Saturday, March 31, 2012

Photograph of Hugh Siegel during WWII

Photographs of Hugh Siegel wearing Navy "Blues" dress uniform, taken 1942. One is taken at unknown location, one is his official Navy portrait.

Submarine Service Uniform Pins

His 2 uniform pins. The top one is called the Dolphins pin. It was the symbol of a man serving in the submarine service. Every enlisted man had this, it displayed his branch of the military. The Air Force equivalent would be the pilot wings.

The pin below is called the Combat Patrol Insignia. The CPI was awarded upon completion of the first successful combat patrol in enemy waters. A small star was affixed on the pin for each subsequent combat patrol. The USS DARTER had 4 combat patrols, and was lost on the 4th one. Thus he has a CPI pin with 3 stars on it.

The Combat Patrol Insignia was the equivalent of the US Army Combat Infantry badge. It was worn with pride and showed you "lived through Hell and came back"

The following is an official description of the Combat Patrol Insignia badge and what it represents.

"This insignia shall be awarded to the officers and men who complete (or have completed since December 7, 1941) one or more patrols during which the submarine sinks, or assists in sinking, at least one enemy vessel, or accomplishes a combat mission of comparable importance. Further successful patrols to a total of three will be indicated by gold stars mounted on the scroll thereon, the third star being indicative of four or more successful patrols.

The decision as to whether a patrol was a successful one within the meaning of the above paragraph shall be made by the submarine type or task force commander under whose command the submarine may be upon return from patrol immediately upon the receipt of the report of the patrol. He shall, in person, present the awards to both officers and men as soon as possible after the return of a submarine from a successful patrol. If it is impossible for him to make the awards in person, the next senior submarine commander present shall do so.

The insignia shall be worn by both officers and enlisted men in the horizontal position on the left breast and when worn with ribbons and medals shall be located just above the center of the ribbons or medals; except that qualified submarine officers, who wear the submarine insignia (dolphins) in that position, shall wear the submarine combat patrol insignia in the corresponding position just below the center of the ribbons or medals. Appropriate notation shall be made in the service record of each man who receives this award."

Hugh's World War II Medals

Honorable Discharge

US Navy Separation Record, dated 12-10-1945

HNS Separation Record 12-10-45

Typewritten Summary of Work Experience, Education and Military Service

I'm just embedding the PDF document because this is way too long to retype. His list of qualifications is 21 pages long!

Hugh N Siegel Work Experience and Education

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The 1940's and "Grandpa's War" (Rewritten 12-29-2012)


Hello. My name is Jeffrey, and I am the proud grandson of not just one, but two war heroes. This website is to be a vast collection of knowledge; a virtual museum dedicated to a man I never really knew, but no one who knew him could ever forget.

There are over 760 documents from his files, and I digitized or scanned all of all of them. Because we were fortunate to have a veteran who saved every scrap of paper from his military career; right down to his shore leave passes, ration tickets, shipboard dinner menus and other things most people would throw away.

Because my grandfather did this, it is no difficult task to reconstruct even the smallest details of his life.

It's probably no secret anymore, but I have wanted to join the military myself for 25 years. Ever since I used to walk around in velcro sneakers, play with wooden rifles in my neighbor's backyard, smear green paint all over my face and try to tell my parents stories about "When I was in the army" at a ridiculously young age.  Though I doubt anyone in their right mind would ever think of letting me enlist, it became sort of an obsession from day one.

It's the way I lived... I grew up in the shadow of two great men. I was raised by silent warriors. At least five or six generations of my family had soldiers, who fought in every major war since the Revolution. You could say it runs deep in my blood.

Both of my grandfathers served in World War II. One was drafted into the Army, and the other enlisted in the Navy. One was proud of everything he did for his country, the other hated it and never spoke about it once, even to his own son. It is only now, 15 years after they are both dead, that I have begun to take interest in finding out exactly what they did in the war to deserve their medals, and what they accomplished.

Personally I don’t think I will be ashamed of anything I find. Every piece of information I learn about them only makes me respect them more, and wish they had talked when they were alive.

Both of my grandfathers were heroes to me.  They were a part of the greatest generation, living at the peak of the 20th century. They were fighting a world-wide war against an unquestionable evil. A war that meant either victory or global destruction on a mind-numbing scale. They weren't fighting to enforce some policy or other, or for this or that patch of ground on a map, or for the advancement of people with a certain skin color. They really were fighting to protect freedom. Fighting to protect a proud and strong America that was worth saving. Or that was what they were told.

Back then, times in America were very different.  Most people who had money, with the exception of gangsters and mob bosses, came by their fortune honestly and donated generously to charities.  Big names like the Rockefellers, The Mayos, the DuPonts and the Kennedys, whose names are all over the place now.   They had survived the gaunt and troubled times of the Great Depression, so they had already learned to rely on themselves, proving the steadfastness of the American spirit.  Most working people were generally honest and humble, and cared about what their children and grandchildren would be doing. They thought about how their kids would to go to school and get their own jobs, rather than simply muse on how to spend their next paycheck on themselves.

