MATTIE & BOB
ROBERT (BOB) J. HANSEN
1944 – 1946
This is the story of the part of my life which is about my service to my Country and my years in the U.S. Navy.
I was born in Penn Yan, New York. I graduated from Penn Yan Academy in June 1944 and enlisted in the U.S. Navy in August 1944 at the age of 17. My “boot training” was at Sampson Naval Training Station located on Seneca Lake in New York state only about 10 miles from my home. After 10 weeks of training in “boot camp”, I was assigned to Newport, Rhode Island Naval Station and joined the crew that was forming for the USS Vesuvius. We boarded the ship in December 1944 at the Brooklyn, New York Navy Yard and commissioned her on January 16, 1945.
Now a little bit about the ship that I spent 18 months aboard. In the Navy all ships were described in the female gender. She was given an identification number of AL- 15 by the Navy, which stood for Auxiliary Explosive and she carried tons of ammunition. When we boarded the ship she was painted with a camouflage color which was the Atlantic Ocean Navy color and we thought we were headed for the Europe War Theater. This thought soon changed when we left New York and sailed to the Norfolk, Virginia Navy Shipyard and our color was changed to battleship gray, a Pacific Ocean War Theater color. We then knew where we were heading. My family did not know where I was going until they received my letter with a San Francisco FPO, Fleet Post Office address. Our mail was censored by the Navy so all they knew was that I was in the Pacific Ocean area.
On March 5, 1945, we sailed down through the Atlantic and on March 11, 1945, we went through the Panama Canal out into the Pacific Ocean heading west. On April 5, 1945, we anchored in Ulithi’s Lagoon, located in the Carolina Islands, four days after the start of the Okinawa Invasion. We reached the waters off Okinawa on April 13, 1945, and joined the Service Squadron Six, which consisted of oil tankers, supply ships and several ammunition ships. On April 14, 1945, we commenced cargo operations at sea for the first time. We supplied Task Force Fifty-Eight with oil, food and ammunition while underway at 10 knots. All combat ships came alongside us, loaded up and returned to Okinawa to bombard the coast. Picture an ammunition ship with a major aircraft carrier on its port (left) side taking on ammunition and launching a squadron of planes at the same time. While on our starboard (right) side there were three destroyers, the first taking on ammunition and the second transferring mail to the first and third destroyers with all lines attached to one another. I would like to add, that at this time, this was a top secret mission and no one outside the military knew what we were doing, and the Japanese could not understand how our combat ships kept bombarding them and didn’t have to re-arm themselves. This was carried out all through the war until the end.
My first duty aboard the ship was an assignment to the deck crew, Division No. 1. This assignment meant hard work, always chipping paint and re-painting and when we met up with the fleet, we were assigned to handle the ammunition out of the holds on the deck and swinging it in nets and lines to the combat ships alongside. I soon decided this was not for me. I heard they needed help in the galley and I volunteered real quick, and that was one of the best moves I made while in the Navy. We had to feed 250 men and there were 6 of us in the galley cooking and 2 in the bakery, so we were very busy most of the time. I was classed as a cook, but never made a Petty Officer rating. But when it came time to get my discharge I was offered a 3rd Class rating as a cook if I would stay in for another year. I found out, as the war ended, the Navy was short of cooks and did not want to lose us. I was ready to go home and turned down that offer.
Now back to the war. We served two battle missions with the Fleet, one off of Okinawa and the other off the coast of Japan days before they surrendered.
During our time off Okinawa, we saw only one Japanese bomber heading for our refueling-rearming line of ships. A pilot from our Combat Air Patrol had spotted it and finished off this bomber. We saw the smoke from the explosion as the bomber went down into the sea. The protective screen of ships and fighter pilots never once let the enemy slip through to our service ships, which were loaded with oil, gasoline and ammunition.
One June 4, 1945, word of a typhoon 100 miles away near the Philippines was radioed to us and we battened down for heavy weather. The wind increased until it was a screaming living thing attempting to tear our ship to pieces. By midnight every ships position was blotted out. Searchlights were ordered turned on to prevent collisions. The strong beams were of no help. Every ship in our group was in trouble. The Vesuvius was pitching like a wild elephant on a rampage. The clinometer recorded a roll of 41 degrees and the pointer jammned at this reading. The maximum roll was estimated at 45 degrees. No cargo ship was ever built to take this much of a roll. Over the radio came even worse news. Men were being washed overboard from the decks of other ships, some ships had lost steering control, and one ship was on fire. We were lucky in some ways. We did not lose anybody overboard but there were some injuries to the crew trying to tie down the ammunition that was shifting in the cargo holds. The conditions created on this ship during the typhoon will remain a nightmare in the memory of all of us. Many of us including myself prayed and prayed hard. I don’t think I’ve ever been more scared than I was that night. In the morning the storm passed and we began to check the damage. There was a question never answered - how did footprints get on the bulkhead (wall) in the engine room? No one there would ever admit what happened or who did it. The ship had only minor damage and we all breathed a sigh of relief. We were back in action that same day.
