Early Life

Becoming a Sailor and Assignment to the USS Cushing (DD-797)

USS Cushing (DD-797) Heritage

LIfe Aboard the USS Cushing (DD-797)

The USS Cushing (DD-797)'s Crew

USS Cushing (DD-797)'s Combat Operations in the Pacific

Battle of Leyte Gulf

USS Cushing (DD-797)'s Wartime Experiences

Attack on the USS Franklin (CV-13)

Threats to the USS Cushing (DD-797)

Postwar Service, Postwar Life and Reflections

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Paul J. Frisco was born in May 1925 in Newark, New Jersey. He lived there until he was 15 years old and then moved to Leonardo, New Jersey. His parents came from large families. Frisco had two sisters. The family was of Italian ancestry. Frisco's father was a tool and die maker. He also worked as a bootlegger during Prohibition which was common for the period. Frisco's parents married quite young and had to make ends meet. It was difficult times to hold the family together. It was particularly hard during the drought periods of the 1930s. People migrated to both coasts to find better ways to support their family. Frisco was 16 years old on that cold December [Annotator's Note: December 1941] day when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The dinnertime radio program was interrupted and the announcement made of the attack. The following week, Frisco and some of his friends attempted to enlist in the service. He was rejected because of his age. He had to wait until he was 17 years old. Some of his friends were accepted into the military. His rejection disappointed him. After he reached the required age, he still was rejected an additional three times because of dental issues. He was anxious before being accepted because he thought the war would pass him by. He wanted to be with his friends serving the country. His father went to work to get his son inducted. Frisco's father had served in the Navy during World War 1 and managed to assist his son. His father's effort paid off and Frisco was inducted.

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Paul J. Frisco enlisted in the Navy because of his father's service during World War 1 and because of the Navy's discipline. Frisco was sent to basic training at the Great Lakes Naval Station where some of his friends preceded him. Although he never saw any of his friends, he thought the 15 week training program was great. After boot camp, he was granted leave to go home. He returned to Great Lakes afterward for further testing and assignment. Initially, he was sent to Chicago and then to Madison, Wisconsin for 15 weeks of radio training at the University of Wisconsin. That occurred from June to November 1943. Frisco enjoyed the experience. He transferred via New York to the Norfolk Naval Operating Base for pre-commissioning training for the USS Cushing (DD-797). He underwent multiple training programs to familiarize himself with operations and life aboard the ship. The brand new destroyer was activated at Brooklyn Navy Yard in December 1943. After commissioning, the ship sailed to Bermuda and made way back to Brooklyn Navy Yard where deficiency corrections were made. Liberty in New York was good, but Frisco wanted to return home. After repair, Cushing pulled out for Norfolk. Despite rumors of it participating in the invasion of Europe, the ship sailed through the Panama Canal and made its way to Pearl Harbor. Some of the crew felt cheated that they would miss the large scale invasion of Europe. On the other hand, they were headed toward confrontation with the Japanese.

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Paul J. Frisco served aboard the USS Cushing (DD-797) during the ship's entire wartime cruise. The ship was the fourth named for William Barker Cushing, a Union naval hero of the Civil War. Its predecessor namesake was DD-376 which fought the Japanese fleet off Guadalcanal and was sunk. A fifth ship carried the name later. Frisco recounts the history and exploits of William Barker Cushing as a hero. His brother received commendations for his service at Gettysburg during the Civil War. He shows obvious pride in the Cushing name bestowed to his ship.

