A Deeply-Rooted Legacy

Digger Magazine, August 2008

As a gunnery mate aboard PT-490 during World War II, Ed Schultz survived shelling, strafing, kamikaze attacks, and a long, harrowing night in Surigao Strait. When he returned home from the service in 1946 he promised himself two things – he was through with killing, and he would do his best to make America a more beautiful place. The 87-year-old Aurora resident has fulfilled both of those vows.

Humble Beginnings

Ed’s family came to Oregon from North Dakota in 1936. His father had been a farmer in the Midwest and found work in the fields and bulb farms when they arrived. Ed, 16, handled the irrigation duties for Ellis Bulb Farms in Canby. He later hoed hops and worked in the onion fields in the Salem area. Within a few years, the family purchased a 17-acre farm near Mount Angel where they raised berries, nursery stock, and strawberry plants.

“The entire Willamette Valley is a wonderful horticultural area,” Ed said. “When my family came here, we couldn’t believe how well the fruits and vegetables grew. The trees were so loaded with plums and apples that the branches were breaking.”

World War II

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, forced the U.S. into World War II. Ed, 23, enlisted in the Navy the following year.

After Pearl Harbor, the U.S. fleet had very few large warships. General Douglas MacArthur, commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, believed that PT (patrol torpedo) boats could be used to harass the enemy with nighttime hit-and-run attacks. Desperate for some semblance of naval power, MacArthur pushed hard for the rapid production of a PT flotilla.

The 80-foot craft could reach speeds of 45 knots when fully loaded. Their capacity to fire torpedoes made them a serious threat to Japanese ships. They were also equipped with depth charges, a smoke generator, a 40-millimeter gun on the stern that fired foot-long shells, a 20-millimeter gun on the bow, and two 50-caliber machine guns.

After receiving training as a gunnery mate, Ed became a member of the crew of PT-490. He would man the 40-millimeter gun on every one of PT-490’s missions during the war.

PT-490 reached New Guinea in 1943 as the U.S. was making progress with its island-hopping strategy. The idea was to capture various islands on the way to Japan. This meant that fewer Japanese-held strongholds would need to be taken; in addition, the enemy troops that occupied those islands would be stranded without supplies.

“Our job was to limit Japanese reinforcements and shipping, first in New Guinea and then in the Philippines,” Ed said. “We attacked barges and tankers at night and then hid under the trees at river entrances during the day so the Japanese aircraft couldn’t spot us. We were in and out of enemy-controlled territory all the time.”

An additional duty assigned to PT boats was to provide information about Japanese shore batteries and fortifications, so that U.S. cruisers and battleships could pound them with long-range artillery. “The only problem with that was that we had to get in close enough to draw fire,” Ed said.

The Battle of Surigao Strait

On the evening of October 24, 1944, Japanese Vice-Admiral Shoji Nishimura led a powerful fleet of ships toward Surigao Strait in an attempt to retake the Philippines from Allied control. It would be the largest naval battle of World War II.

Nishimura’s fleet consisted of the battleships Fuso and Yamashiro, the heavy cruisers Nachi and Ashigura, and the destroyers Shiranuhi, Kasumi, Ushio, and Akebone. It was followed by a second fleet led by Vice-Admiral Kiyohide Shima that included the destroyers Yamaguna, Michishio, and Asagumo and the cruiser Mogami.

Rear Admiral Jesse Oldendorf commanded the U. S. Seventh Fleet, which was charged with defending the Philippines. With destroyers and battleships lying in wait at the north end of Surigao Strait, Oldendorf dispatched 39 PT boats into the Mindanao Sea and the southern portion of the Strait to make the initial strike. He hoped the PT boats would be able to inflict damage with their torpedoes, but because the Seventh Fleet had no night patrol aircraft, he also counted on them to draw fire and provide reconnaissance.

“It was so dark you couldn’t see a thing,” Schultz recalls. “Fortunately for us, the Japanese radar was very outdated, and we were able to get in real close.”

As PT-490, along with PT-491 and PT-493, fired their torpedoes, the Japanese ships turned on their lights, illuminating the patrol boats, which began to take intense fire. “Our captain took us in so tight to one of their cruisers that we almost got cut in half,” Schultz said. “We were so close that their gunners couldn’t depress their guns far enough to fire at us.”

Ed fired bursts from his 40-millimeter at the cruiser’s lights, and the crew set off smoke to obscure their position. PT-490 and PT-491 escaped with minor damage and wounds to one crew member. The 493 managed to get away but later went down with two dead.

