CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT
JAMES JOSEPH HOFFMAN
James Joseph Hoffman was born on August 12, 1924, in Hannibal, Missouri. His father, Floyd, was 31, and his mother, Mabel Abigail Ketchum, was 30. He had two older sisters, Mildred Maxine Hoffman McGowan (1915–1990), and Lillian Lorraine Hoffman Hammock (1918–1999).
His home at 1500 Lindell Avenue was a wonderful area for a boy to explore with several creeks within walking distance. They offered great fishing and swimming holes, and a heavily wooded area was across the street, and city limits just a block away.
In the 1930 U.S. Census, Joe’s father, Floyd, was working for Auto Parts Company in Hannibal. APC had branch stores throughout the tri-state area in those days.
A 1934 Invoice from APC
APC ad in Popular Mechanics Magazine, 1923
Floyd died 6 June 1934, of Myocarditis, which is inflammation of the heart muscle, accompanied by Dropsy, an old time term for the swelling of soft tissues due to the accumulation of excess water. Today we would call it edema resulting from congestive heart failure.
In the 1940 census, Mabel had all three of her children living with her at 1500 Lindell Avenue, along with Mildred’s husband, J.D. (John Downing) McGowan, who was employed as a leather cutter at the shoe factory. Mildred was a buffer, Lillian was listed as a “Back Shoe Girl,” and Mabel, the widowed head of household, was listed as a “Cementer” at the shoe factory. Joe had just entered his first year of high school in that year. Mabel died in 1958 of pancreatic cancer resulting from diabetes.
1940 United States Census
Joe enlisted in the United States Navy while a senior in high school, entered basic training right after graduation, and served until after the end of World War Two. He was a Navy gunner aboard the USS McCord, and participated in nearly every major battle of the Pacific Theater. After discharge from the Navy in 1946 he returned to Hannibal, returned to his job as a welder at Wendt Sonis, and in 1948, married Betty Gene White.
Joe’s official enlistment date is 6 March 1943. He trained at Great Lakes Naval Training Center, and reported for duty aboard USS McCord DD-534 on 21 April 1944. His rank was then Seaman Second Class (S2c).
U.S. Destroyer USS McCord (DD-534) at anchor in unknown location at unknown date
WWII Service of USS McCord
USS McCord (DD-534), was assigned to Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 47, Destroyer Division (DESDIV) 93, which was made up of #530 USS Trathen, 531 USS Hazelwood, 532 USS Heermann, 533 USS Hoel, and 534 USS McCord (flag). Destroyer Division (DESDIV) 94 was made up of sister ships 554 USS Franks, 555 USS Haggard, 556 USS Hailey, and 557 USS Johnston.
Departing San Diego on 27 November 1943, USS McCord joined the Pacific Fleet in time for operations in the Marshall Islands and Marianas, and remained in continuous action through the Palau, Philippines, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa campaigns. She arrived off Kwajalein as a unit of Task Force 51 (TF 51), 30 January 1944. During Operation “Flintlock”, she screened transports and provided rapid close support fire. On 15 February the task force sortied from Kwajalein to Eniwetok Atoll for operation “Catchpole”.
McCord at first screened the minesweepers as they cleared the passages into the 388-square-mile (1,000 km2) lagoon and then screened the bombardment group as Engebi Island, containing the atoll’s only airfield, was secured, 17–18 February. On 21 February, she steamed back to the southern end of the lagoon for the bombardment of Eniwetok and Parry Island.
By mid-March 1944 McCord had rendezvoused with TF 39 in the Bismarck Archipelago and for two weeks she cruised in the Ysabel Channel in support of landings at Emirau Island, 21 March. She next escorted replacement troops from Purvis Bay, Florida Island, to Emirau, New Ireland Province of Papua New Guinea.
21 April, 1944, 19 year old Seaman Second Class James Joseph Hoffman, 865-73-43 stepped aboard battle hardened USS McCord (DD-534) for the first time.
Returning to Purvis Bay at the end of April, McCord departed 1 May to escort tankers to refueling positions in the Solomon Islands area.
Solomon Islands is a sovereign country consisting of six major islands and over 900 smaller islands lying to the east of Papua New Guinea. The country’s capital, Honiara, is located on the island of Guadalcanal.
