USS SLC...Enlisted Navy...Robert John McElwain, GM1c
Robert J. McElwain passed away on Feb. 19th, 1969 in Houston, TX. at the young age of 49
Robert served aboard USS Salt Lake City CA25 from 1939 to 1944
March 10th, 2007
(Submitted by oldest daughter Janet McElwain Veit)
Daddy joined the navy at the age of 19 on August 12, 1938. He served aboard the SLC from 1939 to 1944. We are not exactly sure when he left the ship, but believe it to be between May and October of 1944.
He was extremely proud of his service on “the Swayback Maru”. He loved his ship. He captured our attention on numerous evenings, at the dinner table, with stories of his pre-war adventures. He recounted stories of visiting foreign ports, dancing at the Royal Hawaiian, being on the ship’s wrestling team, and running one of the ship’s stores, where he made and sold Mac’s Tutti Fruiti from fruit juices he acquired while in port. He was an entrepreneur even then. Later, he was to run several business ventures of his own after working as a sales representative with NCR for over 15 years. Those who knew him often commented that “he could sell cow manure to a farmer”. He was quite a salesman and ‘never’ met a stranger. He was also one of the most patriotic people I have ever known. That may be why all four of his children, three daughters and a son, feel exactly the same way. His family (wife, children & grandchildren) will be attending a Memorial Plaque Dedication Ceremony for him on March 12, 2007 at the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas.
Daddy also shared a more serious side when he talked about the horrors of war. He did not glamorize the stories of seeing men get killed or being on an anti-aircraft gun when a Japanese plane was headed for the ship. He wanted us to understand the pain of war and the toll it takes. He shared how it felt to have your ship dead in the water in the middle of the Battle of the Komandorski Islands and that, if you abandon ship, you will freeze to death. He talked about sleeping up on deck some evenings because his bunk was at the torpedo line and lashing together some drums he had found in case he needed a small raft if he was ever forced to abandoned ship. He shared the futility of watching a huge aircraft carrier list to one side and slide below the water. The moment I remember the most was his comment on how hard it was to explain the feeling that you didn’t know if you would be alive the next day or you didn’t know if your brother, Keith, would survive as you watched him land, along with thousands of other Marines, on the beach of Tarawa. Thankfully, they both made it!
He also was very proud of being able to witness history at the launch of the Doolittle Raid and serve under several captains that he greatly admired. He would be so very pleased and proud that there is an association of his fellow veterans and their families who care enough to honor the SLC and work hard to preserve her memory.
A very grateful thank you to all of you, especially Sandy Eskew, for all your efforts.
After leaving the SLC Daddy taught Chemical Warfare at Alameda Naval Air Station, Lake Chableau, and Mare Island. He met Bonita Schroeder and they were married in May 1945. He was up for the rank of Chief for the work that he was doing, but the war ended before he ranked up and he was ready to move on. Daddy left the navy on September 11, 1945.
Unfortunately, he died too young at age 49 of a heart attack. He left behind a wife, three daughters Janet, Cheryl and Kacy and one son, Kim, who he named after a man that he had served with aboard the SLC. (If they called you ‘Kim’ because your initials were K.M., and you had a friend who they called ‘Rim’ because his initials were R.M., you are that man.)
Thank you so much for allowing me to share some of my memories of my dad, and because he is no longer here and able to do so, help honor those brave men that served beside him on one of the greatest ships in the navy, the USS Salt Lake City.
SLC Deck Logs
Mentioned in Memorandums from 1941-1942
Daughter Janet Veit attended the following SLC Reunions: