A Glimpse of Life at Sea, Circa 1943

Dick and Milty JPEGI’m excited about a new project I’ve just unveiled on my website — a page devoted to World War II photos my father took during his time in the Navy. I got the idea around Veteran’s Day, when many of my friends posted pictures on social media of family members who served. That sent me digging through my photo archives for a shot of my dad — shown here with his brother Milt, who also later joined the Navy.

In looking for that picture, I found dozens of others that I had scanned when I was researching my book The Man Who Thought Like a Ship. In January 1943, my father, J. Richard Steffy, was assigned as an electrician’s mate to the USS Wyffels, DE6, a new Evarts-class destroyer escort. After a brief shakedown cruise off Bermuda, the Wyffels and her crew of 198 were assigned to the Sixth Fleet in the North Atlantic. In all, the Wyffels made 11 crossings of the Atlantic during World War II.

My father rarely talked about his time in the Navy, and he didn’t keep in touch with his shipmates. After his death in 2007, I found hundreds of these photos he’d taken during his deployment. Some of them were beginning to deteriorate, and I began the scanning project in hopes of preserving them. I found myself looking at them from time to time, wondering who the men where, how well my father knew them and what their shared experiences may have been. The Wyffels saw little combat, something for which my father was always thankful, and as a result, most of the photos capture the mundane duties and pastimes of life aboard ship.

I haven’t retouched any of the pictures, and I’ve labeled them as my father did — except, of course, for the ones that have no descriptions at all. In some cases, you can see my father’s handwriting on the margins. Citation Solutions’ Margie Seaman — who’s appropriately named for this project —  put the page together and organized the photos. You can click on each one to enlarge it.

I still have many more photos to scan, so I hope to update the page periodically as I get more done. I’ll continue to share them on the website in hopes that others may enjoy seeing a glimpse of day to day life at sea during World War II.

About lorensteffy

Loren Steffy is the author of "George P. Mitchell: Fracking, Sustainability and an Unorthodox Quest to Save the Planet" (to be published in October 2019), "The Man Who Thought Like a Ship," and "Drowning in Oil: BP and the Reckless Pursuit of Profit." He is a writer at large for Texas Monthly, managing director for 30 Point Strategies and an executive producer for Rational Middle Media.
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3 Responses to A Glimpse of Life at Sea, Circa 1943

  1. Joseph Ryan says:

    My grandfather, Ralph Milford Royer served on the USS Wyffels as well.


  2. JThompson says:

    I have photos of my father’s (Walt Kozachek) Wyffels reunion in 2002 if someone should want them. Also a San Antonio reunion. He used to have a couple of drawings by an amazing artist/seaman on the Wyffels, one of a poker game.


  3. Charles Bethel says:

    My father, Charles Bethel Jr., was the Wyffels’ engineering officer in 1943-44. He died in 2002. He had many photos of his time on the ship, which he said he donated to a Wyffels ship organization. Does anyone know where he might have donated his photos? We’d love to be able to find them and scan them. Thanks for any help,
    Charles Bethel III


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