1945-46 DIMITRO BOURANIAS
1944-45 EUGENE PERKINS, QM 1
1951-54 ERICH HENKLE IC2
1951-54 MORRIS LEVY BMSN
1951-54 ROBERT ROSS BT2
1951-54 BOB SMITH BMSN
1952-54 JOHN MITCHELL RDSN
1956-58 LEE HORNSBY BT 2
1961-64 LARRY HIGHTOWER BT2
1962-65 DAVID HAWKINS GM3
1963-66 IRA A. STOKER MM2
1964-66 DAVID HINT ERMISTER BM1
1964-67 JESSE DUNNAGAN BMC
1964-65 FRANK ZWOLINSKI CDR
1965-67 BOB KORTE RD2
1965-67 ROGER KORTH SK
1966-70 RICHARD PEREZ GM
1968-70 PAUL MCATEE SF3
1969-73 TIMOTHY CRLENJAK
1971-71 DAVID SUGART SK
3RD CLASS PETTY OFFICER
A Character Sketch of a Dog
Pompom was the most intelligent and heart-warming dog the crew of the U.S.S. Vesuvius ever met. We never got to know his pedigree or his past owners, but he kept the crew in a gay spirit when anything else would have failed.
In the Pacific Theater it was the practice to allow sailors three hours Of leisure on an island when their ships returned to supply bases in the rear of the fighting zone. It was after one of these brief rest periods that we met Pompom. Our motor launch had lust been loaded when we looked up to see a small, brown dog standing on the pontoon pier, staring at us. As the launch began to pull away, one of our men grabbed the dog by the long hair on his back and pulled him into the boat. An angry officer, shaking his fist and hollering at us, was the last we saw of Pompom’s, previous master.
Pompom had reason to regret that he had allowed himself to be “requisitioned” by us because for one week he was the most seasick dog in existence. Once he recovered from his affliction, he was the most valuable member of the ship’s complement. He comforted more lonely men and gave everyone more laughs than a host of comedians. He craved attention. When two men played catch, and there was a large audience, he would jump, chase, and spin after the ball until everyone had a hearty laugh. As our interest left his game, Pompom knew he should begin a new antic to keep our attention. He had an endless, vast storehouse of tricks to amuse us.
At times we envied the “dog’s life” he led. During the hot days (l2O0and higher) he would lie in the shade near a ventilating fan while every man worked upward of sixteen hours a day. Pompom knew, too, when he would be appreciated and never annoyed us by being in the way while we worked.
Pompom showed no favoritism; everyone seemed to be his friend. He never left a man alone at night to worry’ or sulk. When I wanted to be away from the others, I would often sit at night on the deserted, darkened deck and think of home. My periods of solitude and despair never lasted long, however, because Pompom had singled me out in the blackness and was pressing his muzzle against my arm. Almost before I knew it, this gifted dog had me playing games, and I later went to bed with a smile on my face—for the moment my troubles were forgotten.
In spite of his fine canine qualities, Pompom was never destined to become a salt~’ or a warrior. He never learned to navigate the steep, slippery stairs after tumbling down the stairs once, he began to wait or bark for us to carry him. Rolling decks, salt spray, and waves that sometimes nearly washed him overboard always annoyed our mascot. It was while he was shaking the salt water from his g1ossy hair that it was easy to see what he thought of the silly humans who roamed the seas, when there was so much comfortable, dry, stable land on this earth.
Pompom failed his campaign tests miserably. One morning our radar warned us of approaching Japanese aircraft. In the engagement that followed, the ship shuddered from the recoil of its guns. The noise was deafening. After our successful encounter, Pompom was the only one missing. We searched systematically until we found him curled and whimpering under a hospital bed. He was as scared as we had been, but since there was no battle station for him, he had sought and found the safest place in which to hide. He disliked guns and warfare as much as we did.
After the war’s end, we were sent home by way of the Panama Canal. Pompon’s doubtful future loomed large in our minds. Everyone was willing to smuggle him into the States and take Pompom home as his pet. But, Pompom had ideas of his own and went as quickly as he had come. Before the gangplank had been completely lowered in Panama, he ran down to meet a canine female who was waiting on shore. They looked at each other, sniffed noses, barked happily, looked back at us for permission, and ran off together. The ship listed heavily on the starboard side where we had gathered to wave and cheer them goodbye.
Pompon’s mission for man had been accomplished; he now wanted to retire to the mongrel dog’s life God had intended for him.
DECEMBER 6, 1947
I just wanted to tell you sailors about a little of what I remember from The Vesuvius in World War II.
I was quartermaster II. I have some good things and bad things. First we left New Jersey and went to the Panama Canal. I was on the wheel going through the canal. Of course I had a pilot right behind me. He would say ":son ", turn to the right and line up these two buoys and go until I tell you differently. "Quite an experience."
As we went through one of the locks there were truckloads of big stalks of bananas. Of course they were green; the people were yelling to us "one dollar". Of course I was always a little greedy, and I dropped two dollars over. The boy connected the two stalks to my line and I took them down to my chart room. I had bananas for weeks.
The next thing I remember was in the middle of 1945, we were passing Ammunition. I was at the wheel. We had an aircraft carrier on one side and a destroyer on the other side. The one that has the highest ranking keeps a straight course, the other two ships have to keep their distance from them.The one on the wheel can see the rope up on it's bow that goes to the other ship, the markers hanging down were 10-20-30-40-etc. I was supposed to keep it on 100. I looked over at something and when I looked back up it was on 60. I jerked the ship back too fast.
The captain on the big ship said "take that boy off the wheel!." They did not tell me what to do, so I took my mattress and books and went up above the pilot house and stayed for two days except to eat. Finally I went to see the navigator, he told me to come back to work.
The war was over and we were in the Philippines, the night it was announced everyone started firing with whatever they had. The Vesuvius had all it's holes open. You had better believe we got them covered. Most everyone wanted to go home for Christmas and be out of the service. They finally told us our ship was to leave, we went as fast as we could but three days out, our ship broke down for two days
We had a great captain. One day he announced that at the present time we were at the deepest place in the ocean, close to Guam. He had them to throw the cargo nets over the side and put a small boat out. If we wanted to go swimming we could go in.
Finally three days before Christmas we landed in Norfolk, Va., I was to be discharged in St Louis, Mo. I got my ticket and got on the train. The first place we went through was Williamsburg, VA., the college students were getting out for Christmas. I had never seen so many beautiful girls in my life. I arrived home before Christmas. All the relatives came in "what a great time". Thought this dialogue might be of interest to you.
EUGENE G. PERKINS, QUARTER MASTER 1ST CLASS PETTY OFFICER
AE15 Feb 2006 Up-Date
In 1951 after graduating from Great Lakes boot camp, I was assigned to electrical school. While there I chose duty on an Ammunition ship based in Orange Texas. From school, I took a train to Orange and upon arrival I got a cab to the base where I reported to the OD on a repair ship which would be my home until my assigned ship the USS Vesuvius was commissioned.
Since .it was around 9 PM on a Sunday night when I arrived it was too late for an assigned berth.The OD, smirking, told me to find a cot for the night in the recreation room.
He gave directions but being new to the ship I had to find my own way through the maze of passageways. I was shocked when I saw the disheveled room.It was full of sea bags piled everywhere and no cots.
I went back to the Quarterdeck and told the OD what I had found.He happily informed me that I should have 2 blankets in my sea bag and that I should find a nice corner in the recreation room where I could make my self comfortable for the night.
After my last plea for permission to go ashore and find a room for the night was denied because I was officially signed in, I headed to the room for a sleepless night while repeating to myself all of the way, "Welcome to the Navy!"
ERICH HENKLE, FIREMAN APPRENTICE--IC2
A BUCKET OF STEAM
After boot camp, I was assigned to the USS Vesuvius, which was in Orange Texas in the process being prepared for recommissioning.
When I first arrived aboard her, the Boatson Mate 1st Class, Maples, a big tough looking guy, pointed out my bunk and locker and growled," as soon as you are squared away report to me as I have an important job for you to do".
So, I hurriedly changed into work clothes, stowed my stuff in my locker and fixed my bunk . Then I went top side looking for Maples. I found him working a crew covering a hatch. He stopped the crew for a minute and introduced me to them, after which he turned to me and loudly barked," go up forward and ask the 1st Div. Boatswain for a bucket of steam and as soon as you get it report back to me, ON THE DOUBLE!"
Being from New York, I played along making out that I took him seriously. So basically, I goofed off all day asking everyone for a bucket of steam. Later in the day I went ashore as even the OD acted serious about the request telling me that I should check out the maintenance shed as they would probably have one.
Instead, I killed the afternoon in the base Gee-dunk drinking coffee and reading the news paper... UNTIL, Maples found me! WOW, I thought that I was really in for it. Instead, he just smiled and said," you knew didn't didn't you ?" Then he let out a big laugh and walking away he yelled, " COME ON, Let's get back to the ship!"
MORRIS LEVY BOATSWAIN MATE SEAMAN
I went aboard the USS Vesuvius as part of the recommissioning crew as a fireman apprentice and departed the ship as a BT2 and eligible to test for BT1 though I didn't.
While in Beaumont Texas. The Exalted Ruler opened the Elks lodge in Beaumont to the crew of Vesuvius during a part of the recommissioning, and conferred some type of Honorary membership status on us for the duration of our stay. They even kept the lodge open extra hours to accommodate our shift work.
A couple of years ago my wife Sue and I while traveling in east Texas in our RV, learned that the Beaumont Elks had an RV park so we decided to stay there overnight. While having a drink in the club, the Exalted Ruler was sitting next to me and talking to one of the staff. She wanted to know who had been a member of the lodge the longest. Just for fun I spoke up and said that I had been an honorary member in 1950. I have been a dues-paying Elk for going on twenty years now.
ROBERT (Bob) ROSS MACHINIST MATE
When on the bomb line, along the East side of Korea and especially when we were underway above the 38th parallel near Wonsan Harbor, part of which was still in enemy hands, we stood gun watches on the forward 3'' 50s. As I remember, it took about five to six men to man one gun. At night we were allowed to sleep on the guns or on the deck of the gun tub as long as 2 people stayed awake.
On this particular night, myself and my partner (have forgotten his name) were, for the first hour or so, the designated watch on the Starboard gun while the others slept. I’m not sure what time of night it was but it was a beautiful warm moonlit night with calm seas. We were fully loaded and steaming toward Wonsan Harbor behind our Korean manned escort.
For a while we were watching the porpoise, who were playing at the bow, while keeping up with the ship. It was a great show as they were spotlighted by the moon, which was up ahead of us. Every once in a while my eyes would wander off of them and scan the waters ahead. Suddenly, when looking up, I thought I saw a black spec in the water up ahead and just as I was about to write it off as another porpoise coming to join the others, I noticed, when looking harder, that it wasn’t a porpoise at all but it was most definitely, a round object floating directly in front of us. As I focused in on it, I began to make out that this ball like black object had a number of spikes protruding from it. It then dawned on me that it was a floating mine and we were heading right for it!
