R.C. Cannon

WWII

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WWII and R.C. Cannon

 
 

 

USS Navy V-2 Division    Amm3C Seaman 2nd Class 

Plane Captain Of  F6F Hellcat Planes

#12 "Flyable Dud" #13 and "Lucky 13" & #15

 
Crew members stories and more


R.C. War Diary

He Tangled With A Prop And Won

My Father, Riley Cecil Cannon, also known as R.C. was only 17 years old when he joined the U.S. Navy in 1943. He was stationed onboard the U.S.S. Lexington CV-16 aircraft carrier during WWII in the Pacific Ocean. He was a plane captain, which meant he was a mechanic on the airplanes. A friend onboard Alvin Fick asked a few of the crewmen to write a diary so that he could write a book on the Lexington after the war.  Despite the reasons not to write a diary,  R.C. did keep one.Oct 16 - 18, 1944 

While preparing for take off, one wheel of the plane  moved and the other wheel was still chocked. R.C. was standing under the right wing when the plane spun around and the propeller hit him in the right shoulder, cutting clear to his breast, his elbow was hit  and the right hand was severed  across the mid-section.  The hand hung only from a small edge section.  He staggered up, and was hit again  in the right side of his head, cutting through his skull, and brain, creating a very large hole, larger than the size of his fist.A man standing near the accident saw that he was going to stand up again and risked his own life to go in and hold him down and drag him out. R.C. never knew who it was that pulled him out of harms way.  When his friends inquired if he was going to live, they were told that he was a dead man. When my father heard that, he mumbled, "You son of a bitch, I’m not dead yet !"

He was taken below deck in a bomb elevator and waited about 10 days for transport to a medical ship. R.C.'s 15 year old sister Betty Lou Cannon was at home in Bakersfield, California and somehow knew that something bad had happened to her brother.  It was weeks before the family was notified of the seriousness of his injuries. His friends tried to feed him but he was too sick and couldn't even eat the ice cream they brought.  His friend Melvin Coil took possession of R.C.'s diary so it wouldn't be found. 

He was on the medical ship for approximately 10 days in route to a Military Hospital in Hawaii.The Doctor’s at the hospital really were not prepared to take care of such critical injuries and believed that he was going to die.  Doctor (Dr. Brown) decided to try to save him by removing a muscle from his thigh and put it into the hole in his head to protect the open skull and brain. He was paralyzed on his left side because he lost part of the brain on the right side. After about two years and numerous surgeries, in which they put a metal plate over the skull, and also one in his hand to hold it together, he regained use of his left side. He was able to walk and talk normally again after about 2 years. His hand only recovered partial use.He was later medically discharged and listed as 100% disabled. He became a journeyman carpenter and has since retired. He loves car racing and builds racing engines in his garage. He is a self-taught machinist, and welder and can build anything he wants. My Grandfather,  John Cecil,  and R.C.'s  brother Raymond was a genius and self taught scientist and inventor.  My Dad won’t admit it, but he and all of his family were genius in some way. 

My Dad has taught me, mechanics, carpentry, honesty and compassion.Approximately 1984 I contacted R.C.'s friend Melvin Coil and found that he still had R.C.'s diary in his possession.  He mailed it to me and I wrapped it up and gave it to him on Christmas.  When he opened it he was confused at first, but when he touched the cover of the small book, recognition spread acrossed his face.  He knew he had the diary back!The crew of the USS Lexington had a 3-day, 41st-year reunion in Reno, Nevada in about 1985.

He attended and was hopeful that he might see his special friend, who he only remembered by the name of Ski. The reunion was over and he never found his friend. He was sitting in the lobby sharing a picture that he had of a Kamikaze plane exploding in a ball of flames on board a ship during the war.A man leaned over his shoulder and pointed to the picture. My father recognized his friends voice and looked up, and said Ski? Ski responded, "R.C.?" My dad said, "Yes, it’s me." Ski said, "Oh my God! Ski's eyes were tearful and his voice  cracked when he tried to speak. He kept turning away and coming back. He turned to his wife and said this is R.C. His wife knew exactly what he meant. He eventually regained his composure so he could speak. He finally said. "You don’t understand R.C. I was standing only a few feet away when you got hit. Your flesh and brains hit me in the face. You were going to stand up again and I had to stop you. I’ve told this story to my family and friends many times over the years, but I thought you died!"  Ski's real name is Stanley Kaczmarezy believing that his friend had died, Ski learned 41 years later that his actions had actually saved his friends life. I'm sure he went home and enjoyed telling the rest of the story!

