Southern Utah News Articles
A Penney for your thoughts
Fred Penney, one of the oldest living veterans in the Valley, was born on May 2, 1926, in the small town of Kanosh, Utah. At the ripe “young” age of 18, he joined the Navy. Boot camp would find the boy in Jacksonville, Florida.
After training, he was sent to ordinance school located at Norman, Oklahoma, where he gained knowledge of weapons. Use of torpedos, bombs and other weapons of war were the subject of his studies. After six months of extensive training, Fred landed in Fort Lauderdale at the Naval Air Station, where he trained to be a turret gunner on a torpedo bomber.
“I didn’t have a lot of fear flying the missions,” Penney said, “It was simply routine. Every day we would fly 180 miles out to sea, turn north and fly 100 miles back to base. We would look for submarines which we were trained to target and destroy.”
One such mission during his service in the Navy would prove to be a great loss and devastation to his crew. Two crews would fly the mission. The morning crew would routinely fly out and return around noon, as the other crew prepared to relieve them and fly the afternoon mission.
Penney reflects on the day he remembered so well. “One morning, six planes with captain and crew members flew into the Bermuda triangle. They failed to return at noon. Somehow all six planes were lost at sea, taking half of our crew. They never were heard of, or found. It was difficult with only a compass. No communication to speak of, and no radio contact made it hard to do the job.”
One of his missions would require the young Penney to sink a German submarine. The sub was spotted about 12 miles from Miami. After it was destroyed, an American Navy destroyer escorted the sub into Viscane Bay, Miami.
“As an 18 year old, I had a lot of fun,” Penney recalled. “The highest moment for me was when I graduated and was awarded a certificate as Air Crewman. There were not very many who received the honor. It was a rather prestigious position.”
After the Florida service, Penney was sent to Alameda, California, where he flew routine patrol in the Pacific. “The war was over,” he said, “and we were keeping an eye on things.”
When asked about advice to the younger generation. Fred spoke with no hesitation. “I am strongly in favor of youth serving their country. It is an honor. There are benefits besides gaining loyalty and patriotism towards country. I get a pension and the VA takes care of my medical needs. I would do it again, and recommend it to others.”
Penney was the first commander for the American Legion post in Orderville. Others he remembers who served with him as Legionnaires were Earl Sorensen, Conch Levanger, Garth Sorenson, Earl Ramsay, Joe Caruso, Ronald Spencer, Ferrel Spencer and Lanard Johnson.
Penney wears a special Veterans cap with his flight wings attached. He is proud of his rank as aviator ordinance 3rd class CA (Combat Aircrew).
His attitude of life sums up a simple philosophy, one that everyone could appreciate. “Just live and enjoy the trip,” he said with a smile as he tipped his hat.