her (Tokyo Rose) well.  She was very funny.  Once when we were eating breakfast, she was broadcasting and giving us the news.  All of a sudden, she says, ‘Oh, I have to tell you this. The fleet has lost one of its ships . . .’  All our ears perked up. ‘The Boston is gone.’  She was very entertaining!  She gave news, played music, and when we were out in formation, she’d say this ship is sunk or that ship is sunk – and of course we could look out and they were right next to us.  She was, of course, trying to demoralize us.   Julian Goldstein

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