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Adapted from "Ensign Kay Kopl Vesole, U. S. Naval Reserve, Deceased" [biography, dated 1 June 1949] in Biographies, 20th century collection, Navy Department Library.

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  • Biography
Wars & Conflicts
  • World War II 1939-1945
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Kay Kopl Vesole

11 September 1913 - 2 December 1943

Ensign Vesole was born in Pzedboz, Poland, 11 September 1913. He attended St. Ambrose College, Davenport, Iowa for one year, and transferred to State University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, receiving a degree of Bachelor of Arts in 1936, and graduated from the Law School of that University in 1939.

On 19 October 1942, he was commissioned Ensign in the US Naval Reserve, and in November reported to the Naval Training School, Tucson, Arizona, for instruction. This was followed in February 1943 by two months further instruction at Naval Training School, Boston, Massachusetts. During March and April he was on duty at the Armed Guard Schools at Gulfport, Mississippi and at New Orleans, Louisiana, until 25 April 1943, when assigned duty in command of the Armed Guard Unit of SS John Bascom. For service in this command he was awarded the Navy Cross and following citation:

Navy Cross:
“For extraordinary heroism as Commanding Officer of the United States Navy Armed Guard aboard the SS JOHN BASCOM when that vessel was bombed and sunk by enemy aircraft in the harbor of Bari, Italy, on the night of December 2, 1943. Weakened by loss of blood from an extensive wound over his heart and with his right arm helpless, Ensign Vesole valiantly remained in action, calmly proceeding from gun to gun, directing his crew and giving aid and encouragement to the injured. With the JOHN BASCOM fiercely ablaze and sinking, he conducted a party of his men below decks and supervised the evacuation of wounded comrades to the only undamaged lifeboat, persistently manning an oar with his uninjured arm after being forced to occupy a seat in the boat, and upon reaching the seawall, immediately assisted in disembarking the men. Heroically disregarding his own desperate plight as wind and tide whipped the blaze along the jetty, he constantly risked his life to pull the wounded out of flaming, oil-covered waters and, although nearly overcome by smoke and fumes, assisted in the removal of casualties to a bomb shelter before the terrific explosion of a nearby ammunition ship inflicted injuries which later proved fatal. His exceptional fortitude and self-sacrificing concern for others were in keeping with the highest tradition of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his county.”

Ensign Vesole died 2 December 1943 from wounds received in action at Bari, Italy. In addition to the Navy Cross, awarded posthumously, Ensign Vesole is entitled to the Purple Heart Medal, the European African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, and World War II Victory Medal.

Destroyer DD-878 has been named USS Vesole in his honor.

Published: Wed Feb 27 14:58:54 EST 2019