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  • Writer's pictureLawrence Lore

Buried at Sea

Eugene Bailey, son of Mr. and Mrs. Ira Bailey graduated from Sumner High School with the class of 1941 and then attended Sanford Brown’s Business School in St Louis. He left February 3, 1943, for active service in the Navy Air Corps as an aviation cadet.

Virgil Shafer was another a graduate of Sumner High School, as well as Normal Illinois State University. Before his induction into the Navy June 1944, he was Superintendent of the Clay City High School.  Ensign Shafer wrote his mother Mrs. Vern Caudell a letter describing the events of April 2, 1945 and mentioned Eugene. 

Dear Mother. . . I lost my ship and three of my men at Okinawa. We hadn’t been there very long until a Japanese plane loaded with bombs dived at us.  No one could have been any luckier than we were.  I was standing within 15 feet of where he hit us and hardly got scratched.  We fired 700 rounds of ammunition at him, knocked his propellor off and tore one wing off just before he hit.  When the wing came off, the plane turned halfway over.  Had it not done this the wing would have hit about five of us.  Also, we knocked the fuse off his biggest bomb, and it did not explode.  We were even lucky with the fire that followed.  We fought it like hell for six hours but finally got it out. . . .do you know what ship Eugene Bailey was on? I noticed he was lost three days after we were hit.  I was still there the day he was lost, and I imagine it was the same place.  I saw a lot of ships get it that day.  One of them might have been his. . .

And in fact, Eugene Bailey was a casualty.  The Sumner Press published the following memorial on March 28, 1946:

In memory of our loving son and brother who was killed in action, April 2, 1945, at sea near Okinawa.

The blow was great, the shock severe,

We little thought the end was near,

And only those who have lost can tell,

The pain of parting without farewell.

Friends may think the wound is healed,

But they little know the sorrow,

That is within our hearts concealed.

More each day we miss you, Eugene.

Gone is your face we loved so dear.

Silent the voice we loved to hear.

You left us in your hurried way,

but trust in God we’ll meet some day.

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