A Sailor From New York: William A. Cage

A sailor from New York?  Yes!  That’s William A. Cage, who served in the Navy from July of 1944 through June of 1946.  Bill was an 18 year old from New Rochelle, New York, when he enlisted in the Navy.  He trained at Naval Training Station Sampson on the shores of Seneca Lake near Geneva, upstate New York.  (Little known fact:  During World War II, more than 400,000 recruits were trained here.)

After basic training, Bill was assigned to the USS Ottawa (AKA101), an attack cargo auxiliary vessel.  Attack cargo ships were designed to carry military cargo and landing craft, and to use the latter to land weapons, supplies, and Marines on enemy shores during amphibious operations.

Ottawa steamed to the Pacific, where it took part in Operation Iceberg: the invasion of Okinawa.  Okinawa was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific Campaign, lasting 82 days, from early April until mid-June in 1945.  Bill, a bosun’s mate, 2nd class, served as a deck division supervisor.  He was a landing craft coxswain, responsible for ferrying 15-20 Marines at a time from ship to shore, often under fire.

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Bill remembers sailors and Marines who took part in this campaign living in a state of constant apprehension.  His most frightening moment occurred as he watched in horror as Ottawa’s sister ship – U.S.S. Prentiss – was hit in its superstructure by a kamikaze attack.

Bill advises that his best moment took place on August 16, 1945 – “VJ Day” – as Ottawa steamed towards Guam with a cargo of Army and Navy vehicles.  Following the Japanese surrender, Ottawa embarked elements of the 2nd Marines and their equipment and departed Saipan on September 18 for Nagasaki and the occupation of Japan.

Today, Bill makes his home at Harbor Place Community in Port St. Lucie, Florida.    He thoroughly enjoys the activity schedule at Harbor Place, particularly happy hour!  A proud Navy veteran and member of the Greatest Generation, Bill advises that two things in particular stand out about his time in the service:  1) the many miles traveled and 2) deep camaraderie with fellow sailors.  Bill is still in contact with a shipmate from the Ottawa.

 

USS Ottawa