Walter Anthony Lechowicz Papers

1941-1954, 1981-1994
Manuscript Collection #655
Lechowicz, Walter Anthony
Physical description
0.073 Cubic Feet, 94 items , consisting of correspondence, transcripts, certificates, publications, photographs, a map, fact sheets, and a magazine article.
Preferred Citation
Walter Anthony Lechowicz Papers (#655), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Papers (1941-1954, 1981-1994) including correspondence, transcripts, certificates, publications, photographs, a map, fact sheets, and a magazine article.

Biographical/historical information

Walter Anthony Lechowicz (1923-1992) was born in Brooklyn, New York, and enlisted in the U.S. Navy with task group 50.17 (January 12, 1942). Early in World War II Lechowicz was stationed on auxiliary ship USS REINA MERCEDES (IX-25) but spent most of his war-time duty on the fleet oil tanker USS CACHE (AO-67). While on the CACHE, Lechowicz saw action in the Marianas Islands (July-August 1944); Western Caroline Islands (September-October 1944); Leyte (October-November 1944); Luzon (January 1945); Iwo Jima (February-March 1945); Okinawa Gunto (April-June 1945); and the Japanese homeland operations. After the war Lechowicz participated in Operation Crossroads on Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands (July 1 and 25, 1946), served on the surrendered German heavy cruiser USS PRINZ EUGEN (IX-300) that served as an auxiliary ship, the destroyer USS RICHARD B. ANDERSON (DD-786), and the oil tanker USS SABINE (AO-25).

Scope and arrangement

Correspondence and memos concern duties aboard the CACHE and safety procedures regarding the atomic bomb tests in 1946. In one letter (July 6, 1946) to his sister, Lechowicz describes his experience during an atom bomb test conducted on July 1, the affects of radioactivity on ship targets such as his own PRINZ EUGEN and the USS INDEPENDENCE (CV-22), and comments that married seamen were worried about sterility. Other correspondence includes letters from the Defense Nuclear Agency of the Department of Defense, and the Department of the Navy (1981, 1984, 1989). These letters concern the effects of radiation received during the atomic tests, the risk to personnel, and the Radiation-Exposed Veterans Compensation Act of 1988. Thislegislation lists the forms of radiogenic disease likely caused by these tests that qualify a veteran for compensation. Attached newsletters outline the project's goals and include a report that estimated Lechowicz's radiation exposure during the 1946 tests. Finally, a letter from recently widowed Jennie Lechowicz to the New York Times Magazine editor comments on their recent story about the commercial exploitation of Bikini Atoll (May 7, 1994).

Of particular interest are photographs that Lechowicz apparently found on board the PRINZ EUGEN in 1946. Likely collected or taken by a German seaman, these photographs depict the German battleship BISMARCK firing on the British battleship HMS HOOD (May 24, 1941) in the North Atlantic; the PRINZ EUGEN, BISMARCK, and German heavy cruiser ADMIRAL HIPPER in battle with a torpedo boat in the North Sea; the PRINZ EUGEN near Norway and in the Kiel, Germany, shipyard; the PRINZ EUGEN'S catapult and seaplane; and the release of captured British pilots in Norway. Other photographs include scenes on board the CACHE; the Panama Canal (1946); the battleship USS NEW JERSEY (BB-62), the aircraft carrier USS NEWPORT NEWS (CA-148), and the light cruiser USS SPRINGFIELD (CL-66); sight-seeing in Washington, DC, and Rome, including an audience with Pope Pius XII (1951); three atomic bomb blasts; a flying boat; shots of Lechowicz with his fellow crewmen; and a post card of the RICHARD B. ANDERSON.

Other records include a transcript of duty (1942-1947), enlistment form, awards, crossing-the-line (equator) certificates, and various Navy identification cards. Publications include a Seaman's Navy Training Course book; several CACHE newsletters that contain such information as a crossing-the-line script (July 1943); the Potsdam Conference and the cease fire (August 15, 1945); the occupation of Japan and a list of the ships involved; and histories of the CACHE and SABINE. An oversized 1943 "Stream Drift Chart of the World" and a copy of the New York Times Magazine concerning Bikini Atoll (May 1, 1994) complete the collection.

Administrative information
Custodial History

September 9, 1993, 23 items. Papers (1941-1948), including correspondence, newsletters, histories of USS CACHE and USS SABINE, certificates, and miscellany.

December 1, 1994, 8 items. Correspondence and fact sheets (1981-1989) on nuclear test exposure along with a magazine article on Bikini Atoll.

March 5, 1996, 28 items. Photographs and miscellany. Gift of Mrs. Jennie Lechowicz, Plainfield, CT.

Source of acquisition

Gift of Mrs. Jennie Lechowicz

Processing information

Processed by A. Merriman, April 1999

Encoded by Apex Data Services

Copyright notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

Key terms
Personal Names
Lechowicz, Walter Anthony, 1923-1992
Corporate Names
Cache (Ship)
Prinz Eugen (Cruiser)
Sabine (Ship : AO-25)
United States. Defense Nuclear Agency--Correspondence
Atomic bomb--Marshall Islands--Bikini Atoll--Testing
Operation Crossroads, Marshall Islands, 1946
Radiation injuries--United States
Radioactive fallout--Marshall Islands--Bikini Atoll
Veterans--Medical care--Law and legislation
World War, 1939-1945--Naval operations, American