|EAST CAROLINA MANUSCRIPT COLLECTION|
|ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW #108|
|Commander David M. Armstrong|
|USNA CLASS OF 1941|
|May 9, 1988|
Commander Armstrong, I know you entered the Naval Academy from the Washington, D.C., area. Would you give us some background on your Life where you were born, where you grew up, the nature of your early Education and we'll take it from there.
I was born in February of 1919 in Washington, D.C., at the Sibley Hospital. At the age of two, my parents built a small home and we moved to a little village called Cabin John Park, which is just outside of the Washington, D.C. area, just beyond the big Glen Echo Amusement Park. That's where I grew up.
I was quite precocious as a young child. I'm told that I was reading little primer books at the age of three. The local schools were not acceptable to my parents considering my precocious situation. My father, fortunately, was a civil service worker (an engineer in the Department of the Navy) in Washington and because of that the law allowed me to attend the Washington, D.C., schools. As a result, I went
to an elementary school inside Washington, D.C. It was called Reservoir School. I got way ahead of myself. I ended up being seven years old and in the fifth grade. There was no facility at that time Armstrong, for what now are called gifted children. My parents put a stop to this because socially, I was way out of my league.
You were in the fifth grade when you were seven!
Yes. They would pass me. I would go in and do the spelling, reading, and arithmetic and they would say, "Well, you go to the 'B' class." They had it divided into the "As" and "Bs." I would do that for a month and then they would say, "You ought to be in the third grade." Off I would go to the third grade. I just kept progressing like that. Socially, I was completely out of it. I was just a little kid and all the other guys were big and strong.
I continued on in the Washington, D.C., area schools at Gordon Junior High School and then at Western Senior High School. There again, socially, I just was not a part of the activities at all. Academically, I was fine. I graduated at the age of sixteen, and for reasons unknown to me, I was beginning to think about a service academy. I think I had comprehended that a fine education was available and that it would not be unduly expensive for my parents who were not rich. I began listening to football games on the radio and I first thought about going to West Point. But my father was working with the Navy and, gradually, I was inclined to the idea of trying to go to the Naval Academy.
Since your father was an engineer with the Navy, did you spend much time in the Navy yard, sitting around Naval officers?
No. My father had a number of friends who were Naval officers. Admiral Rickover, who was then Commander Rickover, was the head of the section in which my father served as a civilian, and he and my father were great friends. Rickover used to visit us out in our home in Cabin John and we got to know him. My father also knew and liked Rollo Wilson and Ray Spruance. I had an acquaintance with them but that wasn't the major influence. I think the major influence was the glamour idea. In Washington, D.C., at that time, the Naval Academy got an awful lot of publicity. It was really considered an elite organization and institution. The papers were always full of events at the Naval Academy.
This was in the mid thirties?
Yes, the early and mid thirties. By the time I could make any serious moves toward a service academy, I had pretty much moved over to the idea that the Naval Academy in Annapolis would be better for me than West Point. Having graduated from high school at sixteen, I was too young to go with the next class. Because of my small size and young age, I was not involved in the social and athletic activities in high school or college. Therefore, I concentrated on the Boy Scouts. I became an Eagle Scout and an Assistant Scoutmaster.
My father tried valiantly with Senator Millard Tydings of Maryland
and our local congressmen to get me a congressional appointment. The best he could do was a second or third alternate which never came to pass. To pass the time and become eligible age wise, I went to American University in the Washington, D.C, area. It's located on Massachusetts Avenue in suburban Washington. I went there primarily because of Dr. Shenton, who taught freshman math and was an emeritus professor of math at the Naval Academy. Dr. Shenton knew my ambitions and plans. He gave me a little extra help and a little extra understanding. I took the straight academic freshman course: physics, chemistry, math, American history, and Spanish. (I had taken French in high school.) I completed my year there and had not yet had any luck with an appointment.
My father was, by this time, active in the Naval Reserve contingent in Washington. He had gone on some cruises and was very wrapped up in and active in the local group. He learned I guess it was not difficult to find outthat anyone who had served in the Naval Reserve for a period of a year could take a competitive examination for entrance into the Naval Academy. There were twenty five appointments available each year for the people who stood highest on these examinations. So I joined the local Naval Reserve unit at Washington Navy Yard. I had to be in a year before I could take the exam, so I think two days after my seventeenth birthday, I joined. While I was in the Reserve, I attended drills regularly and took a cruise on a destroyer, the old TARBELL, a four piper, down to Guantanamo in the summer of 1936.
TARBELL was the name of it?
Yes. It was the TARBELL. She was DD242 or something like that, a fourstacker. I went down to Guantanamo on our two week training cruise. That was my first taste of being in the Navy and at sea. I became eligible then to compete for an appointment to the Naval Academy through the Naval Reserve. All the while, I was going to American University, learning a lot, but accomplishing very little as far as getting into the Naval Academy. Had I not been in a competitive exam situation, I would have been given credit for those courses and could have gotten into the Naval Academy without taking the entrance exam. That was one of the rules. I had completed enough subjects with adequate marks I stood awfully high in everything, I was a bright kid to have gotten in, had I not needed to take a competitive examination to win an appointment.
