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DE-69 / APD-48


 


    She was named for Edward Martin Blessman who was born in Mott, SD, 29 December 1907. He graduated from the Academy in 1931 and became a Naval Aviator in 1934. Lt. Blessman was killed in action in the Pacific 4 February 1942.

    She was launched on 19 June 1943 by Bethlehem Hingham Shipyard, Hingham, MA and was sponsored by Mrs. Helen Malloy Blessman, widow of Lt. Blessman. She was commissioned DE-69 on 19 September 1943. Commander J. A. Gillis took command.

    The Blessman was assigned convoy duty in the North Atlantic and made several Londonderry runs. She screened heavy bombardment units in attack on Normandy beaches and assisted mined transports Susan B. Anthony and Frances C. Harrington, transferring wounded to hospital ship.

    After conversion to an APD, the Blessman assisted in the destruction of two Kamikazes at Limgayen Gulf and operated underwater demolition teams there and at Iwo Jima. She was hit by an aerial bomb at Iwo Jima and suffered heavy casualties.

    Perhaps the story of the Blessman at Normandy is best told in a newspaper story written about a member of her crew, Charles "T" Thifault now living in Ormond Beach, FL. The text of the story goes like this:

    June 6, 1944 will never be forgotten by Charles "T" Thifault.

    He remembers the invasion of Normandy, as his ship, the USS Blessman DE69, escorted about 5,000 ships carrying troops through choppy waters to the Normandy shores. The Navy ships had their mighty guns firing around the clock. There was no time to sleep. Thifault's battle station was on a 50mm gun. Fitted with big asbestos gloves, it was his responsibility to catch the shells with each firing. No one could count how many shells were shot that day.

    Mines planted in the water by the Germans were like lily pads. The sharpshooters on the ship were exploding the mines as though they were target practice.

    At 0900 hours a distress signal was received from one of the troop ships that hit a mine and was sinking fast. Thifault and his fellow troops came alongside the ship and took off the last 37 crew members and six officers. While breaking loose, the USS Blessman's steel cables got entangled with the distressed ship.

    Suddenly, the big troop ship was pulling the Blessman down. In the midst of the confusion, a shipmate operating with a cool head ran to the emergency locker for an ax and chopped away the cables, releasing the crew of the Blessman from joining the fate of the sinking ship.

    Thanks to Randy Burdette's quick wit, the Blessman went on to rescue other ships that day. He certainly was a "hero" in every respect. The name of the sinking ship was the Susan B. Anthony, for whom a coin dollar was named.

    About an hour later, another distress call was received, this time from a freighter, the S.S. Harrington, that had hit a mine and also was sinking fast. Thifault and his compatriots rescued all the crew members and officers.

    The Blessman went to the Pacific to help defeat the Japanese, and on Feb. 19, 1945, it was hit with a 500-pound bomb and sprayed with gunfire by enemy aircraft. Twenty crewmen and 21 UTD's (underwater demolition men) were killed and many were injured. The navy Bureau wanted to "scuttle" this fighting ship, but the crew and officers had their own ideas.

    When the Navy Bureau saw that the Blessman crew was serious about repairing the ship, it gave the crew the go-ahead.

    When the ship was completely repaired at Mare Island, CA, the USS Blessman was put back to sea. This ship was well known in WWII as a ship the Japanese could not sink.

         

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