I screamed at the bow watch to alert the bridge! It took several tries to get him to understand that this was not a joke or a drill. By the time I did, my partner and I, figured that the ship might narrowly miss the mine, which was just off our starboard bow by only a foot or two. At the same time, while I was looking at the mine, my partner started yelling to the bow watch,“ WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU GOING?”
I turned to look just in time to see the bow watch running aft, down the forecastle deck and his head phone and speaker cord, which was paying out, come to an end, bringing his head and neck to an abrupt halt, while his body kept going. This brought his feet out from under him and lifted him prone to the deck, a position he held for a few seconds before gravity took over and dropped him spread eagle, on to the deck with a loud thud!
Both of us looked at each other and started laughing, which helped to break the tension. Not for long though as our attention turned back to the mine. My partner ran over to see if he was okay and if he alerted the bridge. I turned back to check on the mine, which had just passed under the gun tub. As it did, I looked up and saw at least three Officers out on the starboard wing of the bridge looking over the side at the mine, which by now was nearing the superstructure. The mine was so close to the ship that it appeared to be touching it. I believe I left my fingerprints molded in the top rail of the metal tub as I braced myself for the blast!
At this point my memory is a blank so the only thing I’m sure of is that we passed the mine without incident. However, John Stewart 51-54, who at the time, was a Seaman in the 2nd Div. told me that Ed Ehatt, who also was a Seaman in the 2nd Div., was messenger of the watch at the time this incident took place. Ehatt told him that after the bridge received the report that a mine had been sighted, close to the starboard side of the ship; he was ordered to go aft and get the longest boat hook that he could find and to try to push it away so that the spinning prop would not pull it into the ship.
Stew further said that Ed told him that he grabbed the 16’ long boat hook and climbed over the life line and on to the boat boom. He had to straddle the boom in order to handle the boat hook. He managed to reach and push the mine far enough away that it was not affected by the prop. The ship cleared it altogether leaving it behind. Stew does not remember what happened to the mine after that.
Note: The above was not the only close call that we had with mines. Sandy Sanphilipo51-54 recalls that our ship almost backed into one as it was turning around in Wonsan Harbor. Many floating mines were sighted when we operated in or near the waters of Wonsan, however those two were a little too close for comfort. Bob Smith 51-54
In 1952 when we arrived in Sasebo for the first time, I was assigned as a bow hook to the Captain's Gig, a motor whale boat with a canvas top. The gig which had not been in use since WW II looked really sharp and ready to go from the work over we had given it on the way over from the states.
Before we put her in the water, Smitty our head BM gave us a fire and brimstone lecture as to what was required and as to what would happen if we embarrassed the ship. It all boiled down to looking sharp to impress the fleet between us and the shore.
As bow hook when not tending lines, I was expected to stand erect at parade rest on the seat in front of the coxswain. This I did with my chest swelling with pride as we passed each ship. I really felt GUN HO! Every thing was going Navy until we were about halfway to shore, where we took a large bow wave from the wake of tug which had just crossed our path.
Suddenly from standing at a very ridged stance, I was air born and propelled forward into the aft main stay for the canvas top. I took the stay just above the belly causing me to flip feet first inside of the top and landing onto the laps of the two officers accompanying the Captain. I figured that a Captain's Mast was certain.
Instead, they all started laughing and continued to do so all the way into shore. I climbed back up and assumed the parade rest position only this time with a not so ridged stance and an eye out for rough water.
Smitty congratulated me on my contribution to the ship's morale!
BETTER THAN A ROPE YARN SUNDAY
One morning while we were wrapping up loading operations in Sasebo, Sheff, Lawson and I were changing the winch cables at no.3 hold. A greasy hot job to say the least! As we were pulling the cable off of the drum Anderson, BM3 came up and told Lawson to go below, take a shower and report aft, to no.1 motor launch for bow hook duties. After receiving complementary remarks from us such as, “YOU LUCKY BROWN NOSE B_ _ _ _ _D!!”, he left laughing at us.
After Sheff and I ate lunch and were just leaving the chow hall, Lawson met up with us saying,” guess what happened to me this morning after I left the shower to get dressed?" Sheff, with a growl, said,” being that it's your lucky f- - - - -g day I can only imagine! "
As I remember, Lawson's words: " I had just come out of the shower in the forward head and went to my rack to get dressed. (Lawson's rack was located across from the stairs leading from the starboard passageway down into the compartment and the chow hall.) As I laid my towel on my bunk and was getting ready to grab my skivvies to put on, I heard a loud voice say, "ATTENTION ON DECK !"
Well I was so flustered, that I did an about face and gave the Captain and his entourage, who were coming down the stairs, a smart high ball, while standing at attention totally nude except for a beat up pair of flip flops.
As the Captain, expressionless, passed by, he stopped for a second, came to attention and returned my salute and at the same time barked, "AT EASE, CARRY ON SAILOR!" He then tuned to his officers, who were wearing,"OH MY God!" expressions and said, "we will inspect the crew's mess first and then their quarters after."
As they passed me, I noticed that most of the officers were now wearing their, "Your on report!" scows. However, a couple of the Juniors were holding their jaws stifling their urge to laugh out loud. I just smiled back at them and enjoyed the moment!
>Bob Smith 51- 54, "Norman Sheff 51-53 & Ralph Lawson 51-54, who were two of my closest shipmates, have both since taken their last voyage."
During our first re-arming of a Destroyer, we almost lost my buddy Sheff over the side. From what I was told, as I was on watch at the time, when the Tin Can (Destroyer) came alongside, they laid planking between the two ships just forward of our superstructure. Then, while both ships were underway, they instructed our guys, to carry one 5-inch projectile a piece over the planking to the other ship!
From what I understand, Sheff being first in line stepped onto the plank and as he did, the plank went one way and him the other. Luckily he was able to catch hold of the side of the ship with one hand and hold onto the projectile with the other. As he hung there, over the side of the ship, the boatswain (Chief Warrant Officer) while wringing his hands yelled to him to hold onto the projectile. Sheff yelled back ***!! the projectile and at the same time dropped it into the water. He climbed back aboard and nothing more was said.
However, the next day they had fashioned a wood chute that we used to slide the projectiles from our ship down to the decks of the receiving ships. During this operation the ships were tied to us and we would maintain enough speed while re-arming to keep rudder control. We used this method when we only had 5 inch to deliver.
When on the line beside our normal watches and rearming into the night, we stood gun watches on the 3'50's while under way. When at anchor we stood gun watches 20 feet apart on deck armed with M1's on the lookout for enemy swimmers and boats. We had orders to shoot at anything in the water that moved.
One night when I got a break, I started to watch a movie in the chow hall when, I was interrupted by a buddy of mine. He told me that my best buddy Sheff had just shot at an incoming boat of Marines. I asked if anyone was hurt and he said that it had just happened so he didn't know. By the time I got top side Sheff was coming into the passageway from the deck. He told me he had just been put on report. He said that while on watch he spied a small boat enclosed with a wood deck house approaching us. He did not recognize that it was one of ours so he opened fire. It did not stop coming so he emptied the clip. He was so intent on what he was doing that he ignored the order to stop firing.According to Sandy Sanphilipo, who was on messenger watch, he and someone else had to wrestle the rifle away from Sheff in order to get him to stop.
It turned out that the boat was loaded with Marine brass coming out to plan loading procedures for the next morning! Since our Brass had neglected to inform the gun watch, charges against Sheff were dropped, stating that he had followed the orders that he had been given. Luckily for all concerned that Sheff was a lousy shot!
Sheff's first and last experience as a coxswain happened while he was taking a liberty party into Sasebo’s fleet landing with the #1, motor launch. Some where he accidently ran into an empty anchor buoy with a loaded 40' motor launch.
Luckily, the only causality was the bow hook’s white hat, which on impact, flew off of his head and landed in the water. It sunk before it could be retrieved.
BLAST FROM THE PAST
First Div. sleeping quarters were located adjacent to the chow hall right in front of the head. I was assigned to the 2nd rack high located in the end of the row right across from the hatch to the head.
The aisle that I was on was a high traffic area as it ran the full length of the sleeping compartment and lead straight into the head.
Sometime in 1953 a new guy came aboard, a Gunner's mate as I remember. I can't think of his name. Anyhow, as I remember, most guys, when going to the head for a shower, either wore a towel or simply nothing but their clogs. This guy, who was very fat, always wore nothing but his clogs. He always had his soap container in one hand and towel in the other.
Faithfully every night just before he entered the head he would stand in the aisle at the end my bunk, grab hold of he supporting chains on either side of the asile just above my head and let a thunderous roar of gas, which smelled so bad that it left me chocking and gasping for air. He would then say, "Sorry Guys" and continue on into the head for a shower like nothing happend.
Well after a couple nights of this, me and Hays, who had the rack directly across from mine, started yelling at him but to no avail he still did the same, night after night saying that he couldn't help himself. Finally I had enough and I told my buddy Hays watch what happens when Gunner stops by tonight as I'll be ready for him.
Well Gunner was right on time. He got almost past our racks took his usual stance, grabbed the chains and cut one of his very best. At the same time I put my Zippo right next to the crack of his bare butt and lit it!
WOW! Talk about a flaming butt hole! For a couple of seconds there, he had a burst of green flame about 6 to 8" long coming out of his butt. Looked very similar to a jet exhaust!
Well he let out a scream, heard through out the ship. Scared me half to death but didn't keep me and Hays from laughing as we helped him to sick bay for ointment. Luckily the medic got such a charge out of it that he didn't report me
Poor guy never talked to me again. A small price to pay to for,"Clearing the air"!
Outside house paint only lasts 3 years down here at the Beach as the sun and the salt gives it a fit. This year is the 3rd so it all has to be scrapped, sanded and painted. Just like in the navy except that now I'm working off ladders instead of Boatswain chairs and stages. The paint is also a whole lot easier than the old red lead and the tar black! Man, was that stuff sure tough to get off both me and my clothes.
I still remember in Sasebo when Sherman and I were over the side on a stage,single board suspended by two ropes, painting the water line some where between no.2 & 3 hatches, calling for more paint as our cans were empty.
For reasons only known to Boatswains, the line handlers were always hands who were very seamanship challenged. It was nothing unusual to be dropped into briney deep by one of these hands while he was attempting to hoist or lower a stage.
Instead of hoisting our small buckets, 1 gallon, and filling them up top side, the line handler decided to lower the 5 gallon bucket and let us fill our own. We were not happy about this however after much yelling and screaming we lost and the hand started to lower the big bucket filled with what we refered to as black tar.
As he lowered the can, the bottom got caught on something in the many lines and hoses hanging over the side and began to tip. I saw it and began to yell but seeing that it was to late I jumped into the water and came up just in time to see it dump it's black sticky contents square on top of Sherman's head. In a matter of seconds he was covered in black tar from head to foot. I yelled for him to jump which he did but it helped very little to remove the tar.