There were several schools in the area that were excellent in preparing young men to take the competitive examination. My father prospected around and discovered that the school with the best record for that sort of thing was the Columbian Preparatory School, where a number of my classmates went. Guys like Jack Beardall, and "Stew" Daubin all went there. They were good. They were excellent. Most of the guys I knew real well were sons of military officers who were competing for Presidential appointments. There were twentyfive Presidential appointments each year to the Naval Academy, twenty five
Naval Reserve appointments, and twenty-five from the Fleet. All were on a competitive basis. So I went to Columbian and got to know all these guys who were headed in the same direction. We were deadly serious. We were deadly serious. We studied and we worked. I can remember Jack Beardall and Bill Daubin and I, once a month or maybe more often, would go out to the Army Navy Country Club and take dates. This would be on a Saturday night. We would go out there and order a pitcher of beer and set it in the center of the table. We would each have a glass with the girls. They always had a band and we would dance. But we also studied. Let me explain. While we were there, the system for learning that the prep school used was flash cards, 3" by 5" cards. You made them on your own and they were numbered for subjects like Ancient History and American History. We would have these stacks of 3" x 5" cards that were five and six inches deep. On one side would be a date or place or name and on the back would be the answer. We would go there to the Country Club to this dance on a Saturday night with dates and a pitcher of beer, and we would have our pockets full of these damned things; and we would hold them up and answer the questions. This was a learning mechanism. We were deadly serious. We were not playing around.
In the last four or five months of the course, which started in September and ran though to April when the competitive exams were held, we started taking every Saturday morning at least one, generally two, previous Naval Academy entrance exam tests. We would take them in
history, mathematics, algebra, whatever. The faculty got them from somewhere. I don't know but I presume they were perfectly legitimate. We would take them not only to get the information in our heads, but to learn the technique of how to take these exams. It was a cram school and I mean we crammed.
I can recall that the school ended about a week before we sat for the exams. I brought home every book I had and I had flash cards all over my little desk in my room at home. The first day I was home was Saturday and at eight o'clock in the morning, I got all those books out to study. I stayed in there about a half an hour, and then wandered out into the living room. My father was home and said to me, "Davy, you're supposed to be studying. What the hell are you doing in here?" I said, "Dad, I don't have to study. I know it all. I know all the answers." He believed me and didn't insist otherwise so I took the week off. I took the exams and I stood number one in the country. I averaged 3.8 and that was because I got a 3.4 in English where we had to write a composition. I got 4.0 on every other subject. I have a nice Presentation watch at home as a reward. As a result, I won an appointment with the Naval Reserve. My only real competitor at school on those exams was Frank Leighton who was a bright guy. He was number one on the Presidential appointments, but he only averaged 3.7 or something and I averaged 3.8. I beat him and I was number one.
Then it was off to the Naval Academy to enter in June. My parents
took me down. I had to take a physical. I took a pre appointment physical at the local Naval dispensary, I guess it was. They said, "Yes, he's okay." Then I had to get my final physical at the Naval Academy. I had a wicked cold that day and did not pass. I had a temperature of 102 degrees. I couldn't read the chart because I couldn't see it. I went back home brokenhearted. My parents were so upset. We got a local doctor and nurse to doctor me up and I went back in three or four days and passed with no problem. My temperature was regular and I could see the chart.
I entered about four days later than the first group that went in which included all my of prep school buddies, Jack Beardall and "Stew" Daubin. Then the regular plebe summer began. God, I was excited. I loved it. I just absolutely loved it! The discipline and the fact that we had accomplished this and were actually there and that we were sworn in as midshipmen absolutely delighted me. We had just basic indoctrination with very little academics during plebe summer. It was spent learning how to march and do elementary sailing, and playing sports. There was a good athletic program during plebe summer.
Then the academic year came along and we started in. I'm sure everyone knows pretty much how that worked. The system was that you learned from the books and from the assigned lesson prior to going to class. When you took a class, you recited what you had learned. There was no teaching process in the classroom. It was simply an examination
process. For instance, in mathematics, you walked into class and the prof, a lieutenant in the Navy, would say, "Gentlemen, draw slips and man the boards." You would go up there and draw a slip telling you what the problem was. You would get a section on the board and you would solve the problem and then you would go and sit down.
Do you have any thoughts about the quality of the facility? You said there was no real instruction involved. Should there have been?
I don't know. I'm still until this day undecided about that. There were some civilian profs there who had fine qualifications in their disciplines. They were pretty much the supervisors and the heads of their departments. The others who came in were of the rank of about lieutenant. They were just detailed there at the Naval Academy as instructors. I think they did a good job of staying one day ahead of the class. They did not teach at all, however, they simply supervised recitations.
Wouldn't the Academy have been well served to have a first rate faculty all the way through?
I don't know. I'm still undecided on this and I've thought about this many times. We had small sections. There would be ten or twelve of us and we would go into our classrooms, which were not very big, and sit at our desks. We recited either orally, standing up, or on the blackboards, and we were each told what we had done wrong. That was the only teaching that the profs did. They'd put a big "X," and give you a
2.0 for the day. They'd say, "Well, I'm putting you down for a 2.0, Mr. Armstrong!" This led me, and I think most of us, to study in advance and go to class prepared. We learned from excellent textbooks the things we had to know. We went in for facts. It was not a liberal arts education. We did not discuss the philosophy of the French Revolution or anything of that sort. We simply noted the date it started, the major battles, and when it ended.
No "why," all "what"?
