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First Name: Howard

Last Name: Baumgarten

Birthplace: TX, US

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)

Rating: Torpedoman's Mate Petty Officer 3rd Class

Home of Record: TX
Middle Name: Fritz

Date of Birth: 1920

Date of Death: 25 November 1945 (Presumed)

MIA Date: 01 March 1942

Rank or Rate: Petty Officer Third Class

Years Served: 1939-1945

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


HOWARD FRITZ BAUMGARTEN was born in Texas about 1921. His parents and/or siblings are unknown. His guardian was Dr. Gordon Stewart Taylor (G.S. Taylor) who was the Dean of Boys at the Buckner Orphans Home, Buckner Blvd in Dallas, Dallas, TX. Dr Taylor was also the sports coach of all athletics at Buckner. He earned his PhD from Howard Payne University. I am presuming that Howard F. Baumgarten and Dr Taylor had a personal relationship through his Dean of Boys position and because Howard was a resident of the home. I have checked the 1930 Buckner home census and Howard was not listed. Dr Taylor was listed in the Buckner home enumeration in 1940, but Howard was not because he was in the military by that time.

Howard Fritz Baumgarten applied for enlistment in the US Navy in the late fall of 1939 in Dallas, TX. After successfully completing qualifying general aptitude examinations; submitting personal references, completing administrative paperwork, passing background checks and physical and dental examinations, in addition to securing his guardian's permission, Howard F. Baumgarten was accepted for enlistment. Howard enlisted into the US Navy (NSN:356-19-85) on 07 Dec 1941 in the Navy Recruiting Office in Dallas, TX as a Apprentice Seaman (AS) for a period of 3 years. He was transferred to the Naval Training Station (NTS), San Diego for an 8 weeks of recruit training. After completing recruit training, AS Baumgarten was granted 10 days of leave before reporting to the light cruiser, USS Philadelphia (CL-41) for duty on 10 Feb 1940.

On 7 Apr 1940, AS Baumgarten advanced in rate to Seaman Second Class (S2c). S2c Baumgarten detached from the Philadelphia on 2 May 1940 and reported to the destroyer tender, USS Dobbin (AD-3), the same day. S2c Baumgarten advanced in rate to Seaman First Class (S1c) on 16 Nov 1940. On 09 Jan 1941, Baumgarten was sent on temporary duty under instruction to the US Submarine Base at Pearl Harbor for a course at the torpedo school. It was a lengthy school ending on 4 Jun 1941 when he returned to the Dobbin for duty. A month later on 01 July 1941, S1c Baumgarten advanced in rate to Torpedoman Third Class (TM3).

In the fall of 1941, TM3 Baumgarten received orders to transfer to the Commander, Destroyer Squadron 29 (ComDesRon 29), Asiatic Station, with headquarters in Manila, Philippines for assignment. On 21 Nov 1941, Baumgarten detached from the Dobbin and reported as a passenger on board the transport ship, USS Chaumont (AP-5). She got underway from Pearl Harbor steaming west to the Philippines on 29 Nov 1941 carrying sailors, civilian workmen, and cargo for Manila. It was to be a momentous journey.

A week later the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor thrusting the United States into WWII. Chaumont's schedule was quickly altered to respond to wartime tasking. Chaumont was diverted to Suva, Fiji, then to Brisbane, Australia. It was not until Friday, 09 Jan 1942, that Chaumont, with TM3 Baumgarten and eleven other shipmates destined for the USS Edsall, arrived in Darwin, Australia where she off-loaded her cargo and disembarked her passengers.

The aging, four stack destroyer, USS Edsall (DD-219), finished escort duties and anchored at Darwin at 09:32 on Monday morning, 05 Jan 1942. Baumgarten and his eleven shipmates had been assigned to USS Edsall for duty by ComDesRon 29. Shortly after disembarking from Chaumont, they reported to Edsall on 09 Jan. Those eleven shipmates were MM1 Horace Wilbern Andrus, BMC Feliciano Calpo, MMC Guy Cantrell, YNC Arthur Giese, WT2 James Moberley, GM2 Raymond Latham, QM1 Linwood Muir, CTM Walter Prouty, Ck2c Ruperto Sanares, WTC Elton Smith, and EM3 Lloyd Stover. All perished on 01 Mar 1942.

Prelude to War

The threat of hostilities between the United States and Japan grew closer to the boiling point as the year 1941 began. Admiral Hart, Asiatic Fleet CINC, determined it was time to send all of the families of his sailors home. There was push-back from the resentful spouses who initially declined to leave their husbands. It was only a threat to indefinitely restrict their spouses to their ships without leave that finally convinced the families; it was time to comply with orders and return to the continental United States (CONUS). Admiral Hart's directive probably saved many family members from internment by the Japanese or worse. For many of the married sailors, it was the last time they would ever see their families.