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Paul J. Frisco's regular watch station aboard the USS Cushing (DD-797) during the first year or so he was aboard was in the radio room. When the ship was at general quarters his station was at one of the ship's 20mm antiaircraft guns, operating the trunion. His general quarters station remained the same during his entire tour of duty. He was impressed with the ship's armament and the power of the task forces to which his ship was attached. Living conditions aboard were good considering it was a small ship. The ship served as the squadron commander's ship. As a radioman, he provided incoming messages to the commodore. He learned life lessons from their reactions. His life aboard ship was good considering the wartime conditions. His watch was four on and eight off. Ship discipline required personal and area cleanliness. Frisco often studied to advance to the next rating grade. The ship sailed under Admiral Halsey [Annotator's Note: US Navy Fleet Admiral William F. Halsey] as an antiaircraft destroyer within the task group that included multiple aircraft carriers and battleships with many other ships. The firepower was huge. The Cushing served in the outer line of antiaircraft defense. Picket ships would sail out beyond to the outer defense. That was prior to the days of the kamikazes. Submarines would be on reconnaissance beyond that point. Sailors often brought clothing and bedding to the topside for cleaning and airing. It made the cambre softer.

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Paul J. Frisco felt comfortable around some of the officers on the USS Cushing (DD-797). With others, he was not as close. Promotions on the ship came slowly. When Frisco became frustrated with not being promoted, he was granted a transfer to the fire room below with the boilers, burners and steam tubes. It turned out to be a blessing. The crew there was unique. Being there enhanced Frisco's understanding of shipboard life. The fire room with its boilers provided power for propulsion and the ship. Cooks and bakers brought food to the fire room to heat up and share with the crew. Frisco never ate as well as he did while he was in the fire room crew. There were two fire rooms on the ship. Frisco was lucky in his Navy life. It was comfortable for him.

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Paul J. Frisco's first combat action aboard the USS Cushing (DD-797) escorting the fast carriers during the invasion of Peleliu. They were then detached to provide fire support for troops on the ground on the island of Anguar but actually did not fire in support of ground forces until Okinawa. After the Palau Islands actions, the Cushing's next operations were in the Philippines off Leyte and Luzon. During Okinawa operations, destroyers were heavily damaged by Japanese air forces, including kamikazes.

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During the Battle of Leyte Gulf, Paul J. Frisco and the USS Cushing (DD-797) were part of Task Group 38.2 under Admiral Halsey [Annotator's Note: US Navy Fleet Admiral William F. Halsey] which was thought to be guarding the San Bernardino Strait against the Japanese naval forces known to be in the area. Halsey was to protect General MacArthur's [Annotator's Note: US Army General Douglas MacArthur] ground forces landing on Leyte. Instead, the task group was heading north chasing Japanese aircraft carriers. By the time the Japanese forces entered Leyte Gulf and attacked the American naval forces supporting the landings, the Cushing and the other ships of the fleet were over 300 miles away and were not able to offer any assistance. This was the second major naval battle Frisco felt cheated out of. After the Philippines, Iwo Jima and Okinawa were the Cushing's next assignments.

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Paul J. Frisco was aboard a Fletcher-class destroyer, the USS Cushing (DD-797), during World War 2. He was impressed with its capability to fire in all directions, albeit not in a rapid fashion. At no time did he feel fear because he was busy, there was an armada of ships around his, and he did not think anything negative would happen to them. Frisco's ship shot down nine enemy aircraft, although they were only officially credited with four. During the raids on Japan, a war correspondent rode aboard the ship and wrote an article for the Saturday Evening Post entitled, "The Ship That Thumbed Its Nose at Japan." The Cushing was the first surface ship to sail within sight of Japan. The story was never published because it was overtaken by events with the signing of surrender by Japan. The Cushing attacked two submarines without success. Frisco's ship successfully rescued two aircrews downed in the Pacific and were attacked while returning to the Task Group. The skipper successfully evaded two torpedoes and brought the ship to safety. No official recognition was provided for these actions, although a crewman from one of the planes acknowledged they had been rescued by the Cushing and the ship had evaded two torpedo hits. As a member of a 20mm gun crew, Frisco's estimation of the number of aircraft his destroyer shot down was 11 or 12, some of which were claimed by larger warships. Other than the aerial attacks and torpedo evasions, the missions were not eventful. Frisco operated the trunion for the 20mm gun when under attack. While doing so, he was so centered on the task that he did not have time to focus on all else that was going on around him. After the action, he felt somewhat drained, however, if he got a good night of sleep he felt better the next day. Frisco describes the roles of the three man 20mm gun crew as being dependent on who arrived in what sequence during an attack.