As we scrambled out of the water and up the accommodation ladder we were greeted with jeers and belly laughs! As soon as we hit the deck Sherman started after the line handler who immediately took off running. I grabbed Sherman and told him to forget him for now and go below and get them clothes off before the tar sets up.Meantime I ran aft and got some paint thinner and rags.
About an hour later between the thinner and a good scrubbing in the shower Sherman looked like he was brand new. Luckily, he was wearing a turned down white hat which protected his hair and most of his face and a life jacket which kept the brunt of it off of his clothes.He did have to deep six his shirt and hat.
The smoking lamp was only lit in the crews mess when we had ammo. I suppose the officers smoked either in their quarters or their lounge. I really can't remember.
However, one day while we were at anchor in Sasebo, the Captain who was near to cracking up from worrying that the ship was going to blow up, issued a no smoking order throughout the ship. I believe this went on for about a week. We were complaining so much that he finally gave in and stated that the wale boat would be designated for smoking.
Once a day it was to be taken 500 yards from the ship where smokers could safely light up. They could smoke for 15 minutes. After which they would be returned to the ship.
Well you can imagine the mad rush to get a seat when they piped the smoking boat! I mean practically everyone on the ship smoked. By the time we loaded up; the water was up to the gunnels and to top things off, it was raining cats & dogs. So here we go, sloshing through the sea, raining like hell, taking on water and trying to light up at the same time.
WOW! Did those wet cigarettes taste good! Almost as good as Ice Cream night at boot camp!
However, the good time was cut short when the Exec. , Jurewicz, who was in the gig returning from leave caught sight of us and demanded to know what was going on. The poor coxswain explained the situation. The Exec. got so red faced that I thought he was going to bust a gut! He yelled back, "Get your asses back to the ship before you scuttle that boat!
The Captain was relieved of his command the next day and the smoking lamp in the mess hall was lit once again.
A SLEEP AT THE WHEEL
When on the helm we had better not utter any thing but YES SIR and NO SIR! Not that we didn't cut up but only on the QT and then not in plain site. The officers very seldom fraternized with us.
However, I was the center of attention on the helm one night while on the mid watch.We were steaming from the states to Japan flanked by two escorts. All was quiet on the bridge as no one was around except me and the talker.The OD a new 90 day wonder had gone below in search of something, leaving us alone. The seas were very calm almost like glass. Because of this I had to move the wheel of the gyro very little, which made for a very boring watch.
As per usual they had worked our butt off that day and had GQ drills clear into the night, all of which had me dragging. So with the boredom, I was fighting sleep big time. So it wasn't long before I lost it and was shocked awake by the sound of the OD Screaming ," RIGHT FULL RUDDER! " The first thing I thought was," WHERE WAS THE HELMSMAN" because I was standing with my back against the bulkhead behind the wheel". Then I realized that I was the helmsman and had fallen asleep in a standing position supported by the bulkhead.
I grabbed the wheel and brought the ship around as ordered while having visions of Court Marshal, Dishonorable and or being shot for sleeping on watch during war time. I got to tell you,"I was scared shitless! " As we came about and got back on course the OD said in a worried voice," That was a close one". He never mentioned anything about the incident again. So I continued steering like nothing happened until relieved.
On my break the skive waver (Quatermaster) on watch, while cracking up, told me under his breath that the OD probably never realized that I was asleep because as soon as he came through the hatch he saw that the two escorts were now off our starboard side instead of being one on either side of us. So without looking back at me he shouted the order!
I guess he felt that the ship being off course and narrowly missing a collision with an escort while he was off the bridge would not look good on him so the incident was never mentioned. It was a couple of weeks of nightmares about ship collisions, before I was finally able to get back to a normal night's sleep
When I joined the Navy, I volunteered to do my part, never suspecting that I was going to be busting my butt 24 hours a day without evergetting a chance to fire a shot at the enemy! Our only enemy was the Boatswain mate, the officers and the elements. Oh sure we got into some tightspots at times but it was nothing that would ever interest the John Wayne movie makers.
Hard work wasn't new to me as I spent my summer school vacations working the Baltimore docks loading trucks by hand. The summer before, I also sailed on a bulk carrier (Merchant ship) from Baltimore, MD to Tampa, Florida in order to get sea time to become a merchant seaman but the Korean war changed my plans. So I was a little more used to it than most but I got to tell you, I was very disappointed that I didn't get a fighting ship.
During a gun watch one night my buddy and I discussed the feasibility of jumping ship and joining up with the Marines! He said that he had thought on it for a long time and since a transfer off this ship was impossible to get, jumping ship was the only way! So he asked me if he got us a way to shore, would I join him in the venture. Well, he got me so fired up about the idea that I agreed; all along thinking that it would never happen.
About a week later, while anchored in Wonsang Harbor, at 2 am in the morning, he woke me up out of a sound sleep, which I hadn't gotten much of since I had just gotten off the anchor detail at midnight after working ammo all day up till then. I was a little fuzzy as he was telling me to grab some things and head for the fantail. I really wasn't comprehending what he was telling me so I grabbed a life jacket and headed aft thinking there was some kind of emergency until I saw him standing by the rail looking over the side. I hesitantly asked him what was up and he told me that for $2 a piece the sampan waiting below would take us ashore. Well, I almost shit!
I yelled, ” YOU GOT TO BE KIDDING! WOW! ARE WE REALLY GOING TO DO THIS?"
Well my enthusiasm must have gotten the whole ship awake and a chief's attention because he bellowed from the superstructure, "WHAT THE !*x*! GOING ON DOWN THERE?" I froze but managed a ," just checking the fantail fish line". As I made my way back to the sanity of my bunk, I could still hear the chief mumbling something about !__ * D* __! kids checking a fish line in a combat zone and at this time in the morning!.
Well we never did jump ship and go ashore and fight with the marines but what did happen was that, the more seasoned we got the easier the job became. Not that we still weren’t bitching but we slowly developed a very deep pride for our ship and for each other. As time went by, I even got to like the Boatswain....WELL ALMOST!!
BOB SMITH, BOATSWAIN MATE SEAMAN
MAY 5, 2003
KOREA ERA SHIPMATES SWAPPING MEMORIES
TO BOB FROM JOHN Do you remember the following instance? We used to go out to replenish ships and we met them close to the 38th Parallel about 20 miles from shore which was just outside the range of the shore batteries. We always headed into the wind when we had a ship alongside.
Vladivostok, Russia was due north of us and a large Russian submarine base was located there. That day the wind was coming directly from the north and we were sailing into it, which was directly toward Vladivostok. We had a cruiser alongside and we were further north than we had ever been and were still heading north. We picked up some radio transmissions in Russian and before long there were two Russian Migs above us.
The cruiser cut loose and we closed the hatches in less than two minutes. The cruiser radioed an air base in South Korea and they scrambled 4 jets. The Migs circled the ship some two to three times and apparently got word of our jets being launched.
The Migs dropped their wing tanks and took off out of there and a few minutes later our jets showed up. When the wing tanks were dropped; they looked like bombs to us and we were really shook up for a while.
TO JOHN FROM BOB I was overwhelmed at your recall of the Russian Migs incident. I don't know if I ever knew or just don't recall why they hovered over us that day nor do I remember them dropping their wing tanks .However, I thank you for the recalling it for me!
At the time I was topside loading ammo to send over to the cruiser when GQ sounded. I remember the Boatswain, Smitty yelling at us to cut all lines & head for battle stations. I helped with retrieving some of the rigging & then left for my gun position as pointer on the starboard side twin 40mm.I know we watched the Migs doing aerobatics over us for what seemed eternity .
I can still remember the ferocious look I got from our Boats, Smitty during this very tense situation. I yelled a wise crack to one of my buddies who started laughing but stopped and almost and chocked when he eyed Smitty starring at me. Believe me the Migs were a piece of cake compared to one of Smitty's stares! So I turned my attention back to getting the Migs back in my sites until they finally took off.
TO BOB FROM JOHN I worked in the Radar Shack. The radar shack and the quartermaster shack were in one room, separated by a cloth curtain at times but mostly not separated, on the port side of the ship -right behind the bridge. The radio shack was on the starboards side with a hallway separating the two.
Those "blips" that you referred to were on the radar screen (we did not have Sonar). I stood watch in the radar shack and was hooked up on phones with the crow's nest watch and the messenger on the bridge. Those blips were not Russian subs but would have been either sampans or the ship's wake. I don't know who told you they were Russian subs unless it was Alia. When I first came aboard, the senior man was a first class radar man by the name of J. D. (June) Dotson. However, he screwed up several times and they made him permanent Master At Arms in the chow hall and barred him from the radar shack. For the last six months or so, I was the senior Radar man and ran the radar department.
Thomas Alia suffered from chronic seasickness. We used to kid him that his special sea detail was hanging over the fantail. He carried a bucket with him when on watch. He put in for shore duty several times and was finally given shore duty at a hospital in San Diego. We wondered what a 3rd class radar man would do at a hospital.
Some months later we returned to the states and tied up at San Diego. Tom Alia saw the ship and got in touch. We asked him what his duties were (since hospitals to not have radar) and he stated that he reported in at 9 AM each morning; they then squirted water in his ear to make him sea sick and tried out all kind of medicines on him for sea sickness. I guess they felt that if they could find a cure for
him, they could cure anyone. Poor fellow, he spent 4 years in the navy being sea sick every week.
TO JOHN FROM BOB Thanks for straightening me out on both the no sonar and the supposedly Russian Sub incident. I was pretty gullible in those days but I was not alone because as I recall, most of the 1st Div. guys also believed it. Scuttlebutt both true and false ran rampant among us. You guys probably got a truer picture of what was happening because you were nearer to the brass than us.
TO BOB FROM JOHN I just thought of another incident aboard AE-15; I wonder if you were aboard at the time? This must have been around mid-1953 as I had been aboard about a year and a half. We came back to the states and went into dry-dock for a couple of months; I took 30 days leave at the time
We had some ammo or bombs aboard at the time because we came in to Frisco and went up the San Joaquin River to Port Chicago, an ammo dump to unload the ammo before we went into dry-dock. We had a pilot aboard and were steaming up the river at some 8 to10 knots. It was early evening and already dark. All at once a bright light was heading right for us and it was only a few hundred yards away. After a few seconds a whistle blew and the light passed us on the port side. It was a train that was on a tract that ran right along the bank of the river. It gave many of us quite a scare as it looked like we were going to be run over by a train. Keep in touch. Regards, John
TO JOHN FROM BOB I don't think I was on deck at the time but I remember hearing about it! Good Story!
I remember at least two other incidents that happened while we were on that river. The first time that we traveled up the river to Port Chicago, I was Impressed with the weather we encountered. We had not been overseas yet and it was winter. We left Frisco in the rain, then we ran into fog, and then the sun came out for a while and then it started sleeting which later turned to snow and finally clearing again as we got into port.
Another time we were heading up river to Port Chicago, it was summer time & the beaches along the way were full of gals sunning themselves. As we approached the beach the bow watch was overwhelmed by us guys trying to get a look through his binoculars! I couldn't wait, so I told one of my buddies to help me train the 3-inch gun at the beach. So we did; and were able to enjoy a great view of the ladies through the gun sites! It was short lived though as we got chewed out by one of the boatswain mates! But, it was worth it though!
