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Evan Fenn: Sole Survivor dies at age 84
Aug. 5, 1923 - June 14, 2008


Evan Fenn shows where he was on the Monaghan on Dec. 18, 1944.

Evan Fenn of St. David is the last surviving sailor who was aboard the U.S.S. Monaghan in World War II that succumbed in the eye of a deadly typhoon in the Pacific Ocean on Dec. 18, 1944.

(Chris Dabovich/photo.)

Evan Fenn: Sole Survivor
CHRIS DABOVICH - News-Sun

St. David resident Evan Fenn will be featured on a national news broadcast next month for something that happened 60 years ago. That he's around to talk about it could be considered miraculous.

Fenn, 81, a 19-year-old sailor aboard the U.S.S. Monaghan in World War II, fell victim, not to enemy fire or forces, but to an act of nature that capsized three ships, killing nearly 800 sailors and left Fenn and a dozen others stranded at sea, clinging to a life raft.

Fenn was born in Bisbee, Aug. 5, 1923, but was raised in Pomerene. He moved to Morenci in 1940 and then to Lehi, Utah in 1943. He was discharged in May1945.

He was working at a steel mill when he received his draft orders. Fenn was officially sworn in to the U.S. Navy on May 2, 1943.

Destroyer ships the Monaghan, U.S.S. Spence and U.S.S. Hull were escorting tankers bound for Ulithi during Gen. MacArthur's invasion of the Philippines, when the members of the 3rd Fleet were overcome by what became known as Typhoon Cobra on Dec. 18, 1944.

Fox News will feature a segment on Fenn as part of its ongoing "War Stories" series, said Fenn, adding the show is scheduled to air Sunday, Feb. 27.

Fenn does not seem at all impressed by all the accolades.

As Fenn tells it, he'd just come off a four-day watch when the ship "started rolling hard, then all the lights went out. It was really rough. I went out and got my life jacket and just as I'd gotten it tied, we were hit.

"The ship went down about noon and I never did see it sink," said Fenn. "I got tangled up in the antenna wires, but if I'd hadn't had that jacket..."

What followed was an ordeal that Fenn and his fellow sailors could never forget. He acknowledges that for many years it was not something he cared to discuss, or recall for that matter.

At 19, Fenn found himself facing astronomical odds for survival.

Fenn was a fire man first class, monitoring pressure levels on the steam boilers.

He and 12 others, all but six would perish, were stuck in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, with little food and water, facing danger from enemy forces, the elements and predators from the deep.

Along with Fenn, William Kramer, Doyle Carpenter, James Story, Joseph McCrane and Charles Darden, survived. More than 200 men and officers aboard the Monaghan died.

Thirteen sailors held on for the first 10 hours from outside the raft. The power and fury of the typhoon had made the seas too rough.

"We were hit on the fantail. The waves were like mountains of water. It hit us and put us out into the water," said Fenn.

The ship sank in part because it was extremely low on fuel, said Fenn, which made it all the easier for the storm to batter the Monaghan down to its side.

Fenn said there was not much discussion among the sailors throughout the ordeal.

"You didn't do much talking, that's for sure," said Fenn, in a mild-mannered yet firm demeanor. "You just went with it and did what you could to survive."

Fenn said they could feel the sharks brushing up against their legs, which would bring on understandable tension.

"Their skin was kind of rough and it hurt when they rubbed against you," said Fenn.

The men survived by eating crackers, spam and dried milk tablets. "The sharks would sure come around and get pretty excited anytime we opened up a can of Spam. They just seemed to come from out of nowhere," said Fenn.

Five sailors lost their lives on the raft. The first to die, Fenn said, was Joe Guio, who had made it possible for the men to access the life raft. But in doing so, Guio severed his foot.

"He'd cut himself while he cut the raft loose ... he bled to death. The next morning, at daylight, there were about seven big sharks circling around us. We never knew how they'd react to us, but they never did bother us and they were with us the whole time.

On the third day, we were going to eat one of those sharks and had put a gash into one. Luckily it just swam away," said Fenn.

The survivors were rescued on the fourth day on Dec. 21, 1944, by the U.S.S. Brown.

"We ate warm soup, drank lots of water and had a shot of bourbon, said Fenn. They were taken to the U.S.S. Solace, a hospital ship in Ulithi. Fenn was there for a month.

Fenn's hopes never waivered throughout the ordeal and said he told the others on the fourth day that they would be saved.

Information on Fenn's story and the plight of the sailors who found themselves in the eye of the typhoon can be accessed on the Internet at www.patriotwatch.com, which calls Fenn an American hero.

Fenn and his wife, Martha, have been married 40 years and have three children.

"It was just something that happened," said Fenn.

Copyright 2005Benson News Sun.
LINK: http://www.bensonnews-sun.com/news/

 


 

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