Woodbury County

Radioman Bob LaPlante



Naval Radioman, Battle Veteran, Home on Leave After Sinking of His Ship in Pacific Encounter

Bob LaPlante Was in Big Engagements, Helped Take 3 Isles

By Boyd McDonald

It was about 4 p.m. June 30, Pacific time- a bright day with only a few clouds - and Radioman First Class Bob LaPlante, son of Mrs. T. D. LaPlante, 1423 W. Fourth Street, was taking a shower on the U.S.S. McCawley, flagship of an attacking fleet in the south Pacific near Rendova and New Georgia Islands.

There had already been two dive bomber attacks on the McCawley that day last June, and you could see dog-flights all day in the air, but American fighter planes had prevented the Jap planes from planting their bombs on the McCawley.

Then 25 Jap torpedo planes came. The first four failed to make a hit, but the fifth struck and damaged the battleship. A cargo boat towed the damaged ship while seven more attacking planes- dive bombers this time- tried to sink it. The death blow came when a Jap submarine turned loose three “fish”- and one of them hit its mark.

Ordered to Leave Ship

The order came to abandon ship. LaPlante, by this time thoroughly interrupted in taking his shower, grabbed for a piece of clothing and ran for the lifeline a nearby destroyer had thrown to the sinking McCawley, leaving all his money, clothing and possessions to go down with the ship—but managing to save two photographs of his “best girl.”

All survived except 15 men in the engine room.

“Everything went pretty good,” LaPlante remembers. “We kept the flag up.” He says it feels “pretty good” to be back, especially when he can see his girl from New York during his 30-day survivor’s leave, but “none of the old gang is around."

Had Other Thrills

The June 30th sinking is only a portion of the war thrills LaPlante can tell. He was aboard the same ship, McCawley, when it made the trip to Iceland on June 2, a trip which Hitler said would never be made because of the submarine menace. In April 1942, the McCawley was assigned to south Pacific duty. In that theater, LaPlante and the McCawley participated in the initial assault on Guadalcanal in August 1942, and in the attack on the Russell Islands.

Forty Jap torpedo planes attacked the flagship August 7 and a Jap shore battery on Guadalcanal opened up on the ship October 12. LaPlante made 13 trips to Guadalcanal, 12 of them under fire, and participated in several major battles.

Modest in Account

And now, home on leave, he tells about it all quietly and modesty, as he would tell about a basketball game at Central High, from which he was graduated in 1939. He wears the national defense bar, a star for duty outside of continental limits, the blue and gold striped naval expeditionary medal, the American campaign bar, a silver star for five battles and the figure “3” for the number of Islands he helped “take over.”

Radioman LaPlante enlisted in the reserves in 1938, was called in 1941 for training at an Indianapolis radio school.

When his leave is up, he is going to get back in the fracas via a new destroyer.

Source: The Sioux City Journal, September 3, 1943 (photo included)

Men And Women In Service

Robert E. LaPlante, radioman first class, has returned to his temporary station at San Francisco after spending a leave with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. T.D. LaPlante, 1423 W. Fourth Street.

Source: The Sioux City Journal, November 26, 1943