Sylvan Louis Letney Military History

August 2, 1916- July 26, 1985

(Some records have his birth year as 1915)




Sylvan Letney’s Service on the USS Savannah (CL-42) and the USS Alaska (CB-1)

Enlisted in Jackson, Mississippi on November 3, 1942.

Boarded the USS Savannah on April 8, 1943, five month after enlisting. He served on the Savannah until June 17, 1944 when he was transferred to the USS Alaska.

June 6, 1943 Sylvan was promoted from S2cV6 to F2C. This means he was promoted from Seaman 2nd Class to Firman 2nd Class. He was on the USS Savannah at the time.

December 1, 1944 Sylvan was promoted to MM3c(T). This means he was promoted to Machinist Mate 3rd class.

November 1, 1945 he was discharged.

V6 -- General Service and Specialists (USNR classification)

V-6 was a classification for general service in the U.S. Naval Reserve during World War II.

Seaman S--Know naval drill duties, knots, steering and signaling. Stand watch and gunnery duties.

Fireman F--Fire and tend boilers. Operate, adjust and repair pumps.

Machinist's Mate MM--Operate main and auxiliary engines. Adjust, repair, and overhaul engines. Be familiar with ship's drainage systems, distilling plants, evaporators and pumps.

Most World War II U.S. Navy enlisted men were drafted into the U.S. Naval Reserve under the "V-6 Program," or "Naval Enlisted Reserve-General Duties."

V-6 was a classification for general service in the U.S. Naval Reserve during World War II.

Most World War II U.S. Navy enlisted men were drafted into the U.S. Naval Reserve under the "V-6 Program," or "Naval Enlisted Reserve-General Duties."

Interesting fact...

From December, 1942 to December, 1945, all males from age 18 to 37 were prohibited from voluntary enlistment into the U.S. Armed Forces, and had to be "inducted" into military service by their draft boards. Draft boards were given monthly quotas from the Army and Navy that they were supposed to fill from their pool of Category 1A candidates.

Upon receiving their induction notice from the president, "selectees" would report to their local induction center for entry into military service. There they would state their preference for the Army or Navy, and their draft board would then allocate them to one of those month's quotas. If they could, draft boards usually honored a selectee's preference for which service they wanted to serve in, but they weren't bound to it.

Savannah Service

Sylvan first served on the Savannah and when it was damage and returned to the US for repairs he was reassigned to the USS Alaska.

Invasion of Salerno

The USS Savannah returned to Algiers on 10 August, 1943, in order to train with U. S. Army troops for the Operation Avalanche amphibious landings to be made at Salerno, Italy. Leaving Mers-el-Kebir Harbor on 5 September, her Southern Attack Force entered Salerno Baya few hours before midnight of the 8th.

The Savannah was the first American ship to open fire against the German shore defenses in Salerno Bay. She silenced a railroad artillery battery with 57 rounds, forced the retirement of enemy tanks, and completed eight more fire support missions that day. She continued her valuable support until the morning of 11 September, when she was put out of action.

Savannah is hit by a German Fritz-X radio-controlled bomb, while supporting Allied forces ashore during the Salerno operation, 11 September 1943( Photograph below.)

A radio-controlled Fritz X glide-bomb had been released at a safe distance by a high-flying German warplane and it exploded 49 ft (15 m) distance from the USS Philadelphia. The Savannah increased her speed to 20 kn (23 mph, 37 km/h) as a Dirnier Di 217 K-2 bomber approached from out of the sun. The USAAF’s P-38 Lightnings and the Savannah's anti-aircraft gunners, tracking this warplane at 18,700 ft (5,700 m), failed to stop the Fritz X bomb, trailing a stream of smoke. The missile pierced right through the armored turret roof of the No. 3 Gun Turret of the Savannah, passed through three decks into the lower ammunition-handling room, where it exploded, blowing a gaping hole in her keel, and also tearing open a seam in the cruiser's port side. For at least 30 minutes, secondary explosions in the turret and its ammunition-supply rooms hampered any fire-fighting efforts.



Working quickly, the officers and sailors of the Savannah's crew sealed off flooded and burned compartments, and then corrected her list. With some assistance from the USS Hopi and the USS Moreno, the Savannah got underway on her own steam by 1757 hours, and steamed for the seaport at Malta.The USS Savannah lost 197 crewmen in this German counterattack. 15 other sailors were seriously wounded, and four more were trapped in a watertight compartment for about 60 hours. These four sailors were not rescued until the Savannah had already arrived at Grand Harbor, Valletta, Malta on the 12th of September.

After having emergency repairs carried out at Malta, the USS Savannah departed on the 7th of December, bound for the Philadelphia Naval Yard by way of Tunis, Algiers, and Bermuda. She arrived at the Naval Yard on the 23rd of December, just before Christmas, and she remained there, undergoing heavy repair work for the next eight months. While the Savannah's battle damage was being repaired, an additional secondary battery of five-inch naval guns and a new set of up-to-date antiaircraft guns were installed.
For more on the Savannah click here: ...More

Sylvan Letney served on the U. S. S. Alaska (CB-1) as Machinist First Mate.

Alaska was launched on 15 August 1943, and she was commissioned 11 months later on 17 June 1944. Sylvan was aboard when she was commissioned andserved at least one year. After many trials and a few modifications, she sailed for the Pacific in December of that year, reaching San Diego on the 12th. After sailing into the Western Pacific, she joined Task Force 58 (TF 58) in Ulithi on 10 February 1945, and the entire force sailed for the Japanese home islands. She continued protecting this force, and the carriers within it, for the next month; but on 19 March, Franklin was hit with two bombs and had to withdraw. An escort that included both Alaska and her sister, Guam, was formed to shepherd the carrier's way home toGuam. Alaska departed this force on 22 March, and covered the aircraft carriers who were making strikes on Okinawa. After shelling a small island, she sailed again for Ulithi, where she joined the 3rd Fleet.
For the next two weeks, she covered the carriers of the 3d Fleet, and then Alaska, with her sister Guam once again, set course for the East China Sea to conduct raids on Japanese shipping, continuing this until the end of the war. After making a "show of force" at a few locations, she departed to cover landings in North China. She subsequently sailed for the Boston Naval Yard, arriving on 18 December. After she was prepared for inactivation, she was assigned a permanent berthing area at Bayonne, New Jersey; on 13 August 1946, she was placed in "inactive status commission". Her final decommissioning was on 17 February 1947. For more information click...More

Here is a link to photos of crew of the Alaska, if anyone can identify Sylvan I would greatly appreciate your emailing me at
Click Here: Photo Gallery-Alaska

Document above certifies that Sylvan was one of the original crew of the USS Alaska.

Sylvan Louis Letney


Fred Oakes, Sylvan Letney and Floyd Oakes. ca. 1977