Below: 30 June 1944 – Seaman Second Class, aboard USS McCord, Purvis Bay
On 11 June 1944, after 2 weeks of anti-submarine patrols in the area around Bougainville and New Georgia, McCord arrived off New Ireland Province, of Papua New Guinea, to bombard an enemy tank repair installation, resuming escort duties upon its destruction.
1 August 1944 – Seaman Second Class during shelling of Tinian Island in the Marianas
Interrupting her escort service between the Admiralties and the Solomons on 23 July, she joined TF 52 at Saipan and took part in the shelling of Tinian Island in the Marianas, Islands from 24 July to 1 August 1944. Of the 8,500-man Japanese garrison on the island, only 313 survived the battle.
The Palau Islands offensive was next. McCord arrived off Peleliu on 11 September and remained through 30 September to support the forces landed on the 15th. The Battle of Peleliu, codenamed Operation Stalemate II, was fought from September to November 1944, on the island of Peleliu.
By 1944, Peleliu Island was occupied by about 11,000 Japanese of the 14th Infantry Division with Korean and Okinawan laborers. The pre-invasion Naval bombardment of Peleliu was relatively useless; the shells that rained on the island could not touch the well dug-in Japanese who were operating from caves dug deep into the hills.
U.S. Marines of the 1st Marine Division, and later soldiers of the U.S. Army’s 81st Infantry Division, fought to capture an airstrip on the small coral island. This battle was part of a larger offensive campaign known as Operation Forager, which ran from June to November 1944, in the Pacific Theater. The National Museum of the Marine Corps called it “the bitterest battle of the war for the Marines.”
Battle of Peleliu
30 September 1944 – Promoted to Seaman 1st Class off Peleliu Island
On her arrival at Manus 4 October, McCord joined CarDiv 22, 7th Fleet, as it prepared for operations in the central Philippines. She arrived at her assigned operating area east of the Philippines as landings were made at Suluan and Dinagat, 17 October.
On the 25th her task unit, 77.4.1, came under constant air attack as the Battle off Samar raged 100 miles (160 km) to the north. Escaping damage, McCord protected her unit’s carriers and rescued their pilots.
Muster Roll for 30 October 1944 – Off Samar, Leyte Gulf
She returned to Manus 3 November, but was back off Leyte by the 16th to prevent enemy surface forces from attacking Allied forces, installations, and shipping in the central Philippines.
On 6 December, at Ulithi, McCord joined the fast carrier force, TF 38. The force sortied from that island on 10 December and steamed to the Philippines to support the Mindoro landings by launching strikes against enemy airfields and harbors in the northern and central islands. Back at Ulithi by 24 December, they sortied again on 30 December.
31 December 1944 – Enroute Formosa, Indochina and China Coast
First they struck at Formosa, 3–6 January 1945. Then, in quick succession, they raided enemy installations and shipping in Indochina, southern Formosa, the China coast, the Philippines, eastern Formosa, and Okinawa. Constantly moving and always ready for targets of opportunity, the force’s strikes were successful. While in the South China Sea on 11-12 January they sank or damaged almost 200,000 tons of enemy shipping.
The force returned to Ulithi 23 January, remaining until 10 February. On 16 February, strikes were launched against Tokyo itself; on 18 February against Chichi Jima; and on 20 February against Iwo Jima in support of the Marine units landed on 19 February. By 24 February, the planes from TF 58 were back over Tokyo and on 25 February they flew against defense installations in the Nagoya-Kobe area.
31 March 1945 – Okinawa and southern Kyūshū, Japan
During March, McCord continued to operate in the screen of TG 58.4 as it concentrated its efforts against Okinawa and southern Kyūshū, Japan in preparation for the amphibious assault on the former on 1 April. She remained in the Ryūkyū, Japan area until 12 May when she escorted the battleship South Dakota to Guam.
She returned to Okinawa on 27 May 1945 for a final two weeks of combat. The entire Task Group 58.4 then retired to Leyte Gulf, arriving 13 June.
1 June 1945 – During final two weeks of combat, Battle of Okinawa
Change of Rating Report (Promotion) from S1C to Petty Officer SF3c(T)
Historical photo from the Battle of Okinawa depicting the Navy’s complex operations
She returned to Okinawa on 27 May 1945 for a final two weeks of combat. Task Group 58.4 then retired to Leyte Gulf, arriving 13 June.
