Fahey, James, S1c

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Last Rank
Seaman 1st Class
Primary Unit
1942-1945, USS Montpelier (CL-57)
Service Years
1942 - 1945
Seaman 1st Class

 Last Photo   Personal Details 

Home State
New York
New York
Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by Carl Mottern (The White Buffalo), AW1 to remember Fahey, James, S1c.

If you knew or served with this Sailor and have additional information or photos to support this Page, please leave a message for the Page Administrator(s) HERE.
Contact Info
Home Town
New York
Last Address
Bedford, Massachesetts

Date of Passing
Sep 24, 1991
Location of Interment
Not Specified
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Not Specified

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WW II Honorable Discharge Pin

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US Navy Honorable Discharge Order of the Shellback

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Article on Mr James J. Fahey by Haley Curtin

James J. Fahey: The Profile of a Patriot

By Haley Curtin

Recently I participated in an essay contest sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars of Waltham. The requirements were you had to write an original essay explaining "Why I am a Patriot." The more I thought about the topic, the less clear it became. A question formed in my mind. The question was, what does it really mean to be a patriot?

James J. Fahey was born in 1918, in the Hell’s Kitchen section of New York. At a very young age, both of his parents died. James and his siblings left New York to live with their aunt and uncle. They were raised in the wonderful city of Waltham.

On October 3, 1942, during the heat of World War II, James enlisted in the Navy. A month and a half later, on November 23, he boarded the U.S.S. Montpelier. His rank was Seaman First Class. His duty was firing a 40 millimeter machine gun.

James was very busy aboard the Montpelier. The ship fought in nearly every Pacific battle. In fact, the Montpelier won thirteen battle stars, which was the most of any ship on the Pacific during World War II. At the end of the war, after America dropped the atomic bomb on Japan, the Montpelier was among the first ships to visit Hiroshima. James walked through Hiroshima, and the radiation poisoning led to health problems for James and then to his death.

While all of this took place, James kept a secret diary. He wrote down his schedules, his meals, his feelings, the ship's whereabouts, etc. He had to keep this secret because it was against the rules to keep a written record while aboard a naval vessel. He wrote his diary on anything he could get his hands on: loose paper, candy wrappers, he even used some of the admiral's stationary.

After returning home on December 24, 1945, James hid his diary in a tin box under his bed, in fear of it being discovered. He soon forgot about his diary and continued his life as it was before the war. James was forced to make a living by working outside, because of health problems caused by radiation exposure. So James decided to work in Waltham's sanitation department. He was a trash collector and later became a garbage truck driver.

In 1960, Admiral Samuel Elliot Morrison, an admiral on the Montpelier, was writing a memoir about his service during World War II, and he asked James for insight. James offered the Admiral his diary entries. The offer was accepted, and finally after fifteen years of being hid away, James's diary was acknowledged once again.

When Morrison saw James's diary he was astounded. He advised James to take his notes to Houghton Mifflin immediately. So James did. And not too long after that James Fahey was the proud author of the bestseller, *Pacific War Diary.*

James received many awards for his book. In November 1963, James received a resolution from the city of Waltham. In 1964, James was recognized as the national "Garbage Man of the Year". He was also given the opportunity to meet President John F. Kennedy and give him a copy of his book. You can view a picture of James with President Kennedy at The Waltham Museum. James also gave his book to Presidents Johnson, Nixon, and Ford, as well as Robert Kennedy.

Although he received many awards, what distinguishes James the most in my mind is what he did with his profits. He sent all his earnings to a priest, Fr. Michael, in India. Fr. Michael used the money to build a church. But, what was built in India was not a church. With all the money James sent, Fr. Michael was able to build a cathedral. The people of India, Fr. Michael included, were extremely grateful. Fr. Michael referred to James as "the man with the golden heart."

James was invited to attend the dedication of the Cathedral, which was to take place on July 23, 1967. James would have like to accept, but he had a small problem. He did not have enough money for the trip to India. Nearly every cent James ever made went to the cathedral in India. James, reluctantly, had to decline the invitation.

The News Tribune, Waltham's daily newspaper, had been following the story of the cathedral in India. When a reporter at the Tribune heard about James's dilemma, he decided to take action. The Tribune started a fund to pay for James and his wife Adel to attend the dedication. Many generous Waltham citizens contributed whatever they could to James's fund.

The fund was so successful that, not only did James and Adel get to attend, but James also invited Admiral Morrison to attend. After all, if it wasn't for Morrison, James would never have had the diary published, therefore no cathedral would have been built.

