|Cherokee County WWII War Stories
Roy Willis PetersenQUIMBY
SAILOR FIGHTS STEAM, WATER TO LIVE - An East Coast Port...A lanky,
midwestern sailor who couldn't swim a stroke but who through sheer grit
fought live steam and sea water that rose 15 feet high in the
compartment of the ship in which he was trapped after an aerial attack
by enemy planes, arrived in the states in time to celebrate his
thirtieth Christmas and to forget the ghastly horrors of that death chamber.
He is Machinist Mate Second Class Roy Willis Petersen, son of Mr. & Mrs. W.E. Petersen, of Quimby, IA.
him arriving home for the holiday was Chief Machinist Mate Harold M.
Steeves, of Quimby, Mass., who has been awarded the Silver Star medal
for his quick thinking in bringing Petersen out of the steaming
cauldron when, as Petersen says, "I was just about on my last stretch."
Petersen wears the Purple Heart medal awarded him for his injuries and his tenacity in fighting the odds against him.
Quimby sailor enlisted in the Navy at Des Moines, IA on March 9, 1941.
He participated in the Battle of Casablance, North Africa, the
invasion of Sicily and did convoy duty to Marmask, Russia and South
In one aerial attack, Petersen was in the engine room
when the order came for full speed ahead. Just then a bomb hit.
This is his story from then on: "The explosion dazed me and
knocked me out, but not for long. I found my way to the ladder.
Stuff had fallen over the hatch and i had to fight my way
through. I managed to get my head above water to keep from
drowning. I got part of my body loose and then tore myself away
from the wreckage. Steam was blowing out of the pipes and I
couldn't quite make it. I let myself back under water as much as
possible. The scalding steam had burned me about the head, shoulders
and arms. I saw I couldn't quite make it and would have to stay
where I was until help came. I kept thinking the only way to do
it was to keep cool as I could and keep the steam from blowing toward
me. I kept splashing the water in my face to cool it off.
The water kept coming up fast. There was now about 15 feet
of water and only about 5 feet of leeway before it would be taps for
me, and I can't swim a stroke."
"After the steam quit blowing I
could see a little light and it gave me more hope of getting out.
I saw one of our officers come down and get another one of our
boys out. I thought he knew I was there, but apparently he could
not see me. No one came for sometime. I hollered. I
kept hollering. Finally I saw Chief Machinist Mate Harold
Steeves, wearing breathing apparatus, looking for me in a far corner.
I splashed water to draw his attention. He got hold of me
and helped me out of a spot not big enough to draw an eighth inch cable
through. How I ever got out of there is still a mystery to me.
I was just about on my last stretch when the chief came
Cherokee County Historical Society Newsletter, Vol 15, Num 1, Jan 1980,
Sec V, Pg 3. From the Cherokee Daily Times of Jan. 5, 1944.
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