Edward J. Samp, Jr.
Written by Ari Phoutrides
Upon returning to Portland from our Thanksgiving trip to my daughter’s family in Palo Alto, I listened to the many messages that had accumulated on the answering machine. One of theses messages was from Margaret Samp, the daughter of my shipmate Lt. Edward Samp. She asked that I call her at my convenience. Immediately, I sensed something was wrong. When I contacted Margaret, she informed me that her father had passed away in his sleep on November 23, the day after his entire family had celebrated Thanksgiving together.
I was truly saddened to hear of his passing. He and I were shipmates on the Laffey from February 8, 1944 thru April 16, 1945. He was seriously wounded during the action on Radar Picket Station #1 and spent several months recovering from these wounds.
Ed – as I addressed him after we met at subsequent reunions – was an unusual person….and truly a gentleman. His studies in law were interrupted by WWII when he volunteered his services in the US Navy and was assigned to the crew of the USS Laffey (DD 724). His duties were those of an Assistant Gunnery Officer directing mounts 43 and 44. When he wasn’t at his General Quarters station, he acted as OOD of the watch. It is there, as Quartermaster of the watch, that I came to know this man.
Basically, I would describe him as a quiet, and somewhat intense person. It did not take me long to recognize the fact that he was also a very intelligent individual.
I think back on the watches that he invariably shared with another officer, Mr. Humphries, who acted as Junior Officer of the Deck. During the times when there was little or no activity on the bridge, we would pass the time by talking to one another. These two officers were no exception. There conversation would invariably start out with Ed saying,
“Mr. Humphries, how would you define…… (some word or some idea)”
Mr. Humphries would reply by saying “Mr. Samp, I would define (……..) as (…….).”
This reply would generate a lengthy and highly literate discussion between the two of them. It was, in a sense, amusing to hear them discussing some event or idea in depth. On the other hand, you could not leave the bridge without realizing that you had learned something by eavesdropping on their conversation.
Over the many watches we shared, I found him to be a competent, fair, and compassionate officer who carried out his duties in a professional manner. I never knew him to misuse his rank as other officers often did. Neither did I hear him raise his voice against those who worked for him. His persona as an officer was not that of a John Paul Jones or a Bull Halsey. You sensed that he wanted to do a good job…especially as Officer of the Deck. In the vast majority of cases, he did just that. There were occasions – occasions not unknown to each of the other officers – when our skipper may have not been particularly happy with the execution of an order made by Ed. He would gracefully accept a stern look or a mild verbal reprimand from the skipper. I never knew him to shy away from his responsibilities or complain about the less-than glamorous aspects of serving aboard a destroyer.
In my tour of duties during WWII and the Korean Emergency, there were very few officers that commanded my respect and admiration, and who made it a point to make life a little bit more tolerable under the existing circumstances. Ed Samp was one of those few men. I know his wife Mary, his children and grandchildren must have memories of their own… memories that will remind them how fortunate they were to have him as part of their life.
December 15, 2007
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