Capt. Dan, part 15

1950-1964
In January ’50, we sailed for a 2ND FLEET cold weather operation above the Artic Circle. Funny thing was that it was colder when we left Newport then it was up in Davis Strait, which lies between Labrador and Greenland. We had snow but temperature only got down to 15 degrees compared to 5 above at Newport when we sailed. We had to take bathythermograph readings every four hours. I worked with two of my sonar men, as it was hairy on the fantail with mountainous seas washing over where the boom and winch for the bathythermograph was located. Naturally, we would get soaked with 30-degree water! We shifted ops to the area between Greenland and Iceland and really had mountainous seas. I saw the MIDWAY take solid green water two thirds of the way down her flight deck. Fortunately, her aircraft had been struck below. We had to refuel running down sea with lots of yawing. One time we had to go alongside a tender to highline guard mail. On the approach a huge sea caught us from astern and surfed us about two hundred yards ahead of the tender! We finally got into position and completed the transfer. In April, I got orders to be XO of the USS WALLER (DDE-466) at Charleston. I had to develop a new ships organization book, as the many alterations of weapon systems made the old one useless. CNO accepted our version to be used by the squadron.
Eunice came down in early June with Pat. We rented a house out near the swamps. A paper mill factory to the north of us had a terrible odor. Poor Eunice who was several months pregnant could hardly stand it. That along with all kinds of insect noises at night and wasp nests around the house made it miserable. We commissioned the WALLER on July 5th.
Three different PCO’s were ordered to the ship during the period I was PXO. As we were winding down the conversion work and approaching commissioning date, we got a break. A LT Supply Officer who had been in charge of all equipage for the recommissioning ships got orders to the WALLER. Well, you can be sure we had 100% allowance when we left Charleston! He had a great stowage plan and schedule, so that all our gear was properly stowed before we departed. The other destroyers in our division still had gear on deck that had to be struck below when they departed. We had some drills and exercises on the way to Norfolk. We had trouble with our distilling plant that was never properly repaired at Norfolk. The Captain sailed under protest when we left Norfolk for Guantanamo. While in Norfolk, may parents had dinner aboard, on a cold snowy night.
On the run south, we almost piled up on the reefs of the Great Bahama Banks. We were doing 25 knots heading for the Straits of Florida, and we had no sight on the way down due to bad weather, and we were trying to get there before a hurricane intercepted us. I got a call at 0200 from our weakest OOD that he had picked up a flashing white light on starboard bow. Since we had no land on radar, it suddenly occurred to me that it was the light off the NW corner of the Great Bahama Bank. I ordered him immediately to reverse course with full rudder. You can bet your bottom dollar the Captain was shook up when I told him where we must be. We headed north for a while then west until we picked up the Florida coast, then south. After an investigation it turned out that the Chief Quartermaster, myself as Navigator and a First Class 1C failed to adjust the master gyro to compensate for latitude change. We had been eating up latitude at a high rate due to our speed. The error that had accumulated was enough to put us well to the east, into the SW corner of the Bermuda Triangle!
When we got to Guantanamo, we had salted up our boilers due to the feed water problem. The engineers cleaned two boilers over the weekend so that we could start shakedown training. While we were at sea training, the engineers were cleaning the other two boilers. On the way back to port on a change of speed, someone accidentally opened a bulkhead stop valve that permitted live steam to enter a boiler with two men inside. They were killed, skin pealed off them like boiled lobsters! When word had come up from fire room that two men had been scalded to death, the Captain almost jumped off the bridge. I grabbed him in time. He mumbled that this was the end of his career, as during WWII he had run a destroyer into a minefield off Key West, and was hit with a freighter in a North Atlantic convoy resulting in the death of crewmembers.
A court of Inquiry determined which bulkhead stop valve had been opened, but never did determine who did it. In addition, the guarding valve at the top of the boiler, where the steam came in, had not been fully secured. The Chief Boiler man and Engineering Officer had their careers altered, the Chief being reduced in rating to BT 2/C and the Engineering Officer getting a letter of reprimand and loss of numbers, seniority-wise. By now ship’s morale was low. This, plus the feed water problem, and the deaths of three crewmembers in Norfolk from auto, motorcycle and overdose of alcohol, were severely felt. Fortunately, the Fleet Training Group personnel went all out to train our crew, and that helped get their minds off our problems. At the end of the first month, we got a weekend to visit Montego Bay and Kingston in Jamaica. That helped a bit on morale.
We had a close call on entry to Kingston, very tortuous channel with a few “S” turns. We were heading into the sun and the Captain thought we should come left at one point, and had so ordered the helmsman. I countered the order and pointed out the close-lying reef on the port side. When we finished shakedown training, the CO was left in command; we headed for Key West.
We had a big ship’s party at a local bistro. Every one got drunk. About 0100 two of my Chiefs came over to me with a bright idea, seems like there was a Sophie Tucker type gal singing, and they said she would be willing to come down Sunday morning and hold reveille. I sold the Captain on the idea. We picked her up and drilled her on using the Public Announcing system, with what to say, plus adding a few of her own words. Well, she belted out the Reveille part real good then added, “alright you boys your Momma is here so rise and shine!” The Chief Master at Arms then took her below to go through the berthing compartments and rouse the crew out. Most were naked due to the heat. (Didn’t have air-conditioning those days and Key West is hot). Well you should have seen those young sailors scurry to get something on! “Sophie” swatted sailors on their bare butts saying, “Get up your Momma is here”. Then she sang a few ribald songs on the PA system. This woke all the ships crews in port. The cooks in all the ships were mad because very few sailors ate breakfast on Sunday morning. Now they were all up and hungry! The morale of the crew turned 180 degrees. The crew talked of that event for a week, and no doubt wrote letters home about it, must have been the first time in the Navy that a woman had held reveille on an all-male crew!
After Key West, we sailed for Norfolk for post-shakedown availability. While there, the battleship MISSOURI, known as “Mighty Mo,” had just returned from Korea. I got the bright idea of challenging Mighty Mo to a baseball game, as I knew two thirds of their crew would not be available, what with leave, etc. I got the newspapers to print “Mighty Mite” challenges “Mighty Mo.” We won 6 to 4. I know they would have beaten us if they had their full team. In any event, it gave our crew another boost.
On completion of availability, we received orders to sail for Korea at best speed via the Canal and San Diego, Hawaii and Midway. By now, our material problems had been corrected so we made the Canal at 25 knots, then 16 knots to San Diego, as that is a long leg, then 20 knots to Pearl Harbor, 25 to Midway and 20 to Sasebo, Japan. We had one day in each port to fuel, take on provisions, etc. I managed to see Eunice and our new son Steve, who was born February 1951. I got back to San Diego for Xmas 1950, but was not around when he was born. Eunice had rented a nice cottage on Bayside Walk, Mission Beach by Ormond Ct, after she left Charleston in August ’50 with Pat in the new Ford convertible. (The day we bought the Ford in Providence, believe Nov ’49, we had a great lobster dinner on the way back to Newport).
When we got to Sasebo we fueled, provisioned, and topped off ammo. Our Squadron Commander shifted his pennant to the WALLER, and we headed for Wonsan Harbor about 60 miles north of the “Bomb Line.” The division we relieved there had one of its ships hit from shore artillery fire, sustaining some casualties. After they briefed us, we moved in shore to do bombardment of shore facilities, both night and day. All night long, we fired interdiction fire on target areas that had been assigned to us by the USMC intelligence outfit on an island called Woje Do. We would send a boat over at dusk get the dope. After several nights, you got use to being shaken up every time we fired a mount. The Commodore had requested my Captain to let me be his operations officer. This meant double duty; guess it was worthwhile, as I received a combat decoration for my work. We were in Wonsan for about three weeks, and came under fire three times, with no damage. Every four or five days, we proceeded to the outer harbor to refuel, rearm, and re-provision.
I received orders to go to BUPERS for duty, and was relieved in Yokosuka. On the way back from Korea, we came through the Shimonoseki Strait separating Honshu from Shikoku and Kyushu. I had leave in route, so went to San Diego, and picked up Pat. He and I rode back to NY. Eunice flew back with Steve making a stop at Phoenix to see her sister. Eunice, Pat and Steve stayed in the vacant apartment above my parents place. I drove down to Washington and reported for duty, and assigned as Armed Forces Information and Education Officer in the Training Division. My main contribution in that duty was developing Overseas Information Kits to be used by our ships visiting various parts of the world. The kits contained pocket size pamphlets about each country plus a language guide, maps, etc.
I rented a house, drove up and got Eunice, Pat, and Steve, then back to DC. A few months later (believe December), we bought a small Cape God style house under the GI-Bill. While there, I finished off the attic in pine panel, insulation and laid an oak floor with my own labor. We had a good Lionel train setup and a great place for the kids to play. It got quite hot in the summer, rigged a large attic fan that helped plus an air conditioner for the living room. We had nice neighbors. One couple, the Appleton’s still send Christmas cards. My brother Tom, wife Mary and the twins visited us the summer of ’55. Tom was killed in an American Airline crash at Albany, NY, September l6, 1955. On the I & E job I also had to review Armed Forces Info Films from Navy standpoint to see that the Navy was shown in a good light . I also got involved in coordinating with small film companies making strictly Navy info films. We made a good number of trips to NY to see my folks, Tom’s family and my sister Margaret. Her children were living with my parents, as she was unable to take care of them
While at BUPERS, I was also assigned as the Recorder for the High-Level Post Graduate School Selection Board. That took two weeks and a lot of work. Naturally, we took in all the sights around the Washington area. In ’55 Steve got in our Ford and it rolled down the driveway right across a busy road and up on a neighbor’s lawn. Fortunately, there was no accident. Another time, I made a brick patio behind the house, put up a nice wooden fence, first day we let him out there he climbed right over the fence. He was about two and a half yrs old at that time! We had an Air Force Lt.Col. Bill McGarrity next door to us. We each made a deposit on a lot over on Chincoteague Island just south of Ocean City Maryland. It was subject to on-sight inspection, so drove over one weekend. We had to take a boat from the mainland across a three-mile wide bay with a strong northeast storm blowing. When we arrived at the island, we got a jeep and drove down the island about six miles, then onto a land rover to the lots. When I saw hard-packed sand with clam holes, and a huge piece of hull of an old sailing vessel, I told Bill, “Let’s get our money back this place is under water in big winter storms”. We got the money back ok. I took Bill to Ocean City, and we talked with the local fishermen at the docks. They told us the storms wash across the island where the lots are.
While at BUPERS, I received a combat decoration, with the head of the Training Division pinning it on me. I put in for a DE out of Pearl but no luck. Finally, I got orders to the USS SPANGLER (DE-696) home ported in San Diego. Before reporting as CO of SPANGLER, I was sent to Fleet Sonar School for a three weeks refresher course. We all drove cross-country in October, and rented a unit in the Klaus apartments on Ocean Front walk, Mission Beach. Later we bought a house on Jewell Street in Crown Point (5548). It was 5BR, 1 bath plus 2 car garage. We had happy times there. We had the best apricot tree ever. They grew like grapes! Eunice canned a lot of them. While there, we became friends with Doc Rails and his wife Jeannette plus sons Walter, Steve, and daughter Chrissie. Chris and Steve were the same age and played together a lot.
I relieved Dick Law as CO in Dec 1955. The SPANGLER at that time was the Sonar School Ship, training ASW enlisted and officers from the Sonar School. It was in and out daily some weeks, and out all week other times. We had a cracker jack sonar team aboard, great crew. Finally, in 1955 we got to deploy to Westpac. On the way to Guam, the DE that was suppose to go to Hong Kong as Station Ship had an engineering casualty, so we were sent instead, and spent six weeks there. We were responsible for the Shore Patrol, radio communications for the Consul General, meeting VIP’s at Kai Tak airport over in Kowloon, and arranging boating service for visiting ships, etc. I had to put the crew on port and starboard watch to handle all the chores. I really enjoyed Hong Kong, met many nice British and American businessmen at cocktail parties. My favorite spot to swim was out at Sheko Beach on the northeast end of Hong Kong Island. Use to go to British “0” Club in Kowloon where they had a pool. Our officers had guest privileges at the Hong Kong Yacht Club. I did a lot of sightseeing. Bought many gifts to take back, some of which I shipped in ships heading for the States, and bought a good collection of Marklin HO Model trains.
We had a lifeboat race with a British crew after two days practice. The British crew won easily, as they had won the British Fleet Regatta a month before. Mary Soo the Chinese mamasan, who painted ships hulls, did a lot of painting for us, and got a lot of fittings chrome plated in exchange for the ship’s garbage!