Inactive status meant that the ship was going to be repaired and stored “ready” for future reactivation. Such ships are held in reserve against a time when it may be necessary to call them back into service. The U.S. Navy operates several anchorages where ships are stored as a “ghost fleet.” The process of storing this fleet of vessels is called This process is called “mothballing.”
1 Oct 1945 – Aboard Inactive USS McCord, now assigned to Ghost Fleet 19, San Diego
When McCord was placed in inactive status, many of her “non-mechanical” crew that would not be needed for the mothballing process were either discharged or assigned to another active service boat. Her remaining crew was redesignated as R&I Group of the 19th Fleet, and appears to have been comprised mostly of machinists, shipfitters, and other crafts useful in repairing and mothballing the ship
Camp Elliott was a large base of 26,034 acres that served as a Marine Corps training base for large units. Ownership of the base was transferred to the Navy in 1944, and its barracks and mess facilities were utilized for navy crewmen involved in inactivating ships. At a certain point of mothballing it was no longer possible to berth on the ships, so the crews were berthed at Camp Elliott.
Joe, and in all likelihood, the rest of the crew were transferred to Camp Elliott from the USS McCord on 1 March 1946, and probably worked at least one more month wrapping up the mothballing process and being discharged from the navy.
USS McCord History
November 1943 USS McCord joined the Pacific Fleet in time for operations in the Marshall Islands and Marianas, and remained in continuous action through the Palau, Philippines, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa campaigns.
|USS MCCord Battles/Actions During Service of James J Hoffman|
|21 Apr-23 Jul 1944 – Escort service Admiralties and Solomons Islands||10 Dec Shelling support at Mindoro, Philippines|
|11 Jun 1944 – New Ireland Province, Papua New Guinea bombardment||3–6 Jan 1945 – Formosa, China Coast, the Philippines|
|23 July – McCord joined TF 52 at Saipan||19 Feb-26 Mar 1945 – The Battle of Iwo Jima|
|24 Jul to 1 Aug 1944 – Bombardment of Tinian Island in the Marianas||Apr 1-27 May 1945 – Battle of Okinawa|
|Sep to Nov 1944 – Battle of Peleliu “the bitterest battle of the war for the Marines”||12 May – Escorted the battleship South Dakota to Guam|
|4 October, McCord joined CarDiv 22, 7th Fleet, at Manus, Papua New Guinea||27 May, 1945 – Returned to Okinawa for a final two weeks of combat.|
|17 Oct – Supported landings at Suluan and Dinagat, Philippines||13 June – TG 58.4 arrived Leyte Gulf for replenishment|
|25 Oct 1944 – Battle off Samar – McCord protected carriers and rescued pilots.||17 Jun – McCord departed for the west coast and a navy yard overhaul|
|16 Nov 1944 – Shipping protection and escort duty off Leyte||7 Sep she steamed to San Diego; reported 15 September to the Inactive Fleet|
USS McCord Lifecycle
|Lifecycle of USS McCord (DD534)|
|Ordered – 9 Sep 1940||Decommissioned – 15 January 1947|
|Laid down – 17 Mar 1942||Recommissioned – 1 August 1951|
|Launched – 10 Jan 1943||Decommissioned – 9 June 1954|
|Commissioned – 19 Aug 1943||Stricken – 1 October 1972|
|Sold – 2 January 1974 and broken up for scrap|
Post WWII USS McCord
Decommissioned 15 January 1947, the USS McCord remained berthed at San Diego until recommissioning 1 August 1951 for duty during the Korean War 25 June 1950 – 27 July 1953. Assigned to the Atlantic Fleet, McCord departed San Diego 1 November and reported to ComDesRon 28 at Norfolk on 17 November. For the next year she operated along the east coast, cruising as far north as Halifax, Nova Scotia and as far south as the British West Indies.
On 10 January 1953 the destroyer once again got underway for a western Pacific war zone. By 15 February she was off the west coast of Korea operating with carriers in TF 95. She remained in the Yellow Sea combat zone until mid-March when she received a week’s availability at Sasebo.