TO JOHN FROM BOB You asked about CWO Robinson, now that you mention it, I believe there was a story going around about him being a prisoner of war. That’s what probably made him so nervous all of the time. He was a big heavy set (fat) man who was always wringing his hands in despair! Other than that, he always treated me fair! I have some stories about him! He was always good for a laugh!
TO BOB FROM JOHN I do remember CWO Robinson. He was a large (fat) man and quite nervous. I remember one time that he was on anchor watch as we were coming into port in Sasebo. He got real excited and dropped the anchor much too soon. After they got it back up and dropped again, XO Jurewicz made him sit at the bow of the ship, right over the anchor for several hours.
TO JOHN FROM BOB I remember the incident well because I was taking soundings that day. As I remember we were still moving at a good clip when I heard the rumble of the anchor chain and at about the same time, I could feel the ship backing down! I knew immediately what had happened and braced myself on the platform; thinking that we were in for a shock but it never came. Then someone started shouting from the bridge & you could hear the winch starting to pull it back up. I think you're right he did it one more time and finally on the third try he got it right. We had a good laugh out of that. Robinson always managed to boost our moral !I thought of him every time I watched Mc Hales Navy!
TO JOHN FROM BOB Speaking of Robinson, during the height of the typhoon when I was standing wing watch on the starboard side of the bridge, we were called inside because at times the seas were washing over the bridge and the wind was blowing so hard you had to hold onto the rail to keep your footing.
I had just gotten inside when Robinson, in his usual nervous state ordered me to go back out & check the flag to see in which direction the wind was blowing. All of us looked at him like he was nuts because everybody knew that we were heading into it.
But before I could say any thing he said, “that’s an order Smith" so I begrudgingly went back out and bracing myself, looked aft at where the flag was supposed to be. It was gone. All that was left of it was a few threads which were pointed aft. After I managed to get back inside I reported what I had seen to him describing what I went through in order to observe a thread blowing aft from the same wind which we have been heading into. He told me to watch my mouth. He was so nervous that I thought he was going to pass out. He started to pace back and forth while wringing his hands so furiously that the XO finally ordered him to his quarters.
Now maybe you can fill me in on some memory lapses. Do you remember which other port (I believe it was an island) we stopped at on our way home when we stopped at Subic Bay & Hawaii? Also if you recall the day before the typhoon, we were at some port other than Sasebo or Yokuska ; a port that I think we had never been to before & never did return to again.
As I recall we were on liberty in a house & in bed when the SP's came in & ordered us out and back to the ship because we had to get her out of the harbor before the typhoon hit!
TO BOB FROM JOHN You asked about what port we were in and I remember going to Nagasaki for a couple of days. I feel like we must have docked there as I do not remember going on liberty.
TO JOHN FROM BOB It may have been Nagasaki. I just can't remember! I know as always we were anchored out because we had to go by boat to get back to the ship. We were only on liberty for a couple of hours before they called us back. I remember looking at the dark sky on the way out and wondering how close the Typhoon was to us. I remember some arm-chair meteorologist saying that that the reason for the ominous looking sky was that we were right in the middle of the eye. I still don't know how he figured that out since we hadn't even felt any effects from the typhoon yet!
Correct me if I’m wrong but didn't, we ride that storm out for at least a week? I know we took a pounding because when we got into port we found that the bow of the ship looked like it had been sandblasted. There wasn't a speck of paint left on it!
TO BOB FROM JOHN I do not remember how long we rode out the storm, however, it must have been several days because it felt like a long time. I specifically remember the chow hall. You had to hold your tray with one hand and eat with the other hand.
I also remember that there were several aboard that were seasick. If I remember, I had only been aboard a short time (I came aboard about mid1952 and left some 2 years later.) when we rode out the storm.
TO BOB FROM JOHN The packet that you sent me brought back several memories. I specifically remember the explosion of the ammo dump and the picture of it. I remember having a copy of the picture but I do not know what ever happened to it.
If I remember right, we were in a South Korea port and were unloading bombs for an air base there. We were unloading them on "Ducks" which was a slow process. I believe we were given liberty and went to the base to play baseball. I do remember that the ship furnished the beer for the outing.
The explosion was shortly after we came back aboard the ship if I remember right. I distinctly remember when it blew up that I gave a sigh of relief that we were not still on shore.
TO JOHN FROM BOB My memory of the ammo dump event is that we did unload bombs into ducks manned by marines, somewhere in southern Korea and it probably was an air base. (Ulsan, S. Korea) I recall that we unloaded on a Saturday. There was a rumor that, if our work was completed, they were going to let us go ashore the next day on Sunday.
I believe they did give guys in other Divisions liberty on Saturday but I don't remember anything about a ball game or the ship supplying beer because it was rumored that if we did go ashore that we would have to carry our M1's with us. I guess they forgot to tell us about the beer!
As I recall, Sunday morning or it could have been Saturday evening I was cleaning up around # 2 hold when the first explosion occurred. Immediately following it a prop plane, some kind of a fighter, flew very low over us heading away from the explosion.
At first I thought we were being bombed but to my relief I saw that it was one of ours. Then in the next instance one of the guys and to this day I don't remember who came running across the hatch yelling at me to jump over the side and abandon ship because it was blowing up! So I ran over to the port side and grabbed hold of the top of the lifeline and put one foot on the mid line and stopped. It occurred to me that we had just finished unloading all of the ammo that we had aboard so what was blowing up?
It also occurred to me that the guy doing the yelling had not jumped overboard rather he headed for the forecastle. That would have been my next move (head for the forecastle) except Smitty, Bosin 1st. caught me and asked me to give him a hand securing the accommodation ladder (Gangway).
That was the first time Smitty had ever asked me to do something with out raising his voice! I was shocked because normally he would have barked an order laced with a few choice profanities! So I jumped to, and ran with him to the ladder which was hanging from the starboard side of the ship. That's when I got my first glimpse of what had occurred. All I could see was smoke coming from behind the hill between us and the ship. I realized at that point that the ammo dump had blown up. I still remember hearing smaller explosions and seeing shrapnel raining down as we moved out of the harbor.
We worked together quickly but quietly. What normally took about six men quite a while, the two of us accomplished in short order. Smitty never said a word about the explosion or about anything. He was calm cool and collected as he went about his work. I on the other hand, was busting at the seams to talk about it but I didn't because he was in no talking mood.
After we finished securing the gangway I remember going up to the forecastle to join the anchor detail. There were a few marines there talking with our guys. They introduced them to me and I still remember putting my foot in my mouth by saying that I guess you guys were glad that you were on this ship and not at the dump.
One of my buddies told me to knock it off, that they (the Marines) were very worried about the fact that they were leaving their buddies behind not knowing if they were ok or not.
Wow ,I felt bad and apologized to them. It wasn't long after that they were taken ashore that I could finally get the whole lowdown on the incident.
TO JOHN FROM BOB Do you remember what a Binjo ( Japanese not sure of the spelling) is? Well I had forgotten about this story until one of our shipmates, Morris Levy, reminded me. A Binjo was a Japanese out house.
Our Binjo was really a steel chute, which resembled a 3’square piece of conduit about 4’ long hung on the rail of the fantail for the purpose of dumping trash and garbage into the sea. It was used by the Japanese longshoremen when they were loading us with ammo in port. Amazingly, we never lost a Jap!
Well, one day while out on the line replenishing a tin can we lost the Binjo. We had just finished loading and the can was backing down and swinging towards us in an attempt to swing past our fantail.
Levy who was working aft saw that the bow of the can was coming too close to us so he started yelling and waving his arms but to no avail. The bow narrowly missed our fantail but connected with the Binjo and knocked it clean off.
I'm not sure how that tin can skipper explained the fact that his ship had a collision with a Binjo!
TO BOB FROM JOHN I remember the benjo (pronounced "ben- joe") that we had on the fan tail. If I remember my Japanese, benjo does not merely mean outhouse, but is the word for toilet or head whether it is inside or outside
TO JOHN FROM BOB The smoking lamp was only lit in the crews mess when we had ammo. I suppose the officers smoked either in their quarters or their lounge. I really can't remember.
However, one day while we were at anchor in Sasebo, the Captain who was near to cracking up from worrying that the ship was going to blow up, issued a no smoking order throughout the ship. I believe this went on for about a week. We were complaining so much that he finally gave in and stated that the wale boat would be designated for smoking.
Once a day it was to be taken 500 yards from the ship where smokers could safely light up. They could smoke for 15 minutes. After which they would be returned to the ship.
Well you can imagine the mad rush to get a seat when they piped the smoking boat! I mean practically everyone on the ship smoked. By the time we loaded up; the water was up to the gunnels and to top things off, it was raining cats & dogs. So here we go, sloshing through the sea, raining like hell, taking on water and trying to light up at the same time.
WOW! Did those wet cigarettes taste good! Almost as good as Ice Cream night at boot camp!
However, the good time was cut short when the Exec. , Jeruwits who was in the gig returning from leave caught sight of us and demanded to know what was going on. The poor coxswain explained the situation. The Exec. got so red faced that I thought he was going to bust a gut! He yelled back, "Get your asses back to the ship before you scuttle that boat! The Captain was relieved of his command the next day and the smoking lamp was lit once again.
TO JOHN FROM BOB I got discharged at Treasure Island. I left the ship in Port Chicago and went by bus to TI. There I was assigned to scullery duty for the remainder of my time: about 2 weeks of scrubbing pots and pans. A fitting ending for one who was still on the fence about making a career out of the Navy.
We were also on the line when the shooting stopped and as you described it was like somebody had pulled the plug loosing both sound and picture of the fireworks. I remember we viewed it while dozing through our watch on the starboard three inch gun. I believe that was the last gun watch we pulled.
JOHN O MITCHEL, RADAR TECH.
BOB SMITH, BOATSWAIN MATE SEAMAN
MAY 5, 2003
Lee told me Lee told me this story while at the 2007 reunion in Washington, DC. He served aboard the AE15 USS Vesuvius Nov 1956 to June 1958, as a 2nd class BT Petty officer. After serving 17 years of his 20 years as a blue water sailor, he retired as a Master Chief BT.
While we were steaming from Okinawa to Japan in 1958 , I had just gotten off watch down in the fire room, taken a shower and gone to bed and about 0100, someone came through the compartment screaming fire, fire! Then the G Q alarm started going off. I was so used to false alarms going off that I really didn’t worry too much unless I smelled smoke. Still, I jumped up, put my dungarees on and ran up the ladder, which was located in the aft compartment, forward of No. 5 hold. When I reached the top at the passage way, to my surprise, I did smell smoke. That’s when it occurred to me that I was standing in the middle of 4,000 tons of ammo and that a little worrying just might be in order. With that thought in mind,I hurried on to my duty station, which was down in the fire room, where my job during emergencies, was to keep the boilers operating. There was supposed to be 5 of us on station but as it turned out, I was the only one to show up. >Being down in the fire room, I didn’t get chance to participate in helping fight the fire but I was told that it was located in the galley and that it took them about an hour to put it out. Meantime, the whole ship had filled with smoke making it hard to breath but it did clear out soon after the fire was put out.
