Sailorís family presented flag

By STACY LEE Daily News Staff Writer The story of how Army Vietnam veteran and diver Eric Baldwin located the late Navy hero Daniel Clyde Felicetty's family seems almost as incredible as the story of how the World War II submarine USS Tang sank itself. Baldwin traveled from his Denver home to Forward Township Tuesday afternoon to present Felicettys family with a replica of the Tangs battle flag. Baldwin acquired the flag from Tang survivors Clay Decker and Floyd Caverly in June 2002. Baldwin presented it to the Felicettys through the Colorado World War II Submarine Veterans, a branch of the United States Submarine Veterans Inc. Petty Officer 3rd Class Daniel Clyde Felicetty, of Clairton, was killed in action when the Tang sank on Oct. 25, 1944, in the Formosa Strait now the Taiwan Straitfour miles off the coast of China. The 19-year-old sailor was awarded the Purple Heart posthumously for his heroism. Daniel was a special boy, his sister Eleanor Berggren of Bedford said.  He took after my mother. He'd talk to anyone and everyone. Baldwin told the Felicetty family the story of the Tang and its commander Admiral Richard

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OKane, who took the helm early in 1943 after becoming famous through the exploits of his previous command, the USS Wahoo. The Tang was immediately successful, Baldwin said.  Its doctrine was that they chose to fight on the surface at night. A lot of submarines were cautious of being at the surface. They chose a submerged attack, which was slower during the day using a periscope, and not as accurate. A surface attack is three times faster. Baldwin said the Tang attained its noteriety on its second patrol when it rescued 22 aviators during an air raid at Truk Island in the Pacific Ocean. Baldwin said that, by the end of the Tangs third patrol in Hawaii, it led the Navy in tonnage, or ships sunk. Felicetty is believed to have joined the Tang at the end of its fourth patrol, before the boat headed to the Formosa Strait in September 1944 to join the battle to retake the Philippines. The strait was targeted by the U.S. because it was a favorite passage route for the Japanese navy. Baldwin described how the Tang sank itself. On the night of Oct. 24, 1944, the Tang running at the surface found a Japanese convoy of 15 ships, and sank seven of them. By the middle of the night, the Tang had two of its 24 torpedoes remaining. As it circled, it saw a transport ship dead in the water dead, and pulled within 900 yards to fire its last two torpedoes. See FAMILY , Page 4

 

Continued from Page 1 The first was hot, straight and normal. The second malfunctioned as it left the submarine and began a circular run, striking the Tang in the stern. The stern sank immediately to the bottom in 180 feet of water. The submarine was at about a 50 degree angle, with the bow protruding the surface. Three men were knocked from the bridge and another from a tower into the water. Of the 33 sailors who made it to the forward torpedo room, 16 attempted to exit through the escape trunk, a spherical bell hatch that goes straight to the top of the boat. Only five of them escaped drowning. In all, only nine of the 87-man crew survived. There had never been an escape from a submarine before, Baldwin said.  In theory it was supposed to work, but no one had ever tried. Daniel Felicetty died in his position of yeoman. The group of five made it to the surface at approximately 6 a.m. on Oct. 25, 1944, and were captured by the Japanese. They remained prisoners until the war ended. Though men have been rescued from a submarine, the sinking of the Tang is the only time men have escaped from a sunken submarine, and it will never happen again, Baldwin said.The United States lost 52 submarines during World War II. It was when the U.S. Navy received one of its greatest losses. The highest risk occupation in the Navy was being in a submarine. According to the Navy, the Tang sunk 31 ships, totaling 227,800 tons, and damaged two others accounting for an additional 4,100 tons in its five patrols, more than any submarine in Naval history. The Tang received two presidential citations. Baldwin served in the Army Tank Corp. from 1972 to 1975 before becoming a professional diver and scuba instructor. While he was instructing with the United Service Organizations in Guam, Baldwin was allowed access to several submarines. This was a unique experience for me as I traveled throughout the Pacific visiting many battlefields and diving on several lost submarines, both American and Japanese, he said.  I became very interested in submarines in particular. Baldwin became fascinated by the Tang in May 2000 after reading OKanes book Clear the Bridge. Baldwin tried to make contact with some of the Tang survivors and learned that Decker lived only a few blocks from Baldwins Denver home. He found Caverly in Springfield, Ore., just a few miles from his parents home in North Bend, Ore. The three became good friends. Decker has since passed away, leaving Caverly and William Leibold, of Palomar Mountain, Calif., as the Tangs only remaining survivors. Baldwin has just had a few correspondences with Leibold. While Baldwin was in Denver in October 2003 researching a possible documentary about the wreck site of the Tang, Betty Garber, of Jefferson Hills the aunt of Baldwins exwife Cindy overheard him talking about the Tang. She suddenly became exuberant, and in total disbelief explained

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to me that when she was married back in 1943 in Clairton, the best man was Daniel Clyde Felicetty, yeoman petty officer 3rd class,Baldwin said. I told him, Our best man was on the Tang, Betty Garber said.It was so ironic. Eric then told me about Danny and where he was during the sinking. Betty Garbers husband Melvin, Daniel Felicettys best friend, was captured by the German Army in Italy and freed in April 1945. In March, when Baldwin was visiting the USS Bowfin Museum Web site, he noticed that Daniel Felicettys Web page needed a picture and more information. Betty Garber put Baldwin in touch with James Felicetty, of Jefferson Hills. Baldwin also learned that another brother, Pfc. William Henry Felicetty, 22, of Clairton, was killed in action by a land mine in Guam just three months before Daniel Felicetty died. James Felicetty said he wasn't worried about joining the Navy in 1945, even after two of his brothers had died. I was ready to go, he said.  I went in when I was just 17 years old. All three brothers and Melvin Garber volunteered for the military. The story of the two Felicetty brothers ran in Time magazine on Oct. 31, 1946. Their sister Mary Truszkowski of Nashville, Tenn., said her mother Bella sensed the death of both of her sons before the family received notice. Just before we got word of Williams death, my mother collapsed, she said.  She had a heavy feeling something was wrong and she thought it might have been my sisters baby. It wasn't Eleanors baby. But seven days later, we got the message William had died. When Daniel died, she was rocking in her chair and all of a sudden she went stiff and said,Something has happened to my Danny.  I cried, Alice Cochenour, another of the soldierssisters, said.  I was more worried about my mom to lose both of them at once. The Felicetty family has a chest of letters, pictures and medals from both William and Daniel. Lynda Rhodes, of Medina, Ohio, said she always used to look at the items from her uncles when she was younger. We were very, very proud, she said.To read the letters was heartbreaking. Baldwin was diagnosed with fourth stage colon-rectal cancer in October 2004. The doctor said I had an 85 percent chance of dying, he said.  Fortunately through surgery, good medicine, prayer and a will to live, I'm in full remission. Baldwin is looking to dive and film a television documentary about the Tang, but is running into problems with China. The Chinese government wont respond to me, he said.  The state department isnt helping either. Baldwin also intends to present flags to the families of any other fallen Tang veterans he meets. Forward Township resident Carol Thornton, another of the Felicetty sisters, said it was a fantastic experience to be presented the flag by Baldwin, but wishes it could have happened when more of the family was alive. Just before Baldwins visit, Albert Felicetty of Jefferson Hills passed away in his sleep on April 20. He was so looking forward to this visit, said his daughter Mary Kozemchak. For more information on submarine sailors killed in action, visit .

 
 
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