Although this record only captured the stories of those lucky ones who returned home to a thankful nation, there are many who never came back to their homes, families, and native land. John Eldridge was one of those men; most of his story was relayed to his wife by his radio operator. He was stationed on the U.S.S. Wasp during the battle of Guadalcanal and was in the air when it was torpedoed. He safely landed aboard the U.S.S. Hornet and was later transferred to land on "the Canal" itself. At one point, he made at least eight dive-bombing runs against the Japanese.
One of the Japanese delaying tactics on the Pacific islands was to leave their snipers tied high up in the trunks of palm trees in locations where the Americans would land. Some of these snipers were located around the airfield where Lt. Cmdr. Eldridge was stationed. One day, Lt. Cmdr. Eldridge, who had been a hunter and was a crack shot, fired upon and killed one of these snipers with his pistol. His daughter, Connie, has the rifle mounted on a doorway in her home.
One day, on a sortie against a Japanese seaplane base on Ricotta Bay in Santa Isabella, Lt. Cmdr. Eldridge noticed one of his planes in immediate danger of being shot down by a Japanese fighter. He engaged the fighter and was shot down in the ensuing dogfight. Although they crashed into the ocean, neither he nor his radio operator was hurt and they soon rowed to safety on their life raft. Sympathetic natives on the local islands guided them a Allied coastal station, where the Navy recovered them.
On the night of November 2nd, 1942, Lt. Cmdr. Eldridge volunteered to lead a strike force against Japanese ships at Bougainville, although he knew that it was an extremely dangerous undertaking. The strike force never reached the ships; all of them crashed mysteriously (officials claimed it was a storm) without engaging the enemy. He left behind his widow and his daughter, Connie, who still lives in Buckingham and graciously allowed me to gather information about her father.
To honor him fully, the Navy held a christening of a new destroyer escort, the U.S.S. Eldridge. It was designed to elude radar as part of a special operations project. Interestingly, although the family he left behind was invited to the christening, they were not allowed to discuss it with anyone. (Most likely this was due to the secrecy of the project.)
This is only one story of one man; there are millions of others, one for each man that never returned home. There were doubtless many more who never returned to Buckingham, and we should remember them always. Everyone who went off to war made one kind of sacrifice or another for his country; those that didn't come back made the ultimate sacrifice.
"Uncommon valor was a common virtue." - Admiral Chester Nimitz, following the battle of Iwo Jima