Very little "why." I think I learned an appreciation of history and current events from the book. We studied it so that we could go in and if the man said, "When did the Battle of Austerlitz occur?" You could say, "1809, October 14." (That's probably wrong, but it's close.) This backgrounded us. It was not a liberal arts education. It was strictly a factual education.
About once a month, we would meet in the auditorium at Mahan Hall where the civilian heads of the departments, who were well qualified in their disciplines and were distinguished educators, would give a lecture. This was relaxing. We would go in there and lean back and enjoy. We would take it all in because there was a quiz at the end, but it was a relaxing time.
We studied and learned facts, particularly in subjects like navigation and mechanical and electrical engineering. Philosophies and "whys" were not stressed. Instead, there was much more interest in the
facts and formulas to prepare you for doing a job. I think it was demanding in the sense that no material was given to us by a professor who stood up and talked, and maybe three weeks later would ask us to write an essay exam on what we thought was the reason for the American Revolution. There was none of that. We put it down like we read it. For what we were doing, that seemed to me like a good way of doing it. I still haven't resolved which is the better system. Of course, at the Naval Academy we had, with rare execeptions (I say this with due modesty), fine young men who were motivated. This was Armstrong, the late thirties. The Depression was still on. To get a commission and become a Naval officer opened up the world for you. This was something you had striven for. We were motivated right from thebeginning. There were rare exceptions of classmates who for various reasons, many of them philosophical, many of them disciplinary, and thers due to lack of aptitide for the academic material, left. Ninety percent of us were highly motivated. We were all WASPS (White Anglo Saxon Protestants). We were in there swinging. We really were. We weren't fooling one bit!
What about hazing and harrassment by upperclassmen?
Yes, we had that. It would start plebe summer when we had the second class there. However, the second class was billeted in the second back wing of Bancroft Hall across from Smoke Park, and we plebes were in the fourth wing. The only thing we had to do with them was at
formation time. I don't remember if they joined us at meals or had their own mess tables. I rather think they had their own mess tables and we plebes ate at our own. When we were in contact with them they were, as they should have been, very rigid, very stern. They were as highly motivated as we and they were as anxious to teach us as we were to learn. I didn't find that onerous at all.
During plebe summer, the first class and the youngster class were on their battleship cruises. They were gone the whole summer for three months. They got back in late August and went on September leave along with the second class. We stayed at school of course. When September leave expired in late September, the academic year started and all the classes came back. We were then all mixed together by battalions--some members of all four classes in each battalion. So your next door neighbors might be second class and those across the hall or down at the end could be youngsters. Then it could become a little nasty. Some were a little sadistic and could get mean. We didn't dare complain and I don't think anybody ever even gave a second thought to making an issue of it. We just took it and maybe wept a little or cussed a little and went on.
You mentioned that some of them were kind of sadistic. What type of thing would they so?
I won't mention his name, but there was one first classman who had a cricket bat. He was in my company. He lived right across the hall from my first classman, Andy Olah, Class of 1938. I can't recall now what some of my infringements were, but he would bring you in there and make you bend over while he whacked you with that damned bat. That hurt. I would go home with great bruises on my bottom. I was not his only victim, there were others. But I figured that was part of the game--that sort of thing. I never had any really onerous things happen.
At the mess table, if you did something wrong, either in the manner of etiquette when serving the first classmen, or you didn't know the answer to a question, or talked out of turn, (we were not allowed to talk), they would say, "Hit the air." What that meant was that you had to push the chair back and sit with bended knees. You sat where you were but without a chair. That could go on for a long time. It wore you out. It would mess up your meal so that you couldn't eat. But nobody worried about that.
Did they occasionally make anyone who did not perform well "sitting on the air" get under the table?
Yes. They would send you under the table and you would miss the complete meal in that circumstance. I had that happen to me a couple of times. It was nothing that I didn't figure was part of the game. Hell, here I was a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy and being paid to go to school! I could put up with a whole lot of that. It didn't really bother me. I don't think it really did most of us. We all understood that it was part of the game and that there were some bad apples and there were some nice guys in all classes. If you were lucky, you would have a good guy like my first classman, Andy Olah. He was the head cheerleader and one of the nicest guys that you would ever want to know. He really took me under his wing and protected me. In return, I would go around and get him ready for formation and all that kind of stuff. If you had a protector like that and a really nice guy, you generally didn't run into too much sadism or anything. It was not onerous. It could hurt like hell for a day or two, but not enough to make you quit or make you cry or make you complain. You just did not complain, that's for sure. That went on. It gradually eased up as the year wore on. The new first classmen were feeling their oats. That was all right. I don't remember now what we did when we became first classmen, but we were probably very similar. We probably did the exact same things.
You participated in both soccer and boxing.
I was always sports minded. I was too small physically, however, to be in football or basketball, although I liked both those sports. I had played them as a kid in a rinky-dink sort of way and enjoyed them. But in the elementary schools in the Washington area, we had soccer teams. That was our varsity sport, so to speak. (Of course, when you got on later to high school, it was all football. You didn't have any soccer teams.) So I had played some soccer in elementary school and was reasonably clever and quick. When I went to the Academy I went out for soccer and played on the varsity soccer squad for three years.
I had also done a lot of boxing as a kid. Here again, my lack of size and weight was no hindrance because it was all weighted. So when I went to the Academy I got on the boxing squad. I never fought a varsity fight but I was always on the list to fight or the next one in order.
