Arnold-born William T. Eckersley’s WWII diary found; N.Y. man searching for kin
The day-to-day life of a World War II naval electrician from the Alle-Kiski Valley is documented in a diary a New York man found in a bookstore four years ago.
The diary was kept by William T. Eckersley, who was born Oct. 19, 1927, in Arnold. Eckersley also lived in New Kensington after his time in the service, according to genealogical research done by Sean Morrissey, a 25-year-old seaman who serves in the Coast Guard.
Now, Morrissey would like to get into contact with any remaining relatives Eckersley may have in the Alle-Kiski Valley so he can share it with them.
“If Mr. Eckersley was a relative of mine, I’d want to know something like this was out there,” Morrissey said.
He found the diary in a Montpelier, Vt., bookstore in 2015.
“Flipping through the pages, I realized this guy was a sailor,” Morrissey said.
He bought the book because “someone’s story is in there.”
Morrissey didn’t begin to read the diary until last year, when he began reading and transcribing what Eckersley wrote in a project he completed with his father.
The diary documents the daily life of a sailor who worked as an electrician aboard the USS Belle Isle. It begins Sept. 3, 1945, when the ship left San Diego and goes through Dec. 31, 1945, when Eckersley was in Yokohama, Japan.
It includes a log of the movies that were shown aboard the ship, what he ate, and what he did on duty and off-duty.
Eckersley laments the day the ship left port in San Diego because he had plans for a date that he was anticipating. Instead, he watched the 1943 movie “Top Man” that night.
It was screened again two nights later, something that regularly happened because the ship had a limited supply of movies, Eckersley explained.
On Sept. 12, 1945, they landed in Pearl Harbor.
Here’s how Eckersley described it:
“Well I got up this morning and went topside and I saw land. It was Hawaii. When the sun was rising it fell on the isles and are really a beautiful sight. The clouds were so low that they were touching the mountains. There is an awful lot of fish in Pearl Harbor. I guess I’ll go fishing after a while. But a couple of fellows that were fishing during the day said they didn’t have any luck. The fish are too well fed. There are so many of them. You can look out in the water and see five or six jump at a time.”
He writes about a paragraph summing up each day. Some entries are longer, and others are shorter: “25 September 1945 Due to crossing the International Date Line at 0705 Sept 25 you skip a day.”
It also appears that Eckersley went through the entries afterward and made further annotations.
Reading it inspired Morrissey as he continues his service in the Coast Guard, he said, and he feels a bond with Eckersley even though there’s no way they’ll meet.
Eckersley died July 29, 1996, in Palm Beach, Fla., according to Morrissey’s research.
His older sister, Anna (Eckersley) Johnson, was 92 when she died Oct. 1, 2016, in New Britain, Conn., and Morrissey has been unable to locate any other surviving family members.
He’s been in contact with New Kensington Mayor Tom Guzzo and is seeking anyone who may know any of Eckersley’s relatives who still live in the Valley.
“As a service member, I feel honor-bound to try and return the diary to his family,” Morrissey said.
Tom Davidson is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tom at 724-226-4715, [email protected] or via Twitter .