The galley was burnt pretty bad; actually it was so bad, that we existed on soup and sandwiches for the next three days.
One day while a Cruiser was alongside, the seas were so rough that both ships were being tossed up and down as they rode into and up and over the swells. During the replenishing of 8” projectiles using the forward boom, I saw that one of the cables had started to unravel all of the way back to the drum.
Then, just as our ship went down, the cruiser went up and the cable parted letting the skip box loaded with 9 projectiles swing into the side of the cruiser. When it hit, it bounced off and then flipped up side down and empting them into the sea.
The skipper, Clinker, at least I believe that was his name as I went through three of them while I was aboard, passed the word to the cruiser that we are breaking loose and if you want more ammo follow me to Sasebo!
LEE HORNSBY BT2BOILER TENDER 2ND CLASS PETTY OFFICER
Jan 08 2006.... AE15 Feb 2008 Up-Date
Runaway Bombs and Near Ship Collision
I don’t know what happened after 1964 but I do know that in my last deployment to WESPAC in 64, we were rearming the Ranger with bombs. My duty station during replenishment was the fire or engine room. At some point, I came topside to get some fresh air and as I always did, I sat on the fantail hiding out of the way because if I was spotted, some officer would surely put me to work. Then, I heard a lot of commotion and saw that the Ranger had dumped our winch line with bombs attached and was turning to port.
At this point I was looking straight up at the Ranger’s flight deck hovering over me as both ships were on a collision course. At the same time, when I heard collision alarms sounding I thought my ass was grass and the Ranger was the lawnmower as there was nothing I could do. I saw the winch cable & bombs running down the side of the ship toward the screw. Luckily, as soon as the Ranger cleared us our screw stopped . We had a dirty dangerous job. John Kennedy was the skipper at that time.
Follow up from Larry: I have a paper that says we are on Ops. off Vietnam. In Nov. 1963 we had Thanksgiving at sea between Subic Bay and Hong Kong and Christmas in Yokosuka Japan. What happened could have been in 1964. the Ranger was on the port side their could have been a destroyer on starboard . As you know that was the case when a carrier was alongside . I guess we passed movies and mail back and forth .I know the IC man would swap our old movies out and get the newest ones. It has been a while so maybe most of this is right. Maybe Cunningham remembers something else.
Speaking of the movie star, Royal Edward Dano's Son, we had a fireman in the boilerroom who claimed that his father was in the movie industry and that he was good friends with Rickey Nelson.He told us that he and Nelson most of the time would play guitar and sing while sitting around the pool.
We thought that he was full of bull until we pulled into Long Beach for a few days as he took several shipmates on the beach with him.We found out that he was not lying as they discovered that Dano's father had a big boat in which they cruised all around the ship in it. His father also paid for all to go to Disney World and gave $20 for spending money.And to think that I turned down his invitation to go with them!
We had a shipmate by the name of Johnson a BT2 from Knoxville, Tenn. He was aboard another ship that was close to the Bikini Island when they did the nuclear test. He said they were told to put both arms over their eyes, when the explosion occured. Well when it did go
off, he said that he could see the bones in his arms just like he was looking at an xray. He showed me that his ankles had holes in them. He was at the doctors a lot and was transferred
to a base in the southeast to finish his enlistment.
Now I know he had cancer. He was an avid poker player and around payday he would be up for days. My rack was above his so he would put a wad of money under my pillow for me to watch while he showered. Some times it would be 3500 dollars or more you could buy a new car for less than that. He would always send it to his mother. He loved peanut butter so much so that he would stand by a 48 hour liberty for a loaf of bread and a quart of peanut butter.
LARRY HIGHTOWER, BOILER TENDER 2ND CLASS PETTY OFFICER
A LITTLE SOMETHING WRITTEN BY A NAVY GUY
We know, for example, that after a lifetime of camaraderie that few experience, it will remain as a longing for those past times. We know in the Military life there is a fellowship, which lasts long after the uniforms are hung up in the back of the closet. We know even if he throws them away, they will be on him with every step and breath that remains in his life. We also know how the very bearing of the man speaks of what he was and in his heart still is.
These are the burdens of the job. You will still look at people suspiciously, still see what others do not see or choose to ignore and always will look at the rest of the Military world with a respect for what they do; only grown in a lifetime of knowing.
Never think for one moment you are escaping from that life. You are only escaping the "job" and merely being allowed to leave "active" duty.>So what I wish for you is that whenever you ease into retirement, in your heart you never forget for one moment that "Blessed are the Peacemakers for they shall be called children of God," and you are still a member of the greatest fraternity the world has ever known.
DAVE HAWKINS GUNNERS MATE 3RD CLASS PETTY OFFICER
AE15 March 2008 Up-Date
"What do you mean, the horn doesn't sound right?" This was the question I asked my First Class when he asked me to remove the Vesuvius' horn. The Captain didn't like the way it sounded the last time it was blown.
I was dreading working on it because of the limited space in the stack and the slender ladder and small platform under it. It was tight, hot and sweaty work just to get to it, much less remove it. The horn had been there since 1944 and probably had never been removed since it was installed. The excess paint and rust, plus the steam valves being unturned in twenty years made this process slow.
Four hours into the job, I had finally pried this bullfrog-sounding horn from its resting place. With the help of a man with a rope, we carried the horn to the boathouse shop to bedisassembled.
Begrudgingly it came apart and the fear set in on me. I knew if! I couldn’t repair it we couldn’t get underway again. As the horn teardown proceeded, it was apparent how it worked. It was a high-pressure steam-operated horn where steam shot through a nozzle and hit four 12-inch round plates that vibrated against each other to give that low eerie sound. What had happened was that crud had built up on the plates and the four discs weren't vibrating properly. With the four discs removed, we cleaned and shined each one up, but this wasn't good enough for Chief Ables. He wanted them blued to see if they were touching each other properly. Finding out they wouldn't touch properly, we spent the next four days grinding then against each other with a red grinding compound until they were shiny as new dollars. We reassembled and reinstalled the horn and stood with our fingers crossed.
Chief Ables called to the Con for a test to be run on the horn. What a beautiful sound as they blasted it three times! I was very proud after I stopped shaking. How many sailors got a chance to work on the Vesuvius' horn in her lifetime?
"What the hell was that," I thought as the deck shuddered under my feet as I was walking forward by the Number One hole. As GQ started sounding, I thought it felt like an explosion. Sailors were running everywhere to their battle stations. Steam was coming out of the engine room while snipes boiled out of the hatch as fast as their feet would carry them. My station was DC Central and with the headphones on, I quickly heard that there was an explosion in the engine room.
A JG Engineering officer had just come aboard days before and was down on the lower deck of the engine room studying the piping and machinery so he could better understand the workings of the Vesuvius. What an initiation! Thank God he was on the port side when the explosion happened. Not knowing he was there, sailors had abandoned the lower deck, leaving him there alone. He was lucky enough to remember seeing an escape ladder as he had passed around the starboard side. He located it and was lucky to get out on his own.
We had lost a large exhaust valve on the Number One generator as they were switching over to Number Two. Someone had either opened or closed a valve too fast; causing the explosion that had disintegrated the valve in one of the sailors' hands. How he walked away is a mystery to me. It had cut valve stems off like a knife through hot butter. It had lifted deck plates, blown men up the stairways and filled the whole engine room with high-pressure steam. We lost electricity immediately and the Vesuvius was stopped dead in her tracks. We immediately swung in to the wave troughs and were rocked back and forth for the next several hours. We were back under way when the blown area was sealed off and steam generated so we could make four knots into the wind.
We were really lucky that day that no one ended up in the walk-in freezer. It took three months to locate another valve and install it so Number One generator could be put back on line. After getting out of the Navy, I was in Memphis, Tennessee and drove by the Tri-State Valve Company and damned if a valve like ours wasn't on display at their front door!
"How would you fellows like to move?" Chief Ables, along with the Lt. J. G. and First Class Machinist Mate of A Division asked this question at a hastily called meeting on the mess deck. You see, with the Viet N am War cranking up, the Seventh Fleet bigwigs had decided the Vesuvius should come up to battle capacity. This really meant that there were going to be more bodies than bunks. It was either sleeping in shifts on somebody else's sweaty sheets or clearing out of after berthing. We thought that this could be a good thing, even as good as the officers' setup. We all knew that this had been thought out ahead of time by our three department heads. It would make the J. G. and A Division look good. So our adventure was on.
Over the next week we pieced together aluminum bed frames, chains, canvas, bolts, nuts and rope along with some stolen lockers. In no time, A Division was out in its own workspaces. Three other shipmates and I were lucky enough to get # 4 Fan Room on the mess deck. We got first shot at the coffee and the breakfast line, but it was a long way for a shower. If we turned an inspection plate on the cooling coil, we had air conditioning, a desired commodity that was mostly for the ammo holes. The move turned out okay for me, and #4 Fan Room was my home until I shipped out to civilian life.
Like Roger Korth, we also fished from the fantail of the Vesuvius. We fished as we putted along on station, doing eight to ten knots. We had a home made fly that was about eight inches long attached to a six-foot wire leader. To this rig we attached a roll of orange cord that we used to shoot over to other ships when replenishing ammo.
Sometimes we tied two rolls together, putting the bouncing fly out of sight. A rubber band like the one used to cord off your arm when taking blood was attached four to five feet out on the orange line and drawn back to the fantail railing. You could tell when a fish struck the bait because the rubber band would stretch out to ninety degrees and stay rather than bouncing free with the waves. We would have had to hand walk the fish in, wearing us out quickly. Many hands were needed to land the catch. The fish was usually a Mahi Mahi that ended up in the Filipino cooks' possession.
We caught sand sharks and croakers in Frisco Bay, but the best place to fish was under the lights of the boat boom in San Diego Harbor at night. We caught mackerel with cut sardines as fast as we could bait our hooks. The water was black with fish. We ran through a five-gallon bucket of bait and had to send someone over for more.
I once caught a 15-pound pilot fish in Guam on a piece of breakfast ham just as we were getting underway. This is a fish that attaches itself to a shark's belly and jumps off to get scraps. When I finally hand walked him aboard, I stuck him on the back of a shirtless young deckhand and the fish's large suction cup grabbed a good hold. You never heard so much hollering! By the time I ran my finger under the suction cup to break the fish's hold, the fellow was in tears. Everyone got a good laugh, but I felt bad when I realized how scared he was.
We had a captain who would take the Vesuvius' gig crew out to deep-sea fish but they never seemed to catch anything. He always seemed to have a hard time getting back up the gangway. He was a good man, a good steamer who liked liberty as much as the crew did. Good memories.