to be continued…

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Capt. Dan, part 14: The Ongoing Autobiography of a San Diego Surfer

I stayed at the BOQ for about two months. Eunice flew out later with Pat and stayed with her parents for a few days. We got quarters at Cyane Navy Housing on Jewell Street in Crown Point. Living at Cyane Housing was fun. I use to take Pat out to the Cove when I could. He even went in the water when it was about 58 degrees! He could sense when a wave was coming, get on his belly, and ride it up the beach.
There were good times on this tour of duty. One day, I had to give a lecture ASW Hunter-Killer operations to a group of high-ranking officers, one of whom, was RADM Dan Gallery, who really wrote the book on such operations! He congratulated me after the lecture saying I did a good job. ADM Gallery, when in command of the USS GUADALCANAL (CVE-60), had captured the U-505 off the African coast in May 1944. He also instituted night flight ops from a CVE, which had a great impact on getting u-boats. During a typical three week course for the PCOs/PXOs, the first week was shore side instruction, the second week single ship runs on exercise sub at sea and the third week hunter-killer ops with a CVE, escort, and sub; rotating officers from each type by whaleboat at sea, many of them getting drenched. In addition to spending as many as three weeks at sea, I also had OOD duty every third weekend! Funny part, all this counted for shore duty even though my CO, and certain other staff members, were considered on sea duty! I received my regular Navy commission in August ’46. Some of the ships I got TAD to for Hunter-Killer ops were: USS RENDOVA (CVE-114), USS TURNER (DDR-834), USS Lyman K SWENSON (DD-729), USS W.M. WOOD (DD-715) and USS Badoeng Straits (CVE-116).
In July ’47, I competed in the All-Navy Swim Championships, and won the 100 free for West Coast units, also won the 1500. I then went to Pearl and won the 1500 there, from there to Jacksonville, FL for finals finishing fourth in the 1500. I also swam on 800-meter relay, and we finished fourth. The West Coast events were held at old Navy Field, about where the Convention Center is located.
After the swim bit, it was back to duty aboard USS JAMES E. KYES (DD-787) for Hunter-Killer Ops. In October, I received orders to report to the USS HARWOOD (DD-86) for duty and assigned as Operations Officer. Eunice had to leave Cyane Housing as I had regular sea duty. She rented a place on Emerald Street just off Mission Blvd, 2BR 1 bath, and had to buy some miscellaneous items of furniture.
Our squadron 21 deployed to WESTPAC in Nov. 1947 for an 11-month tour. We made the usual stops at Pearl, Midway, and then Yokosuka. Leaving Yokosuka for Tsingtao, we had a spinal meningitis case and had to return to Yokosuka and anchor in quarantine. Medics put us all on antibiotics for a few days then let us sail for Tsingtao. We operated out of that port for a while, coming in on weekends when I would catch Shore Patrol duty. Man it was cold there in winter, below zero weather, blizzards and tough boating to get to the beach. One time we thought we had lost the crew of the Captain’s gig. Captain had to go ashore for a conference, when we sent the gig back to pick him up, we got a radio message that it had not arrived. By then there was a howling blizzard from the north. We got underway figuring the gig broke down and had drifted out into the China Sea. We searched a few islands off the mouth of the bay, but no luck. We moved in as close as we could get to the beach and put the whaleboat in the water. I was appointed Boat Officer. We headed in among many junks and sampans anchored further in, hoping they might have seen the gig. Lo and behold, out of the poor visibility, we spotted the gig moored astern of a junk. After the gig had lost power, it drifted and was fortunate to reach a junk, which let them tie up. I radioed the beach to let the CO know, and that we would pick him up when sea conditions permitted.
When we were operating out of Tsingtao, we got secret orders to proceed to the inner harbor arriving at 5:00 A.M., and have four boilers on the line for special mission to be divulged to us after Commander Naval Advisory Group, China came aboard. We arrived on time; lines singled up, when a cavalcade of black limousines with Chinese Generals and Admirals came down the pier. After they boarded we got underway, and directed to proceed to the Gulf of Pohai, which separates Manchuria and Northern China from Korea. We were to proceed at flank speed to all the ports still in Chinese Nationalists hands. Upon arrival off each port, and exchange of appropriate recognition signals, we sent some of the Chinese Generals and Naval personnel ashore to check up on how long they could hold out. We made about six ports. We could only make 22 knots, as the water was too shallow for higher speed due to bottom drag. We had to go battle stations at each port, as they were not sure who held the port. The Chinese CNO gave us a case of Chefoo brandy that you could run torpedoes on.
After that mission, we were sent to Okinawa to act as Air-Sea Rescue Ship for the Air Force’s new P-80 jets. While there, we got orders to head up to Amami Oshima, and pick up the body of an occupation soldier who had died of poisoning. We had a difficult time finding the entrance from the Pacific between the two close islands, quite a current in the passage. It widened out to a small bay, but we had to practically put the bow on the beach to get water shallow enough to anchor and hold her with the engines. We put the body in the reefer and went back to Okinawa by way of the China Sea side of the island.
When we first pulled into Buckner Bay at Okinawa and anchored, Stan Dornblaser, our Gun Boss, spotted a sunken crane barge lying on its side just off the starboard quarter with the wind swinging the stern towards it. Fortunately, the engineers had not secured from the anchor detail, so we were able get underway and move further away to anchor. I took the whaleboat over, dove down and fastened a line and buoy to mark it. The barge was only about 6′ below the surface lying on its side. We believed it had sunk during a typhoon at the end of the war and was never put into the Notices to Mariners warning of such hazards.
To pass the time, we ran an athletic program over on the beach. An Army Major let us use two Quonset huts, one for officers, and the other for enlisted to make into “clubs.” We exchanged the 24 bottles of Chefoo brandy we brought down from Tsingtao for things we needed; such as good white paint, steaks, et al, and we got a 10 to 1 exchange. A civilian outfit was rehabbing WWII Army tanks, trucks, etc. to turn over to Chiang Kai Shek. They were living like kings over near Kadena, and heard about our Chefoo brandy. We had a top-notch hardball team and challenged the all-black Army team called the “Black Yankees” to a game. They sent their engineers over two days before, and built a ball field just off the beach, as we could not leave that area due to Air-Sea Rescue duty for the Air Force. They beat us 5 to 3, but they had been playing a long time, while our team had not played in several months. We let a third of the crew ashore for the game. The Army brought several thousand troops over, so you know how the cheering went. The Quonset huts we had were on a 200′ high cliff just a short way behind White Beach. They even had wooden balconies that projected out over the edge of the cliff with a great view of Buckner Bay. I got down to the main city, Naha, which was slowly rebuilding from war damage. The water was crystal clear for swimming or diving.
We rode out a typhoon in the China Sea. Since it is very shallow, the seas are very steep-sided with little fetch between them. We just kept our bow into the seas. Later we went to Hong Kong. I had a great time there, my first visit, and met some British types, who had great stories to tell of their experiences as civilian prisoners of Japanese. On way up Taiwan Straight, we had to maneuver through about two hundred Chinese junks proceeding in company, stretched across the horizon. On the run up, we had come down with dysentery. Since the heads were limited many of us had to poop over the side.
We stopped at Amoy (Amoy is the old name for Xiamen, a large island off the coast of China) for a visit, quaint city. I met an American missionary who had a gunnysack full of Chinese paper money. He said he was on his way to market and due to inflation of several million Yuan to the dollar, he had to carry a bag full! From Amoy, we proceeded to Shangai. Just before entering the mouth of the Yangtze River, we steamed through some islands at the mouth of the Hangzhow Bay, where they have one of the great tidal bores. The off-lying islands act as a sort of dam impeding the tidal flow, which builds up a head of water. Finally, it breaks and rolls up the bay to the river mouth, a 15′ wall of water! We did not see the bore, but we did have 10-knot currents between the islands. The fishermen know when it is coming and haul their boats out of the water each time.
Shanghai was in the midst of evacuating foreign nationals as Mao Tse Tung’s forces were driving Chiang Kai Shek’s forces to the coast. We had two Military Sea Transport ships loading out. I was still weak as a kitten from my bout with the flu, but managed to get ashore one day. There was lots of shipping, filthy water, city dirty due to civil war, etc. On top of that, the temperature was in 90s with similar humidity.
In November ’48, we participated in a big First Fleet Exercise off the Oregon coast. One phase involved using the Heavy Cruiser Augusta as a target ship. We had 12 destroyers in a column that were supposed to shift from column formation to line abreast, steam towards the AUGUSTA at flank speed and at 10,000 yds. come left to a column formation and open fire. Well, we had a Cruiser-Destroyer Rear Admiral aboard and his staff in our Combat Information Center running the show. While we were waiting some two hours before starting our run, the distance to the Augusta had increased to some 20,000 yds. The Admiral’s people, who were doing all the plotting on our Dead-Reckoning Trace failed to consider this, as the DRT does not show drift. We tried to tell them that fact but were ignored. Therefore, when we charged in for the 10,000 yd point and came left we were actually at 15,000 yds. instead of 10,000! All hell broke loose from COMFIRSTFLT’s flagship. We had to reverse course, get lined up then steam into the 10,000 yd point and open fire with our 5″ batteries. After that, we closed to 4000 yds. and launched torpedoes sinking the Augusta, talk about one embarrassed Admiral!
After we returned to San Diego via Guam and Kwajelein, where we had a surplus LST to shoot at, and finally sink with torpedoes, it was back to local training operations after some leave. In January 1949, we sailed to Mare Island and converted into a DDE and other modifications. On way up to Mare Island, we had heavy seas due to strong northerly gale, many seasick sailors, as it was right after Christmas holidays.
Eunice drove up to Mare Island with Pat. We had a Quonset hut for quarters, while there for three months. Some great parties, as the 0-Club was super. In those days, they had slot machines. The profit from them permitted cheap steaks and drinks. There were lots of athletic competitions amongst ships while there. Many of the CO’s were Naval Academy classmates. I was sent to San Diego on TAD for a special course in new sonar gear installed in ship, also had two-day ship handling course.
After overhaul, the squadron was ordered to the Atlantic Fleet to be based at Newport RI. We arrived there in October via the Canal. Shortly after, I was promoted to LCDR, and assigned Senior Shore Patrol Officer for Newport-Fall River area from Thanksgiving until after New Year. On the way from San Diego to Newport, we put into Guantanamo for post shakedown training. We also had some great shore bombardment exercises at San Clemente Island. Our Gunnery Officer had been a Chief Fire Control Man so we had high scores in all our shoots including surface and air.
Eunice shipped our car back, a 1941 Oldsmobile 8 and flew out with Pat. She spent sometime with my parents in Elmhurst and drove up to Newport in late November. On the way, she lost control of the car on an icy hill but suffered no damage. A good Samaritan helped her get up the hill, as it was her first experience driving on ice. We rented an apartment out on the Coast Rd, an attic converted into an apartment. While there, we traded the Olds in for a new ’49 Ford convertible. Eunice had picked up the Olds at Bayonne NJ where it had been shipped.

to be continued…

Capt. Dan, part 13: The War ends and a runaway train…

I finally got orders to the Sub-Chaser School at Miami, a one-month course. Upon completion, I was ordered to the Fleet Sonar School in San Diego. At night, while at Sub-Chaser school, Eunice would flash signal cards at me so I could memorize them. While in school, Pat was born at Fort Lauderdale in Broward Hospital, Dec 11, weighing in at about 9 lbs. Eunice had to stay in the hospital more than a week. Doctors were awful fussy in those days. Eunice drove herself to the hospital as I was out on a sub-chaser. The course at Fleet Sonar School, now Fleet Anti-submarine Warfare, was four months training to be an ASW Specialist. I came cross-country by train from Miami to San Diego the end of Jan ’44. Eunice followed in early April with 4 months old Pat by train, stopping in Phoenix to visit her sister Libby. Before Eunice arrived, I billeted in Balboa Park with 150 officers in one big room, double deck bunks. You lived out of your suitcase. There were three showers, three washbasins and commodes. To beat the crowd you got up way before 5:50 reveille. Buses took us down to Sonar School where we ate in the general mess. We also had lunch there but evening meal back at Balboa. We sure made use of the small “0” club at the school. That building is still in Balboa opposite the large gym building.
When Eunice arrived in San Diego, we shared a house with a divorcee with a baby girl Pat’s age. The deal was that Eunice would mind both tots while the divorcee worked in a defense plant. It worked out well since Eunice is easy to get along with and loved kids. The house was the second one in on the SE corner of Pescadero and Sunset cliffs Blvd. It is still there, same color, light green; we got the place by placing an ad that read about as follows: “Four months old baby boy looking to share home with baby of similar age. My Mommy will take care of both of us while yours works.” It got a few quick responses. I use to walk from there over the barren hills of Point Loma to ASW school and back as we had no car, about 2 miles. Eunice use to push baby carriage from Pescadero up to Newport Ave to shop in OB. A few times, Eunice and I rode open busses from Grant Hotel out to Camp Elliot, a Marine Camp at that time, to get a steak dinner for $1 and drinks at 10cents each!
Netting covered Pacific Highway, so that from the air it camouflaged the Convair plane buildings. They are now General Dynamics. From the air, the area looked like a farm as they had rigged barns, silos, etc on top of the buildings to blend in with the netting that looked like plowed fields, grass, etc.
I really learned a lot, as we had to break down sonar gear, trouble shoot, etc., plus learning all sorts of ASW tactics on training devices plus, at sea in ships. After finishing the course, I received orders to report to the Fleet ASW Command in Boston Navy Yard. We rode the Santa Fe Super Chief, 59 hours to Chicago at which point our sleeping car shunted over and hooked onto the 20th Century Limited for 15 hour run to NYC. I had some leave so we stopped and stayed with my parents for a week.
Eunice rented a small house over by LaGuardia Airport. Planes use to fly right over it at low altitude, as it was in line with runway. She pushed Pat in baby carriage all the way up to Roosevelt to shop, even when snow covered the streets. When I didn’t have the duty I rode the train down from Boston on weekends. One weekend I was to meet Eunice, my parents and Frank Costello’s friends at the Copacabana for dinner. The Boston train was two hours late. I hadn’t eaten since early that morning, made the mistake of tossing down a few hard drinks and just about passed out in the men’ room at the Copa.
While at Boston, I use to operate an Attack Teacher for training ship sonar teams. I remember a French crew, one day they were taking a run on a sub on the attack teacher when the French sailor started arguing with a French LT which way to turn to attack the sub. He let go of the helm while arguing and the ship went around in a circle while they jabbered away in French! I thought to myself, my God no wonder the Germans knocked the French out of action so quickly.
I received TAD orders to go to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute for two weeks to work with their scientists in developing tactical sonar doctrine on how to use screening ships depending on sonar conditions determined from bathyograph readings (temperature vs. depth). From this, we developed screening tables used by sonar-equipped ships. Next, I attended a one-week course of instruction on the new British l47B submarine depth determining sonar gear. We also received instruction on how to install it in escort ships.
While at the Boston Navy Yard, I was under the command of the ASW Unit, Fleet Operations Training Command, US Atlantic Fleet. I received further TAD orders to Quonset Point NAS for a one-week course of instruction in Sono Buoy operations, devices used to track submarines. This was during August 1944. In October I received TAD orders to supervise the installation of the British l47B depth determining sonar on the UCS HAVERFIELD (DE 595) at Boston Navy Yard. On completion, I rode the HAVERFIELD to Bermuda, and while in the Bermuda area, we were involved with making practice runs on an Italian Sub that had previously surrendered. While on the Haverfield, which was part of an ASW Hunter-Killer Task Group, we chased a German sub for three days. The carrier’s (BOGUE (CVE-15) air group caught the sub on the surface, about 50 miles from the surface escorts.
I flew back from Bermuda landing at Floyd Bennett NAS in Brooklyn in a PBY. In November, I received orders to report to ASW Unit in Norfolk. While there, I attended several short courses in damage control, sonar buoys, and radar. In addition, I attended a four-day course in Loran and a five-day course in ammunition handling at the Mine Warfare School at Yorktown, VA. The Radar School was in the Cavalier Hotel at Virginia Beach, which the Navy had requisitioned. There I also had a two-day fire-fighting course.
In January ’45, I received TAD orders to Key West to conduct special sonar tests at sea using sono buoys by an Escort ship against a sub. Working up a system wherein sub could be located near a sono buoy pattern. I managed to get to New York a few times, and took ferry from Little Creek to Cape Charles, then the train to Philadelphia, transferred at Pennsylvania and then on to NY.
At the end of February ’45, I received orders to report to Fleet Administrative Command, at the Brooklyn Navy Yard for duty as an ASW Specialist. While there I supervised the installation of l47B depth determining sonar in the USS RAMSDEN (DE-582) and USS EDSALL (DE-129). The war had ended in Europe about this time. Eunice and I rented a cottage in Bayville east of Ferry Beach. There we used a kerosene heater to heat. We bought an old Dodge from a local clam digger, and Rode to Locust Valley to take the train to Brooklyn, then the bus to Brooklyn Navy Yard. Pat loved to push the frame of a baby carriage all over. He also liked to push boats out into the water. I bought a small dinghy for $25, and took Eunice and Pat sailing to Lloyds Neck and back. Eunice would take Pat in the baby carriage to shop in Bayville village, which was a good ¾ mile from the cottage. We also picked up our mail at Post Office there.
In September, I received orders to the Mine Warfare School at Yorktown, VA. While at Yorktown, we had rented a large cottage across the river. The cottage had a wood stove in the kitchen that was a combination heater and hot water heater. I had to load it up every night with wood so that on the cold fall mornings I would get up and light it off before Eunice got up. We had a shuttle boat to take us back and forth across the York River.
Flu finally got me and I ended up in NAVHOSP, Ft Eustis, where I was diagnosed with T.B. (Eunice went to NY and stayed with my parents when I went to NAVHOSP). I was there about two months, at the end of which time, I was ordered to be survey out on a medical discharge stating that I had contracted TB before I entered the service. I wrote a strong rebuttal to the Survey Board’s findings and eventually BUMEN reversed the findings. I was then ordered to COMFIVE for TAD awaiting orders. While at COMFIVE, I was sent over to Norfolk Naval Shipyard to inventory equipage aboard the ex-HMS TRACKER, a CVE we loaned the British. I wish I had kept a huge oaken whiskey cask trimmed in brass with “GOD SAVE THE KING.” I am sure some shipyard worker made off with it after it was removed from the ship.
In January 1946, I received orders to report to the Fleet Sonar School in San Diego for duty as a PCO/PXO Instructor. In December, I had requested transfer to the regular Navy at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The Navy was seeking Reserve Officers for the Regular Navy. I dropped by NY for a few days before taking the train to San Diego. On the way west the train stopped at Needles, CA for a 15-minute stop. Everyone got off to stretch their legs including the conductors and porters. The train started up, but the conductors said not to worry they were just changing engines. Well, the train proceeded out of sight and all hell broke loose. The Station Master wired ahead, to have the train stopped. Meanwhile, a good number of school busses, local city busses and two greyhound ones were employed to take us up into the mountains, and get back aboard the train. We had to hike about two miles from the last passable road and finally got aboard. Our sea bags, orders, etc were on the train. I never did fine out why the train left, maybe the engineer didn’t like the conductor or was drunk.

