U.S. Naval Service of:
Carl O. Pfannkuch
Battleship West Virginia, saga of history.
When Carl Pfannkuch CRM of the USCG LST 327, first joined the naval forces, in 1934, his first assignment was on board the USS West Virginia as an apprentice seaman. He served aboard her for three years. At that time, the ships’ morale officer published a newspaper bi-monthly for the crew. It was filled with information about the coming weeks events, shipboard changes, and just plain scuttlebutt.
It was always eagerly awaited, for this was the time of no television, and radios were not allowed during the ship underway. So, the news was important to all.
During that period of time, Chief Pfannkuch, then a AS, and a striking radioman, collected the papers for the years 1935 and 1936, and kept them throughout his entire future life time. After WW2, the chief who was on board the first Coast Guard manned LST 327, a veteran of 5 major invasions including Normandy. And after the 327 hit a mine, and blew away the crews quarters in the early hours of the morning (21 men were killed and 26 others seriously wounded), he decided to preserve these old papers left ashore , for posterity. The chief Radioman, spent 6 years in the navy, prior to WW2, and then when the war started he joined the coast guard
In 1997, the chief decided he would like to present these historic papers to the USS West Virginia, but found it had been scrapped in 1955. Unable to dispose of them where he felt they might be of great interest (although other ships memorials desired them) that it wasn’t until a recent LST convention in Washington DC, that chief Pfannkuch made a gratifying culmination to his search for a proper home for these valuable items.
As he was coming down from the top floor to the lobby of the Hyatt Hotel, our convention center, he noticed riding in the elevator, a gentleman with a name tag identifying him as, Garland Workman, who was from West Virginia. Carl related his story to Garland. To Carl’s surprise and serendipitous finding, Garland said he was a personal friend of the Governor of West Virginia, and would relate the facts regarding the USS West Virginia papers to him when he returned to WVA. The papers Carl had were now almost 65 years old, and related events of so long ago. Some of the news was in reference to future heroes of the upcoming war, but then unknown.
When the convention was over, Carl went back to his home in Florida, only to be amazed to hear the next day from the Governor of West Virginia, advising they would love to have these historic papers, and would find a good home for them.
The Chief immediately sent them all to the Governor of West Virginia with great happiness. He further was to receive from the Governor a hand written note, stating that the ship’s wheel and bell of the West Virginia, (all that was remaining of the battleship) was on display in the state museum and that the newspapers the chief had preserved, now in plastic, and bound into a journal by him, lie resting alongside the only two items left of the Wee Vee.
What an ending to a young apprentice seaman’s collection of almost 65 years ago. And what an unusual happening, that wouldn’t have occurred except for the convention.
On the right is the hand written note from the Governor of West Virginia acknowledging the receipt and disposition of the donated papers. They now reside beside the remaining artifacts of the USS West Virginia, the ship’s wheel, ship’s bell and now the papers of Chief Pfannkuch.
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