explosion_at_seaThe instant the torpedo slammed broadside a man was seen propelled high over the broken  ship to crash into the Atlantic ocean, still on his mattress. 

The Nazi submarine was destroyed and Charlie was fished out of the water, alive.

I met Charlie and heard this account from several veterans in 2000 when I attended a reunion of two World War II (WWII) ship crews with my father. 

Dad was on the USS Reeves destroyer escort and worked to rescue the crewUSS_Reeves of the torpedoed USS Donnell

Over three days I heard many stories from the war including first person accounts of Nagasaki and Okinawa, including Kamikaze attacks.  Foremost on the mind of everyone I met were the 29 men who died on the Donnell in the Atlantic.

They were among the more than 400,000 American combat deaths in WWII.

Memorial Day is designated as a time for remembrance of all who die in war and has been broadened as a day of remembrance for all of the dead. 

– Observance of Memorial Day and open discussion of mortality will occur at Death Café Corvallis, May 25, 6:00-8:00pm, Interzone Coffee House, 15th & Monroe, Corvallis. We meet weekly. All are welcome to attend in person and/or join online.  Our guiding principles are Respect, Openness, and Confidentiality. For information send an email

War is a major killer; war has claimed the lives of about 420 million people in the history of the world.

The United States has fought in more than 70 wars resulting about 1,355,000 casualties.
The most deadly US conflict was the American Civil War (1861-1865) with 750,000 dead.

Second is WWII (1941-1945) with over 400,000 casualties. 

That figure stands alongside nations whose WWII dead count in the millions.

Japan        2,000,000
China        4,000,000
Germany    5,000,000
Russia        13,000,000

In all, from 60 to 80 million people were killed in the four years of that war.

That’s like 40 people killed per minute around the clock for four years.wwii_map

Seventy-one years ago 29 men were killed in split second as the torpedo explosion ripped through the USS Donnell.

Moments later untold Germans died in their imploded submarine.

Dad took a picture of the broken breaching sub.

He is 90 years old and remembers that day as if it were now.

I find it hard to conceptualize the scale of death that wars wreak, especially since it all comes down to each person with one life coming to a violent end.

As I write – as you read – people are dying in wars right now, this split second.

I mourn their fate just as I mourn in remembrance of those 29 men who died on a ship in a war before I was born.


Image Acknowledgments

Torpedo explosion from a German Submarine

USS Reeves