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USS Amick DE-168
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Courtesy of Joanne Amick Comer
Ensign Amick enjoying a chuckle during his wedding celebration.
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Courtesy of Joanne Amick Comer
USS Amick launch
The official launch of the USS Amick on May 27, 1943.
A Final Tribute to Former U.S. Navy Vessel Named in Honor of WWII Veteran: USS Amick DE-168
By Jeremy P. Amick
As a young man coming to age in pre-World War II small-town America, former mid-Missouri resident Eugene “Gene” Earle Amick, Jr. possessed a strong sense of family, duty, and patriotism.
Born in Boonville on January 26, 1919, Amick served as both a mentor and role model for his younger sister, Joanne Amick Comer, who now resides in Texas. She recalls the genuine interest her older brother often displayed regarding her well-being.
“Gene taught me how to ice skate on a lake in a nearby park, taught me that if I punched a hole in a top of a soft drink bottle and sucked my soft drink through the hole it would last longer, and taught me how to play touch football,” Comer commented.
The profound interest in his sister did not appear to diminish with the passing years. Even after Amick left to attend college—which included studies at the University of Kansas City and William Jewell College (graduating from the latter in 1941)—he assisted her in establishing her own soda pop stand and allowed her to retain any profit, as long as she did not consume too much of the product between her sales.
Amick eventually joined the Navy Reserve less than three months prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. After completing his initial training, he was appointed as a midshipman in February of 1942. He was then commissioned as an ensign on May 14, 1942, after successful completion of the officers’ candidate course at the U.S. Naval Reserve Midshipman’s School at Northwestern University.
Even following his departure for military service, Amick continued to provide guidance to his younger sister.
“My brother gave me a Tootsie Toy naval fleet when he left for his training and explained the proper placement of the ships within the fleet as to best protect the battleships,” Comer stated.
She fondly recalls a small flag that she kept fastened to a wall above the bookcase on which her diminutive fleet rested—and the letters she received from her brother while he was out to sea encouraging her to keep the flag flying high above the fleet of which he was now a part.
Ensign Amick was married on May 17, 1942, just a week prior to reporting to his new assignment as the communications officer onboard the USS Astoria. During August of 1942—just three months following his marriage—the young officer’s cruiser was attacked by the Japanese while attempting to protect American beachheads off Savo Island, which is part of the Solomon Island chain off Guadalcanal.
During the shelling that ensued, Radio Station No. 1 was demolished and all hands killed—Ensign Amick was commanding radio station No. 2. In order to get his radio station up and running so that communications could be restored, Amick realized he would need two wire reels that were located in the now demolished first station.
The Ensign dashed through a barrage of shellfire and miraculously reached the first station and was able to locate the two reels. While making his return trip to the second station, he was struck by shellfire and killed instantly. A fellow sailor told Gene’s father that when his son’s body was found, the young Ensign was still clutching both reels.
In honor of the young sailor’s bravery and ultimate sacrifice, the U.S. Navy chose to name a ship in his honor: the USS Amick (DE-168). The ship was laid down on November 30, 1942 (meaning the first parts of the keel were placed on the dry dock where the ship was to be built) and officially launched on May 27, 1943.
The destroyer escort served during the remainder of the war where on September 2, 1945, she played host to the unconditional surrender of the Japanese forces in the northern Palaus —the same date of the formal surrender of Japanese forces onboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.
The USS Amick continued to serve in various naval capacities and, in 1976, was sold to the Republic of the Philippines. According to online naval sources, the vessel was scrapped in 1989.
Last year, a handful of former sailors who served on board the USS Amick attended a reunion in San Antonio, Texas, where they visited the National Museum of the Pacific War and dedicated a small plaque in honor of the USS Amick.
Throughout the Second World War, there arose numerous stories of heroic acts performed by young men and women who would never again embrace the land they knew as home.
Although many of these sacrifices have been preserved for posterity, few service members have been bestowed such a tribute as to have a naval vessel christened in their honor.
And even though the USS Amick may have been relegated to the scrap yard of distant memory, the sacrifices made by a young Mid-Missouri native in securing our precious freedoms resonates now as loudly as it did more than six decades ago.
Jeremy Amick is the public affairs officer for the Silver Star Families of America.