Wednesday, October 15, 2008

FDR at the Mare Island Hospital

During President Roosvelt's brief visit to Mare Island in September 1942 he visited wounded sailors at the Mare Island Hospital. The Vallejo Evening Chronicle carried a brief account of Roosvelt's visit with a sailor who had been wounded aboard the USS Houston:

President Chats with Wounded Man at M.I.

“The story of a sailor aboard the USS Houston who was wounded 25 times while two nearby ‘buddies’ were killed instantly was told in person by the enlisted man to President Roosevelt when he visited Mare Island last Thursday.

“Details of the conversation were revealed today at the navy yard here simultaneously with announcement in Washington by the White House that the Chief Executive of the nation inspected Mare Island while on a tour of U.S. defense plants.

“The wounded sailor is Thomas Borghetti, Jr., 35, fire controlman, first class. His home is Marseilles, Illinois. He has served in the Navy for the last 14 years, aboard the USS Salt Lake City, USS Colorado and the USS Houston, the latter when she was sent to the bottom during the Java Sea battle.

“The Houston was steaming into Macassar Straits to attack a Japanese convoy when she, herself, was attacked by an air fleet of 57 Japanese planes.

“Borghetti was wounded 25 times by shrapnel when an 800 pound bomb exploded nearby.

“Two buddies, names not revealed, who were standing only three and five feet away, were decapitated by the bomb explosion.

“Borghetti has five sisters and two brothers at home in Illinois. His father operates a grocery store.

“The greeting between President Roosevelt and Borghetti, as reported officially at the navy yard, was as follows:

The President smiled.

‘I’ve seen you before,’ he said.

‘Yes, Mr. President,’ replied Borghetti, ‘I made three cruises with you on the Houston.

‘It was too bad about the Houston,’ commented the President.

‘Yes,’ answered Borghetti. ‘She was a fine cruiser and a great crew. She gave the Japs all she had as long as she lasted, which was plenty.’

‘Where were you hit?,’ inquired President Roosevelt.

‘Twenty-five different places, most seriously in the arms and legs,’ answered the sailor.

‘What hit you?’ queried the President.

‘The doctors decided it was an 800-pound bomb,’ answered Borghetti.

‘Was that all?’ mused the President as he shook Borghetti’s hand and wished him good luck.

‘I hope to get well soon and go back to fighting the Japs again,’ concluded Borghetti.

An additional note: Wounded sailor Thomas Borghetti Jr. of the USS Houston was hospitalized on Java following the loss of his ship. When the Japanese invaded the island, Borghetti and other casualties were evacuated through the heroic actions of Dr. Corydon M. Wassell. The doctor’s story was praised by President Roosevelt in a radio address in April 1942. Wassell’s story was then made into a Hollywood movie directed by Cecil B. DeMille and starring Gary Cooper as the heroic doctor. In the movie (The Story of Dr. Wassell, 1944) Borghetti was played by actor Mike Killian.

To learn more about the USS Houston follow the link above or visit

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