Then, in July 1941, as Japanese aggression intensified with their move south into lower Indo-China, Admiral Hart warned his officers that he had no doubt that war would come although he didn’t know how or when it would start. Hart trained his destroyer crews hard keeping them on a war-footing for extended periods and away from Cavite naval base as much as possible exercising his “defensive deployment.” Ordered south to comply with the Adm. Hart’s “defensive deployment,” units of the Asiatic Fleet including destroyer tender USS Blackhawk (AD-9), USS Edsall (DD-219) and other ships of Destroyer Division (DesDiv) 57, got underway on 25 Nov 1941. They steamed into port on the morning of 29 Nov 1941 in Balikpapan, a major oil port on the eastern coast of Borneo.

On 8 Dec 1941, USS Edsall, a ship of Destroyer Division 57 (DESDIV), was enroute to Batavia (Djakarta) when word of the attacks on Pearl Harbor was received. The division altered course to Singapore to act as ASW screen for Force Z. From Singapore, Edsall was sent to search for survivors of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse, sunk off Malaya on 10 Dec. No survivors were found. It was learned later that other ships had retrieved the survivors. For the next month, Edsall and other units of DESDIV 57 were used to escort shipping to and from Australia. It was on one of these escort trips in Jan 1942, that Edsall participated in the sinking of IJN submarine (I-124) off Darwin. Several days later, Edsall was damaged during another attack on a suspected submarine. One of Edsall's depth charges exploded prematurely in shallow water damaging one of Edsall’s propeller shafts. This damage would play an important role in her eventual sinking about a week later.

On 3 February, Edsall and other American units of the American-British-Dutch-Australian Force (ABDA) moved up to Tjilatjap, Java in order to be closer to the combat theater and refueling facilities. She continued her service as a patrol vessel off southern Java. On 26 February, she steamed from Tjilatjap with her sister ship USS Whipple (DD-217) to rendezvous with the converted seaplane tender, USS Langley (AV-3), carrying P-40E fighters and crews for the defense of Java. On 27 February, the Langley, along with Edsall and Whipple, came under attack by sixteen (16) Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" bombers of the Japanese 21st and 23rd Naval Air Flotillas and escorted by fifteen (15) A6M Reisen fighters. The attack fatally damaged Langley. She had to be abandoned and later scuttled by Whipple. Edsall rescued 177 survivors; Whipple, 308.

On 28 February, the two destroyers rendezvoused with the fuel replenishment ship USS Pecos (AO-6) off Flying Fish Cove, Christmas Island some 250 miles southwest of Tjilatjap. A sudden attack by land based Japanese bombers forced Edsall and the other ships to head for the open sea. They headed directly south into the Indian Ocean for the rest of 28 February in high winds and heavy seas. Early in the pre-dawn hours of 1 March, Whipple and Edsall transferred all the Langley survivors to Pecos. There were now close to 700 personnel on board the ship. Whipple then set off for Cocos Islands as protection for the tanker Belita sent to meet her there. The Pecos, carrying a large number of survivors was ordered to Australia. Edsall had retained 32 USAAF personnel from Langley needed to assemble and fly an additional 27 P-40E fighters shipped to Tjilatjap on board the transport Sea Witch. Edsall was instructed to return these "fighter crews" to Tjilatjap. At 0830, she reversed course and headed back to the northeast for Java.

At noon that day, planes from Japanese aircraft carrier Soryu attacked Pecos and struck again an hour later. Finally, in mid-afternoon, third and fourth strikes from aircraft carriers Hiryu and Akagi fatally wounded the Pecos. While under attack, Pecos radioed for help. After Pecos sank, Whipple returned to the scene intentionally arriving after dark. She eventually rescued 232 survivors. Many other survivors, although visible to crewmembers on board Whipple, had to be abandoned at sea because Whipple made sonar contact with what was believed to be several Japanese submarines. It was just too dangerous for her to remain in the area. Edsall may have heard Pecos’s call for help or she may have been complying with orders to reverse course and steam toward Australia.

For whatever the reason, Edsall reversed course and was never heard from again. The US Navy Department simply said Edsall was lost due to enemy action. The US Navy Department declared all Edsall crewmembers “presumed dead” on 25 Nov 1945. This finding of presumptive death date was fixed in order to take care of settlements and claims. At that point no one suspected that survivors from Edsall were among many victims of war crimes on Celebes.

Mr. Gordon S. Taylor, Sr., Howard’s guardian, received a cablegram on 22 March from the Navy Department that informed him that Howard was missing in the performance of his duty. For the next three years in March the Navy sent a letter to him to update the status of Howard. In early Dec 1945, the final letter came explaining why Howard was being declared “presumed” dead. The official date of his "presumed" death was 25 Nov 1945.

