I typically try to keep the items on this blog related in some way to Governor Steunenberg, the Haywood trial and/or that period in history. I don't go a lot into other generations of our family as I know that may not be of interest to everyone. I am going to make an exception in this instance as I want to share a recent article about Robert K. Steunenberg and Landing Ship, Tank (LST) 808 on which he served during the war in the pacific. Robert was the son of Ancil and Lorraine Steunenberg and his grandfather was A.K. Steunenberg, brother of Governor Frank Steunenberg.
Robert died about six years ago and is survived by his wife Jean. Picture to the right is from College of Idaho 1891 - 1991: A Centennial History by Louie W. Attebery.
I receive automatic notifications through Google regarding anything that appears on the web related to "Steunenberg." Hence, I received notification of the article below and got in touch with the author, Bill Mego. Bill it turns out was Robert's long time friend and neighbor.
Interestingly, at the same time I discovered this article, I had run across Robert's copy of That Man Boone (with his personal nameplate) on eBay. The book is about the life of William Judson Boone, founder and president of the
Robert played the cello and Jean the piano. According to Bill Mego, those items were sold off. Bill also shared the following information: "Bob (aka Robert) was a friend and neighbor of mine for more than 30 years. He was a chemist with the Chemical Engineering Division at Argonne National Laboratory. His notebooks, which are thought to be the most meticulous works of their kind, remain at
With the information about Robert and his having served as an Ensign on LST 808, I have done a little research and included additional links at the bottom of this entry. I added the two pictures below from the referenced websites.
(The title below is linked to the
Cables tell tale of WWII attack on
by Bill Mego, Naperville Sun
July 31, 2008
On the evening of May 19, 1945, the tank landing ship LST 808 was anchored at Ie Shima, the island on which a sniper had killed famed war correspondent Ernie Pyle. It was midway through Operation Iceberg, the battle of
The 327-foot ship had previously served at the foot of Mount Suribachi, on
At 2207 hours, the LST 808's engine room was hit by a torpedo from a low flying plane. The enormous concussion opened a five-foot hole in the hull, instantly killing the five men in the engine room and filling the air with the smell of sulfur.
From the gray-painted communications room the following cable was sent: CROWBAR 808 THIS ANCHORAGE HAS RECEIVED HIT X ENGINE ROOM DAMAGED Then another: WE HAVE 6 FEET OF WATER IN TANK DECK An order to assist went out and was answered. BRAINWAVE WE ARE STANDING BY TO ASSIST CROWBAR 808.
Aboard LST 808, nothing but the radio was functioning, not even the pumps. They sent: REQUEST 1 OR 2 TUGS TO BEACH US X DO NOT KNOW IF WE CAN STAY AFLOAT ALL NIGHT Command sent: DO NOT WISH TO ENDANGER THE TUGS NEAR THE REEF X SEND TWO LSTS TO DO THE PUSHING JOB AND GET CREW OFF FOR NIGHT X EXPEDITE
But assisting was difficult. BRAINWAVE IMPOSSIBLE TO BEACH CROWBAR 808 IN THIS SMOKE WE HAVE GONE AGROUND ONCE. But the ship soon got free and went, with another LST, to beach the 808, which was now listing dangerously. CROWBAR 808 SLIP UP ANCHOR X BACKDOOR WILL ASSIST TO BEACH
Most of the crew was off the ship by 0300, and the salvage officers began the task of removing everything valuable or secret. A security detail of five was on the ship when, at 1837 hours on May 20, a kamikaze from the 50th Shinbu Squadron at Chiran Air Base flew his Hayabusa fighter plane into the forward superstructure and crashed all the way down to the tank deck. None of the men on board the ship were badly hurt.
Just another day in paradise. The final toll was 17 dead and 11 wounded.
Doctor Robert Steunenberg survived the war and went on to devote his energies to science and the community in which he became highly respected. As far as I know, he talked about the LST 808 only at the crew's annual reunion.
Bob had no children. After he died, and his wife had grown ill, men in charge of his estate came to his home and told his wife's live-in caregiver that she had one hour to leave. Then they admitted his wife, involuntarily, into a nursing home.
They are now in the process of selling Bob and his wife's possessions and the home that they loved so much. One of them sold me a plastic bag of my friend Bob's papers for $20.
And that, I guess, is how life ends for an American hero.
Bill Mego's column is published each Thursday. Contact him at
(Bill, thank you for your kind article and correspondence regarding Robert. Lets remain in touch, John)
Links related to LST 808
I have also entered the above on my footnote.com account at: