Brooklyn, N.Y.-born and the third of four Jewish boys, Sidney Maiten did not follow his older siblings into the Army (one named Meyer would be
killed during the Battle of the Hürtgen Forest) but
joined the Navy.
Following basic training at Newport, R.I., he was
assigned as a gunner’s mate to the command ship USS
Catoctin and became an eyewitness to history for such
operations as the invasion of Southern France on Aug.
After Catoctin sustained damage and casualties due
to an enemy air raid, Maiten volunteered to learn new
skills to fill in for a lost shipmate. He quickly became
adept at keeping the ship’s refrigeration units in working order — a feat that was most appreciated by
Catoctin’s commanding officer, CDR Charles Owen
Comp. Thus, when Catoctin steamed to Sevastopol,
Ukraine, in January 1945 on a special mission, Maiten
drew some unique assignments.
With Catoctin serving as the communications ship
and headquarters for the advance party of a planned
conference between the American, British and Soviet
leaders at Yalta, Maiten found himself working alongside British and Russian servicemen assigned to clean
up and restore an old Czarist palace. He served as a
driver for FADM Ernest King.
Finally, he was selected as one of 25 Catoctin crew
members to form a Presidential Honor Guard to join
25 British and 25 Russian servicemen at the palace
compound at Yalta.
Maiten recalled the arrival of President Franklin D.
Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
However, the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin would not
appear until he received assurances that all ammunition was removed from Honor Guard side arms.
Maiten was fascinated as senior American, British and
Russian flag and general officers removed ammunition
magazine clips and checked to ensure no rounds were
chambered in the side arms. Only then did Premier
Sidney Maiten’s story will be preserved thanks to a
Congressional initiative in 2000 (Public Law 106-380)
sponsored by Reps. Ron Kind, D-Wis.; Amory
Houghton Jr., R-N.Y.; and Steny Hoyer, D-Md.; and
Sens. Max Cleland, D-Ga.; and Chuck Hagel, R-Neb.,
that led to the creation of the Veterans History Project
(VHP) managed by the Library of Congress American
In the ensuing 13 years, through a grassroots net-
work of hundreds of participating organizations and
individuals, the Library of Congress amassed a remark-
able archive of recollections.
The program was able to capture thousands of sto-
ries from the “Greatest Generation” that fought in
World War II. As this generation passes, the project’s
director, retired Army COL Robert Patrick, now is
focused on capturing recollections of veterans who
served during the Korean War, Vietnam and more
To provide the participating organizations, institu-
tions and individuals with easy-to-follow collection
guidelines, VHP has published a “how to” field kit that
can be downloaded at its website: www.loc.gov/vets/.
The website also features a 15-minute instructional
video, downloadable forms and a list of responses to
frequently asked questions, among other resources.
While the bulk of the collection effort is being con-
ducted by a nationwide body of volunteers, Patrick’s
hard-working team has become a well-oiled collection
processing machine that quickly makes summary
records of the donated histories available to the public
through a user-friendly online database at the afore-
Of the more than 18,000 entries from Navy veterans
in the collection, Maiten’s story was recorded thanks to
his participation with the project through the West Los
Angeles Veterans Administration complex that submit-
ted a video DVD of the interview to the Library of
However, there is a second Maiten entry in the col-
lection — that of Lorraine Brown Maiten, Sidney’s wife
of more than six decades. Before the couple met after
World War II, the future Mrs. Maiten served as a yeo-
man based at the North Island Naval Air Station at Co-
With Sidney Maiten now retired after a successful
career in the air conditioning, heating and refrigeration
field, the two World War II veterans remain happily
married in Southern California. ■
Dr. David F. Winkler is a historian with the Naval Historical
History Project Keeps
Veterans’ Stories Alive
By DAVID F. WINKLER
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG 58 SEAPOWER / FEBRUARY 2014