to be continued…

Capt. Dan, part 12: Eunice, Annapolis, New Orleans, Miami and the Caribbean

When a recruit company finished training, they had a company picture taken. The photo shop was by the CPO Mess (the present commissary). It was a concession working under the Navy Exchange. This is where I first met Eunice. Mr. Waterman, the owner, introduced us. I had about 10 dates with Eunice and we eloped to Yuma, AZ to get married on May 1, 1942. I borrowed another chief’s car but on the way out an old-time Chief Quarter-master spotted a bottle of booze in the back, which was forbidden on base. I had to see the commanding officer. Fortunately, his name was Kelly. I told him the circumstances and he let me off to go pick up Eunice and head for Yuma. When we got to the border, the Army wasn’t going to let me into Arizona as a number of servicemen had been deserting. After much explanation and having his sergeant go along to see, we checked into a hotel. However, I had to report at 6AM the next morning! We stayed at the San Carlos Hotel, had civil wedding at Gretna Green’s. When we arrived back, we rented the upstairs apartment at corner of Cohasset and Ocean Front.
A week later, I got orders to report to Annapolis for 50 days officer training and commissioned as an ensign in the Ton Hamilton Naval Aviation Cadet physical training program. A good number of us original “Tunneyfishers” went to that program. I sent for Eunice and she flew, arriving about when I finished the 30 day wonder program. Eunice stayed at Mrs. Ellison’s home just outside the gate at Annapolis. Mrs. Ellison was the widow of the first Naval Aviator, Lt. Ellison. They had a daughter who really use to boss the midshipman around when they were invited to the Ellison home for tea. Tommy came down. He was a boatswain mate third class the Coast Guard, operating a patrol boat in lower bay of NYC.
We went to NYC and stayed at my parents place on 45th Avenue, as I had some delay before having to report to Naval Air Training Facility at Lake Ponchatrain, just outside New Orleans. It was hot and miserable there. I was in charge of physical and military training of cadets going through basic flight training. When we first arrived at New Orleans, thanks to my father’s connections, we stayed at the Roosevelt for a few days until we found a small house on Lapeyrouse St. It had giant cockroaches, especially in the basement. At the waterfront restaurants on the lake, we would purchase a giant platter of shrimp for a $1.00. You would have to peal the shrimp, and make your own sauce from a large selection of supplied condiments. While at New Orleans, I was ordered to Naval Hospital at Pensacola for treatment of cystitis. A Navy nurse inserted a catheter in my pecker so they could work on the cystitis. While I was at the air facility, the Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox came down to look into the reason why so many cadets washed out of flight training. Apparently, it turned out that the regular Navy flight instructors were telling the cadets they were muscle-bound and would never learn to fly. Knox cleaned house and got in new instructors. The reason for the intensive physical program was the fact that our flyers didn’t have much stamina to survive in a jungle, or afloat at sea for any length of time.
I got itchy to go to sea; I felt I wasn’t doing my part in the war effort. I applied for sea duty, and I got orders in October to report to the Gulf Sea Frontier Headquarters in Miami for further orders. Before I went there, I had to go to the Naval Hospital at Pensacola as I had cystitis. HQ ordered me to an YP that patrolled along the Florida coast from Fort Lauderdale up to Stuart Inlet, back and forth looking for U-boats. It had some depth charges and a 20mm gun. I got real seasick on the first patrol.
Eunice and I had a small apartment in what use to be Thomas’ Cottages. There were several other military couples living there, one was Ralph and Gretchen Underzuper. He was a Coast Artillery Captain and had the battery guarding the entrance to Port Everglades. The Sea Train ships operated from there taking near a 100 freight train cars to Havana and back. Later in ’43, these ships were used to carry the tanks that saved the British in their battle in the deserts against Rommel in North Africa. The ships under heavy escort ran the gauntlet in the Mediterranean to reach Suez.
The Navy Section Base from which my YP operated was in Port Everglades just opposite the Sea Train piers. Eunice use to see the YP go by once in awhile when she was on the beach. Our place was only a block in from the beach. Everyone used rationing books during the war. I still have one, however with all the stamps gone. I had my mother and Ellen down for a month or so during the winter. Should mention here that when Eunice and I first went to NYC to stay at my folks home (place upstairs was empty at time) my mother had all the O’Connell relatives over for dinner to give Eunice the once over. She made it with flying colors. She got along real well with my parents and learned a lot from my mother over the years we were in that area.
The base needed someone to take charge of a 60′ Alden schooner that was to be used for coast patrol. I volunteered as I had some sail experience from my younger days. It was named “KIKI”. My crew was a seaman and fireman first class and myself. We went on 5 day patrols. I had to teach them how to handle sails, work the voice radio, etc. It was tiring duty as the few times I could grab a catnap I would be called for something or other. When a good northerly blew down the Florida Straits, I would hole up in the lee of a breakwater, by harbors along the coast. Nothing exciting occurred except avoiding tankers running independently.
After a few months of that, I got orders to take a 50′ crash boat down to Grand Cayman in the Caribbean. We picked it up in Miami, joined a small convoy escorted by a Canadian sub chaser. I had to go in at LaFe on the western tip of Cuba and get fuel from a base we had there. They gave me aviation gas, which apparently was too much for the engine I had. We ran into the tail end of a hurricane. The engine quit, and the sub chaser took us in tow. Seas were mountainous, and we ran before the seas. The strain was too much, as we would surge a few hundred feet on the tow hawser then fetch up. It finally caused the stem of the crash boat to pull away along with the Sampson post and we began to take on water. All that night my 2-man crew and I bailed water trying to stay afloat. By dawn, we were pooped, and the boat sank. The crewmembers were not good swimmers, so I tied us all together to prevent separation. After two to three hours in the water, a small freighter rescued us. The convoy lost its position, as we had been socked in for a few days. They radioed Grand Cayman, which sent out a PBY that located us the next day, and gave us a steer to the island. It was a British possession, which we got the use of under the Lend-Lease program when Roosevelt gave them 50 WW l destroyers for our use of some of their islands to set up anti-submarine patrol bases. I can remember the swarms of mosquitoes on that island!
I flew back to Key West in a PBY and got Navy transportation up to Miami. I received orders to take charge of a 125′ wooden trading schooner the ICAROS. It had a 12-man crew, plus two ensigns besides me. We carried 200 tons of cargo; spare plane engines, ammunition, and high-octane aviation gas in drums, spare parts and chow for the outlying bases in the Bahamas and Caribbean waters. The ICAROS drew 16 feet when loaded.