The final muster report for Edsall on 01 Mar 1942 (written several years later) shows that Petty Officer Baumgarten, was missing in action on 01 Mar 1942 and presumed dead on 25 Nov 1945. His remains were unrecoverable.

Because no known survivors lived to tell the story, the details surrounding the sinking of Edsall remained largely a mystery for more than a half century. Finally, after historians compiled bits and pieces of information from various allied sources over the years, Japanese records and eyewitnesses on the Chikuma recently became available. The new information points to a short but epic battle involving the aging Edsall and one of the world's strongest naval forces of its day.

After Edsall reversed her course on 01 Mar 1942 and steamed away from Java, she stumbled upon Admiral Nagumo's battle force, Kido Butai, that had been prowling the Indian Ocean in search of enemy shipping. Unfortunately, Edsall was spotted first. She was misidentified as a light cruiser of the Marblehead class. IJN battleships Hiei and Kirishima and heavy cruisers Tone and Chikuma were detached from the battle force to attack Edsall with surface gunfire.

The old four-stacker began evasive maneuvers frustrating the Japanese for the next hour and half. However, because of the damage done previously to one of her propeller shafts, Edsall was unable to make top speed or maneuver fully. At one point Edsall turned and launched her torpedoes narrowly missing Chikuma. The Japanese fired some 1400 rounds resulting in only one or two direct hits. The frustrated Admiral Nagumo called upon his carriers to finish off the Edsall. She was attacked by dive-bombers from two Japanese carriers (Kaga, Soryu,) and possibly a third (Hiryu) before succumbing to this devastating attack. The Edsall went down at 1900 hours, 01 Mar 1942, 430 miles south of Java.

Japanese eyewitnesses confirm that at least eight Edsall crewmen from a large number of survivors were fished out of the water and brought on board the Chikuma. The rest of the survivors were left to their fate in the water. Chikuma and the rest of the battle force arrived at Staring Bay anchorage, Celebes on 11 Mar 1942. Three dozen POWs, 8 or more from the Edsall and the remainder from a Dutch ship, were turned over to the Japanese Special Naval Landing Forces based at Kendari where they were executed on 24 Mar 1942 near Kendari II airfield.

After WWII ended, an Allied War Crimes Tribunal was convened in Java. During the course of the Tribunal's investigations, an eyewitness to Japanese executions was discovered and interviewed. He testified that he witnessed the execution by the Japanese of a number of POWs in 1942. He led investigators to the Japanese Execution Grounds mass grave, Kendari II, Celebes, N.E.I. Five sets of remains in a group of about 10 were later identified from ID tags as USS Edsall crewmen. The other five were unknown but were later definitely associated with US Army Air force personnel on board Edsall from the Langley. A sixth set of remains were found in another burying ground on Celebes. They were identified by an ID tag as those of Fireman Second Class (F2) Loren Stanford Myers, a crewman from the Edsall.

All these sets of remains were disinterred and reburied in the US Military Cemetery, Barrackpore, India on 12 Nov 1946. After three years, their remains were disinterred again and arrived in San Francisco on board the USAT Sgt Charles E. Mower on 5 Nov 1949. The remains were reburied in a common grave at the National cemetery at Jefferson Barracks, St. Louis, MO on 20 Dec 1949. The remains of F2 Myers were reinterred according to immediate family wishes in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, HI on 31 Mar 1950. With the discovery of all these remains, their presumed date of death was amended to 02 Mar 1942.


U.S. National Cemetery Interment Control Forms, 1928-1962 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012, MM2 J.R. Cameron, USN, died 2 Mar 1942 overseas. Remains returned from overseas WWII. Group burial with MM1 Horace W. Andrus, F1c Sydney Griffith Amory, MM3c Larry Vandiver, and F1c Donald F. Watters at Jefferson Barracks. MO on 20 Dec 1949.


TM3 Baumgarten was awarded (Posthumously) the Purple Heart Medal, American Defense Service Medal w/Fleet Clasp, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal w/Fleet Clasp and three bronze stars, the Philippine Defense Medal w/clasp, World War II Victory Medal, and he was eligible for the Combat Action Ribbon (est. 1969 retroactive 07 Dec 1941).


A commemoration sent to his guardian in honor of TM3 Baumgarten’s service from President Harry S. Truman reads:

In Grateful Memory of Howard Fritz Baumgarten, Who Died In The Service Of His Country At Sea, Asiatic Area, attached U.S.S. Edsall, 25 November 1945 (presumed). He stands in the unbroken line of patriots who have dared to die that freedom might live, and grow, and increase its blessings. Freedom lives, and through it, he lives – in a way that humbles the undertakings of most men.


Harry Truman

President of the United States of America


Bio #301 composed on 17 May 2021 by Gerry Lawton (G47)

Military Hall of Honor #124769

Find A Grave memorial page #227233433

Honoree ID: 124769   Created by: MHOH




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