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"So they left me on the ladder, and I crawled up three decks, pullin' myself up. When I got on the top deck, the ship was...burning from one end to the other." (Audio interview, 29:42)

   William Edmund Lentsch
Collection image
William Lentsch in uniform [1944]
War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: Marine Corps
Unit: 1st Marine Division; USS Vincennes (CA 44)
Service Location: Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) Parris Island, South Carolina; South Pacific
Rank: Private First Class
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After joining the Marine Corps to escape a troubled home life, William Lentsch was assigned to the 1st Marine Division, serving aboard the USS Vincennes. As a “hot-shell man,” Lentsch caught the casings that came out of 5-inch guns, and threw them overboard. But during the Battle of Savo Island, his duty station was hit by enemy torpedoes, and the Vincennes began to sink. Despite a badly broken leg, he managed to climb a ladder to the top deck and abandon ship. He was picked up by a life raft, and eventually made it to a hospital ship, before returning to the United States, where he spent months recuperating. After returning to civilian life, Lentsch went to work in a factory and shared his story to promote the sale of war bonds.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (5 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: video (74 min.)
»Photo Album  (22 photos)
»Transcript of interview with William Lentsch, with photos from his life
[PDF: 3 MB / 39 p.]
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 Video (Interview Excerpts) (5 items)
Attempting to join the Navy; no knowledge of world events; working and having little to eat during the Depression; rejected by the Navy and sent next door to the Marines (05:33) Assigned to the USS Vincennes; duties as a hot shell-man; watching the Doolittle Raiders take off from the USS Hornet. (07:17) Arriving at Guadalcanal; duty station hit by 16-inch shells; abandoning ship; praying for rain. (06:24)
Broken leg; treated by his childhood doctor; returning to the United States; discharge. (09:31) Getting a job at a General Electric factory; giving war bonds talks; honored at Carnegie Hall. (04:17) 

Home » William Edmund Lentsch
  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
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