This Memorial Day is the 96th birthday of World War II sailor Loren Carson Heally. He will not be here to mark this occasion. Nor was he able to celebrate any birthdays for the past 75 years. Fireman First Class Healy was lost at sea on December 18, 1944 when his destroyer, USS Spence was sunk in a typhoon.
Loren was born on May 25, 1924 in Orem, Utah. His parents John Franklin and Edith were also both born in Utah. His father worked as a fruit farmer. Loren had five older brothers and one older sister. Loren graduated from Lincoln High School in Orem and later married Lucille Rasmussen.
Loren enlisted in the US Navy on June 12, 1943. He reached the rank of fireman first class and was assigned to the destroyer USS Spence in September 1943. While serving on Spence Loren saw action destroying Japanese barges in the Solomon Islands in October. Spence participated in the Battle of Empress Augusta Bay on November 2, 1943 where she was damaged by enemy fire.Three weeks later she helped sink Japanese destroyers at the Battle of Cape St. George.
During 1944 Spence provided screening support for carrier task forces advancing ever closer to the Philippines and attacks as far north as Saipan. Spence _was back in San Francisco in mid August 1944 for drydock repairs. Perhaps Loren was allowed to visit his family in Utah at that time. In October, _Spence was sent back to sea, once again screening carriers in the Philippines Sea.
In mid-December 1944 Task Force 38 conducted air raids against Japanese airfields in Luzon. Destroyers like Spence could not operate that long at sea without being refueled from accompanying tankers. That was normally a routine action, but on December 17 Admiral Bill Halsey unintentionally ordered his fleet into Typhoon Cobra with winds up to 140 miles per hour. Spence was unprepared for such a calamity.
With fuel bunkers low she did not have the power to fight the storm and without the ballast of full fuel bunkers she rode high in the water, making it susceptible to rolling over when hit by massive waves. Attempts to refuel in storm conditions proved unsuccessful.
Fuel was below ten percent. The violent storm had buckled Spence’s bulkheads and she was taking on water. Eventually her electrical system failed which meant her pumps stopped working. With a huge gash in the hull, there was no way to hold back the ocean. One after another waves rolled her dangerously to port. The destroyer pitched back time and again, but eventually the unrelenting typhoon pushed her over so far that she capsized at 1100 on December 18, 1944. Twenty-four men survived but Fireman Healy was one of more than 300 lost when it sank.
There is a cenotaph grave of Fireman Healy in the Provo City Cemetery. His widow remarried and died in 2012.
Thank you Loren for your sacrifice.
Note: Some records spell his first name as Lorin.
This story is part of the Stories Behind the Stars project (see www.storiesbehindthestars.org). This is a national effort of volunteers to write the stories of all 400,000+ of the US WWII fallen here on Fold3. Can you help write these stories? Related to this, there will be a smart phone app that will allow people to visit any war memorial or cemetery, scan the fallen's name and read his/her story.