Gust J Swenning never had a chance to reach 100 years old today. Instead, he sacrificed his life for our freedom.
He was born on August 2, 1917 in Texas. His parents were both born in Sweden and came to America as children. His father worked as a farmer. Gust had four older brothers, an older sister and two younger sisters.
He enlisted in the US Navy in September 1938 and became a shipfitter second class on the cruiser USS New Orleans. He was at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked the US Pacific Fleet on December 7, 1941. He participated in the Battle of Coral Seas and the Battle of Midway. His service ended in the Battle of Tassafaronga off the coast of Guadalcanal.
On the night of November 30, 1942, the New Orleans, along with four other cruisers and six destroyers, was attacked by Japanese destroyers. The New Orleans was hit by a torpedo that exploded the forward gasoline tanks and magazines and severed the front 150 ft of its bow.
The captain gave the order to abandon ship, but his exec, further astern felt it could be saved. Men battled noxious fumes to secure the ship from flooding. Gust Swenning survived the torpedo hit and found himself badly injured at the site of magazine explosion. The watertight hatch to sickbay had to be closed to prevent flooding. He trying at least five times to dive into the dark waters and close the hatch. He finally succeeded though his lungs were poisoned by the noxious fumes and he died on December 1, 1942 of pulmonary edema. Swenning was posthumously award the Navy Cross.
|Photo provided by Randy Buckner.|
The ship was saved and after extensive repairs was able to serve through the rest of the war. A destroy escort USS Swenning was named after him and joined the navy one year later.
|USS Swenning named after Navy Cross hero Gust Swenning.|
His grave is at Fort Sam Houston Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas.
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To mark having over 100,000 visits to my project to honor the fallen of WW2 on their 100th birthdate, I created this video to share. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXt8QA481lY
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