There was a young machinist in A Division whose name escapes me. He was in charge of the machine shop. The chief had put him in charge of running the lathe and taking care of all the ship's tools. We all thought he was really too young to be experienced enough to do the job. He changed our minds after doing one job for the ship.
For the better part of a year, the fuel pump for the liberty boats had grown weaker and weaker, even after the pressure relief return line had been throttled back to '"no flow". It would take forever to fill up a near-empty boat. It finally got so bad that something had to be done. We knew finding a part and having it shipped overseas to the Vesuvius was not a good solution to the problem. Chief Ables ordered us to remove the pump and take it to the kid in the machine shop. He would have to make us two new gears. The pump's two main drive gears were so worn that the fuel would slip back through the teeth as fast as the pump would push it out. We all thought this was going to be a big waste of time.
The kid measured the gears and the pump housing. He removed a four-inch round brass rod from his stockpile, placed it in the lathe and began to cut away. In two days he called asking us to reassemble the pump. He gave us two bright shiny gears that looked as if they were new from the factory. After two hours the pump was back together and installed. All gathered to watch the results of the kid's work.
A liberty boat was brought alongside the Vesuvius and we lowered the nozzle and hose down the starboard side. The boat engineer put the nozzle in and called for us to turn on the pump. We pushed the button and the fuel began to flow. The liberty boat's tank was topped often nothing flat. When the engineer released the nozzle handle, it was only seconds before the hose exploded, sending fuel all over the deck. We had forgotten to open the reliefline to recirculate the fuel back into the tanks when the nozzle was closed. After cleaning up the mess and repairing the hose, all was back to normal. The kid in the machine shop gained respect from all of us for a job well done. We would never doubt his ability again.
If you had to share your air conditioner with the #3 special weapons hole, there was no contest when it came to knowing who had top priority As all who serve aboard ammunition ships know, the cooling is for what? THE AMMO wins every time. This was the problem with our chiefs’ sleeping quarters aboard the Vesuvius. The choice was to keep the chiefs happy and cool or to cool the atomic weapons. As you would guess, our chiefs were stewing in their own juices most of the time. Everyone aboard had more cooling time than the chiefs ever had.
Hearing grown men cry all the time finally got to our First Class, and he came up with a plan to make our life easier. We would cool off Chief Ables’ sleeping quarters. We would cumshaw enough parts to make an air conditioner for our ship so the chiefs would have air all to themselves. For those not knowing the definition of cumshaw, it is stealing. Well, maybe not that harsh. It is a Navy slang word that means to get something for nothing. In our case, it was to beg, borrow, steal or trade until our mission was accomplished. We sacked up coffee in one pound bags and headed for the Subic Bay motor pool in two groups. We checked out a stake-bodied truck and dropped three guys at the airport with our coffee contraband. They were to fly ahead of us to scout out Clark Air Force Base. They had collected most of the equipment by the time we arrived with the truck. They found all except a thermostatic valve to regulate the condenser water flow.
It was around 12 o’ clock so we all decided to eat an Air Force meal. This was when we found out that they ate a little better than we Navy boys. We took our seats and were served by waiters. They were not civilian waiters, but Air Force personnel. After eating, it was the custom to leave a dime tip to be split among the waiters. This was something I missed out on when I was washing dishes in the scullery on the Vesuvius all those months. I guess the Navy had ever heard of the dime tip. It would have come in handy on liberty call.
Back to my story. After lunch we located a valve. It ended up costing our last 25 pounds of coffee. The Air Force boys did add a bunch of obsolete airplane wrenches to the deal. They were some of the weirdest shaped tools I have ever seen. I guess they were made to reach behind things to tighten a nut. We loaded up all the men on the truck and headed back to Subic. Nobody wanted to fly back because the airplane was backfiring, and barely cleared the mountains on the way up. When we arrived dockside we loaded everything on the landing craft and motored out to the Vesuvius. We winched our load aboard on the starboard side by the #3 hatch. The next morning it took six men most of the day to get the unit in place on the rear bulkhead of the chiefs’ quarters. Over the next few days we ran water pipes, drain pipes and electricity to this machine. With the salt water flowing through our new valve to the condenser, we threw the switch and this Frankenstein came alive. It puffed out a white fog, and from that day on it was blanket city for the chiefs’ pad. No more bitching about being hot; the question asked was, “Can’t you turn it up some?” We never could level it out, even working with the thermostat. It was just too much air for the space. The Vesuvius now had happy and frosty chiefs.
"I can't stop the boat!" This was finally heard on the fourth pass of our liberty boat by the gangway. I had never seen our boat run quite that fast before. The call went out for Chief Ables to report to the O.D. as quickly as possible. We had experimental motors on our boats, and it appeared that we had a runaway boat that would not respond to any type of cutoff.
The chief ran to the boat boom with a coxswain, they boarded our other liberty boat and the chase was on. The chief's boat could not catch the runaway on a straight line. The coxswain on the runaway started a wide circling maneuver. The chief with towel in hand timed the meeting as the boats overtook one another, and jumped aboard. A cheer went up from the deck of the Vesuvius from the hundreds of sailors gathered to see what was going on. Chief Ables shoved the towel into the engine's air intake, choking out the engine. This happened once more during our cruise, but by then we had installed a fuel cutoff and welded a wire screen over the intake manifold so rags couldn't be sucked into the engine when they were used to choke off the air.
When I came aboard as a MMFN, one of my day jobs was boat engineer when in port. I had several weird things happen while on this duty. I fell in to Kagoshima Bay when I stepped on a boat fender and turned my ankle. I can't tell you how I smelled after falling in that water! I fell off the Vesuvius boat boom twice ... not that I was clumsy, but the cable came apart at the weld and dumped me. Oh yes, I did try climbing the cable as I was falling through the air, but it didn't work either time. I lost two hats in these falls. I was almost crushed to death while holding the gangway in rough seas. I was pulled over the side by my ring and hung by my finger on the side of the gangway. When the liberty boat smashed me, it knocked the breath out of me; if the coxswain had not lifted me aboard, I would have surely been killed on the next wave. I ended up with a finger cut to the bone and bruises all over. Otherwise, I was happy to be alive.
A funny thing happened in Yokuska once. We used the old WWII landing crafts as liberty boats there. One night when returning to the ship with a full load of drunk sailors, our coxswain got off course. We hit a large float that ships tie to, head on. It stopped us cold in our tracks. Sailors went everywhere. I don't know how we got off course so badly in the dark; we used ships' lights to navigate. We had made the trip dozens of times, but apparently one of the ships had left port. We all had a good laugh and the coxswain that lost his way never lived that one down.
Another tale about our liberty boats was when our exhaust pipes went bad. Our First Class Machinist Mate picked up two new pipes and had them delivered. They were made of molybdenum steel. Someone had miss- measured the lengths. When installed, they stuck out from the rear of the boat two feet. They would have to be cut off, but we were out to sea by then. We were left with only hacksaws to do the job. He told us to saw them off and marked with a black stencil pencil where he wanted them cut. Easy for him to say! We used every hacksaw blade available, cutting in teams of two. It only took a week to complete the task. The exhausted crew never wanted to see a hacksaw blade again! So much for boat tales, but I still say that our Captain’s boat could outrun all of the boats in West Pac.
Things that stuck in my mind:
The first sight I had of the Vesuvius was when I came on board in Yokuska.
The last salute to her flag and the last walk down her gangway for me was at Port Chicago
First time going under the Golden Gate Bridge
Tossing my hat over the side on the last time under the Golden Gate Bridge
The Japanese, Pilipino and Chinese people and their countries
The first sight of the USS Arizona BB39 lying on the bottom at Berth F7 still
bleeding after 24 years
The Chief and the BM2 that were there December 7th
The hedgehog that accidentally fired at Pearl from a destroyer
A long blue whale that went beneath the Vesuvius in the middle of the Pacific
An enormous sunfish we passed by on our port side
My first Christmas aboard on the fantail in the dark looking at the lights of Yokuska and feeling lonesome
Two different fires aboard the Vesuvius and how fast sailors can move on an ammo ship when that word comes over the speaker
The morning in Subic Bay when I was awakened by two sailors saying that President Kennedy had been shot
The green waters of Guam and the snakes in the water
The nutty sailors that crawled down the anchor chain to take a swim
The first carrier that came alongside for ammo
Harry A. Thomas' wedding at Concord with me in a tuxedo for the first time
My first lobster meal on board the Vesuvius; I had never seen one, much less eaten one
The captain screaming at the XO to get his ass over the side to see if a cable could be removed from the Vesuvius' screw. (The XO ended up at Guantanamo Cuba a little after that)
The first typhoon we were in with the sea so rough no one could go forward of the superstructure
First time getting seasick
The eerie glow around the Vesuvius' hull as we cut through the water at night with no moon out.
The two thousand pound bomb we dropped by the #4 hole from about ten feet up
The sailor we yanked off of the DLG while passing ammo across. We thought he was a goner when the colon bag line lifted him up as the ships rocked apart and dunked him over board and out of sight as we rocked toward each other. On the next rock back he was on top of the bag. He ended up back on their deck. He was wet but happy to be alive.
The bombs we dropped under water while replenishing a carrier. You could hear them banging against each other under water!
The time off North Viet Nam when a shore battery took a shot at us while we replenished a carrier. We cut and ran out to sea as the rest of the ships blew the mountainside away where the smoke ring was left. The carrier's planes were bombing the battery as we motored over the horizon, never to get that close to shore again
A young BT sailor named Royal Dano, Jr. telling us he lived by Steve McQueen, who would wake his family up all the time with his motorcycle. I thought he was telling a big yarn but it turned out his Dad was a movie star (170 movies) and they did live down the street from McQueen!
One of our shipmates getting married using a stand-in while he was overseas
One sailor losing his dad and having to go home to take over a large sugar beet
farm for the family
All the good times on liberty, dancing and partying
Missing all of my shipmates after getting out
Being on the fantail at night at sea. What a good place to do some serious thinking
My first taste of San Miguel beer
Making MM2 without a whisker on my face!
IRA A. STOKER, MACHINIST MATE, 2ND CLASS PETTY OFICER
APRIL 29, 2006
I was aboard the Mona-Kea AE-22 the last part of 63. Picked her ( "V" ) up in Guam, after flying all over the pacific looking for her. Did you ever spend 8 hrs in a C- 130, 3 different times in 2 weeks ? From Tachakowa air base in Japan to Guam and back.
After I was aboard for a couple of months we headed for Port Chi, I hadn't been home for 3 yrs. After we got in, I never made it past the Bank Club, I spoke better Japanese than I did English!After we off loaded everything, ( all AMMO ) We headed for Bremerton, Washington to go in to the Yards for the fast transfer system.
What a High that trip was for me. When we hit the sound the Pilot came aboard and said he wanted the best Helmsman aboard to go up the sound. The Quartermaster LT. Johnson called me to the Bridge and the Pilot quizzed me on what I knew about steering the ship. Then, he told me what he wanted from me and what his commands would be and what I should do. Then he told every one on the Bridge to keep quiet.When we started, he gave the same instructions to the engine telegraph seaman.
