I got a message on Facebook from Roy’s niece recently telling me about him. He was born in Great Falls, South Carolina on September 8, 1921 to Ben and Rosa Stewart McElduff. Roy’s rank was S1C (signalman 1st class) on board STRONG and unfortunately one of the men who did not make it home. After talking with her, I learned that Roy's sister and her mother is 86 years old and lives with them. They were stuck without power in one of the recent snow and ice storms, and started doing some reminiscing about the past. Her Mom was 14 years old when they got the news that Roy was lost. Just as my Uncle Billy's sisters never stopped mourning his loss, it’s the same for her Mom. What makes this all the more poignant, is that Roy's life was saved as the ship was sinking by Lt. Hugh Barr Miller, Jr., only to have him go missing without a trace shortly after.
If you've read the October 2013 blog about Stephen Harding and the book that is currently underway (scheduled for release sometime in 2016), then you know his focus in the book is the survival story of Lt. Miller. The USS CHEVALIER had to ram STRONG in order to rescue the survivors. As she was pulling away, one of the lines used to secure her to STRONG snapped and ended up lashed back against the side of STRONG, trapping Roy and Eddie Deering. On his way down into the water, Miller found the two men and struggled to cut them loose before STRONG went under. He was able to sever the line just as the ship sank beneath them. Miller, Roy, Deering and several others made it to a float net, and eventually to Arundel Island. On July 11th, four of the men set off to try and locate help, and Roy was one of the four. Two of the four men, Robert Butler and Sigmund McGee are known to have survived and made it back home. There's an extraordinary story here about the adventures of these two as they sought rescue, and I will cover this story in a future blog. It's unclear what happened to Roy and the other man. Eddie Deering died of his injuries on July 13th.
Just from speaking with Billy’s sister Stella in the years before she died, I got a sense of the emotional trauma that families suffer when they just don’t know what happened. It might be different if you have a body that comes home to give a proper burial, but when there is no trace of your loved one I can see how a family is left in a state of perpetually wondering about their fate. I don’t know if following through with this project to its end will help to answer any of these questions, but I believe for my family it will provide a sense of closure. I can only hope it helps others to find closure as well.
To the McElduff family, thanks for telling me about Roy. I welcome any other information you have to share in the future.