Spike Webb was our boxing coach and he was a very famous man. He had been the boxing coach and a boxer with the Expeditionary Forces in Europe in World War I. That's where he had learned his skills as a boxer. He was a tough little monkey and a funny little guy. But we loved him dearly. Some of my fondest memories about the boxing team are of working out on the big bag. It was one of those that hangs down and is full of something. I would be working with those gloves, banging
away, when all of a sudden, this little head would show up on the other side of the bag. Obviously he had been holding the bag, and watching, watching, watching every move I made. Then he would sneak up on you. I was always pleased, however, when he came up and looked at me. This little noggin would appear around that big bag and he would say, "God dammit, do so and so!" He was a delightful guy.
The fights were always on Saturday nights in those days. Intercollegiate boxing was still a sport. Everybody always came formal, the men wearing black ties and the ladies wearing gowns. There was no applause or anything like that allowed. On Thursdays or Fridays, we would have the warm-ups for the fighters that were going to fight that Saturday in the various weight classes. I was at 119, which I guess was a feather weight. Johnny Shepherd (Class of 1939) was one of our best fighters. He fought lightweight, which was 125 or something like that. He was a hell of a fighter. On the warm-up nights Spike would say to me, "Well, Armstrong, I want you to go up there and warm-up Johnny for his fight tomorrow night." I would say, "Are you sure you want that?" He would say, "Yes, he won't hurt you and I know you can't hurt him." I would go in there and go three rounds with Johnny Shepherd. I earned my keep. We trained hard. For a while there, Spike had us up before reveille at five o'clock in the morning running around the academy grounds as roadwork. That was in addition to all the rest of the stuff.
We did a lot of bag work and all that. Spike was awfully good. He knew he wasn't as articulate as he might have been for an instructor or coach, but he really knew his boxing. He taught me how to throw a left jab, it's not an arm punch. That's no good. What you do is to punch from your right toe, get that arm straight, if you can, just before you hit from your right toe and whole shoulder. I could do it to a door and the door would shudder. That's what Spike taught us.
Bill Busik, who is the executive director of the Alumni Association, was on the boxing squad. I got to know Bill that way. He also played football. Whenever I send in a contribution or anything, I always get back a little note from him, "Dave, sure do appreciate the gift you gave us. Thanks very much. Sincerely, Bill Busik." That's a kind of fun thing.
In soccer, we had Tommy Taylor as our coach. He was a little Scotsman. He was a little bit of a guy, about the same size as Spike Webb, and bald-headed. He knew the game. He played the British style of soccer, which involved much passing and movement of the ball up and down the field as units, as opposed to the Latin style, where individuals get the ball and go racing away for the break-away goal. I was not first-string, I was second-string, but I got to play in several varsity games. I was in a game against Army and we beat them. I earned
my letter and I was real delighted with that. I also earned my letter in boxing.
One of the benefits of being on a varsity squad was being assigned to the training table at mealtime and not having to go to meal formation. You wore your white work uniform, your undress uniform, and went directly from the gym or the playing field to the mess hall and filed in as a single person. Of course, you still stood at attention at your table until all the preliminaries were over and everybody was seated. Being at the training table was always a blessing because, boy, you were tired. My God, according to today's nutrition news, what we ate on the training table was terrible. Oh, my gosh! We had huge beef steaks every meal, and bread with butter, and milk. Anyway, that was fun and it was a privilege to be on the training table and not have to go to evening meal formations and so on. I was on the training table for three years, I guess, or half of three years. The soccer training table lasted until November and then the boxing season would start and I would stay on for the winter.
Did you do much sailing in the Chesapeake Bay?
Not too much on my own. I did the required amount as part of our seamanship courses. I sailed the half-raters and knockabouts as part of
those courses. We all went out on the yawls a couple of times. We had the VAMARIE at that time and one other I think. I didn't do it for recreation too often. Some of the guys did. They really enjoyed it more than I did. I took a date out on a little sailing venture a couple of times but nothing as regularly as some of the guys did who really enjoyed it and got to be good sailors. Our sailing team did very well intercollegiately. It was well respected.
Was there anything unique about your summer cruises? Or were they just routine?
We went to Europe on our youngster cruise. There were three battleships that went: the NEW YORK, TEXAS, and ARKANSAS. I went on the NEW YORK. We went to Le Havre, France, and then we had four days down in Paris. From there we went to Copenhagen, Denmark, and then to Portsmouth, I guess it was, and then from there to London for four days. This was an exciting and wonderful time for me. I really enjoyed it. Many of the guys had not done that sort of thing. I had that one cruise to Guantanamo for two weeks under my belt as a young reservist. That was when I realized that I was embarking on something really exciting--that it was going to be something more than a desk job.
In Paris they turned us loose for about four days. Can you
imagine! There were about a thousand of us on the two ships. They just said, "Here's your hotel reservation. Go! We'll see you back on the ship four days from now." My God! We grew up! Boy, I can still remember those shows in Paris. We went to Trente duex Rue Blond el. It was a whorehouse. The women were all naked. You could be sitting there having champagne or a drink or something, and they were running all around naked as jaybirds. They were beautiful women.