Just before the ICAROS orders, I was sent on temporary duty on a 70′ ketch out of Port Everglades. The Navy had many ocean going auxiliary sailboats, some were 125′ “Bluenose Schooner” types. We use to leave Port Everglades, six boats on average, bend on every inch of sale and race across Florida Straits to Great Isaac Light House, where we anchored inside the reef for the night. We would have a great gathering there. Next morning we all went our separate ways on assigned patrols, covering various passages and islands of the Bahamas looking for subs and to see if Germans were caching supplies on any of the islands, as a great number of them were uninhabited.-
After several runs, each of about 10 days duration, to bases in the Bahamas, Caribbean area, (Neuvitas, Gaybarien both east of Havana on the Old Bahama Passage), and the Isle of Pines off the south coast, I recommended that the ICAROS be surveyed, as there was extensive rot in timbers and planking. In addition, in a seaway the masts would show a 5-degree angle between them, looking from aft. This was due to ship yawing in heavy seas. In addition, when we hit head seas, the masts would whip forward quit a bit. The Navy inspected the ship and agreed. Later on my mother sent me a clipping, which I have in my scrapbook, wherein the ICAROS that, after being sold to a Caribbean trading company, foundered in a hurricane, ran aground and lost several crew.
The ICAROS history is unique. Built in l867 in Greece as a Mediterranean packet, and then sold to the Germans who used it as a pilot vessel in the North Sea. At outbreak of WW I it became a training vessel for the German Navy. After the war, it ended up back in Greece as a packet. The Great Depression caused it to be laid up in the port of Piraeus. In 1939, the General Manager of General Motors, Mr. Sorenson, purchased it. He hired an American crew to go over and sail it back to Miami. While fitting out for the trans-Atlantic crossing at Gibraltar, the engineer sold the big diesel engine. He jumped ship while the Captain, probably drunk, was ashore. A gasoline engine, Chrysler marine type was installed, but due to high RPM, it had to have a six to one reduction gear installed. They finally arrived in Miami, went to a boat yard and had it converted into a yacht at great expense. It took a year to convert the boat from a brig to a topsail schooner rig. Old man Sorenson only used it a few times before Pearl Harbor occurred. The Navy requisitioned it, tore out most of the yacht’s accommodations, painted over mahogany paneling, and converted it into a packet. The Navy gave Sorenson about $25,000 for it. He claimed he had put $250,000 into it!
The ICAROS loaded out of Miami. When we got to sea, I let the crew wear shorts. We had no radar, but sending a man aloft, while the weather was clear, to the spreaders some 70′ high, did just as well. I use to sit up there myself and could go hand over hand along balk stays between the masts, and slide down halyards. One very interesting base was located at Caibarien, a small coastal city just to the west of the head of the causeway and halfway down the coast from Havana. It was a sugar mill port. The bay was triangular with the outer reef some 15 miles from the port. The mouth was also about 15 miles wide. On the reef was an old concrete tanker from WWI, grounded purposely by the Cubans to store molasses in. (The mosquitoes were terrible due to the molasses. You needed netting everywhere). Our Navy restored the superstructure on the stern on a deal with the Cubans. The Navy leased the after half of the ship and used it to berth floatplane squadron personnel. The floatplanes moored naturally to leeward of the tanker. They patrolled the Bahama Passage.
We had an ammo barge and a fuel barge moored inside the reef in the lee of the tanker. There was a passage through the reef to allow the ICAROS, drawing l6′, to get through and moor on the lee side of the tanker. The aviation personnel would always unload the steaks and ice cream and have a feast, plus a beer party. The next day they would get the important cargo off like ammo, spare engines, parts, etc. They were a motley looking outfit. Some of them had been there a year or more.
We went ashore one time to a dance in the town. The Cubans were very Spanish in their customs. The rumba was the big dance at the time. Whole families were there, Grandparents, children etc, all of them doing the rumba! To ask a girl to dance was considered the equivalent of a marriage proposal! I did learn to rumba. I got a kick out of custom in town square, boys walked around in one direction, girls in opposite to look each other over. The chaperones were there in force to make sure everyone kept moving!
On the run back to Miami, I would cut across Cay Sal Bank and anchor in the lee of one of the islands fringing the bank. We would go ashore and have a cook out and a few beers. On the run south from Miami, I would head across the Straits and enter the Bahama Banks near Gun Cay. I then would head SE across 190 miles of banks where you always saw the bottom but never any land! A little eerie at night with a moon and clouds giving the water ahead different shades, making you think you were going to run aground! Actually, the water was about 4 fathoms on average but one never knew. At the south end of the run, you had to feel your way off the bank by putting a boat over to go ahead and sound for a way to get out into the Old Bahama Passage.
After the survey of the ICAROS (YAG-16), I received orders to take over the YAG 20, a twin-screw diesel powered houseboat type yacht, 120′ in length. It had been converts like the ICAROS to carry cargo to the island bases. I made runs to Great Exuma in the eastern Bahamas, Walker Cay in northern Bahamas, Nassau, Grand Cayman and Neuvitas on the north coast of Cuba east of Havana. During this period, a truck strike jeopardized the Key West Naval Base. I was pulled off the Bahamas/Caribbean runs to haul cargo from Miami to Key West, made three runs a week for two weeks. The Navy was not going to let the truckers blackmail them. The truckers capitulated and I got back to my regular runs. We used Hawk Channel on the run south to Key West, which is just inside the fringing reefs along the straits. We ran night and day. I drew 10′ with the YAG 20 and many times, we were smelling bottom from the way she handled. On the run north we went outside the reefs and rode the Gulf Stream north, picking up a few knots speed over the bottom.
We had a great Motor Machinist Mate about 45 years old, a reserve. He owned a fleet of sport fishing boats at Palm Beach, but volunteered for service. He kept our diesels running like fine watches. There was a Radioman 2/c, who I am certain stole $100 from our mess fund. I had accidentally left the cash box in my cabin went on deck for something and later discovered the money missing. He was in the best position to have done it. Could not prove it, but had him transferred. I had to make up the $100 loss from the mess fund! That was near a month’s pay in those days.
On return runs with empty holds, I let the crew troll for mackerel and kingfish, which they sold at the Miami docks for 25cents per lb. They always had several hundred lbs of fish. I had two Lt’s aboard plus an ensign and myself. I was Lt (jg.) then. I was an Ensign when I had the ICAROS. We had one particularly rough crossing of the Florida Straits with a 60-knot wind from the north bucking the Gulf Stream. We rolled on beams ends. We picked up radio transmissions from a group of DE’s that were trying to figure out where they were. Everyone in my pilothouse was seasick had an old-time boatswain who tossed his cookies. I had enough worries as where the DE’s were and unescorted tankers all running without lights due to wartime. Sure was glad to pick up the radio towers behind Miami!

