Survivor of the Coconut Grove Fire in Boston, one of the first embedded correspondents with troops in WWII, accompanied B-29 fire bombing raid on Tokyo, and ONLY civilian to go on a submarine combat patrol in WWII.
Martin Sheridan’s story is incredible! I can’t do his history justice here, but will attempt to highlight some of the major events that took place during WWII.
Sheridan was the publicist for cowboy movie star Buck Jones, who was on war bonds tour in Boston. Sheridan and his wife, along with Buck Jones went to the famous Coconut Grove nightclub, the very night of the major fire that claimed nearly 500 lives; Martin Sheridan lost his wife Constance, perishing in the fire, along with Buck Jones. Sheridan, was presumed dead as well, but was pulled from the fire by a young man, and placed in a cab, that took him to Mass General Hospital. His burns were so severe, he required skin grafts for burns on his hands, as well has nearly dying from the toxic fumes of the fire; he remained in the hospital for months. After getting out of the hospital, Sheridan attempted to join the Coast Guard, but was rejected for service on account of the wounds.
He then pursued the job of war correspondent with the Boston Globe, and was one, if not the first correspondent to be embedded with troops during combat. Having that near death experience already, gave him the perfect mindset in having already accepted the eventuality of death, allowing him to experience freely the horrors of war, and record those events succinctly.
While on the USS Fremont, an amphibious transport ship heading to the South Pacific in October of 1944, a navy doctor describes to his daughter years after, (from a Boston Globe story, 2016), he tells of having a drink in the officer’s club aboard ship, and meets a reporter with a New England accent, and immediately is drawn to his story, being a fellow New Englander himself. The doctor notices the white gloves on the hands of the correspondent which eventually leads to the story of the Coconut Grove fire. Martin described in vivid detail that fateful night to the Doctor, and his treatment at Mass. General Hospital that very night. The doctor then informed Sheridan that it was his brother that was on call that evening of the fire when Martin was brought in! “Small world, Lieutenant Commander,” said Martin.
The next day, still onboard the USS Fremont, Sheridan, meets the doctor again in the officer’s club, near in shock. “You won’t believe it Commander, I was interviewing a few of the boy on the ship for the paper, when an electrician’s mate, first class, a young, chap named Howard Sotherden……asked me if I was Martin Sheridan from Boston…..”Well sir, I’m the sailor who pulled you out of the Coconut Grove fire!” 9000 miles from home, and Sheridan meets the brother of the doctor who treated him at Mass General Hospital and the man that saved his life on the same ship!
Sheridan would find himself on Guadalcanal with the marines, the Philippines, were General Douglas MacArthur presented Martin Sheridan with the Asiatic- Pacific campaign ribbon, and wrote, “You have added luster to the difficult, dangerous and arduous profession of War Correspondent.” (quoted from another online news article included with lot).
He accompanied a B-29 crew that firebombed Tokyo on March 9th, and 10th 1945 reporting in the Boston Globe that the plane flew so low that the paint on the fuselage was blistered and charred. Imagine seeing this after surviving the incredible devastating fire that nearly took his life.
After returning from Guam, and the missions (the first low level bombings) over Tokyo in March, Martin Sheridan asked Rear Admiral H.B. Miller, Fleet Admiral Nimitz’s public information officer if he could go out on a submarine war patrol to climax his Pacific assignment. (from the Forward of his book, Overdue and Presumed Lost, Story of the USS Bullhead), “I can’t see why not he replied. I’ll take it up at the Admiral’s conference this morning.” Twenty minutes later, he returned and asked me, “When do you want to leave.” Sheridan responded he needed three days to complete some articles. That morning he also met Admiral Lockwood, commanding the Submarine force at Guam, and would later introduce him to Commander Walter T. Griffith, skipper of the USS Bullhead. Lockwood introduced Sheridan to Griffith, “as the war correspondent who’s going along with you. The sky’s the limit Griff. Don’t hold anything except top secret and ultra information.” In his book Overdue and Presumed Lost, The Story of the Bullhead, Martin Sheridan gives a great account that brings great credit to the submarine service. Sadly, once the Bullhead returned to Guam, Commander Griffin was relieved, and the next captain of the boat and crew were lost at sea, being the last American war vessel sunk in WWII. Incredible, another narrow escape from death!
There is so much more that can be gathered on Martin Sheridan, he wrote not only for the Boston Globe, but New York Times and other publications. He passed away in December of 2003, having lived a full life, meeting some of the most influential people in history of that time, including not only military and political figures, but movie stars, composers, artist, on so on.
This grouping consists of Sheridan’s 1941 Field Jacket, size 40. Lined with wool, other than in sleeve lining; the size label is worn, and hanging by threads. The contract tag is in the right pocket; Sept. 1941, size 40 L. The overall condition is very good, with most of the wear and discoloration caused by sweat and soiling is mostly on the collar area, with some tears at the fold on the collar. Some other sporadic stains here and there, I have tried to get those in photos for you. Staining on the front, and on the right arm.
The Navy War Correspondent patch is the typical golden yellow embroidered on black wool. Patch is 3 inches diameter. I have placed the “PRESS” armband on the uniform for photos. The day I purchased it, the collector had discovered it all rolled up in the right side pocket for the first time. Beside being wrinkled, the printed white cotton is in fine condition color wise, with light fraying in the edges. The buttons are all in place, and the TALON zipper is original. When found it was frozen in place, probably since the war or sometime after, and I’m going to try to do anything about it. There is no clear name in the field jacket, only the worn remnants of stencil lettering on the collar, what is visible are the lower parts of the letters “DAN” and if you look long enough you can make out something of the first part of his last name.
The Khaki cotton shirt, size 16-34 has multiple stamps with “Sheridan,” and a larger “M.SHERIDAN” and a hand written last name, along with a similar ASN “M1067.” The shirt is in fine shape, and has the same Navy War Correspondent patch on the left sleeve. Over the left breast pocket is an upside down ribbon bar with the Asiatic-Pacific with 2 stars, and Philippine Liberation with 1 star medals. Now. Is this the ribbon that MacArthur presented him? If I am correct, I don’t believe correspondents, or civilian in general were allowed to wear these, although they did wear all manner of military issue clothing.
The photo of Martin Sheridan in hospital was taken form the Boston Globe article which I have included that photocopied material with this lot, along with a new paper back edition ( 2004) of his book, which was originally published in 1947.
Martin Sheridan’s 1941 Field Jacket, and shirt, came out of a New England collection just a few weeks ago. There is not question to the identification on these items, and are the real deal.
Despite the tragedy in his life, from the Coconut Grove fire in 1942, through all the miraculous circumstances in meeting the brother of his doctor in Boston, and the young sailer who pulled him out of the fire, on the same ship at the same time in wartime, is too much to believe. Through all the other close calls, and experiencing the hardships with the men and in the battles he covered in the Pacific Theater of WWII, what an amazing history all wrapped up in these items.
The other shirt and tie are props, NFS.