BELLINGHAM – The story of bravery and sacrifice aboard the USS Samuel B. Roberts during the World War II Battle of Leyte Gulf and its ties to a Franklin family will be highlighted during a book signing at the Barnes and Noble bookstore at Stallbrook Market Place at 270 Hartford Avenue on Thursday, June 27.
Author John K. Wukovits will be at Barnes & Noble at 7 p.m. to speak about his latest book on World War II, “For Crew and Country: The Inspirational True Story of Bravery and Sacrifice Aboard the USS Samuel B. Roberts,” according to Mary Cliff, the store’s community relations manager.
Wukovits, a resident of Trenton, Michigan, tells the story of the Roberts through the experiences of its young crew members, almost half losing their lives in the battle and subsequent sinking of their ship.
The crew members are shown to be heroes who are just ordinary men performing extraordinary feats, according to Cliff.
The Roberts, a small destroyer escort headed up by Lt. Commander Robert Copeland, and a dozen similar-sized U.S. Navy vessels engaged in a running naval gun battle with an approaching Japanese battleship squadron, including the massive Yamoto, which turned away the Japanese assault on Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s vulnerable transport ships in the Gulf.
The Roberts was heavily damaged in the battle and sank, leaving its survivors clinging to rafts or swimming until rescue came 50 hours later.
As part of his research for the book, Wukovits found that one crew member, Charles Natter, had swum through shark infested waters to rescue six to eight crew members before being killed by sharks himself. Natter’s niece, a Franklin resident, provided Wukovits with letters from her uncle that assisted him in the writing of the book, according to Cliff.
Copies of the book are available for purchase at the Barnes & Noble, where Wukovits will also be signing copies during his visit on June 27.
The name of the lost World War II vessel was reassigned to a new vessel commissioned in 1986, the fast guided-missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts. The crew of the new Roberts, based out of Newport, also served heroically when their vessel struck a mine in the Persian Gulf during the conflict with Iran in June of 1988. The crew battled flooding and fire for five hours before stabilizing the damaged frigate. At least 10 of the crew members injured in the blast and resulting fires were transported for treatment off the ship. The Roberts was carried home aboard a lift ship and refloated so it could make its way to permanent repairs at the Bath Iron Works shipyard in Maine.