Last Known Activity|
SN2c Elwood Oscar Bickert
USN Service # 2440446
KIA - Lost At Sea - WWII
Elwood was born in 1917 to Mr. and Mrs. Edward Bickert who lived at 222 Brandywine Avenue in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. His father, Edward worked at the paper mill in Downingtown. Elwood was the youngest of ten children: five brothers and five sisters. Five of the children died in their youth.
Elwood was educated locally, and enlisted in the Navy in December 1941, after the attack on Pearl Harbor. After basic training, he was assigned to serve on the new USS Juneau CL-52. The Juneau was a new design, often referred to as Anti-Aircraft Cruisers, in that their heaviest armament was the new rapid firing 5-inch gun – 16 on the Juneau. The ship was launched in October and Commissioned on February 14th. Following shake down and training cruises the Juneau patrolled off Martinique and Guadeloupe Islands blockading the Vichy French Naval Units.
Elwood’s ship then served as patrol and escort duties, until she was ordered to the Pacific through the Panama Canal in August 1942. Elwood’s ship joined Task Force 61, which included the aircraft carriers Wasp CV-7, and Hornet CV-8. which were ferrying fighters to Guadalcanal. Guadalcanal and its Henderson Airfield were crucial to the protection of Australia. The Japanese were constructing an airfield when the Marines landed on August 7th. They planned to use the airstrip to further isolate Australia from the North West.
The carrier Wasp was struck by three torpedoes from the Japanese submarine I-19 on September 15th. She became a floating wreck and had to be sunk. The Juneau and escorting destroyers rescued 1,900 survivors. After returning the survivors, Elwood’s ship continued to operate with TF 61 to protect and reinforce Guadalcanal. The Juneau participated in the battle of Santa Cruz Islands October 26-27, preventing a Japanese task force from reinforcing Guadalcanal. During this battle, two enemy carriers were extensively damaged. However, despite the effective anti-aircraft fire of the ships screening, shooting down 20 of 27 enemy aircraft, the carrier USS Hornet CV-8 was badly damaged and sunk the following day. The Juneau then joined the remaining carrier in the south pacific – USS Enterprise CV-6. She added her effective anti aircraft fire to save the Enterprise, shooting down 18 attacking aircraft.
The Juneau returned to Noumea, New Caledonia for replenishment and repairs. In November 12-15, Elwood’s ship participated in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal as part of task force 67. The Japanese sent a large task force as an all out effort by the “Tokyo Express” to reinforce their forces on the island, and to destroy our naval forces in the area. The enemy task force numbered 18 ships, including two battleships, far exceeding the power of the Juneau’s cruiser destroyer task. The American task force patrolled “Iron Bottom Sound” off Guadalcanal, and successfully fought off attacking enemy planes, the Juneau splashed six. Next came the onslaught of the heavy Japanese task force. During this ferocious battle the American forces fought the enemy to a standstill, and both forces retired to lick their wounds. During the melee the Juneau was hit by a torpedo on the port side which caused a severe list, and she was down by the bow 12 feet. The ship retired on with only one propeller operation, at 13 knots. At 11 a.m. on November 14th, the Japanese submarine I-26 fired 3 torpedoes at Elwood’s ship. She successfully avoided two, the third one hit close to where the previous torpedo hit. The ship broke in two and quickly sunk. Of a crew of 820 men, only approximately 115 survived, Elwood went down with the ship. This is the same ship on which the 5 Sullivan brothers perished.
His father received the dreaded telegram in February, notifying him that Elwood was Missing In Action, and probably lost in action the previous November. His father received earlier notice from his son Raymond who was also serving in the south pacific with Elwood. His letter was dated November 27th:
Dear Father, I received your letter today telling me Elwood’s ship is out here. I saw Elwood about a month ago. He was in good health and very well pleased about the Navy. I sure was glad to see him. He was over on my ship all that day; we had a good time talking about old times. He was the first one of the family I have seen for five years. What I am about to tell you won’t be easy to take. Elwood and I were both in the last battle of the Solomon Islands. It was the fourth battle I have been in out here, so far we have always been fairly lucky getting out with minor damages. It was the first time Elwood’s ship was in the Solomon battles. We were coming out at night and ran into enemy forces much superior to ours. My ship got out but the Juneau was sunk. I will not say Elwood was lost. There were about 70 men saved from her. He may be one of the lucky ones, I sure hope so. I have done my best to find out but it is hard to find out anything like that in wartime.
In addition to Raymond, a third brother also served during the War.