Ralph Herbert Wendt, was a 20mm gunner in the aft mount, port side. He can be seen in the Division "A" photo in the third row from the bottom, third man from the right.
The following information was supplied by Mike Wendt from a phone conversation on 6/16/03 with his Dad, Ralph:
He recalled the day of the sinking for me. He was strapped to his gun mount firing at the Zekes. He said the sights on the 20mm's "weren't worth a damn", and that he adjusted his fire through the tracer rounds. He is sure he hit the first Zeke, (the one that was splashed) as they came in low, before they turned aft to swing around to the starboard side for their crash into the ship. He said the that as they swung by his position he "could have hit them with a baseball", but was out of ammo. He called to his loader for more ammo, not taking his eyes off the planes. When he got no response, he looked around and saw that everyone in the aft "heart-shaped" 20mm mount had fled for their lives towards mid-ship. Unfortunately, that's where the plane struck, and they were all killed. He never heard the order to abandon ship, but knew the ship was sinking, broken in two. As he climbed down onto the fender, which he said normally sat about four feet over the water line, he saw that it was now about 25' above the water. Just before he jumped he said he heard a voice say to him "Ralph, take off your helmet (it was one of those wide ones, with the commo stuff in it) It'll break your neck when you hit the water" I asked him if it was himself thinking out loud, and he replied, "No, it was the damndest thing. It was not my voice but like someone was watching me, telling me what to do, but I was the only one there." He tossed the helmet aside and jumped. When he came up to the surface he saw the "screw turning in the air", and swam as fast as he could away from the ship. He lost his wallet and everything else in his pockets except for a pack of Luckies, that were in his chest pocket, held tight by his Mae West. He was in the water about four hours. Oddly enough, on the ship to 'Frisco, the XO came up to him and handed him his wallet, intact with $117 dollars in it! Apparently it floated off to another survivor, who gave it to the Skipper after they were recovered.