James, Adel, and Admiral Morrison were not the only ones who attended the dedication. Fr. Michael was there, as well as over one hundred thousand people! They welcomed James with a standing ovation.

In 1991, James J. Fahey died of radiation poisoning. He left behind his book and his memory. The memory of a true

Other Comments:

Profile Sponsors Note 10-18-2012:
            I did not know Mr Fahey.  I had never heard of him untill I listend to a Paul Harvey broadcast at the time of Mr Faheys death.  Harvey  described Mr Fahey secretly keeping a diary on board USS MONTPELIER during WW2.  That keeping  diaries during the war was illegal was unknown to me untill that point. That Seaman Fahey kept his secret log written mostly on toilet paper intrigued me.  Those chronicles stayed hidden for nearly 15 years untill such time as Admiral Samuel Elliot Morrison the Navys official historian, contacted Mr Fahey concerning research on USS MONTPELIER.   That was when Mr. Fahey revelead his long forgotten treasure trove of memories.  The work was published into the book, "PACIFIC WAR DIARY" in 1963.  Mr. Fahey was a humble sanitation truck driver and wanted no real publicity.  Even President Kennedy wanted to meet his fellow Pacific Navy man.  Mr. Fahey donated all proceeds to a church mission in India.  

            I was intrigued, and had to find a copy of the book.   Luckilly after a short search of several local book stores I found a used paperback copy in good condition.  What was contained inside was not the tactical battle reports of a famous Admiral, or the astute observations of a scholarly  historian.   But what came forth from these pages was the honest feelings of a deck plate Sailor.  It was  Mr Faheys observations of combat, hunger, fear, fatigue  loss of shipmates and pride in his service that struck me.  I've read reviews at various websights that found the book, "boring".  Maybe so.  But a more honest and earthy view of the war from the perspective of a WW2 "regular Swabbie" wont be found.

              So as Mr. Paul Harvey would have said..........."And now you know..............THE REST of the story" . 

                                                                                                   AW1  Carl Mottern  USNR, RET


By Alex Green
Guest blogger

"I do not have to remind anyone that this is a once-in-a-lifetime event for someone like me because I am not a writer, but a truck driver for the City of Waltham, Mass. I cannot believe it myself because it seems like a dream. It could only happen in this great, wonderful country of ours." --James J. Fahey, "The Pacific War Diary"

James J. Fahey could have spent most of his life in prison. Instead he was famous. Even President Kennedy asked to meet him. Generations before "embedded reporters" made a mockery of what it meant to write about the experiences of war, Fahey saved every scrap of paper he could find for three years as he and his fellow sailors fought their way toward Japan. From 1942 until the end of World War II in 1945, he meticulously recorded the daily life of an average seaman in a horrific war. It was illegal. He could have been court-martialed, and at the end of the war he had produced perhaps the most clear picture of the Pacific War known to this day.

Fahey, an orphan born in Hell's Kitchen in 1919, enlisted in his adopted hometown of Waltham in October, 1942. When he returned, severely afflicted by radiation poisoning after visiting Hiroshima, he hid his diary and became a sanitation truck driver. Over a decade later, Admiral Samuel Morison contacted him for information to help finish a book he was writing on the war. When Fahey produced his diary, Morison immediately contacted the Boston publisher Houghton Mifflin. The "Pacific War Diary" was printed in 1963 and Fahey became an international sensation.


Fahey took his earnings from the sale of his diary and donated them for the construction of Our Lady of Dolors Roman Catholic Church in the village of Mettupatti in southern India . He could not even purchase a plane ticket to see the finished product. The city of Waltham raised the funds for him and when he arrived for the dedication he was greeted by over 100,000 people.

Fahey died in 1991 and his wife Adele donated a number of their possessions, including his uniform, to the Waltham Museum where an exhibit honoring his life exists to this day. A stone memorial honoring him stands at the intersections of Moody, Maple, and High Streets. His book remains in print to this day, now published fittingly by Mariner Press, an imprint of his former publisher Houghton Mifflin.

Last week, President Obama called for an age of responsibility before a crowd of 2 million onlookers. Yet even Obama's singular moment in history seems to pale before the legacy of ordinary people like Fahey. His humility makes even the discussion of doing what is "good" and "right" nearly profane. It is simply what must be done, in bad times and in good, or there can be no hope for us as a nation.

Alex Green is the owner of Back Pages Books, an independent bookstore on Moody Street in Waltham

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