On 26 March she joined TF 77 as it ranged the east coast of Korea providing shore bombardment and fire support services where needed by the U.N. forces. April 7, 1953 the North Korean communists, supported by the Soviet Union and China, targeted ships blockading Wonsan but without results. USS Los Angeles and USS McCord evaded two rounds.
Departing the line of battle 17 April, McCord, joined TG 96.7 in exercises off Okinawa. She rejoined TF 77, 14 May, and remained in the Sea of Japan operations area until 5 June when her Korean deployment terminated and she got underway for the United States.
Steaming via Subic Bay, Singapore, Aden, Suez, and Gibraltar, she arrived at Norfolk, Virginia 6 August. During the next months she operated off the southern east coast and in the Caribbean. She decommissioned 9 June 1954 and was mothballed at Norfolk, where, as a unit of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet, she remained until decommissioned 9 Jun 1954, stricken from the Navy roster 1 October 1972, and sold 2 January 1974 and broken up for scrap
My Hunting Buddy
The Hannibal City Directory for 1953 lists Joe and Betty’s home address as 1602 Vermont, and his occupation as Machine Operator at Wendt Sonis. In 1953 I was nine years old, and I always found him interesting and a bit flamboyant.
Uncle Joe styled himself as somewhat of an urban cowboy with western shirts and riding boots. He was more outgoing than my father. He was always laughing, whistling a tune, yodeling, sometimes poking fun at himself when he messed something up, He was fun to be around!
The 1955 Hannibal City Directory listed Joe and Betty’s home address as 1602 Vermont, at the top of the hill, and his employer was Wendt Sonis Drill Works. I was eleven years old in 1955, and it was in this the time period when he and I hunted together.
My dad bought me a used, single shot, break-over single barrel .410 shotgun. I thought it was the neatest thing ever, and kept cleaning and oiling it, even when I didn’t use it!
Hunting/Fishing with Uncle Joe
I always liked going on outings with him. We would search for mushrooms in the spring, fish for catfish, and hunt for rabbits and squirrels. My dad had bought a used .410 single barrel break-action shotgun for me so I could go hunting with Uncle Joe. Joe liked the outdoors, and his sons were still too young, so I got to be his buddy.
He was soft spoken, could whistle tunes with a vibrato that was as pretty to hear as singing. He also yodeled, and entertained us all during the days we were clearing brush and preparing the grounds for the Camery Field Playground, as you could hear him happily working and whistling somewhere in the distance.
Uncle Joe taught me a lot of life lessons. He took me hunting, and taught me gun safety and gun care; to respect the animal that was giving its life to us; to never kill anything I wasn’t going to use; and, how to skin and clean game for food safety. I will thank him, again, next time I see him!
I think it was when we went squirrel hunting one time that we discovered my nearsightedness. We had previously hunted squirrels and rabbits, and had good success. But, on this occasion he and I were sitting under a tall Sycamore tree just before daybreak, watching for squirrels.
We had heard a couple in the woods around us, and knew that once the sun came up we were going to have a good hunt. And, soon, I bagged a squirrel in the tree just ahead of us. I went and retrieved it, then sat back down next to Joe. He said, “There’s another one,” pointing at a tree some distance away. “Do you think you can hit it?”
I couldn’t even distinguish the squirrel from the limb and leaves of the tree in that light! Everything just seemed to blend together. So, after many hushed questions about where it was, and several attempts to have me look up the tree to the second limb on the left, and look about three fourths of the way to the end . . . or something similar, I just could not see the squirrel. So, it was reported to my parents, and soon I had the eyeglasses I needed to correct my vision.
I can clearly recall when I first put those black horn rimmed glasses on that I realized that you could see leaves on trees in the distance, rather than the foliage just being a green blur. I was able to read signs a lot further in the distance, and particularly enjoyed visits to Riverview Park, where I could watch the distant activity on the river. I wore eyeglasses the rest of my life.
We later did more early morning hunts for squirrels and evening hunts for rabbits. I recall being pleasantly surprised the first time I skinned a rabbit, at how easy it was, compared to skinning squirrels. We hunted together quite a bit until after my twelfth birthday, when I finally was old enough to get a Grit newspaper route established in my neighborhood.
Uncle Joe knew a lot of people that lived on wooded farms, or had access to wooded areas, where he and I would go mushroom hunting. Sometimes we would take his oldest boy, Chris, with us, but he was still young enough that we knew this one would be a short hunt because Chris would get bored and want to go home. And, that was fine. Uncle Joe always seemed to tailor the trip to deliver the most rewarding experiences.
