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Seaman And Rescuer Reunited

May 12, 1987

CHICAGO (AP) _ Thirty-four years ago, Alan Norcross fished Raymond O’Malley from the icy waters off Greenland after a Coast Guard cutter sank with 101 of its 103 crewmen.

They later found homes just a mile apart and both worked for the city, but their paths never crossed again until they were reunited Monday at a Coast Guard reception marking the World War II-era disaster.

″It is terrific to meet someone who pulled me out of the water and to have a witness to what actually happened,″ said O’Malley, 66.

On June 13, 1943, Norcross’ Coast Guard vessel, the Raritan, and O’Malley’s Escanaba were escorting a troop convoy when a still unexplained explosion shook the Escanaba. The ship went down and the crew from the Raritan was able to find only two survivors - O’Malley and Melvin Baldwin, who died in 1953.

″I was dead,″ said O’Malley. ″We were not supposed to survive more than a minute in the water, but by the time they pulled us out it was an hour later.″

Norcross, 67, said, ″It was just my duty.″

Norcross himself could have been one of the Escanaba victims.

″The ironic thing is I asked to go home on the Escanaba a few days earlier. If I had been on that boat, I would have been dead, too,″ he said.

The two men promised to keep in touch with each other. They expect to meet up again on July 29 in Grand Haven, Mich., when the Coast Guard honors 600 of its men killed in action during World War II.

″I have been holding this in for 40 years,″ O’Malley said after telling his wartime story. ″It was time to get it out.″

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