A Kansas family is re-connected with the long-lost history of a loved one, thanks to a local author and the story The Castle Pines Connection ran about his book a few months ago. Pictured above (left to right) are Ben Kristek, Joyce Binkley, and Ron Binkley. All are holding memorabilia of Phillip Binkley, a World War II crew member of the USS Quail.
By Joe Gschwendtner; photos courtesy of Ron Binkley
The Castle Pines Connection’s September front page story on a local author’s re-release of the book South From Corregidor was a true gift for the Binkley and Kristek families of Wichita, Kansas.
Within weeks of the story’s publication, Joyce Binkley discovered the article and photos online. After reaching out to The Connection’s editor - who put the family in touch with book co-author Tim Deal - the family’s efforts to uncover original crew member Phillip Binkley’s wartime fate came to fruition.
South From Corregidor recounted the 18 men from the USS Quail who made a daring escape in 1942 on a 36-foot motor launch after scuttling their ship at Corregidor in defiance of Japanese surrender demands. While the crew members were welcomed with both awe and curiosity in Australia, war trumped any celebration and all crew members were quickly reassigned new duties or to other ships.
The Deals’ recent re-release of South From Corregidor included an addendum with additional research, maps, and photos, which provided answers to many previously unanswered questions. The Binkley and Kristek families now know that Phillip was assigned to, and subsequently perished on the USS Jarvis, destroyed by Japanese torpedo planes while limping toward Australia for repairs.
According to Phillip’s great nephew Ben Kristek, “For 70 years our family was told that Phillip Binkley was MIA … nothing else. I was told that his mother always thought that he would just show up at the front door one day.” Kristek now has the missing piece of the family puzzle.
Binkley’s mother Libby pleaded for information from the Navy to no avail. She died never knowing the truth. Kristek shared that the family history is near and dear to his heart. “I once wrote a paper about him [Phillip] in the fifth grade that was attached to a couple articles about him from the local newspaper. My mom still has it and we have a couple of the Saturday Evening Post magazines that published the three-part story.”
The re-release of the book, along with the Deals’ website (www.sfc1942.com,) enabled the Binkley and Kristek families to access official wartime Naval correspondence. Tim Deal also connected the families to Lyle Bercier, the only boat crew survivor living today. Bercier recounted for the families many pleasurable night watches served with Phillip on the USS Quail and minesweeper training with him on the USS Ogallala in Pearl Harbor.
This holiday, Phillip Binkley’s niece Joyce, nephew Ron, and great nephew Ben celebrated having pierced the fog of war and having gained wonderful new friends in Lyle Bercier and the Deal brothers in the process. Ben shared that there were a few items of memorabilia (including a copy of The Castle Pines Connection’s September issue) wrapped under their tree this year to add to their already-extensive collection of memorabilia. And that is a very happy ending for the season.
“We greatly appreciate the article being posted,” thanked Kristek. “To read that story was just unreal. They could make a great movie out of this story!”
Editor’s Note: Sapphire Pointe resident Tim Deal will be presenting South From Corregidor at the Douglas County Philip S. Miller Library on January 18 at 2 p.m. He will give an overview of the book and will discuss some of the family stories that have been unearthed. All are welcome.