Wednesday, 21 November 2007

An American Ferriter Story


What follows is a bit of history and a bit of background, for the greater understanding of our collective family. First, please understand that I am not a genealogist. While I have always cherished a love of family history, and an interest in learning more about our past, I have neither the discipline, nor the patience to execute the hard and detailed work necessary in genealogical research. A fair analogy would be found in my love of maps – while not a cartographer, I love to pore over maps, envisioning places and terrain features, and imagining what being there might be like – in similar manner, I love family trees, wondering about the lives of the people identified, and what those people lived and felt.

My father was Charles Arthur Ferriter, deceased now these past 37 years. Since those who knew him well are diminishing in number, I will offer a snapshot of what I know, such that the cousins he never knew might have some understanding of his role in history, and of his place in our family. C.A.Ferriter was the son of the son of a Ballyferriter area Irishman. His father, John Patrick Ferriter was raised in the Midwestern United States, amongst people who were themselves immigrants, or the sons and daughters of the same, many of them still speaking the Mother Tongue. John Patrick passed along to his son a firm sense of what it meant to be an Irish-American, and to be a Ferriter. Romantic by nature, my father conserved and passed along those famous stories involving the early Ferriters, the FitzGeralds, of Pierce Ferriter’s brave fight against the Cromwellians, and of his martyrdom at the hands of the English. When I was small, he would bid me good night and lights out with the sign of the cross blessing recited in Irish.

Commissioned as an officer in the United States Navy as a member of the United States Naval Academy Class of 1924, C.A Ferriter, (nicknamed “Thug” during his midshipman years), went on to serve 30 more years in the service. Thug Ferriter served first in submarines, then in cruisers, followed by command and staff duties in a variety of surface vessels.

He married my mother Ann Patricia Flanigan in 1932, and began a family, which grew to four sons, (Pierce, Charles, John, and Nicholas), by 1941. When WWII began, he was on duty with what was then called the Asiatic Fleet, commanding the U.S.S. Whippoorwill at Cavite Naval Base, on Manila Bay, in the Philippines. During the initial Japanese attack on Cavite, which followed Pearl Harbor by about 48 hours, Lt. Commander Ferriter, at the helm of the “Whip” was instrumental in saving a crippled destroyer and her crew, and action which earned him the Navy Cross, for valor.

Under orders to leave the Philippines ahead of the Japanese, Thug took the Whippoorwill and sailed alone across a thousand miles of enemy controlled seas to the Dutch East Indies, and then to Australia, where surviving U.S. forces regrouped. During these months in early 1942, my mother did not know if he was alive or dead.

C.A. Ferriter served continuously at sea for the entire war, in the Pacific. He was the Executive Officer, (second in command), of the heavy cruiser “Indianapolis” during many of her key engagements, debarking for a new assignment prior to her ferrying the first atomic weapons to Tinian Atoll, and her tragic sinking. He set foot in Japan prior to the formal treaty signing ceremonies.

Following WWII, Thug returned home, and my sister (Sue) and I were born.

As the Captain of the U.S.S. President Jackson, my father participated in the Inchon Landing, the key amphibious operation of the Korean War.

Charles Arthur Ferriter retired from the United States Navy as a Rear Admiral in 1955. Post-retirement, he returned to school, and obtained a Masters Degree in Education from the University of New Hampshire in 1958, and completed a career in the employment of the State of New Hampshire as an administrator at a state hospital.

Once fully retired, my father devoted himself to his family, to writing, historical research, and religious activities. When my mother passed away in 1966, he became more fully focused on spiritual matters, becoming actively involved as a lay brother, 3rd Order of Franciscans. He died on August 13, 1970, and is buried next to his wife in a small military cemetery on the U.S. Naval Shipyard, Kittery Maine.

As an epitaph, I would like to provide a clear understanding that my father lived a rich and complete life, and was successful by almost anyone’s standards. For all of his tremendous service under the Stars and Stripes, he never parted company with his “Irishness”, and passed this sense along to his children. He represents a fine example of the fruition of an immigrant family in America, and his life should be recognized as having been a stout cord in the cable that is our collective heritage, across time.
George (Seoirse) Ferriter, Wisconsin U.S.A.

5 comments:

Morgan Ferriter said...

Thanks so much George for having the courage to organize an All Ferriter Family get-together. Also you're lucky your family held onto the language, ours did not. Your Father's life sounds fascinating, look forward to hearing more about it at the FFG. Michele Farritor McMurray

Caroline said...

Having just watched the new documentary "The War" I feel more familiar with the battles that your father was involved in. His story is amazing, something movies are made out of. Thanks for sharing!
Caroline McMurray (Michele's daughter)

Kate Brew said...

Hi George,

Your Father and Mother would be very proud of you. You're the family poet now, and well done.

Kate (Ferriter) Brew

bob bridges said...

Hi George,something caused me to think about you yesterday and I mentioned your fathers name to a friend who graduated from Annapolis about 15 or 20 years ago.He said he knew of rear admiral Ferriter and his distinguished career.I remember with fondness our friendship in the summer of 1970 and am still saddened by the events on the evening of your fathers death.I remember your life changing dramatically after that,and I have often wondered what path your life took.It sounds to me like you are doing well. regards Bob Bridges

scott winning said...

My name is scott and it so happens that I was involved in cleaning out the estate I have a box of old correspondence if any of you are interested. You may contact me via email scottwinning1@yahoo.com or phone 2072525381.