PETERSBURG, ALASKA Local residents watched the premier of a World War II documentary produced at Petersburg High School this past year. Entitled, “When The War Got Personal,” the film tells the story of the men on the naval destroyer U.S.S. Hoel, sunk by the Japanese navy during the Battle Off Samar October 25th, 1944. Some 252 men onboard the Hoel died during the battle and another 15 died afterwards awaiting rescue in the water. The fighting between the two naval forces off the Phillipine Islands during October 23rd-25th is billed as the last great naval battle in modern history. U.S. ships were able to repel a much larger Japanese fleet and protected their own fleet of air craft carriers, as well as General Mcarthur’s invasion force.
Petersburg resident Erling Husvik was one of the survivors of the sinking and he’s featured in the film along with several of his shipmates. High school teacher Jim Engel and four students interviewed Husvik and the other sailors during a reunion last October in Tucson.
The final product is roughly an hour and 20 minutes long and is narrated by PHS alum Forrest Sebastian. It includes over 100 historic pictures of the ship and the battle for the Phillipines. Joe Viechnicki spoke with Engel about the story of the U.S.S. Hoel.