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…