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Paul J. Frisco and the USS Cushing (DD-797) accompanied a Task Force that included the USS Franklin (CV-13) offshore of Japan during the Iwo Jima campaign. The Franklin was under Spruance [Annotator's Note: US Navy Admiral Raymond Spruance]. The Cushing was on antiaircraft picket duty and was called back to search for survivors after the Franklin was hit. No survivors were found in the surface search. The Cushing stayed on station to provide air cover for the aircraft carrier that appeared mortally wounded. The ship was dead in the water after being struck by two bombs during the course of highly volatile operations on board. Captain Gehres [Annotator's Note: US Navy Captain, later Rear Admiral, Leslie E. Gehres] of the Franklin was committed to not losing the ship. The captain, as well as a chaplain named Father Callahan [Annotator's Note: US Navy Lieutenant Commander Joseph T. O'Callahan], both received the Medal of Honor for their actions that day. The cruiser Pittsburgh [Annotator's Note: USS Pittsburgh (CA-72)] took the Franklin under tow until it could generate its own power and propulsion. The ship managed to make its way to the East Coast of the United States and be repaired for further service.

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Paul J. Frisco and his fellow crewmen were not intimidated by the threat of kamikazes because of their supreme confidence in their ability to survive. Several other destroyers were severely damaged or destroyed by kamikazes. [Annotator's Note: Frisco shows emotion.] The Laffey [Annotator's Note: USS Laffey (DD-724)] was targeted by 28 enemy aircraft and managed to shoot down nine of them. The USS Cushing (DD-797) and the Laffey both entered the war in the Battle of Guadalcanal. The Cushing had previously experienced the harsh, rough weather of a typhoon in December 1944. Frisco describes waves as being estimated between 60 and 90 feet as well as the instability of the destroyers due to insufficient ballast because of low fuel tanks. Three destroyers were lost during the typhoon. Controversy ensued about responsibility and cause of the losses. Admiral Halsey [Annotator's Note: US Navy Fleet Admiral William F. Halsey] was thought by some to be the blame for these losses. The skipper on the Cushing was able to safely navigate his vessel through the storm. Frisco authored and had published a piece on this event. He describes the damage to all of the ships as being the same as having been attacked by the Japanese. It was a very frightening experience and many of the crew did not want to sleep in their bunks below decks afterwards. Frisco did not suffer from this condition.

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Paul J. Frisco and the USS Cushing (DD-797) were with Admiral Spruance [Annotator's Note: US Navy Admiral Raymond Spruance] and the Fifth Fleet off the coast of Japan supporting air operations when the war ended. Although celebrations were happening in the United States, Frisco and the Cushing maintained battle stations due to being under sporadic attack by die-hard Japanese airmen. Admiral Halsey [Annotator's Note: US Navy Fleet Admiral William F. Halsey] ordered all ships to shoot down the enemy aircraft in a "friendly manner." [Annotator's Note: Frisco chuckles.] Prior to the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay, the Cushing performed interdiction duties to prevent Japanese troop movements. She sailed into Tokyo Bay on 1 September 1945. Frisco describes thinking about all of his crewmates who did not make it as far as he did. [Annotator's Note: Frisco shows emotion.] Food was uppermost in his and his crewmates' minds. Not until they anchored somewhere near the USS Missouri (BB-63) did they feel that war was truly over. Frisco returned to the United States in December 1945. He remained in the Navy for another month or so before being discharged February 1946 as Fireman 1st Class. After discharge he sought work, got married, and ultimately used the G.I. Bill. He applied to the University of Wisconsin but was denied entry. He graduated college after his retirement. His work career began with him starting as a clerk and working his way to a management position. Frisco's most memorable experiences in the war were the typhoon and seeing the USS Arizona (BB-39) and the USS Oklahoma (BB-37) when he entered Pearl Harbor aboard the Cushing. Frisco ends with describing his mission now as being one of conveying information about World War 2 to the next generation. The work being done by The National WWII Museum in collecting the stories of World War 2 veterans is very important.

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