[End of Part 1]
|EAST CAROLINA MANUSCRIPT COLLECTION|
|ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW|
|USNA CLASS OF 1941|
|June 10, 1988|
During the Guadalcanal operation I was still in the ZANE and by that time, I think, I had changed jobs from communications officer to gunnery officer. We went with a large convoy of amphibious shipping via Samoa and Tongatapu where ships were assembling for the operation. Also, we went briefly down to Auckland, New Zealand and escorted a couple of ships up from there. They had some Marine detachment people along and we brought them up. The amphibious task force went south of Guadalcanal and came into what is now Iron Bottom Sound from the west. We split around Savo Island and the group going to the Guadalcanal beaches went to the right and we who were in the other group went, the Florida Island group, stayed to the left. I had written up pretty well in that manuscript of mine about the battle. Should I repeat that or will that stand on its own.
It will stand pretty much on its own unless you can think of aspects of it that are not included in the article.
The only thing about it was that in going in that night, we went through the strait between Florida Island and Savo Island at about three o'clock in the morning as I recall. I'll
never forget it. It was absolutely calm and I'll never forget the perfume of the tropical flowers that wafted out to us as we went in. We had really prepared ourselves well for this thing on the recognition of aircraft. I had built a paper mache, using torn up bits of newspaper and flour paste, a model of this little island that we were to bombard. It was called Bumgano. We had trained extensively on that because we had no fire control as such. It was all local control at the guns and we tried to fire them in salvo so we could spot them. Having set the range and deflection manually on each gun and then we could fire a salvo. They threw their firing switches on to salvo and we did it from up in fire control. That way we could spot the fall of shrapnel. I don't know, we expended several hundred rounds on that beautiful little green island there and I didn't see a thing move or whatever, but there was on little shack somewhere in a kind of little ravine that we could see from the ship so we peppered that pretty good. We figured that if there were any Japanese there, that is where they would be, right in that.
I guess it turned out that there never had been any Japanese there, ever. We did that and boy, we were really primed for that. We wanted to do that as a kind of pay back for Pearl Harbor. Man we were we ready. That went on and we did that bombardment mission--it was a real tough thing. We had some other members of our squadron and they were peppering away at Gavutu Island and that turned out to be the tough nut in there. The Marines had to land. There was one battalion, I guess it was a Marine raider battalion or something that landed there and after a long and vicious fight, they finally took it.
About that time, when the Marines were landing on Gavutu, they kept a couple of ships there to help them. We went out on a mine sweeping mission and went down to the Lengo Channel and made some passes across in front of the landing beaches at
Guadalcanal. We found no mines but that is what Admiral Turner needed to know. He needed to know that he could use all avenues of escape and entrance to the area. We made a contribution toward that. The whole thing was that there was no opposition on the Guadalcanal beaches. The thing went pretty well. I described it in my manuscript there on the Battle of Guadalcanal. The Japanese made several air attacks, one of which involved Betty torpedoes. I guess they had been converted to torpedoes because normally they were medium range bombers. We had the word from the coast watchers that they were coming so we were ready. The fighter aircraft at Guadalcanal were airborne and ready. Instead of coming straight on down the straits, they went around the Florida island to the north side of it and attacked from our flank. Florida Island was only ten miles away from our position in the middle of the strait between it and Guadalcanal. They came in low and fast, not really fast because they were slow lumbering two engine things, and boy, we knocked them down all over the place. From the ZANE we knocked more down or did the most of it.
You mentioned the coast watchers, were they civilian natives, or was that naval personnel staff?
They were Australian military personnel, as I understand it. They were put in there because Australia had mandated control of the Solomon Islands. They had administrative control to a degree. When the war outbreak came, and it became obvious that the Japanese were coming down that way, these guys were put ashore on these islands. They had some familiarity with the native tongues and native customs and so on. They were able to establish themselves using the natives also.
These were the islands that were still under the control of the Japanese, were they not?
They were not under the control of the Japanese, no. They were islands that were still in the wild. Virgin. They hadn't been touched by anybody. Such as up around Bouganville and several others like Vella LaVella where the Australians had put in coast watchers. They would simply scan the skies and report on on-coming raids when they were coming down. They had radios and their information was relayed to us from base stations in Australia. I don't know. We had the word in the task force that the coast watcher reported forty Betty's east of Vella LaVella at such and such a time headed southeast. That was the word so we were all ready for the. They continued to be our basic early warning system throughout the whole Solomon campaign till we pretty much wrapped it up.
Where were the Japanese flying out of?
They were flying out of Rabaul at that time and to a limited extent Kavieng I think. But Rabaul was the main base. They may have had some people coming out of New Guinea but I'm not sure. Rabaul was fed, on the Navy side, by Truk, which was a major fleet base for the Japanese. They sent aircraft and ships down from there. That was in the battle for the Solomons. The first day that we had the famous battle of Savo Island in which the Japanese came off clear winners but they never did take advantage really. They sank a number of our cruisers and a couple of destroyers and escaped almost unharmed and they didn't take advantage of the situation really. They were wide open to the transport areas where all the troop ships and the supply ships and the screening destroyers were. We were mostly DMS's and APD's and had very little fire power. They could have come in and just really ripped up the pea patch something fierce. But they didn't. I don't know why. I think they got a little frightened at the very end and pulled out and didn't really cash in. In any event, that was the end of that.