We were back in the Philippines on August 7, 1945, loading more ammunition to go back to Japan. On the night of August 11, 1945, word reached us that Japan had surrendered. You have never heard such shouting from all the ships anchored near us. Search lights blazing, sirens blowing and small guns firing in the air. It was some sight to see and to know we would be going home soon. It was a great feeling.
Even though the war ended, I had enlisted for the duration plus, so my discharge depended on how long I was in service, credit for being in a war zone and each month I had served. I had it pretty well figured out that sometime in June 1946 I would have enough points for discharge.
We arrived back in the states in December 1945, and I got a 30-day leave, so I went home to New York. I hadn’t been home since Christmas, December 1944. It was funny when I look back and realize that although I had been in the Navy for almost 2 years, due to getting a weekend liberty as well as a leave, I had been home for Christmas both in 1944 and 1945.
When I returned to the ship in January 1946 at a New Jersey port we sailed for Texas. We were told there was a Navy Base at Orange, Texas and we would decommission our ship there. She was no longer needed. That turned out to be pretty good duty as a cook for me, since we had fewer crewmembers and we also no longer handled ammunitions. I had every other weekend off from Friday evening after supper until breakfast Monday morning. There were 6 cooks and we split our time off.
This trip turned out to be a turning point in my life. We had to go into a Houston shipyard to have the bottom of the ship scraped off and repainted. I had the first long weekend off after we arrived in Houston and my buddy and I took off for downtown Houston. We found out back in those days that the thing to do on Sunday was walk up and down Main Street. We had just started walking and saw these two good looking girls heading our way. Just as we passed each other one of them winked at us and we turned around and followed them to a movie house where they were going. As sailors go, we made our move and followed them into the movies. After a lot of conversation we found out why one of them winked. There was a sidewalk photographer behind us taking a picture and they thought it would be a big joke to wink at us. The rest of this story is history. One of those girls was named Mattie Lee Davis and after dating I knew she was the one. After I was discharged in New York on June 6, 1946, I returned to Houston and married her on November 3, 1946.
Now 56 years later, 3 children and 6 grandchildren later, I can still say this was the best move I ever made. I’m proud to be an American and proud to have served my Country.
Robert J. Hansen
BOB'S PHOTOS, CLUSTER # 1 CLUSTER # 2
ALAN & ELIZABETH
1944 - 1946
My name is Alan Moore and I am a "Plank owner" of AE-15, USS Vesuvius. I served from the pre-commissioning in the Brooklyn, New York Navy Yard December 1944 where she was commissioned on January 16, 1945, through decommissioning in Orange, TX. 1946. Those were years of excitement and hard labor. I often wondered why a 120 lb Quarter Master was trying to manhandle 500 lb bombs while 235 lb Yeomen worked the office. Yes, that was the Navy way!
My wife of 48 years is Elizabeth, whom I met at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, while I was serving as an instructor of Physical Education and Coach of Lacrosse and Soccer. My professional life was as a faculty member of the College of Health and Human Performance at the University of Florida. I progressed from Instructor to Professor and upon retiring in ‘90 was awarded title of Professor Emeritus—proving if you write and publish in the realm of higher education the Gods smile upon you. I also served as Assistant Department Chair of the Physical Education Department—so paper work is not new to me.
Coaching was also my work and I coached the University of Florida Soccer Club 1953-1990 to six undefeated seasons and a record of 501 wins, 239 losses and 190 ties— proving horses win—mules don’t.
I must admit that I transferred from the Naval Reserve to the Coast Guard Reserves in 1958, and spent 12 wonderful summers if ‘90 plus 7 days counts (90 days in succession would give you a uniform allowance and the CG watches it’s pennies).
I was Company Commander of the two-week training course at USCG RTC Yorktown, VA. I retired as a Commander from the "weekend warrior" ranks of the CG in 1986 after 32 years of military service.