 Men of the Blue Ghost USS Lexington CV-16 1943-1946Action Starboard-Action Port, USS Lexington CV-16 Sept.  18, 1942 - Mar. 20, 1945By Robert Owen Whitman, CRDMOctober 18, 1944    This afternoon a plane captain was hit by a whirling prop.  The blade first severed his right arm just below the elbow.  Stunned, the man fell to the deck in a dazed condition only to raise himself to be hit a second time.  The second blow tore a large section of his skull off, tearing clean through the right shoulder down to his breast.  He was immediately rushed to surgery where he was worked on for eight hours.  He will pull through okay, but it will take time.In November of 2000, R.C. showed a story written by Alvin Fick to me. 

He said that Al was the one who had wanted to write the story of the Lexington.  RC was thrilled to see that his friend was not only alive and well, but actually was a writer after all.. He said, you see he really was a writer!  Just like I said!  He said Al was so intelligent and yet so young that he always wondered where he got his education.  He said that Al and Aram  were the only 1st class officers that would show them how to do anything.  He said no one knew how to do anything!  He always admired Al and Aram Attarian for showing them what to do and of course, what not to do.I

I contacted Al Fick by e-mail on the internet and asked if he was still interested in R .C.'s diary.  This is his response:Your letter via e-mail was more than a surprise. It astonished me to hear about R.C. after all these years. Although I did not witness the accident when R.C. was injured so badly, all of us in the V-2 Division (air department) knew about it, and most of us talked to Ski about what happened. A flood of exhilaration swept over me to learn that not only had R.C. survived that calamity, but had gone on to a full and fruitful life. In spite of urgings over the years by my son, I never wrote the book. I did, however go on to a career as a writer and a magazine editor. The only pieces I have written about my Navy experiences are "Gone to Glory" which was reprinted in Sunrise Press, and "The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot." The first was originally scheduled for publication and paid for by U.S. Naval Institute for use in their magazine,   Proceedings. The second appeared in Aviation Quarterly. It contains many pictures taken aboard the Lexington. I will be happy to send you photocopies of both if you will let me know your address. You ask if I am interested in your father's diary. Yes, yes, more than I can say. If it is convenient, you could send me a photocopy. Barring that, I would be very careful of the original if that is the only alternative, and would return it promptly.I have been back aboard the ship four times, the last being for the decommissioning at Pensacola, Florida. As you can imagine, these were emotional experiences.It was kind of you to write. I'm grateful. If he is still with us, my warmest greetings to R.C. Al mentioned later that he never had any regrets about not writing the book, until the day the diary arrived!  Maybe someday he will write the book!

After my contact with Al Fick, he introduced me via internet to many other Veterans that served on the Lexington.  They started sending me their stories, and I found them truly amazing, and I asked if they had a way of putting them on the internet.  They couldn't find anyone that had the time to create and maintain a web site.  They had all tried various ways, through the Lexington Museum etc.  After they had no luck for a few months, I decided I should learn to build a web site so these stories could be shared.  I built a very primitive web site and started from there.  I announced the web site to the Veterans and told them that this is their web site, and for them to tell me what they would like to have on their web site.  It went from there and grew, and grew.  It is with passion that I  serve these Veterans, who served our country and who gave their all to save our freedom.  I am honored that they would allow me to serve them, and trust me with honorable memories.           

My Dad is an extraordinary man,  my Hero and my Friend.  He is intelligent, honest, courageous and stubborn! What can I say? He is a True Cannon, and I take after him, but only the stubborn part! Pat Cannon Vido 6/2000