We never did any minesweeping. We were escort ships for various echelons of supply and troop ships that came up from basically New Caledonia or Espiritu Santo. We would go back to Espiritu Santo and on the way up pick up troop and supply ships and to take them to Guadalcanal. We were just anti-submarine escorts. On that basis, the U.S. Navy was really on the run because we didn't dare stay in there over night. The ships waited at the entrance of Dispensable strait and Lengo Channel until the Japanese quit bombarding Guadalcanal in the night. That ended and then we would come in, off-load, and then beat it out before the night came on again. This is what was going on and it was a pretty sorry thing. The Marines on Guadalcanal, particularly the air effort for the Marines was being hampered quite a bit primarily because of aviation gasoline. They simply were running on a day-to-day basis. They didn't have any reserve they could use for more than three days in advance. That was the whole key to the logistic effort.
The ZANE was used to transport aviation fuel in?
That's right. That was the final thing I did in the ZANE. We took up a load of fifty-five gallon drums, a deck load of them, of aviation gasoline. Had we been hit, we would have just gone up like a torch. On that same deal, we took up PT-boats. We took up the first PT squadron that went up. We towed them behind like water skiers. We had manila towlines and we towed these two behind us just like water skiers as we went up. We turned them lose and they later did famous things and whatever. We, again it's in my article “American History Illustrated” about the battle of Sea Lark Channel, got into an awful scrap there. We got walloped up pretty good. As it turned out, I already had my orders to leave the ship and go back to new construction.
On the Battle of Sea Lark Channel, did they have any explanation for why you
didn't get beat up more than you did considering the superior force you were facing? You had only two ships there as opposed to three Japanese ships with greater firepower and greater range and everything else.
The only reason is that at the ranges that we were firing and they were firing at us, was in our limiting range which was thirteen thousand yards. They were firing at about fifteen thousand yards which was close too their limiting range. That means that they had to get high projectory, which a plunging pattern of projectile fall. It was plunging and when it was coming almost straight down. We in the ZANE had a beam that was only about fifteen or twenty feet. We were slim little guys. We were within their dispersion pattern. You know what a dispersion pattern is from a battery of guns. If they fire five guns, well they won't all come down at exactly the same place. We were sitting right in there all the time. The decks were wet and our rigging was cut down. The splashes would just come up over us and inundate us. It was just sheer luck.
Your beam was just fifteen feet wide?
I don't know, maybe I exaggerated that. Maybe it was twenty feet. I don't recall the exact dimensions. Don't hold me to that. You would have to look it up in the specifications book. It was slim and long so that was the major thing.
Yes and lucky. We finally did get hit and it hit us on the place where it did us the least harm structurally and that was on the chase of gun number three on the galley deckhouse. I think another reason we didn't get too beat up by that particular round that hit us was because I think it was a shore bombardment round. It was an impact explosion round so it did not dig in at all. Ii had been an armor piercing or a normal; we would have
had the damned thing go clear down into the galley and so on. But it didn't. It hit on the chase, which is the hard part of the gun that goes back through the recoil tube. It hit right on there and went all over the place. It killed a number of people; obviously, in the gun crew and it wounded a lot of them.
About the time that they were really beginning to zero in on us, we were within the pattern every time that they fired a salvo. They were firing about every ten or fifteen seconds to three different ships. We were the lead sip of the two. The TREVOR was following us. They picked us probably thinking that the officer of tactical command was in our ship. He wasn't. They were on. Their spotters must have just said, “On, on, no change. No change. No change.” The decks were wet and it was a mess. We only got hit one time, which I think was by the shore bombardment ammunition, which they brought in.
It [The Marines] had been trying to get some planes off. It had rained the night before. They finally got some dive-bombers off. We could see them. They started coming down on the Japanese ships. The Japs shifted to anti-aircraft fire instead of aiming surface fire at us. That was the thing that did it. If they had kept it us another ten minutes, the law of averages would have been against us.
When they spotted you, had they been in route to bombard Henderson Field or something?
Yes. That is what their mission was.
You caused a diversion.
Yes. Samuel Eliot Morrison, in his description of that fight, say that the two little ships, "two little boys," diverted their effort and by their efforts changed the outcome of the whole battle in a way. At the same time the Japanese carriers were coming up in the
islands, where the HORNET was sunk. It was part of a big operation. Part of that operation was to keep the aircraft from Henderson Field from getting off. That was their mission. They got sidetracked with us and I'm sure, when they first saw us coming out of Tulagi Harbor they thought we were coming out to take them on. We had to go toward them on account of the reefs and so on. We attempted to get down to Lengo Channel and turn left and go out. We had to go right for them, not directly but closing at a rapid rate. I'm sure they thought they were going to come out to take them on and fend them off. We didn't have in mind at all. We were just getting the hell out of there. That's all explained in my little thing there. I had already had my orders to go back to new construction. We got back to Espiritu Santo.
Incidentally, we went in there and there was the COOLIDGE. It was a big merchant ship converted into a troop carrier. It had sunk just in the entrance channel. Anyway, we came back to Espiritu Santo and found that our orders were to fuel and take on eight thousand more fifty-five gallon drums of gas and then go back. The Marines had to have that gasoline. They were operating on a day-to-day basis. The skipper looked at me, Pete Wirtz, and said, "Damn guns. Dave, (or whatever he called me) I'm going to let you go. I don't want to take you up there and subject you to this all over again."
He put me off and I grabbed my footlocker and my suitcase and took off. I spent the next day on the airfield of Espiritu Santo, the army airfield (it was not a Navy one), in getting a ride. The only place that they were going to was New Caledonia so I got a ride the next morning. I lived in a tent over night and then got a ride down to Noumea in New Caledonia. I got down there in a matter of hours. There was a tent village for transients down there in Noumea and I finally go passage back too the States on the LURLINE. She
was one of the Hawaiian ships.
