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Winfield Edwin Bridges

Winfield Edwin Bridges TMC
Winfield Edwin Bridges TMC

Winfield Edwin Bridges was born September 23, 1894 in Dallas, Texas to parents James Edwin Bridges and Sarah Agnes (Leslie) Bridges.

Winfield Bridges With John J. Dorsey GM1c
Winfield Bridges With John J. Dorsey GM1c

Winfield was the oldest of six children. The next born was a sister Lela who died at age two in 1898. Sister Mabel was born that same year and lived until 1981. James Earl Bridges was born in 1900 and passed in 1959. Brother Jefferson Leslie Bridges was born in 1902 and lived to 1975. Sister Fay was born in 1904 and passed in 1956 and lastly brother Raymond was born in 1907 and he passed in 1986.

Surprisingly, both his parents out lived Winfield as well as his younger sister Fay. His father dying in 1957 and his mother 1960.

Winfield enlisted in the Navy on May 1, 1917 when he was 23 years old. What his first duty stations were isn't known at this time. We first run across him in the 1920 census when he shows up at a Navy Base at Tanners Creek, Virginia just outside Norfolk. He is listed as a Gunner's Mate 3rd Class. Interesting enough there are several men there that he will serve with at his next duty station. He reenlisted for the second time on November 11, 1920.

It is noted in later paperwork that though he was a Gunner's Mate he is performing the function of Torpedoman as there was no torpedo rate at that time.

It is known that by March 21, 1921 he has been promoted to GM 1c and is aboard the submarine USS R-14 (photo above) operating out of Pearl Harbor Hawaii. He was aboard her for her famous five day sail to Hilo, Hawaii after she had run out of fuel about 120 miles southeast of the big island of Hawaii. The crew made sails out of mattress covers and blankets and used bunk frames as yardarms. A very famous photo was taken of this event.

The only thing we are aware of during the next decade or so is that he reenlisted for the third time on January 18, 1923 which didn't expire until February 1927. He then reenlisted on March 1, 1927 a fourth time which expired on March 30, 1933. He reenlisted the next day for four more years. This was his fifth time being sworn into the Navy. March 31, 1937 he re-upped for another four years. We know that his sixth reenlistment in 1937 happened while he was at Mare Island.

No doubt the fact the Great Depression was going on may have been an inspiring reason for continual service but he probably really liked Navy life and found his calling with the Navy like many others have.

The record is blank to his whereabouts after leaving the R-14. It does note that by 1935 he had married and he and his wife, Laura A. Bridges, were living in San Diego, California at 2571 Imperial Ave. When he and Laura were married is yet to be discovered. They were living about a mile east from the Coronado Island bridge where he might have been stationed. Whether he was attached to submarines or some other Navy facility isn't known. By 1938 the couple has moved to 1804 K Street in San Diego about a mile west from their last home. If they are renting or have purchased isn't said in the files consulted.

He received orders to the USS S-39 at Cavite in the Philippines and reported aboard on December 24, 1938. By April 30, 1939 Winfield was given his permanent appointment to Chief Torpedoman. He was still aboard on December 31, 1940. There is no mention that Laura accompanied him. Navy life is tough on family holidays.

In March of 1941 he was transferred to the Receiving station at Bremerton, Washington. He reenlisted for the seventh time at Bremerton.

From there he was transferred to the Receiving Ship in New York, moored at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. He was given 10 days travel time. He was to report aboard on May 15, 1941. He stayed with the Receiving Ship until transferred on August 28, 1941 when he reported to the USS R-2 which was stationed at Key West, her home port for the rest of her career. He shows up on the R-2 sailing lists for September 30, 1941. It seems to get to the R-2 he was sent to the S-20 to ride to Key West. He was there when war broke out with Japan.

On March 17, 1942 Winfield was transferred to another Key West submarine, the R-11, which was also acting as a training vessel for sonar instruction.

We next catch up with Winfield in June of 1943 when he was on the commissioning crew of the USS Crevalle (SS-291), built at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. He was the Chief of the Boat, or C.O.B. and rode her to the Pacific and on her first two war patrols. During the first war patrol during a strenuous action in which an Auxiliary Aircraft Carrier and other ships were were sunk he was recommended by the commanding officer, LCDR Henry G. Munson, for the Silver Star. It was awarded to Winfield in 1944. The citation reads:

Silver Star
Awarded for actions during the World War II
The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Chief Torpedoman Winfield E. Bridges, United States Navy, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity and outstanding devotion to duty in action against the enemy during the FIRST War Patrol of the U.S.S. CREVALLE (SS-291), in the period from 27 October 1943 to 7 December 1943. As the leading Chief Petty Officer of the ship and the Chief of the Watch and Hydraulic Manifold Operator in action he rendered invaluable assistance to his Commanding Officer and materially contributed to the success of his ship which was credited with the sinking of four enemy ships, including an auxiliary aircraft carrier, and the damaging of another for a total tonnage of 35,455 tons. His leadership in training the inexperienced men, who constituted a large part of the crew of the ship, and his fortitude in action at a trying station where he was required to stand by for long periods of time was in a great measure responsible for the results, and he was a constant source of inspiration to the men placed under him. By his actions on this patrol he demonstrated his gallantry and professional skill which were at all times in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
General Orders: Commander 7th Fleet: Serial 01912 (July 18, 1944)
Action Date: October 27 - December 7, 1943
Service: Navy
Rank: Chief Torpedoman
Division: U.S.S. Crevalle (SS-291)<br.

After these two war patrols which lasted until February 15, 1944 he was apparently transferred back the Submarine Base at New London, probably as an instructor. He was 50 years old by this time and war was a young man's game. He was more valuable as an instructor.

On March 25, 1945 he was transferred to the USS R-20 which was operating as a training ship out of Key West for the duration of the war.

On April 14, 1945 Winfield reenlisted for the eighth time. He again can't be found in the records but he reenlisted for the last time on April 14, 1949 and was living in San Diego with his wife.

Winfield Edwin Bridges passed away at age 56 while on active duty with the United States Navy on June 5, 1951. He gave 34 years of service to his country. He is buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego, California; Plot: J, 94, only three miles from his home at 4421 Granger Street in San Diego. After his death, his widow, Laura, is listed in the 1954 city register as a 'Driver' for her occupation. Maybe she drove a Taxi. The record doesn't say.

His wife Laura, born on July 14, 1910, passed away on August 21, 1990 and is buried with Winfield in the same plot. There is no mention of children.

Winfield reenlisted a total of nines during his Naval career and participated in two World Wars.

Photo in the Private Collection of Ric Hedman

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