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Remembering World War II
James Woodrow Wilson Kaler
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Name: James Woodrow Wilson Kaler Rank: Fireman First Class Service Number: 9268891 Service: USS Drexler (DD-741), United States Navy Awards: Purple Heart Date of Birth: November 3, 1918 Place of Birth: Bath, Sagadahoc County, Maine Date of Enlistment: May 1944 Place of Enlistment: Maine Address at Enlistment: Maine Age at Enlistment: 25 Occupation: Machine shop employee Marital Status: Married Religion: Unknown Next of Kin: (Ruth) Laurada Kaler (Wife) Date of Death: May 28, 1945 Age: 26 Cemetery: Honolulu Memorial, National Cemetery of the Pacific, Hawaii Grave: Court 3, Courts of the Missing James Woodrow Wilson Kaler was the son of Clinton Stahl Kaler (1889-1950) and Margaret Ann (Campbell) Kaler (1888-1934). His mother was born in Cape Breton County, Nova Scotia and his father was born Nobleboro, Lincoln County, Maine. James had two sisters, Anna M (Kaler) Frost (1913–1996) and Mildred M Kaler (1914–1921), and one brother Clinton Donald Kaler (1922-2014). Clinton Donald also served as a Fireman First Class in the US Navy in WWII and he is interred at the Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Augusta, Maine. James attended Morse high School for three years before working at the machine shop at the Bath Iron Works in 1936. James married Ruth Laurada Jordan on February 23, 1939, and they had three children – David Samuel Kaler (1939-2020), Daniel Jay Kaler (1944-2010) and a third child. In 1940, James and his family were living at Berry Mell Road in West Bath, Maine and James was working at the Bath Iron Works machine shop. James mustered on the USS Drexler (DD-741), an Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer, on January 31, 1945, having joined the ship from Boston, Massachusetts on January 16, 1945. Sailing from Norfolk on Jan. 23, 1945 to escort the USS Bon Homme Richard, an Essex-class aircraft carrier, to Trinidad, Drexler then sailed on to reach San Diego on Feb. 10th. 3 days later she got underway for Pearl Harbor for antiaircraft and shore bombardment exercises until the 23rd, when she sailed on escort duty to Guadalcanal and Ulithi, the staging area for the Okinawa invasion. Drexler departed Ulithi March 27, 1945, bound for Okinawa and duty on a radar picket station. On May 28th at 07:00, two kamikazes attacked Drexler and Lowry. The first was downed by the combined fire of the two destroyers and planes from the combat air patrol. The second tried to crash onto Lowry but missed, hitting Drexler instead and cutting off all power and starting large gasoline fires. Despite the heavy damage, she kept firing, aiding in shooting down two planes which attacked immediately after the crash. At 07:03 she was hit by another aircraft, a twin-engine "Frances" P1Y1 bomber, and the impact rolled her on to her beam ends, causing her to sink in less than 50 seconds"[2] at 27°6′N 127°38′E. Because of the speed with which she sank, casualties were heavy: 168 dead and 52 wounded. The captain was one of the wounded. Fireman First Class James Woodrow Kaler, initially reported as missing in action, was killed during the attack. The report of him missing appears in the Portland Press Herald on June 4, 1945. James has no known grave and is remembered in Court 3 of the Courts of the Missing on the Honolulu Memorial at the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii. James also has a memorial headstone at the Arlington National Cemetery in Section MK, Site 21, and is remembered on the Peace Park Memorial in Okinawa. There is also a wall plaque in memory of the crew lost from the USS Drexler at the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas (Row 1, Section 17, East Wall, Courtyard). James’ sons Daniel and David both served in the United States Marine Corps.