And, after he had led us through the woods, collecting those wonderful morsels of deliciousness, we would take them to his house, where my Aunt Betty would dump them into the kitchen sink and soak them in cold water for about half an hour. She would gently swirl them around occasionally, collecting any debris that might float up out of them, and frequently changing the water to drain away anything that sank to the bottom.
Then the magic happened! While they were on their final soak, she would make up a bowl of egg wash and another of seasoned flour, and then heat a skillet of melted bacon fat. She swirled the mushrooms in the egg wash and then dipped them into the flour to coat on all sides. Then she dropped a handful of them into the hot bacon grease, and the fragrance as the flour browned filled the house with mouth watering anticipation.
We all seemed to gravitate to the kitchen table while they were cooking. Glasses of milk, flavored drinks, or fruit punch were provided for the children, while the adults got themselves a cup of coffee. Uncle Joe called his coffee, “cuppa Joe.”
I always thought that was proper and fitting for him to call it that, but I didn’t often use that name for it, because, to me, that was his special name. Anytime I hear someone use that phrase, it always brings back fond memories of my very special times with my Uncle Joe.
Their house was located at 1602 Vermont, just a block and a half from ours at 1709 Vermont. Their house sat almost at the end of their block, next to Sammy Newlon’s. They had a double lot, as the house that previously stood at 1604 had burned many years ago, and both lots had been combined into 1602.
His back lawn sloped steeply down to South Arch, and Vermont Street ended in front of Newlon’s and dropped fifty feet to Robinson Avenue and a little minnow Creek that ran under the humpty-dump bridge at Lindell Avenue.
Uncle Joe’s Fireplace
Uncle Joe had built a wide concrete block fireplace lined with firebrick on the back side of his extra lot, just at the top of the hill. He fitted out an extra tall chimney that created a strong draft for very hot fires for the frequent fish fries our families shared.
He loved to fish for Channel Catfish, and made many nighttime fishing trips. I usually fell asleep during those trips, so I got away from going with him, but, his freezer would get filled up, and he’d say, “It’s time for a fish fry!”
Dad would bring home one of the huge stock pots from the National Guard armory, a big container of cooking oil, and a set of labels and scoops. Meanwhile, Joe would start building a deep, hot, fire with two or three inches of coals to heat the cooking oil well before dinnertime. My mom and Aunt Betty trimmed the fillets off the catfish and assembled a cornmeal breading station, while my sister Jean and I, and our cousin Chris, would start preparing the tableware, napkins and paper plates.
The other children were off playing in the huge yard, which had a lot of trees on the backside toward South Arch, which was perfect for playing hide and seek.
Uncle Joe dropped a big pan full of breaded fillets into the hot oil, which violently bubbled up and threatened to overflow, but magically receded back into the pot as he quickly stirred the pot to make sure the fillets didn’t stick together. Then he’d put the huge ladle up high on the chimney ledge so the children couldn’t get burned on it, and the pot holder went into his pocket.
Aunt Betty stirred together some cornbread batter into a large cast iron skillet which she covered with a lid and placed on the edge of the fire. She would tell Uncle Joe, “Better turn that pan,” and he would turn it so the other side of the batter cooked evenly. Soon the aroma of the catfish cooking in the hot oil, and the skillet cornbread, wafted over the whole area, and a feeling of excitement began to fill the air.
Tartar sauce, vinegars, pickles, cole slaw, baked beans, and gallon containers of sweet tea were brought to the table. Unbreakable aluminum drinking glasses were filled and distributed. A prayer blessed the food, and then we all took seats around the picnic tables.
Aunt Betty brought out a big covered platter of already cooked catfish, while my mother sliced the cornbread, and Uncle Joe dropped another batch of breaded catfish fillets into the grease. My dad made sure the children had butter for the cornbread, pickles, beans, and whatever else they needed to complete their meal.
Soon, the children had their fill and were off playing again, and it was the adults’ turn to have their meal. They would put a coffee percolator on the fire to have with their dessert. Usually the dessert was a fruit pie, but sometimes there would be the occasional frosted cake or a sugar glazed coffee cake or bread pudding. Those were great family get togethers, and some of the fondest childhood memories I can recall!
