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Remember Ed Hill at the Sortei of the NEVADA at Pearl Harbor
EDWIN J. HILL - Cape May's ForgottenHero - Part 1

USS Nevada Sortie at Pearl Harbor

There's a small monument dedicated to Ed Hill just off the Washington StreetMall in Cape May, N.J.As a former Cape May resident who died at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Hill was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal ofHonor for his actions during the Japanese attack against the American fleetthat began World War II.

Having lived in Cape May for a numberof years, I frequently noticed the small plaque, and as the 50th anniversary ofthe date approached, considered doing a profile of the hometown hero who gavehis life in one of the most epic battles of our times.

I looked up Hill's medal citation and read about his Pearl Harborexploits in some history books, but no one in Cape Mayreally knew anything about him, other than what was written on the marker.

"Chief Boatswain E. J. Hill, U.S. Navy, killed inaction, is deserving of the highest commendation possible to be given for hisskill, leadership and courage. At the height of the attack he led his linehandling details to the quays, cast off the lines under fire, and then swam backto the ship. Later, while on the forecastle attempting to let go the anchors,he was blown overboard and killed by the explosion of several bombs. Hisperformance of duty and devotion to duty was outstanding."

A search of the files of the area newspapers failed to find a single obituaryfor Hill, or any news story what-so-ever. The clipping files and back issues ofthe Atlantic City Press, Camden Courier Post, Philadelphia Inquirer and EveningBulletin files, now at Temple Universitylibrary, were all checked to no avail.

Only the Courier Post had a single index card on Hill in their archives, whichnoted that a news story was published on December 17, 1941, but the librarian said that theirfiles no longer went back that far.

I called every Hill in the telephone book who lived in Cape Mayor near by, but none were related to or even heard of Ed Hill, who died at Pearl Harbor. No one at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post knew anythingabout him, and the public affairs officer at the Cape May Coast Guard basecouldn't tell me anything. Nor could anyone at the Cape Maycity clerk's office, tell me who placed the monument to Hill at the Mall, so noone would forget him.

The public library of Philadelphia gave me the phone number of the Pearl HarborSurvivor's Association (PHSA) in Orlando, Florida, but the number was no longerin service.

Then I called Donald M. Goldstein, Associate Professor of Public Affairs at theUniversity of Pittsburgh.Goldstein, co-authored a number of books about Pearl Harbor,including "At Dawn We Slept," "Pearl Harbor," "December 7, 1941" and the mostrecently published, "The Way It Was Pearl Harbor TheOriginal Photographs," which contains a photograph of Chief Boatswain Edwin J.Hill.

Goldstein had the number of the Vice President of the PHSA, but had misplacedit on his desk. "Where did you say you're calling from?" he asked. "Ocean City, New Jersey. Why I used towork there at the Chatterbox restaurant and hang out at Tony Marts and Bay Shores nightclubs when I was inschool," he said.

Then Goldstein came up with the phone number of Flora Higgins, a North Jersey librarian who had the phone number of Lee Goldfarb, the VPof the PHSA. Goldstein also suggested that I talk to Joe Taussig, who lived inWashington, or Annapolis, and Donald Ross, in Washington State, both shipmateswho served with Hill aboard the USS Nevada and knew him personally.

Mrs. Higgins did indeed have Goldfarb's number, and Goldfarb had a computerizedlisting of all the PHSA members, including one from Ocean City, another from Sea Isle Cityand others from Avalon and Wildwood Crest. He also gave me the PHSA membersfrom New Jersey who served on theNevada, whose phone numbers Iobtained from the public directory.

Goldfarb, who served on the minesweeper USS Oglala at Pearl Harbor, alsosuggested I call Merrill Stoffer, a PSHA Army veteran from New Jersey who istaking 53 people to Hawaii in December for the official ceremonies, and RoyEmeroy, in Hawaii, "who has more information in his computer than thePentagon."

If they couldn't help me Goldfarb also gave me an 800 number at the Pentagon. Iknew I was now on the right track.

Ray Emeory in Hawaii, did indeedhave a lot of information in his computer. When I phoned he was outside in hisyard, but he quickly switched to a telephone closer to his computer and pulledup a file on Ed Hill.

According to is files, Emeroy said Edwin J. Hill was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on October 4, 1894. He was married, with threechildren, and his wife lived in Long Beach, California.

"Seven was not his lucky number," Emory said, and when I asked why he noted,"Well, he was 47 years old when he died a 0907 on December 7, and was givenbody bag number 7"

Emeroy also noted that a destroyer escort was named after him the USS Hill DE141, which his wife, Mrs. Catherine Hill launched at the Consolidated SteelCorporation plant in Orange, Texas on February 8, 1943. That ship has sincebeen decommissioned.

Emeroy assured me that Captain Donald Ross, whose number he provided, couldtell me more about Hill since Ross served with Hill on the Nevada,and also received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions that day,but lived to tell the story.

First I called Long Beach, Californiainformation and obtained the phone number of Mrs. Edwin Hill, but it was thewrong Mrs. Hill.

After two days of trying I finally got through to Captain Donald Ross in PortOrchid, Washington. Now 80 years old (in 1991) Ross' Medal of Honor is thesenior combat award in the service today. He has been decorated longer than anyother man alive.

"Sure I knew Ed Hill very well," Ross said. "We were both warrant officers onthe Nevada. I still take flowersto Ed's grave whenever I'm in Hawaii."

Ross gave me the address of Hill's daughter, Catherine, and her married name,Mrs. Roggeveen, who lives in Long Beach, California.

Mrs. Roggeveen was glad to talk about her father when I contacted her at her Long Beach home, and she was able to explain the Cape May connection and a better portrait of the man.

CONTINUED AT USS Nevada Sortie at Pearl Harbor

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