One that you hear the most of.
Yes. By that time she had been mostly converted to a troop ship. My rank then was lieutenant jg. There were four or five, four of us I guess who were all assigned to what had been one first class stateroom. They had just taken out the regular bunks and put in double bunks and so forth. I believe there were six of us of about the same rank to go back to the State in the LURLINE.
This was in the fall of 1942?
Yes, about early November, 1942 roughly. We got back to San Francisco. We traveled alone without escorts because the LURLINE could crack up enough speed so that basically, with the submarine capabilities in those days, unless you just happened to be in the right place. . . We were going across a trackless part of the ocean from Noumea to San Francisco. Unless a submarine happened to be sitting right in front of you when we were going at twenty-eight knots or whatever, there was no way that he could ever catch you. If he wasn't right ahead of you when he saw you, he was out of the picture anyway. He never could catch you. He could never get into firing position. We went without escort and arrived. I went back to my home where my parents were living in Washington, D.C. I had ten days leave built into my orders and I went (you know, I we went into San Diego, not San Francisco) back to Washington, D.C. I had orders to go to the gun factory for gunnery school to learn how to do the five inch thirty-eight battery. That was fine because it was right there in Washington so I lived at my parent's place for a month or two and went to the gunnery school at the gun factory. While I was there I was promoted to lieutenant. That was a joyous occasion. What they did in those days was to assign you to a ship after you
had already come back to the States because they had no way of knowing in advance what your timing was going to be. When they got you back into the States and started you on the gunnery school then they knew exactly what time you were going to be ready. I was assigned to the USS TERRY (DD513). She was building in Bath, Maine and the Bath Iron Works. It was just about ready. It was due to be ready in a couple of weeks at the time I reported. She was and I went up to Bath to join her as a prospective gunnery officer. Then we were commissioned down in Boston. We went down to Guantanamo for a shakedown and the usual things, gunnery practice and so on. We finished up and then went back to Boston for post shakedown overhaul and got whatever was done, done. Then we were ready to go join the Fleet.
An interesting sidelight to my time at Bath--I met a girl up there. There were a group of girls that we young officers thought attractive. They were sort of the elite of the city. They all worked as secretaries at the Bath Iron Works. I met her and her name was Barbara Pittman. I later married her. That was one of my achievements.
On the way back to join the Fleet, we would go out to the Pacific Fleet ultimately, we were assigned to escort an echelon of troop ships and supply ships to Casablanca. It was the second or third echelon for the North African invasion which had gone in through Casablanca. We were like the second or third echelon, I don't recall now. We made the run as anti-submarine escorts for a group of transports over to Casablanca. There we just turned around and went back to Norfolk to refuel and so forth and then headed out through the canal and up to San Diego.
The escort was uneventful I take it.
Yes, nothing happened. The invasion of Casablanca and North Africa had pushed
on quite a bit. They didn't run into real trouble until they got down around El Alamein and so on. That was sort of a hundred miles from Casablanca. The original fight at Casablanca was over. They reluctantly fought and sank the big French battleship, the JEAN BART in Casablanca because she was manned by the Vichy forces that were hostile to the U.S. at that time. They reluctantly had to beat up on her to insure that they got into the port. Then we went on out and by that time we were--of course there were all these little training things at each port we went into, like San Diego, then out to Pearl and we kicked around there for a few days. Then we were sent down as a relief squadron or a participating squadron back down to the Solomons. As I recall, we escorted some supply ships or troop ships, AP's or AK's, down on the way to Guadalcanal. That was kind of fun. That was my first crossing of the line as a Shellback.
When I went across in the ZANE, a year previously, I was a Pollywog. Incidentally, that's how I got my proper Marine/Navy haircut. One of the parts of the initiation on the ZANE was that just before they dumped you into a big thing of water, you went to the Royal Barber. He had great big clippers and he went right down the center of you head from front to back and just took it clean. In self-defense, so that I wouldn't look weird, I had the rest of my hair cut really short and I've worn it this way ever since. It's been the most comfortable decision I ever made in my life. In any event, this time that I went across, I was a Shellback and we had a big celebration in King Neptune's domain there. Then we went down and by this time, the battle for Guadalcanal was essentially over. I think there were still a few Japanese remnants still kicking around.
The battles for Vella LaVella was one of them and then Bougainville was yet to come. I don't think we were on the initial assault wave at Vella LaVella. We were just a
little late. We went on the second echelon. We went up there with a group of LSTs. That's the first time, incidentally, that we got into strange panics against enemy air where somebody reported, not by radar, buy by optical means, a lookout or something. One of our ships in our division, we were in a division and I guess the whole squadron was there, the look-out over the TBS (tactical radio), “Enemy dive bomber overhead, etc. Altitude high, etc.” Everybody got there and we swung her around. Several ships opened fire.
Fortunately, well not fortunately, it wouldn't have mattered if we had fired. I was looking through the scope. The radar operator was looking and we couldn't find it, we finally realized that it was Venus. We finally settled in on it and we all just quit firing. Venus was at about thirty degrees ahead of the sun. It was mid-morning and the sun was about over here Venus was just about overhead, directly overhead. We had a lot of fun about kidding each other about that.
