One time GOMSEVENTHFLEET visited his flagship. I made the usual call on him, which I figured would be about five minutes at most. It ended up to be an hour, as his hobby was collecting ancient Chinese navigational devices, plus he wanted me to find a shoe to match one his wife lost. He gave me the remaining one. It took one of my Ensigns four days to track down the factory that made the shoes out in the New Territories! Another time, Admiral Kadford, his wife, and staff flew in for a visit. All the VIP’s came around the holidays mostly to shop. I had to meet them at the airport and bring them over in an Admiral’s barge that went with the Station Ship duty, then in station wagons up to the hotel. When it came time to take them back to the airport the barge broke down, as the Admiral’s party was coming down the street to the landing. What a break I got as just then the HMS TAMAR gig came alongside. I knew the British Lt. and asked him if he would be so kind as to take the Admiral’s party and myself to KaiTak. He said he would be delighted, as he was going with the Admiral’s party to marry an American girl in Hawaii! Admiral Radford thought I had arranged using the British gig and complemented me. Little did he know!
We had a Fleet Landing up in the Wanchai area of Hong Kong. The British local officials, along with the American business and religious groups had it made, with a nice rest room area, which always had coffee to help sober returning swabbies. A missionary priest from the Maryknoll order was the principal overseer of the landing. He would ask sailors what they paid for some gift. If they had paid too much he would have one of the volunteer women go to the store, and either get the sailor’s money back, or only pay what was reasonable. If cab drivers tried to cheat sailors, he would intervene and make sure the sailors were not cheated. I had him out to the 5PANGLER a few times for lunch or dinner. He had me up to the large Maryknoll rectory. What a meal I had there, with lots of Chinese servants!
Officers also had guest privileges at the International Press Club up on Victoria Hill. I was up at the Naval Attaché’s quarters at the top of Victoria Hill. He had loads of Chinese servants also. His young 5-year-old son could jabber away in Chinese with the servants. He told me, he and his wife had only two free nights between Thanksgiving and New Years, due to all the various social functions entertaining VIP’s.
At a British social affair at HMS TAMAR (the Royal Navy Shipyard or Dockyard), I had an interesting conversation with an elderly Englishwoman. She was descended from Lord Nelson. She told me emphatically, not to refer to her as British, as she was English. British are colonialists, while Englishmen are born in England proper. We had some delicious Chinese dinners, with Chinese businessmen seeking to do business aboard Navy ships. I also talked with the British Chief of Police. They rely mostly on Chinese men for the job. In early days, after the end of WWII, it didn’t work, as the Chinese police were intimidated Chinese thugs, etc. The British then built large compounds for the police and their families; put the men on better diets so that they grew bigger. After that, they developed a good police force.
I also had a long chat with an elderly British lady who was an old-time colonialist, and had been taken prisoner at the start of WWII with her husband, who died in prison. They were all incarcerated in Stanley prison on the South China Sea side of the island. After four years of imprisonment, she still had pieces of the original clothing that she entered prison with. Many died while there. Others who had gout and other white diseases got over their problems on the fish and rice diet. They slept on concrete floors. A few times a year they were allowed to bathe in the sea. She said the local Chinese looted all the homes during the fall of the island. The Japanese restored many of the homes for their own billeting purposes. Again, when war ended Chinese looted the homes. When she was released from Stanley prison by a British Commando outfit, they escorted her to her home and had to drive out about 100 Chinese occupying it. During the fall of Hong Kong, she was a volunteer field nurse. An entire Canadian regiment defending the island was wiped out before the surrender on Christmas ‘4l, quite a story. Their national cemetery can be seen on the approaches to Hong Kong harbor. She said it was quite a sight when the Japanese swarmed across in everything that could float from Kowloon to the island.
