Cortez veterans remember WWII

Longtime Cortez Park resident Harry Howey, left, served
in the Army while brother Samuel "Bill" Howey, right,
served in the Navy in World War II.


CORTEZ – It will be 70 years this year since World War II began for the United States, and only a handful of veterans from the historic fishing village of Cortez are left to remember.

They marched through the African desert with Patton, transported bombs across the Atlantic Ocean and flew Mustangs over Axis Europe.

After the war, two went back to commercial fishing in Cortez. One was a Cortez postmaster and one a Cortez trailer park operator. One became a rocket scientist at NASA.

Four didn’t come back alive.

Their stories, and as many others as the Cortez Village Historical Society can uncover, will be preserved in a new museum planned at the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage FISH Preserve in the historic Monroe cottage, which was relocated from Bradenton Beach to Cortez in January.
When renovations are complete, part of the museum will be dedicated to family life and part to local military history, featuring memorabilia from five wars.

Cortez veterans remember

Albert G. Few Jr.

Even though his dad, "Tater" Few, was a fisherman, Cortezian Albert G. "Little Spud" Few Jr. always had airplanes, not boats, on his mind.

An Army Air Corps fighter pilot in World War II, he flew P-40 Warhawks and P-51 Mustangs over North Africa, Sicily and Italy and the F-86 Sabre jet in the reserves after the war.

He became an aerospace engineer, and worked on the design and development of the Saturn V missile program with rocket scientist and ex-Nazi Party member Dr. Wernher von Braun at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. after von Braun surrendered to American soldiers in 1945 and joined the Allied war effort.

Few, 90, enjoyed a long career at NASA; his last assignment was the Space Shuttle program. He is retired in Bradenton.

Wyman Coarsey

In Cortez, Wyman Coarsey is known equally as the former village postmaster and a mean harmonica player.

During World War II, he spent three years in the Navy on convoy duty in the North Atlantic.

"Eight trips over and eight back, and thank God for that last one back," he said.

Coarsey, whose uncle, James C. Coarsey, was killed in World War I and is memorialized on the Cortez fishermen’s memorial, ended his Navy career in a heroic act.

"I found a man in our ship’s paint locker and thought he was sleeping on the job," said Coarsey, who was a boatswain’s mate at the time. "I got some ice water and poured it on his face about 20 feet below me, but he didn’t move."

With the help of some crewmen, he got the man out.

"Three days later I come to in the hospital," he said. Both men had been overcome with carbon tetrachloride fumes – a cleaning fluid. Ever since, he’s had a hoarse voice.

He was discharged on an auspicious date, "the day the Japs surrendered," he said. He is retired in Cortez.

Henry Clayton Adams

Henry Clayton "Jap" Adams, 90, served in the Army in Algeria, Morocco, Italy, Germany, Sicily and France during World War II, serving in Africa under Gen. George Patton.

He and all five of his brothers served in three service branches: Cleveland "Cubie" Adams, Clyde Dillard "Doc" Adams, Leon "Buddy" Adams, Willis Howard "Snooks" Adams and William Hugh "Man" Adams. His wife, Pauline Reynolds Adams, drove liberty trucks for the Marine Corps in North Carolina.

The four brothers who served in the Navy were separated because of the Sullivans, five Iowa brothers (George, Frank, Joe, Matt and Al ) who were killed serving on the same ship in 1942.

Even before the war, Jap was a hero. In 1940, he swam out to the Regina, a sinking molasses barge off Bradenton Beach, and saved two people from drowning in the storm.

His brother, Navy man Cubie Adams, survived the sinking of the U.S.S. Arizona by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 (Jap said his nickname has nothing to do with the Japanese, but with another Cortezian, Jap Thigpen).

His brother, Doc Adams, was shot down in a B-17, parachuted to the ground, was captured and became a prisoner of war in Germany.

Another brother, Snooks Adams, who died last year at age 92, also served in the Navy and was the first police chief in Holmes Beach.

Adams, a commercial fisherman, is retired in Bradenton.

Walter Bell

Walter Bell, who oversees operations at A.P. Bell Fish Co. in Cortez, served in the Merchant Marines in World War II, transporting everything from food to troops all over Europe, the South Pacific and the Caribbean.

"Load of potatoes one day, load of bombs the next," he said, adding that his ship also brought troops home from Europe. "A lot of big poker games then."

Bell’s brother, Warren Bell, served in the Navy and was killed in action off Africa when shrapnel cut his throat, he said. He was listed as missing in action for a year or two before the family was notified of his death.

His name, along with four other veterans who died during wartime, is displayed on the Cortez fishermen’s memorial in front of Star Fish Co., next to A.P. Bell Fish Co.

Harry Howey and Bill Howey

Harry Howey, originally from New Jersey, is an honorary Cortez native, having lived at Cortez Park for 52 years and running it for much of that time.

He served in Patton’s Third Army in Europe in a cavalry unit that actually had horses when he first joined it, but quickly became mechanized. He vividly recalls running out of gas on the road to Berlin, a situation in which horses might have been preferable.

He served in Europe and was later transferred to Manila. En route, "they dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima, so instead we came into New York City," he said. "I was one of the lucky ones."

His brother, Navy man Samuel "Bill" Howey, went in at age 17 and was based in San Francisco on sea duty patrol on destroyers in the Pacific. After the war, he worked with the Navy as a civilian in submarine sea trials.

Both are retired in Cortez.

Anyone with photographs of Cortez veterans or information on Cortezians in the military, including infamous Cortez nicknames, can call Mary Fulford Green, of the Cortez Village Historical Society, at 941-795-7121.

Published in: on May 24, 2011 at 10:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

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