WOW! what a trip that was he ( the pilot) ran from side bridge to side bridge watching the Buoys and shouting commands all the way up the sound. Like I said it was a high for me, I guess I'm a little strange But, I'll never for get it. I left for Port Chi and the "V" a few weeks later then we headed for west pac with a full load to the P I. Good times for sure.
DAVE HINTINTERMISTER BOATSWAIN MATE, 3RD CLASS PETTY OFFICER
From: Harry Flood Sent: Wednesday, August 23, 2006 2:29 PM Subject: Death of former Vesuvius XO
CDR Frank John Zwolinski has passed away. I read his name in the "In Memoriam" section of the July issue of the "Military Officer", the Military Officers Association Monthly Magazine.Frank was an LDO (an ex BM) and the XO in 64/65>In early 65, while attached to the USS Currituck (AV-7),
I received orders to report to the Vesuvius as the Supply Officer. I arrived in Subic to await the Vesuvius, which was at sea. Due to a drastic change in climate, I developed a bad case of "Jock Itch" or heat rash, if you will.
Immediately upon reporting abroad, I went the see Chief Stahely, our corpsman. He gave me sympathy, cotton swabs and a small bottle of medicine with instructions to swab the effected area after showering that night. I did so, and immediately thought my gonads were on fire. I rushed back into the shower, which was adjacent of my stateroom, and attempted to rinse off the medication to no avail. I then rushed back in my stateroom and proceeded to fan myself with a towel to cool things off. At that point, CDR Zwolinski. without a word, threw back the curtain (there were no doors on the staterooms) and started to enter. There I was, hopping up and down, stark naked, fanning myself and the look on his face said it all. He must have been thinking "My God, what have they sent us for a Supply Officer". That was my introduction to CDR Zwolinski.
The next morning, I tried to complain to Chief Stahely about the treatment between his fits of laughter.Occasionally, at sea, CDR Zwolinski would waltz into the wardroom in his underwear, scratching his crotch, to watch the movie. He did it on our first night in port stateside after a long deployment, only to be confronted by a couple of wives of officers that had the duty. Didn't faze him a bit. He just said "Oops, Pardon me" and did a one eighty and left.
I remember on one occasion, when in a temper over something or other (I can't recall the problem), I went into his cabin and pounded on his desk to complain. Big mistake. He cut my legs off at the kneecap. All in all, he was a good XO.
HARRY FLOOD 65-66, SUPPLY OFFICER, LIEUTENANT
CDR FRANK ZWOLINSKI
From: Dave Hint Sent: Tuesday, August 29, 2006 12:20 PM Subject: RE: AE15-Last Voyage
Commander " SKI" was quite the XO. A bunch of us got in trouble in SUBIC. He gave us hell, restricted us to the ship so we missed the 72 hr tour to MANILA. So we were playing pinochle on #4 hatch about 1500 on Sat. when, along comes COMMANDER SKI who says " what the hell are you men doing on board?" He's shouting at us from the signal bridge, we told him he restricted us, he shouts " that was to keep you out of jail in MANILA"! you can still go on liberty. With out another word we all went below jumped in to our whites and were on the next boat. YEA HE WAS A NEAT XO.
DAVE HINTERMISTER 64-66 BOATSWAIN MATE, PETTY OFFICER 3RD CLASS
I was in the Naval Reserves since I was 16 years old and had just completed college when I started thinking of joining the regular Navy. Meantime, I was caught speeding on a motorcycle in Hawii in a 25 mph zone. The judge helped me to make up my mind as to whether or not to join the regular Navy.
Since I had already gone through boot camp when I joined the reserves, I was assigned directly to the AE15 USS Vesuvius as RDSN. I made two trips to Vietnam and left he ship as a RD3.
I remember us avoiding a head on collision with one of our patrol boats.She was about two miles out when it was discovered that she was on a collision course with us. We were sent to General Quarters as our signalmen tried to pass the word to the on-coming ship with the signal light .However, they could not get a response from her. So the word was passed to one of the forward, 3 inch gun crews to give her a bow shot. No sooner had the gun cracked, when they responded and changed course. All was quiet for a while after that!
BOB KORTE RADIOMAN 3RD CLASS PETTY OFFICER
WORDS OF WISDOM
" Isn't it amazing how different the Navy is from other branches? Here we are bonded by a mass of metal named Vesuvius who is long departed, but brought us together as a band of brothers over three wars! I'm proud to be a part of the band, brothers!!" Roger P. Korth 65-67:
WE ARE WHAT WE EAT OR DRINK
One day while on Shore Patrol I happened to return a young gob from a mud-puddle somewhere in Olonagapo. It was obvious he had been enjoying the fruits of his liberty. His speech was incoherent and from his looks he had obviously been in a fight. The caked blood on his uniform attested to his plight and the missing tooth was mute testimony to his efforts. His wallet was empty and if it hadn't been for his ships patch we might not have known where he was from. He slowly sobered up as he sat in the Shore Patrol headquarters just outside the main gate. Finally he was able to relate the following tale of woe.
He had hit the beach with over $50 bucks which was quite a handful in those days. He was intent on getting drunk and desired female companionship. Now he wasn't sure whether he had been successful in his mating process, but I can attest to his drinking prowess. He remembered eating monkey, or dog meat on the sticks they sold at the carts that roamed the streets, but he wasn't certain of his luck in securing female friendship. He didn't remember the fight or missing tooth or how he wound up in the puddle. He wasn't sure about the $50 bucks or what happened to him, but suddenly I was his best friend as I helped load him on the van that was going to return him to his ship.
Boy they were fun days weren't they?
BATTEN DOWN THE HATCHES
I came by my rating through heredity. I was destined to be a Storekeeper long before I could walk. One of my earliest photographs shows me in the arms of my father in uniform. He was a Storekeeper 1st class aboard the USS Princeton during WWII. He was in the Med and I was in the South China Seas.
My father owned his own meat truck and made deliveries all over Long Island, New York. Growing up I was "forced" to go with him and load the truck. If anyone knew how to pack...it was my father. I thought I learned well. At least I paid attention and took my job very seriously. It only seemed natural to strike for Storekeeper when I entered the Navy. How good I was is subject to question, but the one thing I knew how to do was "shore up," batten down," "wedge in," "stuff," "anchor," and "lash down." Or so I thought...
We were heading to Hong Kong for a paint job empty once and I was "Jack O the Dust". Not only did I run the ships store but I had the frozen provisions in one of my reefers.(In those days reefers were freezers) Knowing full and well a typhoon was heading for us I turned too. I used every piece of rope, line or nylon I could find. I wedged every frozen box as tight as humanly possible. NOTHING was going to break loose!!!
When men started falling out of their racks and had to strap themselves in, I realized I was in trouble. Three days later when peaceful seas returned and I was able to check my lockers, all hell had broken loose. What had been neatly stacked high rows of secured c! rates, boxes, cartons and tins was now a 4 foot high wall of dented broken stuff.
I certainly couldn't say I had nothing to do for the next few days. While the sleeping compartments were being swabbed clean I was trying to figure out what went where. The bottom line is NEVER underestimate the power of a typhoon.
EXECUTIVE OFFICERS FLOAT
I've waited almost 40 years to tell this tale but think it’s about time to share it with those who weren't fortunate enough to be aboard the Mighty V in early 67. We were just about to depart for West Pac again but had to go to San Diego for "degaussing" (whatever the hell that was).
As we steamed into port I was the lookout and telephone talker on the forecastle. We were all dressed in our best whites as recollection serves and every free man was topside watching the sights. As we headed in I mentioned to the bridge that there were seaplane buoys dead ahead about 500 yards and received an "aye aye" in return. I repeated the hazard at the 400 and 300 yard mark and again received confirmation. At the 200 and 100 yard mark I again reported our position and once again received acknowledgment. As we steamed over the first buoy I told the con that we had run over it and there was another buoy dead ahead. Well.....we hit the second one too. A passing Japanese freighter was kind enough to inform us over his loudspeaker that; "Amelican ship yu run over buoys," so naturally we dipped our colors to them. (Apparently quite a taboo)
Suddenly we were told to drop the anchor while we were still steaming. The Chief Boatswain mate looked at me and repeated the command questioningly and I confirmed it. Well anchors were aweigh. The chain continued to race off as we tried to reverse engines and we started to turn sideways in the channel. We soon reached the yellow chain indicating we were getting near the end. When the chain turned red we abandoned the forecastle and my earphones were dropped unceremoniously as we ducked. As we came to a halt the next thing I heard was my name called over the bullhorn and I was ordered to the bridge by the Captain himself. As I arrived I joined the line that was made up of the con talker, the helmsman, me and the Executive Officer who was in command. The Captain paced back and forth and confirmed the events that led up to this debacle.
Single file we left the bridge and walked to the stern. As we looked over we saw the buoy chain wrapped around the screw. The Captain told the Executive Officer, to get down there and get it off. We figured he'd get in the launch we were lowering but he jumped off the fantail right into the drink. From the way he started to shiver as he sat on the rudder we assumed the water was still cold in San Diego in February or March. His hat started to drift away but the launch retrieved it. As best as I can remember the boat contained a gunners mate, two or three boatswain mates, a diver and a junior officer. We manned the rail and watched in silent humor as this performance unfolded. The Exec was wrapped in a blanket and sat there shivering as the chain was unwound.
The funny part was when they were about to raise the boat and bring everyone back on board. Technically....we were still out at sea since we had never hooked up to docked facilities. As the boat was raised, which just happened to be besides the Chiefs quarters, someone flushed the toilet and the waste landed in the boat on top of the Executive Officer and his blanket. There was a tremendous amount of gagging in that boat and uproarious laughter from us who were watching from deck. Toilet paper looked funny hanging from the gunner’s rifle and those cute little brown turds floating on the deck.
The Executive Officer was never recommended for promotion after that I much later found out. And no......I won't mention his name, because he might still be with us. Wherever he is, I hope he found something he could do better.
Back in 66 we were in Port Chicago off loading what was left aboard as we were going to head for Bremerton for some hull work to fix our seams and do some other repairs. In order to have some ballast it was decided that we would load some of the crew’s cars since we were scheduled to be up there for more than two months.
The pier was lined with cars to be transported and the first to be boarded was hoisted on the winch outside number two hold. It was a bit of an older vehicle and a clunker at that, but everyone was standing by as it was lifted into the air. It swung wide and high as it was lifted and suddenly it swung back into the ship. The fender fell off along with some bumper parts, landing with a crash on the dock and a gaping hole and dent appeared well above the waterline as the process continued. To this day I don't remember if the cars were all loaded, but I remember the messenger from the Quarterdeck found me and informed me that the Captain wanted to see me immediately.
Being his driver this wasn't a surprise. But what was, was when he handed me about seven or eight $20. Dollar bills and told me he'd see me in Bremerton in about three days. I changed into my dress blues and packed my ditty bag for the trip. His car and I were on the dock when the Vesuvius arrived.
