Paul Loeffler III doesn’t remember too much about his father…
“Swimming in the water with him and that kind of thing. It’s a vague memory but that memory is there,” says Loeffler.
That’s because Paul was four years old when his father, Seaman second class Paul Loeffler Jr. went missing on board the USS Indianapolis after she was hit.
“He was a navigator on the bridge and he was on the bridge when they were hit. And his watch was over after midnight, they were hit at five minutes after midnight. And no one ever knew what happened to him,” says Loeffler.
Having a movie filmed right here in Mobile based on the lives aboard the Indianapolis has stirred those vague memories. We went to visit the plot where Loeffler’s headstone is.
“Everybody chipped in, we had a little ceremony out here!”
Loeffler has researched the history of the ship and the tragedy surrounding it.
“At that time, the Japanese were not sinking American war ships because every time they fired at one, at that time of the war, they would be sunk themselves. But they saw this target there all by herself, they put three torpedoes in her and she went down in 12 minutes.”
Just two weeks later, the nation celebrated Victory in Japan, or V-J day. But that was a sad day for the Loeffler family—that was the day his mother got word her husband was missing in action.
“I know that she had to be devastated. She had two sons, my brother and me. Raised the two of us to be productive American citizens and that was her job and that’s how she dealt with it.”
Loeffler is proud of his father’s heritage… A graduate of UMS Wright Preparatory School, his father was top of the class…
“This is a photo of my dad, he was a top military academic guy, class of 1935.”
Also receiving honors after his death.
“Freedom lives and through it, he lives in a way that humbles the undertakings of most men. Harry Truman, President of the United States of America.”
Paul is a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel and hopes someday his children will take an interest in their family history.
“It’s really for future generations. You know my grandchildren probably care less about this but 50 years from now they probably will and here’s that history, they can come out here and see this and if they’re interested in it later then they can do the research and find out about these people that are here.”
Loeffler still has the telegram and the last letter his father wrote to his mother and offered it to the director of the USS Indianapolis movie, but they said they wouldn’t be able to use it. However, they are inviting Loeffler to sit in on the set of the movie for a day. Loeffler says Mobile has a memorial for World War I soldiers but would like to see one dedicated just to those who served in World War II.