USS New Orleans CA-32 - Grouped with the "Most Decorated Ships of World War II" - 17 Battle Stars, 5 Navy Crosses, 10 Silver Stars, 1 Bronze Star, 1 Air Medal 206 Purple Hearts
Battles and Campaigns - Pearl Harbor docked Dec. 7, 1941; Battle of Midway (took on survivors from the Yorktown); Solomons; Guadalcanal; Eastern Solomons; The Battle of Corral Sea; Sinking of the USS Saratoga (took on its crew); Figi; Espiritos Islands; Battle of Tassafarongs; Wake Island; Gilberts and Marshall Islands and The Philippines
Eugene McIlvain was a crew member on the USS New Orleans CA-32 on all the above military campaigns and battles.
Eugene Dale McIlvain
Duties - U.S. Naval Metalsmith
Metal Smith: often shortened to Smith; a person involved in making metal objects. The name Smith came from Arhaic English word smite meaning hit or strike, Smith connotes the meaning of a special craft. Black, copper, lock, wood, metal, just a small part of the Smith family.
Naval duties of Metal Smith: is a Naval crewman who is involved with working with various metals. The metalsmith's duties on ship were to make plans, determine time and cost estimates, works with copper and brass. Tempered metals, repairs ships metal damages, test ship for water tightness. Other duties include include working in the ship's machine shop repairing damaged and at times rebuilding from scratch a part needed which is not readily available in order to keep the naval ship operating at its peak efficiency.
Married Feb. 20, 1948, to Dorothy Jane (Phillips) in Norfolk, Va.
Children - Ruth Golem and Linda Cooper.
Grandchildren: Bradley McIlvain, Eric Golem, Kelly White and Terry Swanson
Great-grandchildren - Brandon McIlvain, Jack McIlvain, Trevor Blume, Cooper White and Jana White
Eugene Dale McIlvain was born Jan. 29, 1912, in Marion, Ohio. His parents were Edgar and Mary (Peterson) McIlvain who were hard working people. They loved spending time with their children, Eugene's sisters Josephine (Ellis) and Isabelle(Kruth) and brothers; James, John and Robert. Outdoors is where the McIlvain family loved to spend time not only hunting and fishing, but even trapping was a yearly enjoyment. McIlvain was fascinated as a child with minerals rocks and different gems.
While in high school, he was a standout on the Fredonia High School football teams of 1928 to 1932. As a senior, McIlvain was selected not only by his coach, but also by his teammates to be the 1932 Fredonia High football team captain.
After high school, he found various jobs but spent as much time as he could maintaining a trapline. Traplining is setting a line or series of traps.
While living in the Navy town of Norfolk, Va. He met his wife, Dorothy, on the beach. The two loved the beach so much that they at times lived on the beach in a small ocean cottage.
After his military duties were completed, he came back to the Fredonia area and found employment at Sahloff Lumber, then at Independent Corp. and finally was offered a job at the Dunkirk Steam Station as a gate man. Later McIlvain bid and received a job in the mechanical maintenance department which first started out working one of its four eight-story boilers along with various plant mechanical maintenance projects.
Later on in his NiMo years, he landed a position working in the stations store and tool room. This job's responsibility was to make sure the plant had the right parts needed for any emergency repairs and to also have parts ready for planned outages. In the tool room McIlvain had the responsibility for making sure all tools were safe for the mechanics and electricians to use. This also included major overhauls and making sure all tools were returned so when the next emergency or job came down the tools were in hand to start the job. It also required him to keep track of who had any tools that were out on jobs.
Being a jack of all trades, McIlvain decided that he was going to build his home from the ground up by himself. His daughter told me that her dad indeed built their home at 4781 Van Buren Drive. He did close to 100 percent by himself.
Eugene McIlvain loved to garden. A garden of over two acres was completely free of weeds. There was nothing that he could not grow. In the summer months if you wanted him all you had to do was go out to his garden.
Winters were a different story. At the end of summer, the chances of seeing him and his wife were slim. Winter months meant traveling the U.S. In their travels the McIlvains loved to gem hunt, dry pan for gold, and dig for diamonds. From Yuma, Ariz. to Murphysburg, Ark. you would see him exploring our earth, trying to find one of its hidden gems. While in Murphysburg, McIlvain and his wife found a A-cut perfect diamond. He had a jeweler cut it and had it mounted for his wife. At their home you could find an item that they had found and brought back from every state. He traveled to all 50 states and his wife had been to 48. They loved the desserts and visited all the forest they could visit.
Another fantastic story being on the USS, New Orleans during all those campaigns which actually started the first day at Pearl Harbor. A young sailor that on Dec. 6, 1941 was living in paradise not knowing the next day was to change his life forever, maybe not much physically but mentally.
Starting from day one watching and helping his shipmates pull sailors from the fire covered waters of the Hawaiian Harbor. As the war went on, he saw not only the sinking of our aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, but months later watched the USS Saratoga also go down. He saw battle after battle with no end in sight. He stood on his ship's deck and watched a city-sized ship sink to the ocean's bottom and all he could do is help pull sailors from the sea.
While doing McIlvain's story something kept going on in my mind and I couldn't pinpoint it. Finally, as I was going through the official naval USS New Orleans battle history pages, I realized that the names of the battles he witnessed reminded me of some of the other veterans' stories I had written about. Then it came to me. I have had the privilege to have 30 stories published in the OBSERVER.
Stories about local people being in Solomon's, Wake Island, the Philippines. The Gilberts, the Marshalls, even Guadalcanal. In those stories I wrote about our local heroes who were also in the same areas that the USS New Orleans supported. I wonder now if they ever knew? Ever knew that while they were in harm's way on that island base, plane or other ship if they knew that not far away that there were also people from the Dunkirk-Fredonia area.
A sailor named Eugene McIlvain was out there on the USS New Orleans possibly in some way helping to support their positions. Over 60 years have passed and we haven't even started to understand World War II. We can go to to Netflix and get Hollywood's version, or we can just ask grandpa, uncle, an aunt or a local veteran. They can tell you, they were there. Eugene McIlvain was there.
That is why Eugene McIlvain is our hero of the week!
- Submitted by John Fedyszyn, Fredonia