A World War II (WWII) veteran and survivor of the SS President Coolidge who was said to be probably the last survivor, Milton Staley, returned to Luganville, Santo, with his nephew, Richard Staley, in 2008.
Milton Staley, was among a few thousand others who got ashore after the sinking of the troops carrier and ex-cruise liner that hit two friendly mines when entering the Second Channel of Espiritu Santo on October 26, 1942.
In 2016, Staley’s nephew contacted Mayumi Green, a friend of theirs on Santo who filmed and interviewed the war veteran back in 2008, requesting her help to arrange an underwater photo shooting of Milton Staley’s dog tags on the 3 inch gun tub where he stood on the SS President Coolidge just before hitting the first mine.
The underwater photo shoot was as a tribute to the last survivor to visit Espiritu Santo and to honour Staley (snr) who won the Silver Star from being part of the war in Europe after departing Santo.
The war in Europe, one which was his involvement in the 1944 D-Day Landing, was the biggest invasion by sea in history.
In a joint effort with Santo Dive Operators the photograph was taken by Kevin Green.
The dog tags was then donated to the Museum and Richard Staley also promised to send a framed copy of the image ‘Milt contemplating the wreck site with the Coolidge’ and the complement ‘Ghosted in’ when the time is right, according to the South Pacific WWll Museum newsletter.
Milton Staley’s dog tags will be one of the interesting features in the WWll Museum, when the project is launched.
In its recent issue, the Elwood Association Committee that is responsible for the WWll Pacific Museum said they were searching for information on whether PT 109, or its captain John F. Kennedy, who later became USA’s 35th President, did come through Espiritu Santo during World War ll.