to be continued…

Capt. Dan, part 11: The West Coast

A group of us got orders in early October to report to the Naval Training Station, San Diego. Six of us in two cars drove it in five days. On the way, we stopped at the Grand Canyon for a night. The cowboys and gals who worked there took us down to a place they went to outside the park. It turned out the owner of the place was an ex-Navy man. He was so glad to see us sailors he closed up the place and we had one great party. I woke up at 5Am after two hours sleep and there was 5″ of snow on the ground, and lots coming down. I got everyone up and we drove out to get down to Williams and lower elevation, as we had no chains, we made it. From there we headed for San Diego via Indio along the west shore of the Salton Sea and up the Banner Grade to Julian, which we reached about 8PM. The grade in those days was tortuous for cars. Indians mostly occupied the town at that time. We stopped at what looked like a restaurant but it was dark. I saw a light in the rear, knocked, and got an Indian to open up and feed us. He had steaks, and I’ll tell you they sure hit the spot after our all-day trip. Got to San Diego about 11PM and checked into the Army-Navy YMCA.
The next day we reported for duty, and immediately assigned as assistant company commanders. After taking one company through, we became regular company commanders. Not to boast but we won our share of best company pennants. We use to hang out at the Tower Bowl, Grant Hotel and El Cortez. Since the evenings were cool, we “slick arms” use to carry our topcoat over our right arm to cover where hash marks would normally be worn. Since at that time we had Chief Boatswain Mate insignia, hash marks would have been on your right arm. Chiefs were split into right arm and left arm ratings in those days. Those connected with topside duties were right arm, others left arm. Our regimental training officer was the former skipper of the gunboat “PANAY” that was sunk by Japanese on Yangtze River in 1937, cannot think of his name now.
On Pearl Harbor Day, a gang of us chiefs took a charter fishing boat out to the Coronado Inlands, and fished all day. We had no radio and didn’t know the war had started. We saw the aircraft carrier SARATOGA steaming at high speed and zigzagging that after noon heading for port. When we started back, as we approached Point Loma, a Coast Guard patrol boat stopped us, boarded, lined us up and checked for identification. When they told us war had started we were dumbfounded, they directed us to return immediately to our command. We noticed on the way back from Coronado that many lights were out in San Diego. We got off the boat at Broadway where there were thousands of people.
The SARATOGA was at North Island loading out sailors, Marines, ammo, etc. Boots with only three weeks in the Navy were loaded aboard. The SARATOGA sailed the next morning and made Pearl in 72 hours. Captain Gearing had us all. in the station movie hall telling us that we were going to have to form a Naval Brigade to help the Marines defend the border, as rumors were flying around that the Japanese were due to lend in Baja. I can recall us going through infantry and landing force tactics with officers holding the Landing Force Manual and telling us what to do. About a week later, I got orders to take a 500-man draft to San Francisco and deliver them at the pier in Oakland where Treasure Island officers would get them out to various ships in San Francisco Bay. On the way, I had to march them into the Harvey House restaurant at Los Angeles Santa Fe station. Being a troop train, we highballed it up there.
I had a few night watches patrolling the area where the present Admiral Kidd Club is located; the chiefs ate in the CPO mess that is now the commissary store. To teach boots sentry duty, they carried a Springfield rifle and patrolled behind their barracks. The night duty chiefs would make the rounds checking up on them. Once in awhile you would find one asleep, we never put them on report, which was a most serious offense. Instead, we would get a bucket of cold water, a big dishpan and ladle and a flashlight. One chief would throw the water on the sentry while the other banged the pan and flashed the light into the startled sentry’s eyes. At same time, we yelled, “the ship is sinking”, “abandon ship.” Well, you will not believe those kids would, in some cases, start swimming right on the pavement. That cured them and kept their record clear. Sailors who didn’t clean up after scrubbing clothes would have to carry their wash bucket with wet clothes in it on the end of their rifle all day. Others who looked up at aircraft passing overhead while being lectured to, would lie on their back and point their rifles at planes passing overhead for an hour or so. This was anti-aircraft duty.
Right after Pearl Harbor, the Navy requisitioned all the buildings in Balboa Park for billeting naval personnel. Four of us Chiefs assigned to each of the Hospitality cottages that now represent various countries. They had no heat in them so it was very cold in winter and rainy days.

