New Naval Vessel Continues Legacy of USS Minneapolis

October 23, 2017 10:49 PM

In many ways, the story of the second USS Minneapolis is really the story of the Pacific Theater during World War II.

The heavy cruiser, first commissioned in 1934, saw action during many of the Pacific War's major battles - from the Battles of the Coral Sea and Midway in 1942 through the Battle of Okinawa in 1945.

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"It had 17 battle stars, which was the second-most of any ship in the Navy during the war," said Stephen Hatfield, whose father Marshall served aboard the ship for part of that time.

"So it really did play a critical role. That ship was all over the Pacific."

A new ship under construction for the Navy is due to be called the USS Minneapolis/St. Paul. The Freedom-class littoral combat ship will be just the 13th naval vessel to be named for Minnesota, or for cities in the state. And the fourth to bear the name Minneapolis.

It's now being built in Wisconsin, and 25 Minnesota suppliers are contributing to the project.

Hatfield said his father, a Kansas City native who went on to settle in the Twin Cities when he went to work for 3M following the war, would be proud to see the name continue.

"And I know so many of the guys he served with would have felt the same way," said Hatfield, whose father worked for 3M from 1950 through 1987, and was also active with the Minnesota Historical Society, even serving as president for a time.

"They were proud of that ship and the role it played. They stayed connected over the years."

Indeed, those who served on the USS Minneapolis held a number of reunions in later years - the final coming in 2007. A memorial marker honoring the ship was dedicated at the National Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl Crater in Hawaii on Nov. 30 of 2004.

That was 62 years to the day after the Battle of Tassafaronga off Guadalcanal - an engagement in which the ship was hit by two 24-inch torpedoes, causing severe damage to the bow. A temporary bow was fashioned, allowing the ship to sail for repairs.

Thirty-six men died aboard, and many others were injured.

"Through the courage, skill and perseverance of the crew, the ship was kept afloat and was beached on Tulagi so repairs could be made to keep her afloat and get power restored," said Manuel Filreis in remarks at the dedication ceremony reprinted on the USS Minneapolis Association's website, an organization the site says is no longer operational.

Filreis, who died in 2009, had also served on the ship and was president of the USS Minneapolis Association at the time.

"Coconut logs were purchased from the natives and were lashed in front of the forward bulkhead to form a bow. With the assistance of some small boats, she was pulled off the beach and got underway. The Minnie steamed into Pearl Harbor on March 2, 1943 where a temporary steel bow was installed and other repairs made so she could make it to Mare Island for extended repairs."

The ship was not the first USS Minneapolis. It followed a cruiser which saw action from 1894 to 1921, a period of time that spanned the Spanish-American War.

But it was certainly the most celebrated. It arrived in the Pacific at Pearl Harbor in 1940, and happened to be on maneuvers just miles away from the naval base when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7 of 1941, bringing the U.S. into World War II.

It was finally decommissioned in 1947.

"I still have a piece of that ship in my garage," said Manuel's son, Brian Filreis.

"It's a piece of wood from the deck or something. It's a very hard wood. It was something he had kept."

Another of Manuel's sons, Kenneth, said his father was originally from Brooklyn. But he too ended up working for 3M in the Twin Cities after the war.

There, he again connected with Hatfield. The two had been friends on board the ship during the war.

"It's a crazy story," said Stephen Hatfield, who now lives in Indianapolis, but will be back in the Twin Cities Wednesday when his father's oral history is dedicated at the Minnesota Historical Society.

"They hadn't seen each other for years. And my Dad went down to the cafeteria one day at 3M. He saw Manny there and they reconnected. He had been a good friend of my Dad's during the war. They worked on the same part of the ship.

"And then they both ended up working at 3M. I always thought that was an amazing coincidence."

Kenneth Filreis, who like his brother Brian still resides in Minnesota, said the crew did form a lasting bond.

"I think their time on that ship was something they cherished," he said. "That's why they went to reunions and kept in touch over the years.

"There was a real connection there."

A legacy as well - one that will be continued by the new ship, expected to be ready in 2020.

"My Dad would have been very proud to see that, I'm sure," Brian Filreis said. "He'd have have liked seeing the name continuing."

Credits

Frank Rajkowski

Copyright 2018 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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