PT-490 made shore on the island of Panaon, where the crew spent a restless night. After the PT boats withdrew, U. S. destroyers took up the attack, followed by long-range shelling from the battleships. “We could see ships burning, but we had no idea who was winning the battle until the next day,” Schultz said.

By the morning of October 25th, the Yamaguna, Michishio, Yamashiro, Fuso, Asagumo, and Mogami had been sunk. The Japanese navy was broken and would not recover.

After the War

Ed was discharged in 1946. When he returned home, he enrolled at Oregon State College (now Oregon State University) and graduated in 1948 with a degree in horticulture/nursery management. He then earned a masters degree in horticulture with a minor in genetics at Texas A & M University in College Station, Texas.

By now a husband and father of one, Ed moved his family to Oregon and purchased a home in Gresham. He worked at Speybrock Nursery before taking a job as plant propagator for J. B. Whalley Nursery.

During the mid-1950s, Ed and Paul Ritter formed Calorwash (California, Oregon, Washington) Nursery. They purchased 10 acres in Boring, where they blasted and removed stumps and planted daphnes, ornamentals, and sweetgums. They had no year-round water source. A rototiller was their only equipment. “It was a good way to starve by wintertime,” Ed said.

When Paul Ritter took a job with Reynolds Aluminum, Ed purchased a tractor and made ends meet by landscaping, planting lawns, and topping and pruning trees. In 1963, he applied the equity from his half of the Boring nursery, along with the equity from the family’s home in Gresham, as a down payment on nine acres and a four-bedroom home in Aurora. Ed supplemented his income by teaching plant propagation at Clackamas Community College.

In 1966, he purchased 27 acres adjacent to the Aurora property, and business took off. The Aurora site had a reliable water source and rich soil, and Ed knew how to make things grow. Calorwash was truly a family venture, with Ed’s wife, Patricia, and the couple’s five children all lending a hand.

A Pioneer in the Nursery Business

While earning his masters degree at Texas A & M, Ed had minored in genetics. That background gave him a leg up on his competitors. “Seed propagation has always been my first love,” he said. “I knew a lot about it, and that was a real advantage.”

Calorwash specialized in producing rhododendrons, azaleas, and other ornamentals, along with noble and Douglas fir stock for Christmas tree farmers. As the name indicates, Calorwash shipped plants to nurseries throughout California, Oregon, and Washington.

Ed was one of the first nurserymen to use dish detergent to clean “inhibitors” from the roots of plants. “It resulted in a much better survival rate,” he said. “It worked especially well with plants that had berries for seeds.”

He also pioneered the use of cold treatment for conifers. “I found that manipulating the plants’ exposure to cold by keeping them in refrigerators was very effective,” he said. “Without proper cold treatment, conifers don’t come up with nearly as much vigor.”

Ed was active in the Oregon Association of Nurseries for many years and served as president in 1978. He is also a member of the International Plant Propagators’ Society.

Cindy Lou Pease, owner of Evans Farms in Oregon City, calls Schultz “a treasure.” When her parents, Eldon and Joyce Evans, started the business in 1964, they purchased liners from Schultz. The following year, Cindy, who was 13, spent Saturdays at Calorwash, learning propagation from Ed. She later took a propagation class from Schultz at Clackamas Community College and still relies on him as a resource.

“He has been so important to the industry because he’s incredibly generous when it comes to sharing information,” Pease said. “Ed is also well-known for growing and propagating things that nobody else has been able to do.”

Remaining Active

During the 1970s, as the Schultzes’ children became more involved in the business, Ed joined the Mazamas and got involved in mountain climbing. He has scaled every major peak in Oregon and topped 17,780-foot Mount Popocatepetl near Mexico City and 16,900-foot Mount Kenya in Africa.

His passion for climbing and his interest in other cultures have taken him to India, Nepal, China, Norway, Peru, Australia, Indonesia, Turkey, Egypt, Kenya, Spain, Portugal, Costa Rica, Thailand, Israel, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico.

He continued to hike and climb until 2006. “When I got to be 85, I decided it was time to give up that kid stuff,” he said.

Ed sold Calorwash to John and Marcia Dillon in 1994. He continues to live in Aurora, where, in spite of a recent heart attack, he raises Pygora goats, Muscovy ducks, chickens, geese, sheep, and pheasants. He continues to experiment with seed propagation.

“The nurseryman’s goal is to make America more beautiful and fruitful,” Ed said. “I’m happy that I’ve had the opportunity to learn, practice, and teach good methods of plant propagation and growth.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*