These "Winner Take All and Forget the Rest", "Every Man For Himself" or "Do What You Need to Get Ahead and Screw Everybody Else" attitudes we seem to have today... didn't really exist in the Forties.

Everything was grown and manufactured here, by good, honest, hardworking people who were building a better country and a better future.  "Made in USA" was a sign of quality and pride.

The 1940s and 1950s were a different time... A very different time.

Coming out of the Great Depression, our nation was more prosperous than it had ever been. We were the strongest nation on earth, united under one flag, one God. (His name was mentioned in the Pledge of Allegiance before an atheist sued all the public schools to get it removed in the 1990s and won. There’s a generation of kids growing up now who never knew that God was once mentioned in the Pledge of Allegiance. Think about that)

The Second World War was costly to us. It cost roughly 4 trillion dollars in today’s money. But unlike now, we weren’t struggling on the brink of economic collapse, with millions of people unemployed. With no career, no benefits, no savings and no future...

We didn't languish idly about or rest on our laurels, no... we put the people to work. We made our country strong again, by ourselves.

We created organizations for labor such as the USO, the WACs, the Ladies’ Auxiliary and the CCC. We put all the jobless, the homeless and the housewives to work making weapons, and devoting every resource of our country to the war effort. Every thread of fabric was recycled, every beat up old tin can or twisted piece of metal was hammered flat to coat the skin of an aircraft; every old rubber tire lying on the roadside was melted down and molded into Jeep tires, gas masks or raincoats for the soldiers.

Americans were smarter during the 1940's.  We had some concept of planning for the future.  We recycled everything, and I mean everything. There was much less of this "throwaway society" and "planned obsolescence" of today. Products made by us were guaranteed to last a lifetime, and if something broke, we fixed it.  If you broke a lamp, you glued it back together. You didn't throw the lamp away and go out to the store to buy a new one. If your radio stopped working, you called a technician to get it repaired in your home, you didn't leave it on the curb.  Business owners made ten-, twenty- and even fifty-year business plans, not five-year business plans.

We donated money to the war effort via war bonds, rather than wait for it all to be taken from us in our Federal income taxes. We planted Victory Gardens to grow our own food, and save the canned food in the stores to send overseas and feed the troops.  Anything we didn't give to the troops, we figured might as well have gone to the enemy for all the good it would do.  Women even formed their hair into curly perms called "Victory Waves".

There was an overwhelmingly positive attitude that permeated every corner of American popular culture of this period. There was always a can-do attitude.  WE CAN. WE WILL. WE MUST!

WE CAN DO IT! says Rosie the Riveter, pulling up her sleeve to show her bulging arms. WE WILL WIN....says a defiant sailor, shaking his fist at the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

We had the tools, the resources and the manpower.  Nobody could defeat us, because we were strong.

Back then we didn’t destroy things, we built things. Things like the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge. Our men who couldn’t wear the green uniform built public works like bridges and canals, walls, hospitals, dams, power plants, railroads, schools and airports. And neighborhoods and housing developments like the ones we live in today.

Thanks to the War, we were pulled out of the suffering of the Great Depression. It also set the stage for the baby boomer generation of the Fifties, and the unprecedented economic growth that followed.

World War II was actually the best thing that could have happened to our country (at the time in which it did). Our country had never been stronger. We were the best financed, best dressed, best fed, best supplied and best paid military in the entire world. Other countries looked up to us for help and protection.

We were not always the warmongers, the saber-rattlers... the bloodthirsty nation we now are. We used to be the Sleeping Giant. The dormant nation, the peaceful nation. We lived on an island, half the world away from the War. The Germans had no business attacking us. And we had very little business attacking them.

We cared much more about a monster that was rising in the East. Rising up out of the ocean like Godzilla, to trample our freedom and threaten our shores, and control all of Asian and oceanic trade throughout the entire world. That monster was the empire of Japan.  Even then, we met the threat indirectly by sending our pilots over to China to fight them in the air, the Flying Tigers.  But that's another story altogether. We didn't want to bring the War home. We sent it "over there".

December 7, 1941 changed all that. They brought the war to us.

Pearl Harbor, tragedy though it was, was the kick in the pants America needed to leap into action.

 It made Americans angry. It spurred us to take up arms and unleash our full power. Quick, swift, absolute justice. Like the fateful lightning of the Terrible Swift Sword, our fleets were poised to strike the enemy with the anger of a nation.  Silent steel fish plied the depths, launching torpedoes at the enemy; attacking from below where radar couldn't see them and planes couldn't spot them. While above, our mighty battleships and destroyers were poised to rain thunder and destruction upon the deadly sea serpent. The monster that was coiling its tentacles around the world, to squeeze the life out of international commerce.

