ARTICLE: In Honor Of Charles St. George, U.S. Navy

Reprinted from the Dunkirk Observer
September 19, 2010

Stationed – Ship USS Alaska (CB-1). Duties included typist clerk, fireman fire damage control

Awards – China Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic Pacific Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Navy Occupation Medal, Philippine Liberation Medal, Combat Service Commemorative Service Medal, Asiatic Pacific Victory Commemorative Medal, Overseas Service Commemorative Medal and U.S. Commemorative Medal

Married – Norma (Berry) St. George on Sept. 2, 1950

Children – Sally, Charles, Lou Ann and Judy
Eight grandchildren, four great-grandchildren.

U.S. Battleship (CB-1) the USS Alaska was part of our Navy’s plan to build a ship that was sleek as a cruiser, but had the power of a battleship.

Thus coming up with the classification of (CB) cruiser battleship and (1) being the first of her class. Although many believed this ship was named after Alaska, our state, it was built in 1944 and Alaska wasn’t a U.S. state.

In 1944 the Navy wanted this new class of ships to be named after our U.S. territories. This now led by the way to the names of the first three ships to come out of the CB class as first the USS Alaska followed by the USS Guam (CB-2) and the third as the USS Hawaii (CB-3). Originally, the class was to be a group of six ships but the last three hulls were converted to become our new class of aircraft carrier that was desperately needed at the time with the winds of war surrounding us.

After its shakedown cruise and extensive sea trials, the USS Alaska joined the Pacific Fleet to participate in the invasion of the Japanese islands. Sailing via the Panama Canal, making brief stops in San Diego, San Franciso and then on to Pearl Harbor finally tying up to the hull of the sunken naval battleship the USS Arizona.

It then proceeded to Ulithi, Fleet Anchorage in the Carolina islands. The Alaska joined task force 58.5 and with the aircraft carriers Saratoga and Enterprise, Alaska joined in task force 56.4 consisting of the following ships: the Intrepid; the Langley; the Yorktown; and the Independence. Also included were the battleships Missouri, Wisconsin and many cruisers and destroyers. This battleship that the USS Alaska participated in was credited for the Invasion of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. It also was credited with island bombardment of the islands of Minami, Daito and Okino Diato Jima, along with the liberation of the Philippines.

Her final World War II mission was to prepare for the final invasion of the main island of Japan. Her duties were to support units of the Sixth Marine division and army troops in the occupation of Japan. She received 3 bronze stars along with other citations listed above.

After serving her country well and answering to all our countries battles the U.S. Naval battleships life in our navy was at its end. It had to make way to our newest Naval power the aircraft carrier. As most battleships, the Alaska was retired to our mouthball fleet She almost was resurrected as a rebuilt missile cruiser in the early 1960s but didn’t make the final cut. After many battles the plan was to have it reassigned at a naval museum which failed. In June of 1960 it ended up being sold for scrap.

On April 2, 1943, Charlie St. George who was just 18 years of age and still a senior in high school received his draft notice of military service.

Knowing that if he left school he would never receive his diploma, so he then went to the draft board and asked for a deferment so he could finish high school. To his surprise he was granted this deferment. After graduation, he was employed at the Fredonia Salsina Canning Co. The owner of the canning company had gotten him another deferment because the company was filling orders for the country and its war effort. St. George was at the time a capper repairman. Finally, in October after the canning season was over he was drafted into the military reporting in front of the Fredonia Village Hall. A bus pulled up and loaded with young men headed for the Buffalo Post Office. While in line he was given the opportunity to join any branch the of the military. He immediately took the U.S. Navy. At the time he had two brothers in the army and one in the navy.

From Buffalo Charlie said “we immediately were bused to Sampson Naval Base which is located near Geneva,. There he spent six months of training, in the bitter cold of a New York winter.

In April he was transferred to the Philadelphia navy yard where he met up with his new home the USS Alaska. She was an amazing sight, a state of the art battleship. Waiting to go in harms way, before shipping off to war she still needed some shipfitting before being 100 percent ready for war.

While the final touches were being performed in Philadelphia he was allowed to stay in the bases barracks. In April. he started living in the new ship and was amazed to find out he would be earning $66 per month. This was due to the fact he was entitled to receive overseas pay. He was in heaven! On June 17, 1944, our ship was officially commissioned as a U.S. naval ship of war.

“After the war and my enlistment was completed I returned to my hometown of Fredonia,” he said. “I married my wife Norma (Berry) St. George on Sept. 2, 1950. I was employed for 32.8 years at Allegany Ludlum Steel which turned into ALTech. Later in my life I had the honor and privilege to serve the fine people of Fredonia as its elected mayor for eight years. I became so fascinated by the area and its homes that I started the St. George Realty in which I still am active today.”

To me it’s an honor to give the story of Charlie. Had I not had the opportunity to hear about his military life and have him tell me about life on the Alaska I would have missed a little part of the local military history and what area people actually had done to help us win that war. The story of Charlie is a fascinating one.

Here is one sailor who truly still has in his heart a space for this ship and its crew. When you pass Charles St. George, just say USS Alaska. Instantly you will see an old sailor with a big smile. Charles St. George is our local hero.

Original article can be found here