Stan Abele - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Obituaries

Stan Abele

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Posted: Monday, November 4, 2019 3:37 pm

Survived Kamikaze Attack

Longtime Coronado resident Stanley Abele passed away Oct. 21 following a brief illness. He was a celebrated World War II pilot and survivor of Kamikaze attacks on the USS Bunker Hill that left him adrift in the Pacific Ocean. He lived between Alpine and Coronado in his final years, and volunteered on the USS Midway Aircraft Museum right up until his death. He was 97.

Stanley Frederick Abele was born in New Orleans, June 28, 1922 as the younger of two brothers to John Andrew Abele and Elizabeth Bentel. His maternal and paternal grandparents were German immigrants.

Stan graduated from Samuel J. Peters Boys’ Commercial High School in New Orleans, and attended five semesters at Tulane University. He was a veteran of 24 years in the U.S. Navy and recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals, Presidential Unit Citation, Navy Unit Commendation, Asiatic/Pacific and Vietnam Unit Citations, a Korean Service Medal, and others.

Stan Abele performed more than 60 combat missions but records exist for only 20 because most his paperwork was destroyed when the Bunker Hill was attacked.

Two Kamikazes hit the Bunker Hill on the morning of May 11, 1945 while covering the invasion of Okinawa. They hit the ship within 30 seconds of each other that fateful day. The bombs on one blew up killing everyone in the ready room amidships – where Stan had just left.

Everywhere planes were exploding. Rockets and munitions on the surprised American planes were detonating and the entire flight deck and island (command center) of the carrier were on fire. It was a raging inferno, a flaming holocaust, and everywhere was the stench of burning fuel and human flesh.

In an effort to get away from the toxic fires, billowing smoke and exploding munitions, Stan and nearly 20 others became trapped on a catwalk. Out of desperation the stranded pilots and mechanics jumped overboard, landing 60 feet below in the cold Pacific Ocean only to watch as their battered and burning ship steamed on.

After five hours in the water shock began to set in. All of a sudden, when all hope seemed lost, the men rose to the crest of a swell and sighted the mast of a destroyer. It had been working its way back along the carrier’s wake and picking up survivors. Just as darkness set in, sailors from the destroyer, hanging from a large cargo net draped over the side, pulled Stan and the others from the ocean.

The next day Stan and the other men were transferred by hi-line to the badly damaged Bunker Hill, as a multitude of wounded were transferred in the other direction for medical aid.

The attack on the Bunker Hill became one of the greatest US Naval disasters a ship was ever to survive. And yet, during her brief World War II Pacific campaign, the USS Bunker Hill and her pilots were responsible for shooting down 475 Japanese planes.

As a pilot, in addition to a Kamikaze kill, Stan sank a miniature Japanese submarine and destroyed several enemy airfields and dozens of planes on the ground. He destroyed enemy barracks and shops, industrial complexes, boats, photo escort planes, provided air cover for our troops on dangerous beachheads and anything else that his orders dictated in an effort to bring the war to a close. His missions typically ran from two-to-six hours each.

Throughout his long life Stan Abele had been involved with and supported such groups as the Disabled American Veterans (he lost much of his hearing as a combat pilot), American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Tailhook Association, and the USO (United Service Organizations).

Stan volunteered for 14 years as a guide on the Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum, where he led docent tours and shared his military experience with tens of thousands of visitors to that ship. Stan was beloved by the museum visitors, as his stories he actually lived through, as opposed to someone who had just done research on World War II. He was, as they used to say, “the Real McCoy.”

Stanley Frederick Abele is survived by his longtime and loving companion of 32 years, Sue Steel of Coronado, and his nephew Rodney John (Linda) Abele of New Orleans. Great nephews Rodney Abele III of Washington, DC and Andrew Abele of New Orleans also survive him.

A funeral mass was held for Stanley on October 24 at the North Island Chapel. Internment will take place at Miramar National Cemetery on Thursday, Nov. 7 at 9:30 a.m.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made “In Memory of Stanley Abele,” to the Midway Museum Foundation, c/o the Midway Museum, 910 N. Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92101.