The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Danville News

May 22, 2014

Danville veteran Stu Hartman survived kamikaze attack

MAHONING TWP. — Stuart L. Hartman considers himself to be a lucky man.

“I missed shrapnel by 10 feet,” he said of attacks on his Naval ship during World War II.

“We were told 30 suicide kamikazes were headed our way,” said Hartman who headed the intelligence division on his ship — the USS Purdy.

“The fifth plane came in so low when it hit, it made a 12-inch projectile hole, exploded and killed 15 and wounded 30,” he said.

The attack, on April 12, 1945, occurred the same day that President Franklin D. Roosevelt died, he said.

The force from the explosion was so great from two decks below “it catapulted the machine gun and two men with it. One died and it lifted the shoe off one man,” he said. The shoe was later found.

The invasion started April 1, 1945, while Hartman, who turns 94 on Aug. 8, was onboard among 330 shipmates. Their location was known as Picket Station 1 during the Battle of Okinawa.

Retired Coast Guard Capt. Dane S. Egli, formerly from Riverside, recently visited Hartman at his home in Mahoning Township.

Egli said he was “reminded how our brave young servicemen served in harm’s way to secure our freedom.”

Hartman’s ship later took on a mission to save another ship — the Mullany, which had been hit at another radar station location and was burning.

The crew had abandoned the ship. “It was still floating. Our skipper called for volunteers to attempt to board it,” Hartman said. After streams of water were applied to the boat, it was saved and its crew was able to get back on board.

The USS Purdy then traveled to Guam for repairs. They later traveled to Pearl Harbor and then on to San Francisco for a complete rebuilding of the craft.

Hartman received a two-week furlough at that time and was able to go home to Pennsylvania.

By the time he returned, the Japanese had surrendered and they traveled to Japan where he saw the devastation from the atomic bomb dropped at Hiroshima. “The only thing left was a concrete building. The rest was flattened,” he said.

He was then assigned to the USS Suisun and returned to San Francisco.

Hartman, who was discharged as a full lieutenant, was home before Christmas of 1945.

Hartman was awarded medals for his service — for the American Campaign in the Atlantic Ocean, the World War II Victory Medal and the Pacific Theater Medal.

Hartman joined the Navy after earning a degree in commercial business from Bloomsburg College. After applying for a commission, he was sent for training in Boston and Florida.

Knowing he would have a four-day pass, he wrote his fiancée, Barbara, that this would be a good time to get married. “We worked it out and got married in November of 1942 at her home in Berwick,” he said.

Hartman met his wife of 68 years during their freshman year and they dated through college. Barbara, who earned an elementary teaching degree, died in 2011.  He recalled his late father, Stuart A., and his late brother, James, traveling to Boston to be with him for the christening of the USS Purdy in June of 1944.

“I trained on a smaller ship at Cape May, N.J., became the skipper there and moved on for training in Boston,” he said.

Both he and his late brother, Wellington, received commissions in the Navy. He has a photograph of them in their uniforms taken in Boston.

Hartman wrote his experiences in a chapter of the book “2nd World War in 1st Person,” edited by Mark Fritz of the Bloomsburg area.

“I’m on the cover in two places,” said Hartman of photos on the book cover.

He gets together with fellow veterans once a month in Espy. “We started out with 38 and now we have 80,” he said of the growing group.

Hartman said he “thumbed it” to get to and from college and didn’t think he was ever late for a class.

He started his sales career at the age of 9 by selling Pitkin products and Christmas cards. “I sold Christmas cards in June and beat out everybody else,” he said of how he was able to earn money to go to college while growing up on a farm in Grovania.

After WWII, he sold IBM electric typewriters. “I sent an application to IBM that I sent from Japan,” he said.

He and his wife raised five sons — Gary, Thomas, Jim, Dan and John. Dan and Tom are still living.

The last of seven siblings, Hartman founded Heart Realty Inc. in 1964 in Danville. He semi-retired at 62 and fully retired after reaching a goal of appraising 100 homes a year for five years. Heart Realty became Century 21 Heart Realty and is now Mertz Century 21 in Danville.

With a sharp memory, a big smile and faith in God, “what an inspiration,” Egli said of Hartman.

Email comments to kblackledge@thedanvillenews.com.

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