Today’s Honorary KisPer: A Submariner’s Story


Wendell Benson, USS Trutta
American Legion Post 46 Marshalltown, Iowa

On our second war patrol, we picked up a flier. We were 50 miles off the beach of Japan when the Okinawa typhoon happened. That was the typhoon where the cruiser Pittsburgh lost her bow to heavy seas.

Normally when a submarine is at periscope depth, it can be very rough topside, but you don’t feel any wave motion We were down 250 feet that night taking 20-degree rolls either side of center. The Pacific Ocean was turning itself upside down.

Our batteries were low, and the skipper said, “Let’s put all four mains on the battery charge… we’ll head into the wind, charge these batteries, and then get down and get out of this stuff.” The seas were still running 40 feet high. We had just surfaced and the lookouts were in place when they started screaming, “Lifeboat, 2 o’clock,” and I was introduced to my lifelong friend, Arthur Burry.

I was known as a good swimmer, and Morris, one of the radiomen, was a good swimmer. They tied monkey fists around us and tied those to the lifelines on either side of the boat, so they didn’t lose us. We jumped in the water, grabbed the life raft, and that was the end of it right there—the next thing I knew, I was on the deck in front of the conning tower. A big swell had come up and put all three of us in a lifeboat right down on the deck.

Arthur Burry had been in the water six days. He wouldn’t respond to anything we tried. We’d throw lines and he couldn’t grab them. All of the things that were necessary for rescue he could not do, and that’s why we had to go in and get him. We nursed him back to health.

Arthur Burry is a fellow Iowan. He was a 1942 graduate of Davenport Central High School, and after the war he became a California nut farmer.

Every Christmas, my wife gets a package of English walnuts from Arthur Burry’s farm with just one line written on it: “Thank You, Wendell.”

Reprinted courtesy of The American Legion Magazine, April 2010

The Ugly American The Ugly American
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