Seaman 1st Class General P. Douglas, U.S. Navy, k1943


Genaral Preston Douglas and his brother Garfield
Brothers Garfield Douglas (far l.) and General Preston Douglas (third from l.) and their Buddies. Garfield Douglas left Newcomb, Tennessee within two weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. There was a massive local volunteering of troops, both sons from this family distinguished to have served in every major US War. General Preston was not yet of age and had to get his father's permission, so left later. The brothers were both on the USS Helena that was torpedoed in the Solomon Islands, but served in different sections of the ship.
The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office announced Thursday (circa September 2007) that the remains of a U.S. serviceman from Tennessee who had been missing since World War II have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

The Department of Defense identified Seaman 1st Class General P. Douglas, U.S. Navy, of Newcomb, in Campbell County, Tenn.

He will be buried Jan. 26 2008 in Sneedville in nearby Hancock County, according to the Department of Defense.

On July 6, 1943, the light cruiser USS Helena was struck by torpedoes fired by Japanese destroyers off the coast of Kolombangara Island, Solomon Islands, in what would become known as the Battle of the Kula Gulf.

More than 700 servicemen were rescued, but Douglas was one of more than 150 servicemen who were missing after the ship sank.

In June 2006, a resident of Ranongga Island, Solomon Islands, notified U.S. officials that he had exhumed human remains and Douglas' dog tag that he found near a trail by his village.

The officials contacted the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), and representatives subsequently traveled to Ranongga Island to examine the burial location. The officials verified that no additional remains were present.

The remains were identified by using dental records, other forensic identification tools, and circumstantial evidence. Scientists and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory also used DNA in the identification.

Ship's Loss Recalled

The USS Helena Web site lists the following description of how the ship, which had been commissioned in September 1939 was sunk by Japanese torpedoes.

"By midnight 5 July, 1943, Helena's group was off the northwest corner of New Georgia (island), with three cruisers and four destroyers composing the group.

"Racing down to face them were three groups of Japanese destroyers, a total of 10 enemy ships. Four of them peeled off to accomplish their mission of landing troops.

"By 0157 Helena began blasting away with a fire so rapid and intense that the Japanese later announced in all solemnity that she must have been armed with 6-inch machine guns.

"Ironically, Helena made a perfect target when lit by the flashes of her own guns. Seven minutes after she opened fire she was hit by a torpedo and within the next three minutes, she was struck by two more. Almost at once she began to jackknife. Below, she was flooding rapidly even before she broke up. In a well drilled manner, Helena's men went over the side.

"Helena's history closes with the almost incredible story of what happened to her men in the hours and days that followed. When her bow rose into the air after the sinking, many of them clustered around it, only to be fired on there. About a half hour after she sank, two American destroyers came to the rescue.

"At daylight, the enemy was in range once more, and again the destroyers, Nicholas (DD 449) and Radford ( DD 446 ), broke off' their rescue operations to pursue. Anticipating an air attack, the destroyers withdrew for Tulagi, carrying with them all but about 275 of the survivors.

"To those who remained they left four boats manned by volunteers from the destroyers' crews. Captain C.P. Cecil, Helena's commanding officer, organized a small flotilla of three motor whaleboats, each towing a lifecraft, carrying 88 men to a small island about 7 miles from Rice Anchorage after a laborious all-day passage. This group was rescued the next morning by the destroyers USS Gwin and USS Woodworth.

"For the second group of nearly 200, the bow of Helena was their lifecraft, but it was slowly sinking.

"Disaster was staved off by a Navy Liberator (patrol plane) that dropped lifejackets and four rubber lifeboats.

"The wounded were placed aboard the lifeboats, while the able-bodied surrounded the boats and did their best to propel themselves toward nearby Kolombangara Island.

"But wind and current carried them ever further into enemy waters. Through the torturous day that followed, many of the wounded died.

"American search planes missed the tragic little fleet, and Kolombaranga gradually faded away to leeward.

"Another night passed, and in the morning the island of Vella Lavella loomed ahead. It seemed the last chance for Helena's men and so they headed for it. By dawn, survivors in all three remaining boats observed land a mile distant and all who were left were safely landed.

"Two coastwatchers and loyal natives cared for the survivors as best they could, and radioed news of them to Guadalcanal. The 166 sailors then took to the jungle to evade Japanese patrols.

"Surface vessels were chosen for the final rescue, Nicholas and Radford, augmented by USS Jenkins (DD 447) and USS O'Bannon (DD-460) set off 15 July, 1943 to sail further up "The Slot" than ever before, screening the movement of two destroyer-transports and four other destroyers.

"During the night of 16 July, the rescue force brought out the 165 Helena men, along with 16 Chinese who had been in hiding on the island. Of Helena's nearly 900 men, 168 had perished."


Regina Douglas Collins, General Preston Douglas' sister, died circa November 2007, before her brother was brought home. It is said that Garfield searched the dark waters in vain and came home forever changed as he walked the Earth always wondering where his brother was. Their Mother worried too and was suffering with Alzheimer's by the time news of the discovery of the body reached Tennessee.


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