One day while we were in the Philippines reloading I went on liberty. While wandering through town minding my own business I found I was out of pesos and found a storefront money changer. I handed him a $10.00 bill and received what I thought was the exchange currency. As I walked away.... being totally sober, I checked and noticed I had received some WWII occupation money from the Japanese government. I confronted him and suddenly he couldn't speak English. I was miffed to put it mildly and found a local policeman. Had I known what Philippine justice was, I would have kept my mouth shut.
Two cops grabbed the guy and hustled the two of us off to the local hoosegow where they stripped him and jailed him immediately. I was held for the Shore Patrol and was informed I would have to testify against him in court in the next day or two. I was to be confined to base and I asked if the word could be gotten to the ship that I was in custody. Being assured everything was "under control" I was assigned a bunk in the enlisted men’s barracks and as a third class PO was assigned Shore Patrol for the remainder of time ashore. Until his "trial".....I walked the streets of Olonagpo, smelly, but still officially on duty.
After the third day, his trial ended. I was given a note from the commander stating where I had been and was bussed back to the ship tied up near Grande Island. As I approached the Quarterdeck, the same XO from my other tale, came running along the deck yelling like a madman that I was on report. Not once, or twice, but repeatedly as he pointed. I no sooner saluted the Ensign and the OOD and I was whisked topside to the Captains cabin for Captains Mast. The Exec banged on the door and we were admitted. Granted, I looked like hell after three days in the same uniform, the Exec kept yelling at the CO that I was AWOL. The Captain, being a reasonable man, and having had me as his driver for some time, nicely asked me what had happened and where I had been.
I snapped to attention and presented him with the document showing that I had been standing duty for the past three days on base as a "guest" of the commander. I was dismissed and asked to close the door behind me as I departed. The last thing I heard as I descended the ladder were loud curse words directed to the XO about not finding out what the hell happened before he had brought me to Mast. I don't think the Exec and I ever exchanged words again after that day
I doubt if many men "volunteered" to serve on an ammunition ship. I like to think it was the luck of the draw, or maybe our opportunity to see what hell might be like when we were still on earth. The mere thought of an ammunition ship conjures up thoughts of a big boom.
The most scared I think I ever was besides being assigned to the Vesuvius in the first place was when we were on station off the coast of Vietnam replenishing a carrier. We were about half-way through the transfer when one of the winches broke with what I believe was two or three large high drag booms on the way. Naturally they broke on our side, and the bombs were dragging along our port side as the emergency "breakaway" commenced.
I was the fantail talker at the time and was standing along the rail in constant communication with the Con as the bombs edged further and further back. Now only being a lowly Storekeeper and a city boy to boot, I'm not familiar with guns, ammunition or what might happen if the bombs hit the screw. However.......not being overly stupid either......it just dawned on me that had a turning screw struck a large bomb, the results could resemble our namesake in Italy. And who knows where Pompeii is today!!!
From the bridge they couldn't see just how close the bombs were getting to the screw but I sure as hell could, and let them know foot by foot and inch by inch. They always told us that if we were in the water less then three miles away if the ship blew the concussion would kill us anyway. I was a strong swimmer but didn't want to be the first to abandon ship. That South China Sea water is so damn clear I couldn't miss a thing. Every time they smacked the hull I figured that was it. Finally one of the bombs broke loose and started its descent into the deep. I kept picturing a depth charge about to blow somewhere astern but it never happened.
I'm sure these were all WWII and Korean War leftovers we were still carrying and wasn't sure how volatile they might be, but I sure as hell didn't want to find out. The good news was the loss of the one bomb allowed the winch to be able to start to retrieve the other ones and slowly but surely they started heading forward and were able to be decked. The carrier watched our progress from a safe distance while I swear that we were less than 4 foot from eternity
The Vesuvius was always blessed with an interesting lot of characters. Coming aboard as a Seaman and first assigned to the deck force I met Perkins. Perkins was a rotund BM1 who smoked 5 packs of Raleigh's a day and kept the coupons. What he lacked in speed due to his girth he made up for with his skills as a marksman with a sling shot.
Perkins should have been a professional fisherman, but apparently the Navy stood in his way. Being ever resourceful however, Perkins devised a method of fishing from the Vesuvius. An on-board machinist named Kline manufactured a suitable hook, and with a hunk of spoiled meat and 3/8 inch nylon rope, Perkins trolled the Pacific. One day as the Vesuvius was returning to Subic Bay, Dave Hintermeister BM3, related the tale of Perkins hooking something off the fantail that fought like crazy. We were about a mile out and traveling about 6 knots when this incident occurred. They took a turn around the capstan and brought it in to about 20 or 30 feet waiting for it to surface. It finally broke the rope unseen and Perkins went berserk. Whatever it was, we wouldn't have wanted it aboard anyway if it was that big.
I recall off the coast of Vietnam he had let out I'd guess about 500 foot of rope and was trolling. He had a little rubber tube attached to act as a shock absorber. I think it was Regerrio, another 3rd class BM who pulled in his line and attached a 5 gallon paint bucket to it. He let it drift back out and when it was taut we yelled to Perkins that he had "hooked" something big. Perkins lumbered slowly back to the fantail and put his leather gloves on as he manned the rope and slowly but surely hand over hand pulled in his "fish." When he finally got it close enough that he could make out what it was he went crazy. The culprit who had committed the crime ran like crazy as Perkins retrieved his slingshot and went in pursuit.
Of course when he let the line go the bucket and 500 foot of rope disappeared back into the wake and we yelled at him that his "fish" was getting away. All that work and effort wasted, and when he finally calmed down he had to return and pull his bucket back in. However....this time the fantail was vacant except for the phone talker and the cursing Boatswain mate.
ROGER KORTH, STOREKEEPER, 3rd CLASS PETTY OFFICER
May 15, 2004
Both John Bruce, a, “by the book” Boatswain mate and Gary Tharinger, who looked like Bluto, “Popeye the sailor's foe” : a big guy with black beard but who was gentle as a lamb, were always playing pranks on each other.I remember when John got two fresh eggs from the mess deck at night and put them in Gary's shinny boots. The next morning when Gary pulled his boots on, “OH WOW!” was he mad! Bruce used take pride in keeping his bunk spotless. He kept his bunk and gear ,”ship-shape”. Well, we had just completed passing ammo to the New Jersey when Gary, who had been waiting for a break, snuck down into the compartment and grabbed all of John’s bedding from his bunk and carried it up to the 3rd deck, underneath the bridge, where the empty silk powder canisters from the USS New Jersey were located. Gary then, opened one of the canister and stuffed John’s bedding into it. When we told John where Garry had put his bedding, he went up there in the middle of the night with a flashlight looking through the canisters for his bedding. John got even by taking Gary's bedding and throwing it down into the very bottom of no. 3 hold. When Gary got back from the movies he discovered that his stuff was gone so now, there was old Gary out there with a flashlight trying to retrieve his stuff.
One time John was in the shower and almost finished, old Gary opened the shower curtain and started peeing on the back of John's leg. At first John didn't realize it until he felt something warm on his leg. John turned and saw what was happening and yelled, " son of a bitch"! Old Gary just stood there laughing!I told all of those stories to Chad, John's son, who was stationed at Fort bliss in El Passo, TX. and he got a bang out of them! He said, "I didn't know that my dad was like that.” Chad was the spitting image of his dad.
When I finished High School at the age of 17, I went to work as a machinist for Mr. Congdon, an Engineer. One day he said, “I understand that you are going into the Navy? Well, I served in the Navy and made Warrant Officer so let me give you some advice; always do a good job no matter how dirty the job may be." By golly he was right! Scratch their backs and they will scratch yours.
They used to call me," rackets" because I would give ammo to the officers and the Chiefs when we came into our home port, Concord, CA. So, in return, they would do me favors such as: I always got best watch duty, sandwiches, liberty, clean clothes, etc. Sometimes the Chief would ask, “aren't you going on liberty? ” And I would say, “No, I don't have clean whites!” Then he would say,“ Give them to my laundry man and he will clean, starch and press them for you.” And then, by the time I would shit, shower and shave they would be hanging from a hangar at my bunk as if they had just come from a professional cleaners. Man that was Great !
RICHARD PEREZ FIRST CLASS GUNNER'S M ATE 1966-70
A TENSE MOMENT
We had a kid aboard the USS Vesuvius, who came down with appendicitis and had to be evacuated. They sent a chopper to take him off. We were expecting a big huey but they sent a small chopper with ski's but no winch. I think it was a army chopper. When it came over us, it flew along side the fan tail for pick up. We tried to pass him over to them but couldn't quite make it. All the poor kid could see was the water boiling from the propeller. You could see the look of terror in his eyes. After several failed tries, the pilot waved us off and flew away to reposition.
When he returned, he actually set the chopper on the hand rail of the fantail with the prop just missing the aft gun tub. All of the while, three or four ship fitters and myself, who were manning the fire hoses, watched nervously as the transfer was finally made. I will never forget the look on the chief's face, when one of the skis got hung under the hand rail as the chopper tried to lift off . A tense moment, but the pilot handled it well. He calmly waited for the fantail to rise in the waves so he could dip the nose of the chopper forward, freeing him to back out and fly away. It went so well that it looked as if it had been planned that way.
What a cool pilot! I think anyone involved in that incident will certainly always remember it. I’m sorry that I can't remember the names of all involved but maybe somebody else will.
PAUL MCATEE SF3 68-70
Timothy Crlenjak (serlenjak) alias: the counselor, crackerjack, sirloinjak, circle. . .OK, that's enough!
Yo, people, I served on the Mighty V from 1969 to '73, three deployments: 6 months, 8 months, 13 months. Remember the 36 hour unrep: carriers to the horizon? Riding out the typhoon in Hong Kong harbor? The pallet of Willie Peter that smashed open resulting in the fastest, motivated work party that I ever saw as smoking canisters went over the side. Nice work if you can get it.
As FTG Strenge said: "If dunnage is outlawed, only outlaws will have dunnage." Does anybody remember Bangkok, where the tough guys tumbled and the Emerald Buddha revealed the lyrics to "Louie, Louie?."
Still crazy after all these years. All the best to our buds on the Paricutin, Haleakala, and all the rest. Clear sailing and a tail wind to all.
New Writer of the Purple Rage, Livid in the USA
Taken from the AE15 2005 Nov. Up-Date
While aboard the Vesuvius the deck apes, who were clearing the holds of pallets and dunnage, discovered a cargo they had not been expecting. A few tropical snakes had decided to hitch a ride and stowaway in the hold. Apparently they had been feasting off of some other unwanted stowaways: rats in the holds. Even though the snakes were performing a top grade good housekeeping task they had to go! So the deck apes armed with fire extinguishers managed to subdue them and send them on their last voyage.
David Sugar might just hold the record for the shortest cruise on the AE15. He went aboard her in Port Chicago after she came back from Vietnam and rode her from Port Chicago to Vallejo, CA. where she was decommissioned: a distance of about 20 nautical miles.
DAVID R. SUGAR, STOREKEPER CHEIF, RETIRED