to be continued…

Capt. Dan, part 9 & 10

A huge hurricane hit NY and New England; I believe that fall, late in September. Fortunately, summer residents had gone back to the city. The large surf caused a lot of damage along the south shore of L.I. and New England areas; new inlets formed on Fire Island and the Hamptons, and damaged the boardwalk at Jones Beach. A 5′ high pile of shellfish covered the beach, what a smell two days later! I was driving over the George Washington Bridge at the time it hit the city. The roadway was swaying a good bit. Between that and the side wind, it was a job steering the car.
My sister Margaret married Eddie Regan about 1935 when I was in the CCCs. Tommy graduated from Newtown HS in 1938 and went to Transylvania College after working that summer as a guard at Jones Beach. I remember taking Jimmy Regan in the ocean when he was about three, even had him jump off a 10′ springboard at NYAC. One time at the NYAC, I had him stand on the side of the pool to wait for me while I dove in and fetched across and back. On my way back underwater, there was little Jimmy coming back up from the bottom. Apparently, he jumped in after me! He swallowed some water but otherwise was okay.
Frank Costello had a power yacht and came to Zach’s Bay a few times with my father and other cronies and usually some show girls. He always had large boxes of sandwiches, which Lindy’s Restaurant in NYC made up for him. I would get about a dozen or so of them to take over to my guard crew. Each sandwich was a meal in itself.
In 1940, I swam on the NYAC 400 freestyle relay team. We finished fourth in the Senior National AAUs. The club would have won it but our two best swimmers; Peter Pick who had tied Johnny Weissmuller’s 51 flat for the 100 free was disqualified along with Walter Spence who won the100 in the National Collegiate Championships. Jack Thompson and I substituted for them. We were only 54 seconds plus compared to 51 and 52 for Peter and Walter.
I loved going to NYU’s fall camp on Lake Sebago in Bear Mountain State Park. There was a time I could identify some 50 or so different trees by the leaves, which was required in one of the camp courses. We took all the Red Cross tests, first aid, lifesaving, water safety, etc. At NYU I always swam the 50, 100 and anchored the 400 freestyle relay. I made Lt. in charge of the Central Mall lifeguard crew at Jones Beach. Pete Carter and I teamed up and won all ten events of the officers’ decathlon, the highpoint of my lifeguard days. Things were going along well at home, no money problems, great years for my mother.

WWII and the Navy:

The National Emergency had been declared and the big talk around campus was when we would be called up. We all registered for the draft. The system then was to have a VIP pick numbers out of a bowl down in Washington. I was Captain of NYU swim team in junior and senior year. A lot of us at NYU got our “welcome to the Army” notices in early 1941. A classmate of mine, Ted Nowasacki, who had worked at Jones Beach with me, went down to apply for the Navy V-7, “Ninety-Day Wonder” program. Ted made it; I didn’t, failing eye and teeth parts of the physical.
The Army was breathing down my neck. At the last minute, we heard about Gene Tunney starting up a physical fitness program for the Navy, and that he was taking college “jockstrap” types in as Chief Pretty Officers. Thanks to Madge Cuggy I got an introductory letter. Along with two other classmates, we were in the first 17 he recruited for the program. I was sworn in at 90 Church Street on May 19, 1941, and left a few days later on a coastwise steamer for Norfolk. We got to the Naval Training Station on a Friday. The next morning we were lying around in the barracks when an inspection party came through. I remember the inspection officer raising hell with us, as he didnt know we had just arrived, had no uniforms and no one in charge of us. Finally, a Chief Gunner’s Mate was put in charge with instructions to put us “Tunneyfish” through the regular boot-training curriculum. He sure did, as the old chiefs were mad that the Navy had brought in “slick-arm” chiefs. We took everything they dished out. When we finished, we were assigned as assistant company commanders learning how to take a company through boot training. I got along well with my commander, as I trained our boat team and we won the ten-man whaleboat-rowing race. We all picked up what had to be done in quick time, as we were older and educated.
I remember working with Fred Apostoli who had been world middleweight boxing champion. Fred and I use to lead all the boots on the parade ground in mass rifle and semaphore drills. We were each up on a 20′ stand. It was a hot summer. We had a chief known as Cannonball Jackson. When boots in his companies goofed, he would make them lug a stack of cannon balls that weighed about 75 lbs apiece down to the other end of the drill field and restack them. We got the boots up at 5AM and took them for a 2-mile jog. Most of them were coughing, but that is what we were told to do.
I use to sail the ketch-rigged whaleboats out in Hampton Roads. On Saturday afternoons, we headed for Virginia Beach. One of the “Tunneyfish” chiefs had a relative who worked at the Cavalier Hotel. He would introduce us to some of the southern belles who came there for the summers. We got chow and drinks gratis, as he was a big wheel in the hotel. We use to rent kayaks and ride waves off the hotel. Later in the war, actually right after Pearl Harbor, the Navy requisitioned the hotel and it became radar, loran, and other electronics school setup. In 1945 I took a one-week radar course there, oh yes; I won the Eastern Collegiate 50 freestyle at Rutgers in April of ’41. I missed NYU graduation, as I had to go in Navy early. I never found out what happened to my diploma, it must have been lost at my home, suppose to have been sent there.
Two “Tunneyfish” chiefs got into a few fights. Vic Marino, who had been an All-American guard at Ohio State, tangled with Woody Hayes also from Ohio State. We had a tough time separating those two. They also got into a fight or two with some of the old-time chiefs who were riding them as “slick arms.” After a few of the old-timers were decked at the CPO Club, they didn’t hassle us anymore.

to be continued…

Capt. Dan, part 8

Tom Blake, lifeguarding, and surfing!

