by Matthew Bowie
I recently traveled to St. Petersburg, Florida to attend the USS St. Lo & Task Unit 77.4.3 (Taffy III’s) annual reunion. The reunion is to pay tribute to and remember the men of Taffy III that were killed in the Battle off Samar, one of four engagements in the larger Leyte Gulf campaign during World War II. This sea battle was the greatest naval struggle in the history of the United States Navy.
The attacking Japanese combatants, including the Yamato, the largest battleship in the world, outnumbered the US Naval task unit by 23 to 13 and outweighed Taffy by a factor of 6 to 1. But, by shear gallantry, guts and gumption the U.S. held off the Japanese fleet, after 2 1/2 hours of heavy attack and became the protector and savior of General McArthur’s famous promise to the Philippine people – -“I shall return”.
The USS St. Lo had received no significant damage from the battle and seemed unscathed. However, just after the fighting had stopped a single Japanese kamikaze fighter plane crashed into the ships flight deck, resulting in subsequent explosions of St.Lo’s armaments, which eventually sunk the entire ship.
126 men lost their lives. Robert Schueler, who is my grandfather, was the only individual attending the Reunion from the USS St. Lo among the few remaining survivors still living. This trip allowed me to learn a great deal about my grandfather and the men that fought in WWII. I also got to meet one other Taffy III attendee, Fred Graziano, off the destroyer escort USS Dennis, which had also been very instrumental in the battle.
I naturally planned on bringing my camera to document the reunion and my other family members that attended the event. The images I captured are an overview snapshot of my trip involving my family, grandfather and the events of the reunion.
I find it interesting that my mother, aunts, cousins and myself would not exist had my grandfather been killed on the USS St. Lo on October 25, 1944, when he was just 19. I am so grateful for all the men that fought in WWII.
Photographer Matthew Bowie’s career began as a photojournalist and now spends more time producing images for advertising and editorial work. “I love working collaboratively to create an image that captures the authenticity of a person or place. The reality of a person, place or idea is what motivates my images.”, says Bowie.