The following article appeared in the Spring 1997 edition of the Cushing Herraldings, the Cushing Association Newsletter. The article was written by Paul J. Frisco and is reproduced here with his permission, and is © 1997 Paul J. Frisco.|
The Last Survivor
Edward J. Dorr, Seaman 2/C, USNRF
Orders from the Commanding Officer, Brooklyn Navy Yard, Brooklyn, New York, were duly stated, signed, and given to the above named sailor. It was notice and confirmation that his services were no longer required and his tenure aboard CUSHING was at an end. Typical of the times, Seaman Dorr was required not to affix his signature to the document until he arrived at his home. In addition to this minor detail he was also obligated to inform the Commandant Boston Navy Yard not only of his current home address but of any and all subsequent changes. In conclusion, he was instructed to turn in his hammock, mattress, and blankets before leaving ship. The date was April 14 1919.
On Monday morning, October 14, 1996, Columbus Day, under a sky blessed by a benevolent sun, blue skies and white cottonball clouds, the mission was begun. In truth, its origin occurred during the days and nights of the CUSHING reunion at Salt Lake City. Al McCloud and Bill York planned, set the strategy, and time phase, then solicited the services of a volunteer, who was instructed to make contact, visit, and deliver to the person of one Seaman 2/C Edward J. Dorr, USNRF, late of USS CUSHING (DD55), now residing in the town of Needham, Massachusetts, warmest greetings from the association. He was also to present one cap showing the hull numbers of all CUSHING vessels. With verbal orders committed to memory; the task was too important to be rendered only on paper, the mission was set in motion.
The weather was great, traffic light; there was nothing but open roads from Central Jersey to a small rural town setting just southwest of Boston. The miles clicked by in synchronization to the sweep hand of the clock. The drive through New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, into Massachusetts was beautiful and without incident.
The first phase of the mission required a detour to North Attleboro. Where we were required to make a first stop at the home of Lonnie Dorr, son of Edward. He had suggested we do this in order for him to direct and lead us to his father's home. Conversation was easy and casual; free of all pretense. He reiterated his concern and relief at our not having contacted any newspapers, TV or radio news station to chronicle our visit. He didn't think his father could stand the strain and fuss. With all preliminaries discussed and understood, he led us on to Needham.
Edward J. Dorr, Seaman 2/C USNRF, former crewman of USS CUSHING (DD55) today lives In a small universe. His world is a hospital bed with side boards raised, encased between two sheets, a blanket, a pillow or two under his head. He is always dressed in bed clothes and a sweat shirt to keep his chest warm. He was laying on his side when we were led into his room, eyes closed.
CUSHING CAP PRESENTED
There he was, the object of the mission at hand, asleep. Something that occupied more and more of his days. He can no longer stand and walk on his own. His legs fail him, as does his eyesight. At ninety-eight his body is like sand against an incoming tide. However, his spirits are great, something to see. Once awakened there was this happy countenance upon his face. He was delighted to learn he had been found and is now an active member of the CUSHING Association.
When he was presented with his cap and told there would be no dues, he beamed with delight. He gladly allowed his son to put it on his head and agreed to have the head-rest elevated so he could sit in an upright position while snap shots were taken. His joy, after Lonnie, his son, found and replaced the cap with the old man's original flat hat was worth every mile of the drive. Pictures were taken; flat hat on his head while holding on to the cap.
We spoke, but conversation was difficult. When questions were asked of events that occurred more than seventy years ago his memory did not serve him well. Always he would interject comments about fishing in deep waters. However, he did and does remember being aboard CUSHING and his days in the Navy. With some coaching from Lonnie he was able to tell of one hair raising incident. He was aboard he USS Colony which was taken to Halifax, Nova Scotia for transfer to the British Navy.
They were tied alongside a Belgian relief ship and while working in the officer's quarters he heard and felt a tremendous explosion. He was thrown into the air, landed on his back, and suffered damage to his back. The relief ship had been slammed into by a French ammunition ship and effected terrible damage to the dock area and town; 2000 people were killed. The Needham Chronicle wrote a feature story about Ed and his survival.
When asked if it was sure that Bull Halsey served aboard CUSHING during WWl, his answer was a quick "Yes." Beyond that, he could not tell much and offered an apology for his poor memory.
With help from Lonnie, he was able to tell of an Atlantic crossing aboard CUSHING where it was so rough he was one of the few that didn't get seasick. For that, he was sent down to the fireroom and shoveled coal until they made port in England.
When we arrived and he was awakened from sleep he thought we had come to take him to the circus. For several days there had been talk of a circus coming to Needham and he wanted to go. Flawed as his memory may be, it must be remembered this is a man who has lived and experienced many things in his long life. The past is hazy. But, listen close and you will hear snatches of his days aboard CUSHING, references to the circus, iron work, bees, and fishing in deep water.
Somewhere in the years following his Naval career he managed to find himself the right woman, Dorothy, marry her, and have a relationship that endured for more than sixty years. They raised a family and lived fairly well. Eddie Dorr was a doer and could always find something to bring in a good income.
There was the circus, working with steel, and his beekeeping. A task he did for twenty years, all without netting or protection. Then somewhere, somehow, he got into deep sea fishing. Where is not clear. it is obvious he is a man who has lived a full and happy life. it was not easy to say goodbye to this man.
After our leave had been taken and we were back on the road, thoughts of Eddie Dorr came to mind: his life, where he'd been, all he'd seen and done. Crazy as it may sound, a scene from Lost Horizon also came to mind. That wonderful moment when Conway and Father Perault meet for the first time. While there can be no claim of reverential awe at seeing and meeting Mr. Dorr.
There was this warm and wonderful feeling at having met someone truly special. How fortunate we were to have been given this task. Also how good and proud it was to know, but for the differences in years and times served, we shared a common bond.
We are CUSHING men, would always be, until the day we die.