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…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s