Elizabeth and I now fill our life with 6 months in Gainesville, FL. and 6 months in the beautiful NC Mountains in Newland. Come see us
NOVEMBER 2, 2003
ROBERT S ALUNI
1944 - 1946
I came aboard the Rich in early 1944, transferred from the Navy disbursing office at 90 Church Street in New York. From there we figured the pay rolls for the DE's and went to Brooklyn Navy Yard to pay the crews. Then they closed that office and put disbursing SK's on each DE and that is when I was transferred to the Rich. I believe I was the last new face on the ship because I had the worst bunk on the ship. Farthest lower bunk in the mess hall and never had a chance to improve it.
My gun position was on the starboard forward 20MM on the second deck. I was blown clear of the ship and came to in the water. I was picked up by our own whaleboat and recall at least one other. The next time I came to I was in the water again. From what I heard the whaleboat crew had tied up to the Rich and were helping carry survivors off and when the Rich sank so quickly it pulled the whaleboat down also. So I was in the water again.
They sewed up the backs of my legs on some ship and after a train ride ended tip in central England (Cheltenham) for a month.
After returning to the US, I went to Providence, RI, to form a new crew for the AE 15 Vesuvius, an ammunition ship and finished the war in the Pacific as part of Halsey's Task Force 58--Iwo Jima-Okinawa--and bombardment of Japan.
I was on the Vesuvius from forming a crew in Newport, Road Island until leaving it in Orange Texas in May of 1946. I was a storekeeper and also calculated the payroll . I was also the mail clerk until they put a rated mail clerk on board. I could have changed my rating to mail clerk, but would have had to drop one pay grade, which I didn't want to do. Had some good times on liberty and put some of the things that I learned as a storekeeper to use as I owned and operated a Retail Hardware store for 40 years.
NOVEMBER 25, 2003
EUGENE G. PERKINS
I just wanted to tell you sailors about a little of what I remember from The Vesuvius in World War 11. I was quartermaster 11. I have some good things and bad things. First we Jeftt New Jersey and went to the Panama Canal. Gene Perkins was on the wheel going through the canal. Of course I had a pilot right behiind me.He would say ":son ," turn to the right and line up these two bouys 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 ship 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 Phililipines, 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 tharat 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".
EUGENE G. PERKINS
DECEMBER 8, 2005
MARTIN J. HEARST
PHOTOS DONATED BY HIS SON Elliot HEARST
ROBERT DAWSON RAWN, was born 1921 in Chattanooga, Tennessee,served from Decenmber 1941 to December 1945; died 1987 in La Mirada, Califorina.
July,7 2008, Melanie Rawn daughter of the late Robert Dawson Rawn,
After the war he went to work for GM in Van Nuys, California. He married Alma lucile fisk in1949 and they had two daughters,( Laurie and me ). He retired from GM in 1977 and passed away in ten years.During his retirement he and mom planned to visit all of the places he'd been during the years in the Navy; they got to Hawaii and Alaska and were planning on New Zealand, but didn't get there before Parkinson's got hold of him. In 1996, my mother and I were in Morocco and from our hotel room window in Casablanca we looked out at the ocean,trying to imagine what it must have been like when the troop carrier Daddy was on sailed into port. ( I add that the Hawaii and Alaska trips were cruises-- he loved being at sea as long as somebody else was doing the work ) his ashes were scattered in the Pacific.
I'm pretty sure that he was the only Navy man the family ever produced-- all of the rest of them, from the Revolution through the Korean War, were in the Army. Although, now that I come to think of it, one of my dad's great-grandfathers was sort of in the Navy during the civil war--he was the civilian engineer of the USS Mound City. Another branch of the family were shipwrights for several generations-- so I guess it had to culminate in a Navy man eventually!
I had to smile at your request for any stories my dad had told us--- because I used one of them in my latest novel (Spellbinder, published by Tor Books). When he was serving aboard ship assigned to Attu after the battle there, he went around to the Japanese foxholes and -- aftermaking sure the Japanese were dead-- "liberated," shall we say, quite a few fur parkas.He then took them down to the beach and proceeded to embellish his sleeping quarters--and that's how my father came to have the only fur-lined tent in the Navy.
PHOTOS & MEMORABILIA DONATED BY MELANIE RAWN
FREDERICK J ROHL
My Dad, served aboard the USS Vesuvius during WWII. He passed away three years ago. He spoke proudly and often of his life in the Navy. But he also made it quite clear that he experienced the most frightening time of his life on the V!
PHOTOS DONATED BY MICHELE ROHL SQUIRES
HUGH BRECHTEL served on the USS Vesuvius from 1945 TO 1946