Wednesday, November 11, 2015

William J Schell

Cindy and Jim contributed to the war memorial constructed in Wadena, Iowa. They had dad's name placed on the wall there. 

William was born in Quincy, Illinois on September14, 1925 to parents Carl J Schell and Beatrice Markus Schell. He enlisted for service in the US Navy at Springfield, Illinois on August 28, 1943. He would not be 18 until September of that year; so he must have had to get parental permission to enlist. After spending some time at the Great Lakes Naval Training station, he went to fleet sound school at Key West, Florida where he received training to be a sonarman. He was assigned to the USS Eugene Elmore was was stationed at Boston in February, 1944. The Elmore was a destroyer escort and he would serve aboard that ship for almost his entire naval career. In December, 1945, he was released from the Elmore in  San Diego, California and reassigned to the USS Albert W Grant stationed in Seattle, Washington on March 15, 1946. His date of separation from the Navy was March 22, 1946. His total service was 2 years, 6 months, and 25 days.
     While in the Navy, he saw service in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters of war. The Atlantic service came first. It appears they were escorting ships across the Atlantic mostly to North Africa. One of the highlights of his entire service had to be  on May 29, 1944. They were located near the Azores off the northwest coast of Africa. A German U-boat attacked the American air craft carrier, USS Block Island and sank it. This turned out to be the only American carrier lost in the Atlantic. The USS Ahrens, another destroyer escort in the flotilla, rushed to help rescue survivors from the Block Island. She also got a fix on the U-boat and signaled the Elmore with the coordinates. The Elmore moved into position and located the U-boat. They  attacked and destroyed the sub. William was a part of the sonar crew on duty during this skirmish. I found in the log books for the ship that he and the rest of the crew received special commendation for their work in putting an end to the U-boat. 
  In November, 1944, the Elmore was reassigned to duty in the Pacific. In December, they were stationed in Dutch New Guinea, just north of Australia. They left for Lingayen Gulf in the Philippine Islands in December, 1944. After patrolling the area around Leyte and Luzon in the Philippines, they headed back to Dutch New Guinea at the end of February, 1945. In March, the Elmore left for the Philippines again, this time escorting the USS Montezuma Castle. The last ship log I have is for March 27-31, 1945 and the Elmore is anchored for repairs at San Pedro Bay, Leyte, Philippines. William is back in San Diego by December, 1945; so what occurred between March and December, 1945 is unknown to me at this point. In reading through the ship logs, they had several Japanese sub sightings and even had to contend with Japanese kamikazes in their vicinity. Their ship had no major encounters with either subs or kamikazes. It appears from the ship logs that they were primarily escorting other ships from  Dutch New Guinea to the Philippines and around the Philippine  islands of Luzon and Leyte. 

William “Bill” Schell married Patricia Happekotte on May 30, 1947 in Quincy, Illinois at St. Francis Catholic Church. 

When I was in San Francisco this October, I walked across the Golden Gate Bridge. On the north end is a place called Vista Point; people can pull into this area and see a great view of not only the bridge but also of San Francisco. This statue is at Vista Point. Many sailors left from San Francisco and what you see from Vista Point is what they would have seen as they headed out to sea. I don't have any evidence that dad was ever in San Francisco as his ship sailed from the Atlantic through the Panama Canal and headed straight for the Dutch East Indies (now called Indonesia). When he came back at the end of he war, they landed in San Diego. From there they went to Seattle where he was discharged. I don't know if they spent any time in San Francisco on their way to Seattle. But I thought this statue and its inscription was very appropriate to show on this Veterans Day, 2015.

Next: Tribute to James Schell, dad's oldest brother.

I have a blog on the maternal side of the family at


  1. Thanks to you and Cindy for all of the hours you put in searching for these pieces of history! Love reading about our family!

  2. Thanks for your support! Call it a labor of love.....and it's so much fun!