After I left the tug with proper notification to Peter and Murray, and thanking them for getting me the job, I contacted my swimming friends who were now trying out for a lifeguard job at Jones Beach. I went with them, passed the tests and hired on about the end of July 1937. I was out of shape as far as swimming and legwork was concerned. It showed in the lifeguard championships at the end of August. I did poorly in the rescue races but very well in pulling boat races. It was during this first year as a lifeguard that I was introduced to surfing. The previous year (1936), Tom Blake talked Mr. Sawyer, who was the civilian head of lifeguards, into getting his paddleboards for rescue purposes. Blake showed the Lieutenants how to ride them; the Lieutenants in turn instructed the other guards how to ride the hollow 13-foot paddleboards. They were so big and cumbersome that the most we could do was ride them straight into shore.
Come Labor Day, one of the guards, Ralph Froehlich decided we would drive down to University of Alabama and try out for a football scholarship. Ralph had a 1936 Ford convertible that he had souped up. We drove from Long Island to Jacksonville, Florida in 25 hrs and 20 minutes beating the train. Roads were only two lanes wide in those days, and we had to go through all the major cities. He had a cousin in Gainesville. We visited Silver Springs then headed up to the University. Boy did those southern players work us overt, with high 90’s heat and humidity, Ralph and I decided we had better go back NY way. We did. I then got a $300 loan from my Aunt Bessie with the promise to pay her beck the summer of ’38, as I had the lifeguard job. I enrolled in NYU to become a phys ed teacher. My father wanted me to go to Fordham to become a lawyer. I am sure if I had, I would have had Costello trying to influence me by getting me appointed as a judge later on. Bobby Knapp, Ray Mullane, Harry Berr, Joe Tucker, Charley Hanniquet, Pete Carter are names I remember. Of course there was Captain Johns, the old (50) Dutchman who was Captain of the guards.
The first (freshman) year was little tough after having been away from the books for more than 4 years. I had odd jobs. I also made $5 an evening at the Elks Club, out on Queens Blvd in Elmhurst. Bobby Knapp, Ray Mullane, Tommy McDermott and I took turns playing “fish” for deep see sport fishermen. They would rig a harness around us attached their fish line. The pool was 25 yards long; we started out at the 10 yd mark, and when they said, “go” you had to try to make it down to other end of pool. Their job was to hold you from doing that. This is where I got a Nickname of “Tugboat,” as I broke more lines or made it to the end of the pool than the other swimmers.
I made NYU swim team and swam for NYAC and Flushing “Y”. It took me an hour and 15 minutes to get from home to NYU School of Ed down in Washington Square. I forgot to mention my folks had moved to 742& 45th Avenue, Elmhurst, a two family house that my father bought about 1937 having come into some dough. At the same time, he opened O’Connell’s Bar & Grill on 49th St and 8th Ave the corner of the old Madison Square Garden. I use to take my pals there for lunch once in awhile. In addition, I use to get tickets left there by scalpers for all kinds of sporting events, and other events like rodeos, circuses, etc. I also got tickets to Yankee and Polo Ground stadiums, even sat on a team bench once.
In my sophomore year, I received a Charles Hayden Scholarship for my B-plus average and athletics. In addition, I got a National Youth Administration student job working in Athletic Officer’s office, and paid $20 monthly for 40 hours work per month. Riding high in clover, I paid off my Aunt Bessie’s loan.
That summer, at the beach, Joe Tucker and I won all the events involving boats. Joe came from a fishing family while I had had lots of boat work in my life. We also won the line rescue event involving my swimming out with a line fed by Joe and another guard, when you reached the volunteer victim, girls naturally, you signaled and the two guards would pull you in. The reason we won was because Joe and I believe Ralph Froehlich ran the line clear up the steps and over the boardwalk while the other teams used the old method of each alternating taking a strain on the line. My legs were in good shape that summer what with swimming and lots of gym work. I saw my old girl friend, Regina Lyons from Bayville days, one day at the beach. She had -just graduated from college and was engaged to be married.
We had beach bunnies then as they do now, so we guards had no trouble getting dates. We use to drive out from Flushing in an old model “A” Ford each day. We met under the clock at Main Street Flushing. Guards got 50cents an hour. If it was cloudy or rainy day we were only paid $1 for showing up, which we proceeded to get rid of in card games in the bathhouse. As for eating out at the beach, we knew a German fellow who worked at the Central Mall restaurant. He would get food out to us from the restaurant to a place under the boardwalk. He never was caught. That restaurant is still there. I did my four summers at the Central Mall area beach. We had another gimmick or two to get eats. One guard would holler down to the next lifeguard stand and ask what they had and if they could spare you a sandwich. People sitting in between would hear the conversation and sure enough, a few would come up and offer you a sandwich, fruit, etc. Another gimmick was to call some little kid walking by your stand and tell him you would let him sit on your stand for a little bit if he could get you a sandwich. We saved lunch money. We had a hot plate under the boardwalk to heat eggs, soup, etc. One day I went to put a frying pan on. It touched a loose wire in the hot plate, and I got 220 volts down my right arm and body through my bare feet into the damp sand. It jolted me right off my feet and I was woozy for a while. Fortunately, one of the other guards helped me as I was knocked away from the hot plate. Charley Haniquet was Lt and Harry Borr was bosun of our beach. Bosun made $36 per month, a Lt $45.
In 1939 I made bosun at the beach and bought a used 1931 Chrysler 6 cyl. convertible for $25. I had some problems with it, but it ran okay overall. That fall I loaned it to Bobby Knapp when I went to NYU’s camp where I had to take courses in camp counseling and administration. In the contests that August, Pete Carter, who was now Lt, and I did pretty well in the decathlon for officer guards. We won the two-man boat race and two-man boat rescue. I won the row boat race over in Zach’s Bay. Because I was bosun, I only had to work 7 hours a day, five days a week. We had about 40 guards for all the beach areas on weekdays and 80 on weekends. The week-enders had jobs during the week and had been former regular guards. We were all issued a blanket and parka and two suits for the season. In addition, we got clean white duck trousers and a towel each day.
We played a good trick on old Cap’ Johns. He use to come around, especially on weekends, and take muster re-ports from the Lt. While up on the stand he would stand up and in the act of adjusting his cap he would flex his muscles for the beach dollies. Well one hot Sunday with a big beach crowd, we dug a hole about six feet deep in front of the lifeguard stand. He always approached from the sides and climbed up. When he got ready to leave, he stood, flexed his biceps while adjusting his cap, and said, “Well boys I see you later.” With that, he jumped off the stand and right into the hole, which we had camouflaged. He let out a stream of German cuss words while we all laughed. He couldn’t get out right away, as the sand kept falling in on him, as he clawed the sides. Finally, someone gave him a hand and helped him out. We all took off and hid behind the boardwalk waiting for him to cool down. Another time we stuck horsehairs in cigarettes, and when he would bum one, we gave him one with horsehair in it. He didn’t seem to notice the difference being glad to get a cigarette. We held our sides trying not to laugh. Another time we dumped a bucket of ice water on him when he was sunbathing ala nude up in the lifeguard section of the bathhouse. Another time we sawed partially through an oar. Capt. Johns challenged a newly recruited guard that had been and was on Cornell’s rowing team. Cap Johns took great pride, in that he could beat any college oarsmen in a bank skiff, the kind of boats we used for rescue purposes. We set up a race for him and the college rower. Sure enough, old Cap Johns broke his oar and went ass-over-tea-kettle in the boat. He never did find out who sabotaged the oar. He did however, on another rowing race we set up for him. We tacked a canvas drogue on the bottom of his boat, and when he saw something was wrong, he dove over the side and found the drogue.
After the lifeguard contests and the last weekend before Labor Day, we had a big blowout for the guards at a big restaurant on Sunrise Highway with lots of beer and plenty to eat. Jones Beach in those days was immaculately clean. We had State Troopers who worked for the Long Island State Park Commission. Littering would get you hauled in and fined, the same would happen if you got out of line. Bob Moses who built parks, bridges, tunnels, parkways, etc. around the area was a political powerhouse. Governors and mayors bowed to him.
We had many rescues on bad days, as most people were not use to swimming in the ocean. One of the worse: A couple of hundred people waded out to a sandbar and a series of large swells came and swept them off. The waves filled up the shallow area between the bar and beach, making the water over their heads. It fortunately happened mostly off the West Bathhouse area. Those guards that could be spared rushed there using every piece of equipment we had, resulting in the rescuing of more than fore hundred. Bank skiffs, surfboards, torpedo buoys were loaded with people. All the resuscitators were in use. Ambulances came over from towns on the mainland to help. Out of that mess, only three people drowned. One time I had four big black men hanging on to me for dear life while we were all getting hauled in on the torpedo buoy line. I was able to keep my head up enough for air. Didn’t have to hold them, they held me but not in a way to interfere with what I had to do. Rescued a big fat woman one time and as I carried her out of the water in a fireman carry her boobs were hanging out. In those days you laid people on their stomach and gave artificial respiration by straddling and pumping there back near the bottom of the rib cage. In this position, the fat gal’s boobs were not as readily seen.
We made extra money working in the water shows, and operettas held in the marine stadium. We earned $5 a night for maybe 15 minutes work being pirates, etc depending on the show. We also swan in water ballets made up of about 24 gals and 24 guys. One couldn’t help pinching a gal once in awhile in the water. In practice, they would scream thinking it was a crab that were always around, but really wouldn’t bother you. There were fire works after the shows. That summer some of us roomed at a house in Freeport and ate supper in a diner on Merrick Road, good chow and low-priced. I believe we paid $5 a week for a bed, two to a room. It saved driving back and forth to the city.

to be continued…