William Dignin

Spent 16 Hours Floating in Pacific When Destroyer Sank
HUMBIRD, WI--Robert J. Dignin, Motor Machinist First Class, has returned to duty, after spending a 14-day furlough with his parents here, Mr. and Mrs. J. L. Dignin. Active service was what Bobby asked for when he enlisted in the Navy on December 1, 1940 and, from his own accounts, he has seen his full share of it.

He received his boot training at Great Lakes and then went on to machinists' school at Dearborn, Michigan. Then, he was assigned to duty aboard a destroyer tender and, later, to the destroyer Duncan. His boat was passing from the Pacific to the Atlantic via the Panama Canal when Pearl Harbor was bombed. The Duncan returned to the Pacific and gave valiant service in some of the historic battles that were fought there.

It was during the Battle of Cape Esperance that the Duncan fought its last fight and went to its watery grave. On this occasion, Dignin found himself with others, taking an overlong swim in the Pacific. The waves were high and Bob's only support was his life jacket and a piece of floating debris which he and a buddy from Texas managed to reach. Then, for the next 16 hours, they were all alone in that great vastness.

After 16 hours in the Pacific, the guys spied a plane circling overhead, but they could not determine if it was friend or foe. Neither could they ascertain if the flyer had sighted them. At last, the aviator dropped a smoke flare nearby and, shortly, they were picked up by a landing boat from Guadalcanal. Dignin does not enlarge greatly on the experiences, but has souvenirs that he picked up while ashore in New Zealand and Australia.

In November 1942, he was returned to the United States and assigned to another destroyer, and this boat took him across the Atlantic in ample time to get into the invasion of Sicily. On this occasion, his boat gave protection to transports and, on one of these, was his brother, William, whom he had met for the first time in three years but, a few days previously, when their two craft were moored side by side in the harbor at Algiers.

There was plenty of action in the Sicilian invasion, but Bob can not tell much about that experience as yet. He went ashore at Malta, that famous rock whose battle scars are legion but whose colors still fly, and looked over the scene first hand.

Dignin has returned to his ship at the Brooklyn Navy Yards.