The Roman Candle Incident
One of my most vivid memories was at one of these catfish dinners when Uncle Joe finished up the evening with a few fireworks purchased for the occasion. He had gotten away from the children, to make sure they would be safe, and then began shooting some bottle rockets into the air, and lighting strings of firecrackers which he threw on the ground between us. It was all great fun, and the part of the evening that we knew signalled that the festivities were nearly over.
Then he lit the first of a handful of Roman Candles he had purchased. He lit the fuse and quickly held the candle so that the shots would fire across the lawn high above us. He was always careful to make sure the business end was never pointed at any of us. After it finished and was discarded, he lit two or three colorful fountain fireworks, and then lit another Roman Candle.
As he held it at arm’s length, after the second or third projectile, the candle backfired and shot a load backwards, right up the sleeve of his shirt, striking him in the armpit! He yelled in agony, dropped the Roman Candle, and started tearing his shirt off, because it was now burning and the flaming gunpowder was eating into his flesh. He fell to the ground and tried to scrape his armpit against the earth to get the flaming inferno off his body. Dad had grabbed one of the gallons of tea and threw it on him, trying to hit his armpit and douse the flame, to no avail.
The tea turned to steam when it hit the flaming gunpowder that Uncle Joe had successfully scraped off his body, so I can only imagine that it merely added to his pain when steam was added to what was going on in his armpit! He continued to scoot on his side for a few more minutes (it seemed) until he was finally able to stand again. He went into the house with Aunt Betty and my mom and dad, and we children went back to playing.
I saw Uncle Joe a few days later. He had his right arm in a big white plaster device from his shoulder to his waist that held his arm away from his body. It was strange looking, and since I knew what had happened and being a child, I didn’t think any more about it, and we never spoke about it. I did, however, imagine that he knew how to get that burning gunpowder off of him because of his Navy training during World War II. And, I did notice that Roman Candles were not a part of our cookout festivities after that time.
I really regret that I wasn’t smart enough to talk to him about his wartime experiences. I would like to have been able to do a much better job of passing down that information to future generations who will not know how heroic our fathers and aunts and uncles, grandparents and great-grandparents, friends and neighbors were in that time when the whole free world was tested to its full measure.
I treasure his memory, and have included, in Chapter 27, the history of his ship’s movements during the war, “WWII Fast Carrier Task Force.”
Email notes from Bruce Hoffman, son of James Joseph:
Portion of your chapter about JJ Hoffman WWII
In a note from his son in 2017: “You and me both. Send me the links on the USS McCord DD 534. I had his name added to the list of the crew on the Fletcher Class Destroyer page, it wasn’t in there. He actually was on two ships. He contracted “yellow jaundice” and was on Wake Island, and when he left he was on another ship til they met up with the McCord. He use to cut the captains hair. He was a Shipfitter and did the welding and torching. He cut 3 of his buddies out if a gun tank (turret?) that had been hit by a kamikaze . He went all the way to Japan, fought in 11 major naval battles. I always said 13, but he corrected me on that one. He told me lots of stories. Some I can’t repeat. He had the maintenance hut at the end of the ship, when they would stop on islands they would gather fruits and he would barrel it and make hooch. When he would open it you could smell it all over the 😄ship.”
Dad passed away Sept 29 2003. I got a call from Cheryl that morning,my first day at Keystone. I was up and visited him Sunday the 28. He said “the show is about over” I told him “The shows not over til the fat lady sings” he told me “She’s warming up” Mom was 82 on the 23 of may, her 83rd birthday wasn’t til July 27. I don’t know where you found all that information ,but it is so cool,he would have loved reminiscing over it .I will have to look for the pictures and send them. I still have his ashes .Would like to have them buried at Fort Custer Battle Creek Michigan,or with the rest of the Hoffmans in Hannibal. Its been long enough, and Mom is gone. The funeral home almost lost them. If it wasn’t for me requesting them they would have disappeared .They had them stored in some other basement. I have his service Flag in a safe place covered in plastic. Not sure if the second picture is him or not,I think it is,it was the USS McCord. Thanks,I will have to look for the whole crew,I have it,also have taken photos of it.
2 Attachments (Portrait & fantail)
Bruce Hoffman collection