Sailors' Stories: Dan Galvin

USS Quincy CA-39  The Salute of a Survivor


Update:  I am saddened to report that Daniel Galvin passed away January 28, 2016.  He was given a full military funeral.   We owe a debt of gratitude to Daniel, his family and the men and women like him who served or currently serve our country and fight for our freedoms.

Dan Galvin's story, from August 2009, was discovered as a result of an e-mail from the daughter of a crew member of the USS Ellet, DD-398.  The Ellet's crew rescued the survivors of the USS Quincy CA-39 that was sunk by Japanese forces at the battle of Savo Island in WWII.  Dan Galvin lost three hundred eighty nine of his shipmates that night.

4 minute video

The Salute of a Survivor, By Kevin Cullen, Boston Globe Columnist | August 10, 2009

When he was 19 years old, Dan Galvin joined the Navy because he wanted to see the world. A year later, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and he got to see the world at war.

He was 21, aboard the USS Quincy, when she sailed into the Battle of Guadalcanal.

Sometime after midnight, as August 8th turned into August 9th, the Quincy and two other cruisers, the USS Vincennes and the USS Astoria, were sailing off Savo Island. Galvin was at his battle station in Sky Forward, atop the ship, when he saw something in the darkness.

He realized they were Japanese warships just as the sky exploded.

“Their first salvos were star shells,’’ he said. “They illuminate the target.’’

The eerie beauty of the star shells gave way to deafening shelling. Everything around Dan Galvin exploded. The bridge blew up and he knew his captain was dead. He slid down the ladder from Sky Forward. Torpedoes slammed into the hull.

“Something hit me in the chest. It was pitch black. I didn't know what the hell it was. But I grabbed hold of it. It was a life preserver. Somebody was handing them out, and I got one, by chance.’’

Within minutes, the ship was listing 45 degrees. Then she rolled over. Dan Galvin, a kid from Melrose, was running down the hull on the starboard side, hearing his feet ping on the metal.

“I was probably the last guy off,’’ he said.

The Quincy sank in less than 10 minutes. The Vincennes and the Astoria were sunk, too.

“Hey Galvin!’’

It was Clyde Bolton, a friend from Concord, N.H., bobbing in the water.

“Whaddya want?’’

“Come over here!’’ Clyde Bolton yelled.

“You come over here,’’ Dan Galvin yelled back as he struggled to stay afloat.

They were no more than 50 feet away from each other in the water, and before you knew it, Clyde Bolton, badly burned, slipped beneath the surface.

It was dawn and Dan Galvin had been in the water for five hours before he struggled up a rope ladder onto the USS Ellet. He was so exhausted, his clothes so waterlogged, that he had to be dragged the last few feet. He was numb even before he found out that nearly half of the 800 men on the Quincy were killed.

He learned that an admiral had abandoned them, that an Allied vessel had failed to warn them of the seven approaching Japanese ships. The American ships didn’t have torpedoes. The sailors didn’t have dog tags. They were a peacetime Navy caught in a war.

Dan Galvin survived the war. He went on to marry, raise five kids, and have a good career, a good life.

And yet, a piece of him is still bobbing in the South Pacific.

“That post-traumatic stress, I don’t think I had that. But I had guilt. Survivor’s guilt, whatever you want to call it. I shouldn’t be here.’’

Clyde Bolton got the ship job Galvin had wanted. And Bolton died. Ralph Beebe took the job below deck that Galvin had turned down. And died. Dan Galvin floated with a life preserver while men sank around him.

“I should have gone over to Clyde when he called me,’’ he said, sitting at his kitchen table in Hanover, looking out the window at a memory. “I think about him every day. I wish I swam over to him.’’

Yesterday, 67 years to the day that Dan Galvin lived while so many around him died, he did what he does every Aug. 9. He put on his sailor’s uniform from 1942, and he stepped onto his front porch, and he read the names of each of the 389 men who went down with the Quincy.

Sometimes he gets through the list without crying. But every year it gets harder.

“I worry,’’ Dan Galvin said. “I worry that when I’m gone, no one will remember these men.’’

The above story and video were found  on Facebook Page of USS Ellet DD-398
and on

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