The Lady Gangster


This remarkable story began in 1967 with a broken car radio and a father-and-son’s cross-country trek. The two had been making uncomfortable small talk until the son asked, “Dad, will you tell me what you did in the war?”

The father’s answer is the amazing first-hand account of the USS Fuller, The Lady Gangster, an attack transport ship and its courageous crew of “Chicago Boys” who transformed from wide-eyed new recruits to weathered “Old Salts” braving enemy attacks while delivering troops and supplies during many of the toughest battles waged in the South Pacific during World War II. It is also the poignant tale of how a simple question forged a lasting bond between a father and his son.

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The ship is a real live being. She took on the personality of all the men who served on her. Mixed in the paint on her decks was the sweat and blood of a lot of boys from Chicago.

Brilliant assaults and heroic defensive stands are the remembered highlights of World War II’s battles, but few ever wonder how troops and supplies arrived at their destinations, thereby overlooking the vital and dangerous efforts of the military men who sailed on auxiliary ships.  Yet without the latter, victories would never have been possible.
The U.S. Navy’s Amphibious Force was a crucial component of the Allied victory that wore down and ultimately crushed Imperial Japan’s dream of expansion throughout the Pacific region during World War II.  Of the battle-tested attack transport ships involved in the war, only one, the USS Fuller, has a service record that stretched from Iceland and the British Isles to the beaches of Guadalcanal, Saipan, and Okinawa. She was known as the Queen of the Attack Transports, and with good cause.

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Del Staecker

2 reviews for The Lady Gangster

  1. A fitting tribute to a father and to a tough-as-nails ship

    The Lady Gangster” is a quick and fascinating read. Del Staecker does an excellent job framing the story of his father’s service aboard an armed transport ship during the Second World War. Officially named the USS Fuller, the ship is better known by her apt nickname, “Lady Gangster,” a name christened by her crew, made up almost entirely of fellow Chicagoans.

    In addition to being an accounting of his father’s service, “Lady Gangster” is also a heartwarming story of a rapprochement between father and son. A long road trip and a broken radio result in hours of conversation and an outpouring of memories. For the first time, the young son listens to his father’s vivid and detailed recounting of his harrowing experiences serving with the Navy in the Pacific Theater. Through his writing, Staecker transports the reader from inside that car where he listens intently to his father’s story, to the various locations were his father served. Staecker intersperses his father’s reminiscences with just the right amount of family background, comments, clarifications and explanations of wartime history to keep the reader up-to-speed with the historical setting and maritime terminology.

    The book is well written and includes useful maps, which help orient the reader to the action and keep up with the unbelievably savage fighting and island-hopping through places with names like Guadalcanal, Tinian, “the Slot,” Saipan, and Okinawa. The book also includes several photographs that help personalize the story and make the action that much more realistic.

    With dignity and grace, Staecker pays homage to both his father’s unheralded service during the war and the equally unheralded service of a proud and effective ship, along with her officers and crew. Well done!

  2. Del, I just finished “The Lady Gangster” and just wanted to tell you that I enjoyed it immensely and could not put it down. It is a remarkable story not only as a previously unreported tale from WWII but as a great discovery of a bond between you and your father. Congratulations; I appreciate you bringing this story into my life.

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