Survivor's Thanks

A USS Northampton Survivor’s Thanks to Fletcher
Nov. 30 - Dec. 1, 1942
by Alvin R. Brooks

This letter and poem were written in 1983 by Mr. Brooks and sent to a FLETCHER crewman.  His ship, the heavy cruiser USS NORTHAMPTON CA-26 was sunk in the Battle of Tassafaronga. FLETCHER rescued 626 NORTHAMPTON survivors that night and destroyer USS DRAYTON DD-366 rescued another 128 souls.

You don't know me but I was one of those oily Gobs that you and your buddies pulled from the Pacific Ocean on Nov. 30 - Dec. 1, 1942.  I'm sure glad you shipmates were on the ball that fateful night because I was tired of swimming.

I sincerely owe my life to the USS Fletcher and her crackerjack crew.  I must admit as the words in the poem I wrote indicate, I was sort of scared she was a Japanese destroyer at first as she was one of the first flushdeckers (or the first) that we had in the Pacific. Just wanted the whole ship's company to know how grateful I and my NORTHAMPTON shipmates are that the FLETCHER came to the rescue.  It's been a long time getting to you, but THANKS TO ALL OF YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART.

Alvin R. Brooks
Santee, CA


I hate to get hung up on numbers,
I would have liked to see 26 survive.
But on November 30th, 1942,
I got hung up on 445.

Oh! What a wonderful sight it was,
her beacons lighting up the swell.
To me she was an angel of mercy,
pulling me from the grips of hell.

To many a NORTHAMPTON sailor,
the FLETCHER is why he's alive.
Because on November 30, 1942,
he got hung up on 445.

I saw her flush decks and thought she was a Jap,
from my fish eye view from the sea.
But when she slowed down and switched on her lights,
I knew she was looking for me.

Our spirits were low we had just lost our ship,
but we were glad we were still alive.
Not because of anything we'd done by ourselves,
but the bravery of 445.

FLETCHER didn't know the meaning of fear,
and remained within harm's way.
She plucked us from the oily sea,
to fight another day.

I'll never forget number 445,
If I live to be one hundred and three.
Nor the crew of the USS FLETCHER,
who saved NORA's crew from the sea.

And now some 40 years later,
I met Mr. Dickenson and his wife.
He was one of the FLETCHER crewmen,
and I thanked him for saving my life.

Yes I hate to get hung up on numbers,
but there's lucky ones of every size.
And on November 30th 1942,
my lucky one was 445.

--Alvin R. Brooks--

Note: Hollywood actor Jason Robards was among the NORTHAMPTON survivors rescued by FLETCHER that night. Mr. Robards also survived a kamikaze attack on the cruiser USS NASHVILLE on 13 December 1944, an attack that was witnessed by topside personnel on nearby FLETCHER . 

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