|Shirley Temple attends a birthday party for captain's daughter|
In April, 1940, Lydia Diane S. Grant—born at her grandparents’ home at 1054 Washington Street in Bath—was living in Hawaii with her mother, Lydia Baxter Gillette, and her stepfather, Captain Claude Gillette. Her parents threw her a thirteenth birthday and invited all the children in the neighborhood, including Shirley Temple, the visiting movie star. After the cake was cut and the gifts were unwrapped, Diane and her friends posed for a picture. In the photo, the captain's daughter and the Hollywood actress stand out because they’re the ones wearing lies. Both blue-eyed girls went on to live remarkable lives. Shirley Temple Black died in 2014 at the age of 85. After entertaining millions on the big screen, she became a mother, an advocate, and ultimately a U.S. Ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia. She was also one of the first American celebrities to talk publicly about her battle with breast cancer. Diane Smith Grant, known to many as Snooky, is now ninety-three years old, and she’s still telling stories about her life, including her adventures in Hawaii, the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the evacuation of military families on Christmas Day.
|Mrs. Claude Gillette, the sponsor of U.S. Submarine Gusk 1945|
By the time WWII was over, Diane was 18, a young woman who had seen the horror of war but chose to be optimistic. Looking back, she prefers to talk about serving General Marshall and a handsome RAF pilot at a Washington restaurant. Diane’s younger brother, Tom Gillette, was 14 when the war ended, and he returned to Bath ahead of his parents to attend Morse High School. After Rear Admiral Gillette retired, he renovated the historic Queen Anne at 1111 Washington Street, and Tom has fond memories of that home. Diane and Tom are both survivors. Perhaps they appreciate life more because of their experience. Tom speaks highly of his dad. Claude Sexton Gillette met and married their mother in the 1930s when he was a commander working with the Bureau of Ships to coordinate Bath Iron Works’ efforts to rebuild the Navy. In the months following the attack on Pearl Harbor, he was a captain, one of the most experienced engineering duty-only officers in the Navy, and he was in charge of salvage and fleet repair. Later, he would be promoted to Rear Admiral and awarded the Legion of Merit, the nation’s highest non-combat medal, for his exemplary work at the Pearl Harbor and Puget Sound shipyards. He is buried with his wife in Bath’s Oak Grove Cemetery.
|Shirley Temple on the USS Pennsylvania|
William Faulkner once said, “History is, not was,” and I agree. Because of history, I met the Gillettes. While I was signing copies of Daughters of Long Reach at the Common Ground Fair, a man read the back cover of my book and said he had friends who would enjoy reading it. When he started telling me about the Gillettes at Pearl Harbor, I was enthralled. The man told me that Tom was having trouble adjusting to life at Pearl, so his dad’s friend, the captain of the USS Arizona, invited him to have dinner, watch a movie, and sleep on the ship. Tom thought that would be fun and spent a night on the Arizona in November, 1941. (Diane told me later that Captain Van Valkenburgh, her dad's Annapolis roommate, invited her and a few of her friends to dine with him aboard ship on December 7, 1941, but that date was cancelled because the Arizona was sunk and the captain was killed with 1,177 aboard when the Japanese attacked.) Needless to say, I was moved by the Gillettes' story, and honored when the man at the fair asked me to personalize a copy of my book for Tom and Diane. A few weeks later, I received an email from Tom. He and his sister were in Maine for the summer; they were going to make their annual visit to Oak Grove Cemetery, and they wanted to take me to lunch.
|Miss Temple with sailors at the Hollywood Cafe|
Tom Gillette went on to become a naval architect. He told me he studied the sinking of the Northampton. The swift actions of the crew that night saved lives. Over 700 sailors were rescued by U.S. destroyers and PT boats; fifty perished. My father was a nineteen-year old machinist mate when he swam away from his burning ship. He watched it slip into a black hole, and for the next fifty-six years he remembered the fifty. He talked about them shortly before he died in 1998.
|A movie star and a submariner|