Never to Return: A history of a ship built in Orange

Published 4:32 pm Tuesday, March 13, 2018

By Ginger Broomes

The Orange Leader

A new book for history/military buffs has hit book shelves and it has an Orange connection.

“Never to Return” is the true story of the sinking of the USS Leopold, written by Randall Peffer and Robert Nersasian. According to the publishers’ press release, the USS Leopold served as a lookout during World War II against U-boats. The story is based on the worst combat loss in the history of the US Coast Guard.

Largely unarmed, it was a US Coast Guard destroyer escort in a convoy of ships that were carrying war material to England. It was sunk by enemy torpedoes and out of a crew of 201 only 28 survived.

Co-author Robert Nersasian was the baby brother of one of the men on that ship, and chose to write the book with survivor accounts. March 9 at 8:01 p.m. was the 74th anniversary of the sinking, and the USS Leopold was one of a fleet that was the first off the line in 1943 and built at the Orange Shipyard.

Nersasian told the Leader, “There is a chapter on the Orange shipyard and seaman Walter Lee Ward (lost at sea) worked in the shipyard before joining the Coast Guard.”

“When the crew arrived by train, their first reaction to Orange was asking ‘Where is the ocean?’ they were told, ‘Right there, it’s a river,” Nersasian said. “The crew was wondering how the boat would be launched and were fascinated with it being launched sideways.”

The book is in both the Navy and Coast Guard exchanges as well as Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other bookstores. According to Nersasian, it was one of 10 chosen for the 2018 US Coast Guard Commandant’s reading list.