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Saturday, February 16, 2019

LVC Dives off Ship to Save Pup Washed Into Sea

I've seen this article on a number of websites, but have yet to track down what publication it is attributed to.

December 7, 1944
How he dived 30 feet from the bridge of the mine-sweeper into the Mediterranean with the pipe he was smoking still tight in his teeth, and won himself a four-legged pal at the same time, is the story told in a letter home from Soundman 2c C. Leroy Van Cleef Jr. 20, U.S. Navy of 198 North Bridge St. H wrote his parents. 
“We were along the coast and had our new mascot aboard. It was a fairly heavy sea (and cold water, I might add). Our mascot happens to be a spaniel of some sort. We call the water-loving hound 'Rusty'. 
“Well, Rusty was out on the fantail this day and a wave came along, washing her overboard. We had to get permission to break formation and go back for her. That took us about 15 minutes until we finally found her. I was up on the bridge at the time, smoking my pipe. Well, I shed the knife I had on and my shoes, and yelled up for permission to go after her. 'Permission granted.' 
“So I dove off the bridge. When I hit the water, I heard something snap in my mouth. That happened to be my pipe while diving about 30 feet. I don't know how my teeth escaped breaking. Luck, I call it. However, I got Rusty all right. She was swimming to beat everything. Quite a current too. They threw us a life ring and pulled us aboard.
“Yesterday I was out on the fantail and the sea was rushing up on the deck. Rusty came up and snuggled around my legs. I guess that swim was worth my favorite pipe.”



  1. Lee had a big heart and loved animals. He said he told directors over the years he would refuse to kick dogs and slap women.

  2. Don't have my files with me at the moment (at work), but I'm relatively confident this article is from the SOMERVILLE GAZETTE. A rather solid confirmation of that suggestion is the line "of 198 North Bridge street" -- it was common journalistic practice back then (and often still done today) to drop the town's name, when mentioning an address from the town in which the paper was published. While this is the earliest LVC mention in the GAZETTE that I recall seeing, the SG avidly covered his acting career, and always printed a new, long article every time Lee came back to Somerville to visit his Mom.