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
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
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,
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
"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
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
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
"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,"
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,"