by M.J.Nugent
letter found in the Rosa Cole Patterson Collection 2002.028.0001

Long Beach, Calif
July 22, 1941

Dear Rosie,

I thought I’d drop you a line or two. I never expected a letter from you. That was a big surprise for me thank you a lot and that piece about Betty’s britches might have been good stuff.

Yes, the ocean she make you drunk at times but it’s still nice as far as I’ve went. The ocean is all colors. The wake the ship leaves behind is where it’s pretty, real green looking. Then the way the sun hits it makes more colors – blue green white, all colors.

We’ve been out where the water was so rough it washed the deck for us. I worked a little on the deck but, I’m up a little bit closer to heaven. Up almost to the top, I’m a gun pointer on the machine gun. “Rat-a-tat”, that’s what will get the germans.

Speaking of beans well that’s nice food the Navy thinks so. So all you farmers raise them by the acers. If this war lasts for six years it’s going to take a lot of back firing to kill the germans. Well, I hope that you can go hop picking. We can’t talk too much Navy talk. So can’t tell you much but I’m feeling good. And I hope that you are the same.

So, write me again Rosie I’d sure appreciate it. Tell Evelyn hello with a big kiss from me.

Lowell Arthur Walling
U.S.S. Astoria
5th Division
c/o Postmaster, San Francisco, Calif

Lowell entered Navy service at age 27 on the January 24, 1941, completed two months of Navy basic training before his assignment to the U.S.S Astoria in San Pedro, CA on April 8, 1941. The ship was being refitted prior to its return to its home port, Pearl Harbor, HI. Lowell posted his letter to Rosa (Patterson) Cole on July 22, 1941, two days before the Astoria left California for Hawaii.

After four months of training maneuvers and convoy escort duty, the Astoria left Pearl Harbor on Dec 5, 1941 as a part of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Lexington task force. Their mission was to ferry aircraft to Midway Island. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7th, the Astoria and Lowell were some 700 miles west of Hawaii steaming toward Midway.

The Astoria returned to Pearl Harbor, then sortied several times to participate in Southwest Pacific cruises with the carrier U.S.S Yorktown. The Astoria participated in battles of the Coral Sea and Midway. Sadly, the ship was struck by enemy fire during the battle of Savo Island (Solomon Islands) on the night of Aug 8-9, 1942. The Astoria sank on the afternoon of Aug 9th. Much controversy surrounds this battle for the perceived mistakes by the crews of the three heavy cruisers involved in the northern area of the battle. The Astoria was one of these cruisers. These ships were out-gunned and out-maneuvered by the more experienced crews of the Japanese ships.

Lowell survived the battle but was badly injured. He was most likely evacuated from the ship before its sinking on the afternoon after the battle. He was eventually transferred to the attack transport U.S.S. President Johnson on Aug 9, 1942 for movement out of the battle zone. However, on Aug 11, 1942 he died onboard the President Johnson and was buried at sea by administrative order.

Lowell has a headstone at the Claggett Cemetery, Keizer, OR (by the request of his mother) and his name appears on the US Cemetery Monument, Fort William McKinley, Manila, Philippines.