We got orders to proceed to Yokosuka. After clearing the approaches, and well out in South China Sea, we ran some General Quarters drills, and engineering, casualty drills. In one drill, our port shaft fractured at a flange joint, and at the same time, a generator caught fire. We got the fire out. However, we had to rig a ship’s service generator from the forward engine room to after engine room by running cables up over boat deck from each engine room. All the while, we were rolling 40 degrees in high seas due to northerly storm blowing down from Taiwan Straits. I had to get a casualty message off and stated, “Unless otherwise directed I was proceeding to Subic Bay on one shaft”. COMSEVENTHFLT went along with it. Naturally, there was an investigation after we were dry-docked. The first check the investigators made, was to see if we had struck anything. The props were okay. In dismantling the broken shaft, it was noted that most of the studs holding the flange were rusted where they had separated, with two that were clean. Apparently, we had been running around with a shaft that was held by two good studs. No blame was placed on us. We finally got to Yokosuka, but developed a boiler problem. Our escort squadron was due to sail for the States. I talked the Commodore into letting us sail on one boiler, as it would have kept us in Subic for another week or more. He concurred, and we were made guide.
In summer of 1954, we picked up a group of Reserves at Long Beach for a training cruise to Acapulco, in company with three other DE’s and a submarine. We conducted exercises in route with the sub. We then spent several days in Acapulco, and had a great time. The American Optimist’s Members were there for a convention. They were so delighted to see our warships that they wined and dined all the crews the first night we were there. Next morning, with a big head, I had to make protocol calls on various Mexican officials. At each stop, you were offered a black Mexican cigar and tequila in warm coconut milk! You can imagine how I felt. That noon we attended a luncheon aboard the Mexican flagship that lasted three hours with lots of Mexican food, Tequila and cigars. We gave officials a case of canned fruit, which seemed to be a big thing with them at that time.
We sailed back to Long Beach, landed the Reserves and stayed overnight for crew liberty. The next morning heavy fog, with zero visibility, delayed sailing until early afternoon, even though the fog had not lifted. I could not see the jackstaff of the SPANGLER, and never saw anything all the way down the coast visually, until we were about 75 feet off our squadron nest in San Diego. Thank God for radar! While coming pass Shelter Island, radar showed a large ship lying athwart the channel. With my 1st Lt in the bow with headphones we were able to get around, under its stern, which was pointing towards North Island.
In late 1954, we sailed for Pearl Harbor alone for overhaul, as Pearl was our home yard with San Diego as homeport. Most ships had Long Beach or Mare Island as home yards. We spent three months at Pearl plus a week over and a week back. While dry-docked, a destroyer ran aground at the entrance to Pearl, and had to be immediately dry docked in our dock. This necessitated flooding the dock and towing us out into the east lock. We had no power aboard and floated around for some eight hours in a Kona rainstorm, miserable! We finally re-docked that night. After leaving the dock, and towed alongside a pier, we were told it was necessary to cut out a 25’ section of hull plating on our starboard. It was right at our waterline, so it was necessary to heel the ship about 5 degrees to port. I sure sweated that out lying there with s 25ft x 4ft gash in the side for several days! We finally completed dock trials and steamed over to the degaussing station to get the shin degaussed. This is done by removing the crew and the degaussing personnel wrapping large electric cables under the keel and over the top of the deckhouse the length of the ship, and passing 12,000 volts DC current through them. After that, you run the degaussing range a few times with the ships degaussing on to make final adjustments. After degaussing, it was up to West Lock to load ammunition. On the way up I passed Art Emerson, who was skipper of another Pearl Based DE. Art was an old shipmate from Sonar School, and swam in All-Navy with me. After rearming, we sailed back to San Diego, and had heavy weather the first few days. Eunice met the ship with Pat and Steve.
While at Pearl Harbor, I made Commander. The SPANGLER operated in and out of San Diego the remaining part of my tour as CO., I finally got orders in March 1956 to proceed and report to the Commandant, Third Naval District where I ended up being Director of Naval Personnel. Headquarters was located in the Federal Building at 90 Church Street.
to be continued…