Undersea warfare was one thing the Germans did right in the last war. They gave us our greatest weapon to use against the Japanese sea monster. Submarines have never been so key, crucial or instrumental to any victory at sea, before or since.

World War II was our chance to shine. It gave us a sense of pride, purpose and strength that no nation could challenge.  It united us as a country. We were known as the sleeping giant that once awakened would come to the rescue and save the day. We'd crush the bad guys and save the world from destruction and Fascist tyranny.

Back then, Americans were popular. Everybody wanted to be one, because we had the highest standards of living on any continent. We were the "good guys," who fought for liberty, equality, peace and justice. We were the superheroes.

After the war, America turned its attention to building a future and reinventing itself. All the spending on defense was a diverted back to the economy, to building more schools and creating more jobs. The Federal Government stood down, and the power was returned to the people.

Life as we know it began in the Forties. People started moving from small farms and big cities into a new invention called the suburbs. More people owned cars, houses and luxury comforts than ever before in American history. New acts of Congress like the G.I. Bill helped returning veterans get jobs and go to school. And the financial basis they were given helped put their kids through school, securing a financial future for them and for their children and grandchildren.

I could go on for hours about how much I love the Forties. I think they were our nation’s proudest decade, the one we owe all our lives to. If our grandparents are still alive today, we should thank them for making our country what it is... or rather what it was before we destroyed it. They showed us something that we have now lost all understanding of: the American Dream. I think we could learn a lot from studying this decade. Which is why I want to eventually switch wars and become a WWII reenactor. So I can bring my grandparents to life.

I have always watched war movies, not for the blood or violence, but for the tactics and the technology, the science. I have been fascinated by how military strategy, equipment and uniforms have changed throughout the ages. I have also, for a reason I cannot explain, wanted to see it as they saw it; as if I was there.  This is partly why I became a reenactor… I think I must have been a soldier in a past life.

Warfare is an organic entity that is constantly evolving and changing. It is both beautiful and ugly, honorable and terrible, thrilling and terrifying, engaging and repulsive. It is really a terribly messy thing for humans to be involved in, but evidently it must also be fun or something, because men have been waging war for tens of thousands of years. We, meaning humans, show no sign of stopping anytime soon. During the Civil War, General Ulysses S. Grant said “War is Hell.” General Robert E. Lee around the same time said that “It is a good thing war is so terrible, lest we grow too fond of it.”

War is horrible. I have no illusions about it. But certain aspects of it are fascinating. Which is why I created this website.

Yes, World War Two may have been a long, grueling and bloody struggle on many fronts, just like every other conflict in our illustrious history. But for some reason, this one sticks in the American conscience. It reminds us that once we were a proud nation... of achievers, idealists, inventors and big thinkers. Dreamers, builders and innovators.

After 1941, nobody thought World War Two was a waste of men, or of money, or time, or resources. Nobody thought it was a bad idea to go to war. Nobody thought we should just "pull our troops out" of Europe and let the Germans or the Japanese win. Everybody was like "To hell with this. Let's go get 'em and hammer 'em with everything we got!"

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.

World War Two was nothing less than our nation's finest hour. And our grandparents were the real superheroes. And any tribute we can give them is not enough. We owe them our very government and way of life.

Please subscribe to my new blog. I'm calling it "Grandpa's Navy" and it will hereafter be a virtual museum and library of knowledge dedicated to the greatest man I ever knew.


"A Man Dies Only When He Is Forgotten"

Hugh N. Siegel


...I'm sure the biggest question in your mind is "HOW."

...How do you bring a dead man back to life? How do you honor a true American hero?

...How can any one person do this, you must be asking yourself?

...How can you bring someone back from the dead, a man who died when you were just a kid, who you barely knew or ever even spoke to?

...How do you pay tribute to a man who achieved, survived, built and designed things most of us can only read about in books?

...How can you ever really do his story justice?

I know such an auspicious endeavor can never truly be undertaken. No tribute I attempt to pay this man will ever really tell you who he was. Nothing I could write will do his incredible story justice. So instead, I will let his achievements, his awards and his impressions he left on us speak for themselves.

This is a collection of photographs. And digitized documents. And transcribed recordings, and forgotten names, faces and events. And most importantly, eyewitness accounts of the "good war" as can only be told by those who know it best... the ones who were there.

Hugh Nelson Siegel. Loving husband, devoted father of five children, wise grandfather of many more. Strong role model, friend and kind neighbor. Shipmate, war hero, veteran.  Artist, engineer, fine craftsman, builder, radioman, outdoorsman.  True patriot and model American citizen.

Welcome back, Hughie. It's been a long time. We missed you.

With utmost respect and honor,
your grandson:

Jeffrey D. Batt

April 2012