Wednesday, December 7, 2005
When 18-year-old Stan Sainsbury was sent to Honolulu as part of the 6th fleet in 1940, little did he know that the next December would change naval history forever.
Sainsbury served on the USS Idaho during his WWII days as a Boatswains Mate first class. The battleship was affectionately called the "Big Spud" and sported 16 inch guns.
While at Pearl Harbor in 1940 Sainsbury recalls the fleet did a lot of maneuvers and target practice. "The USS Arizona would often haul a target out in the Pacific Ocean and our battleship would target practice from up to 20 miles away with our 16" guns." recalled Sainsbury
Then in June of 1941 part of the 6th Fleet was called upon to go to the North Atlantic and escort British merchant ships. The Nazis were sinking them left and right. So Sainsbury, the USS Idaho and a number of other ships in the 6th Fleet went to protect them on their trips to England.
Then came Dec. 7, 1941 when the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor. More than 2,390 sailors, soldiers and civilians lost their lives that day. Of the 185 ships at Pearl Harbor that day, 21 were sunk or seriously damaged.
The part of the 6th Fleet that was in the North Atlantic was called back to Pearl Harbor Dec. 8, 1941. Sainsbury and the fleet would pass through the Panama Canal and arrive at Pearl Harbor in February 1942.
Many of the shipmates and ships he had been in manuevers with earlier that year no longer existed.
If it hadn't been for the fact they were called to the North Atlantic, the USS Idaho may have been destroyed at Pearl Harbor. "When we were anchored on Battleship row, we often tied up alongside the Arizona," remembers Sainsbury.
After Sainsbury returned to Pearl Harbor they were deployed all over the South Pacific until the war ended.
Sainsbury recalled that the USS Idaho had a total of 14 engagements while he was on board.
Before the end of the war Sainsbury noted that the one inch deep riflings on the barrels of the 16" guns wore out and had to be replaced. "The shells wouldn't spin out of the barrel like they were supposed to...they tumbled," chuckled Sainsbury.
Once his tour of duty was over Sainsbury returned to the Valley and was hired by the Toppenish Police Department in 1945, married Iris Stump and raised three boys.
He spent 12 years with the police force before going on to work as a State Regulatory Officer in 1957. After retirement in 1982 he made his home in Zillah. His wife Iris passed away in 1987 after years of suffering with Alzheimers.
Later that same year Sainsbury married Erma Graff and this past summer moved to Sunnyside.
On their honeymoon they traveled to a battleship reunion at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1987.
When asked what struck him about being back at Pearl Harbor after 42 years, the 83-year-old said, "I looked at all the young sailors and wondered...did I look that young?"