World War II treasure trove discovered
Dec. 10—Gloucester's George Story was just going through some odds and ends in his closet when he realized he had stumbled across a view to World War II history.
But these photos were not your run-of-the-mill images from that war.
The images he found were that of a Japanese warship sunk at Guadalcanal. According to Story, the black and white photos are a tad faded but they have held up remarkably well. Now he's looking for a connection to the photographer.
The story began unfolding in 2019 or 2020 when Story was simply emptying his attic of old items in preparation for an energy audit for his Washington Street home.
In doing so, he came across pages from what he thought was a family photo album that he initially glanced at but put aside. Three weeks ago, while he was cleaning his office closet, he came across the photos again.
This time, he gave the photographs a closer look.
"I had been wrong," Story wrote in a letter penned Monday to the Times. On Tuesday, he sat down in the Times' editorial office and presented his photographic find.
"When I found them, I was just amazed," Story said. "These were pictures from World War II, obviously from the Pacific Theater. There are a lot of photos here."
The old black album holds 108 photos. While the album binder is rotting away, it was stored in the dark and the photos not deteriorated. Story eventually separated all of the photos, being careful to number them.
He found no personal notations on the images, even where they were taken.
"Let me say straightaway, these are not my photographs," said Story. "We found them in an area of the attic neither (his wife Ann) nor I had ever been. (We had) 108 photographs and no way of knowing anything about them."
Story has lived in his Gloucester home for 24 years, since August 1998.
"The only connection we have to the pictures is we have co-existed within the same structure over all that time," he said, adding the photos .
The photos are small, about 2- by 4-inches.
Story said to examine them closely requires the aid of a magnifying glass. Since finding them, Story has scanned the images into his computer, enlarging them 150%.
That's when things get interesting.
The enlarged photos show a Japanese wreck with the name Kinugawa Maru on the hull. He says the wreck is located at 12 degrees 15 minutes south latitude and 161 degrees 30 minutes east longitude off Bonegi Beach on Guadalcanal.
"Guadalcanal is part of the Solomon Island chain which was a large offensive early in the war," said Story. "A very decisive battle, in fact."
According to a page on the web site pacificwrecks.com, on Nov. 15, 1942, the Kinugawa Maru was cruising along with fellow transport ships Hirokawa Maru, Yamaura Maru and Yamatsuki Maru when they joined the naval Battle of Guadalcanal in Ironbottom Sound.
The transports were later ordered to beach themselves on Guadalcanal. Before dawn, approximately 2,000 personnel, 260 cases of ammunition and 1,500 bags of rice made it ashore.
"By first light, the four transports were spotted by the Americans," reads an excerpt from pacificwrecks.com.
By 5 a.m., the ships were targeted by artillery fire from F Battery of the 244th Coast Artillery Battalion at Lunga Point. At 5:45 a.m. the 5-inch guns from the U.S. Marine defense Battalion opened fire on the ships. Planes from Henderson Field and B-17s from Espiritu Santo continued to bomb the transports.
"By noon, all four transports were sunk in shallow water near the shore with most of their cargo destroyed before it could be unloaded," reads pacificwrecks.com.
Finding those connected to the photos
Story bought his Gloucester house from Frederick Gordon Williams Jr. He and his wife Florence (nee Fisher) Williams had purchased the house in 1972. Their only child, Gregory, was already grown when they moved there in 1972.
All three have since died, according to Story.
"Are we 100 percent certain (Frederick Gordon Williams Jr.) took them?" he asked, pointing to the photos. "We're not sure, but by all accounts, it's him."
Now, Story is searching for possible family members to hand the photos over for safekeeping. Story himself served in the U.S. Army in the early 1970s, being stationed at Fort Still, Oklahoma, and also at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
In fact, he still remembers his draft number.
"I was among the last drafted," he said. "I was 143."
For his part, Story hopes the needed connections can be made to get in touch with the person or persons responsible for the photos.
"I just feel as though World War II was a rough time and he lived through it, and he came home," he said. "It shouldn't be forgotten. After all, this is his story."
But if that effort to connect the dots fails, Story said he has been assured the National World War II Museum in New Orleans will accept and preserve the photos.
"I would hate to see them leave Cape Ann," he said. "If it was Mr. Williams who lived through what these pictures depict, both he and them should be remembered and these pictures are not lost. They should be rejoined with the rest of the Williams collection.
"Any information anyone can share would be appreciated."
George Story can be reached at 978-283-4049.
Stephen Hagan can be reached at 978-675-2708 or firstname.lastname@example.org.