World War II Coast Guard sailor takes an honor flightOrland “Dutch” Spielman traveled the South Pacific and was up close and personal with some pretty heavy naval action during World War II. Last month he got a chance to visit the memorials to World War II and other conflicts in Washington, D.C., on a Freedom Flight.
By: Jon Echternacht, Hudson Star-Observer
Orland “Dutch” Spielman traveled the South Pacific and was up close and personal with some pretty heavy naval action during World War II. Last month he got a chance to visit the memorials to World War II and other conflicts in Washington, D.C., on a Freedom Flight.
The 87-year-old former Coast Guard Carpenters Mate 1st Class on LST-18 was pretty impressed with the one-day visit to the nation’s capital Oct. 8. “When we got off the plane (in Washington, D.C.) there were piles of people in a welcoming party,” he said during a conversation in his North Hudson home.
He had to be at the Humphrey Terminal in the Twin Cities at 4 a.m. The plane returned at about 10:30 p.m. to a big reception of family and friends. “It was a full day,” he said, “but it sure was worth it.”
Spielman’s wife, Myrtle, said he had the option of taking the freedom flight out of La Crosse, “but that was too inconvenient,” Instead Spielman put his name on a list and waited a year to catch the Minneapolis flight.
Spielman didn’t actively pursue the Coast Guard when he was drafted in 1943. “I went to the induction center in Milwaukee where everybody was lined up for the Army,” When the option was offered to join another service, Spielman said he preferred the Navy.
He was at the end of the line of a group to join the Navy but the quota was filled and he ended up in the Coast Guard.
Early on he was actually guarding the coast of America. He was a member of the Coast Guard Mounted Patrol at Long Beach Island, N.J. “We patrolled the beach at night for enemy activity on horseback. During the day blimps hovered over the shallow water,” Spielman said.
Spielman could have spent the rest of the war on mounted beach patrol with his horse named Henry. “I wanted sea duty,” he said.
He transferred to an LST (Landing Ship Tank) and sailed for the South Pacific to aid island invasions and deliver troops and supplies to the beachfront.
“Our ship made 14 invasions. I made five different invasions and several support landings,” he said.
One of the campaigns was the battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippine Island Oct. 23–26, 1944. It is considered the biggest naval battle of the war and by some the biggest naval battle in history.
“We were very close to the sea battle,” he said. “The water was red with blood.”
The LST carried some 200 troops and all their equipment and ammunition for battle. The big ship is designed with a shallow draft to run right up on the beach. Two cargo doors open in the bow of the ship and troops and vehicles rush out.
Sometimes the LST would get hung up on the sand, especially when the tide went out. Spielman said the ship broke free in a number of ways. One involved PT boats running at full speed back and forth off the fantail when the tide came in to free up the ship.
The ship also had a stern anchor on a long chain and sometimes could be winched off a sandbar.
Spielman received an honorable discharge March 12, 1946, and settled down in Hudson. He and the former Myrtle Gerlach were married on June 21, 1947, and have logged 64 years together.
Spielman worked for NorLake for 33 years and retired on St. Patrick’s Day 1989.
The couple raised three children. Lynn, Elk Mound, who graduated from Hudson High School in 1966; Doug, HHS 1969, deceased; and Janice, New Richmond, HHS 1974. They have eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.