At about this time, the DESRON 23, Arleigh Burke's squadron was rampaging up and down the slot having these fights off and on with these Japanese destroyer elements that were coming down occasionally. The Japanese were trying to do two things at one time at that time. They were trying to evacuate or re-supply or a little of both. Their contingents were on Vella LaVella and on Bougainville and so on. I don't know, I guess they were doing a little of each. They were trying to bring some troops in and then again, they couldn't. Then they thought they had better evacuate. In any event, they would send these destroyers down to guard the small transports that they took in. These landing craft convoys that they were trying to get off during the dark of night. The DESRON 23 and Areligh Burke people had been doing this for a while so we kind of relieved them of that duty. They went from there down to Australia on a joy wave.
Whose command were you part of? Which admiral?
I'm trying to think of our squadron commander's name at that time. I cannot recall it or the squadron number. I can remember Areligh Burke, of course he was just a captain at that time. He was the squadron commander of DESRON 23. We didn't operate under the squadron commander nearly as much as the DESRON 23 did. We operated as divisions pretty much. One division went each night up the slot while the other stayed back to refuel, re-ammunition, get some sleep, and then the next noon time, that go up the slot and we'd be in. That's the way it worked for a month or so it seems to me.
We only had one really interesting time. The Japanese had these night black cat patrol boats that came out and did reconnaissance over us and we always had those guys around us all the time when we went up the slot. We were always on alert because we never knew when they would start making a run on us. They would hang out at about twenty thousand yards or ten miles off knowing that we couldn't reach them with anything that we had. So they would just mess around there.
Were they small PT-sized boats or something?
No. These were aircraft. I think they were mostly Bettys or big Kowanish seaplanes that were twin-engine things that would just lumber around. They were going about a hundred and fifty knots circling around and obviously reporting us continually. I don't think they had radar at that time but they could look down and see your wakes and that sort of stuff but they knew what you were doing. The only real excitement we had in all that time we had alerts and false alarms and those damned scout planes operating around us all the time. I think it was just approaching Vella LaVella or the next little island below it. I can't remember the name of it now. It still had some Japanese soldiers on it. They were having a
major move of soldiers from one small island to another one about five or ten miles away. We happened upon that thing. We turned and went into them, in amongst these barges. I couldn't count them, but there were as many as a hundred, probably more, landing craft. Some of them were even as small as native canoes. Some were big landing craft like our LCVP's and they were all moving and there was behind them and out of range from us, at least one destroyer, maybe two. We got right in amongst them and it was fierce.
Actually, these guys were too close to use the main battery when we got in amongst them, the five-inch 38s, for any really good destructive work. Things were changing too fast and we couldn't. We had the main battery lobs star shells high, this was on order from division commander, it wasn't my idea. We lobbed star shells along with somebody else. We lobbed them to port and the other lobbed them starboard and that lit up. We fired them high at short range, they would burst, and the star shells would start drifting down. They silhouetted all these boats that we were in among. Then we used the forty millimeters and the twenty millimeters to do the damage. I can recall one LCVP size boats that got up close to us. It was clogged with Japanese soldiers. One of our forty-millimeter quad mounts turned down on it and finally sank it. They were all around us; it was just a question of which one you wanted to shoot at. He hit the bow. It was at a down angle like this, the thing was so close. They were up on the first deck level so they must have been fifty yards away. They just knocked the bow down with a quad forty. The stern came up and dumped all those soldiers out and they were screaming and yelling. This is what we were doing. We were right in the middle and just spraying.
It was like a turkey shoot.
Yes, we were just spraying twenty millimeter and forty millimeter as fast as we
could mow them. It was just amazing. Then we did about all the damage that we could do. I think we shot up most of those things.
The destroyers didn't try to come to their rescue?
Well, they did. At least on radar, we thought they were coming towards us.
It looks like they would have rushed right in to try to divert you at least.
There is some discussion now. It was never decided whether those were actually destroyers or whether they were just larger AP's transfer types. We could see them on radar. We couldn't see them visually. As I remember, we fired a couple of torpedoes over there at them because they weren't moving fast. There was no result.
You didn't receive any fire from them?
No, no. At least not that we could tell. By that time, our time up there was running loose. Then there was a report from the coast watchers that somebody was coming down from the other end. They may have summoned somebody down from Rabaul or Bougainville when they realized what was going on. I'm not sure those were destroyers. That's why the question was pertinent and I don't think they attacked. It turned out--we were using five-inch thirty eights by then, firing them over in that direction and so forth. I had a hang fire, a miss fire, on one of the guns. At that point, we were supposed to cease firing and everything as supposed to be quiet. We were going to retreat down the slot again because apparently at the other end was coming in so we did not fire it out.
What we should have done in hindsight possibly would have been to immediately put in another cartridge and try to fire it and try and fire the thing out. But we didn't. What we did was put the hose down the barrel with cold seawater to try to keep the thing from cooking off. But it did. It cooked off and went "bam" in the barrel. It didn't hurt anybody
but it ruined the gun barrel. We had to go down to Espiritu Po. There was a destroyer tender in there by then. They put in a new liner. It seems to me that about that time, I was detached to go back.
You all pretty much wiped out that contingent of troops that they were moving didn't you?
We think so. In one point, I don't know whether it was before or after the night we did so much damage, we had a trip down to Sidney, Australia for a week. The other ships in the squadron went ahead of us by about one day and we were held up because we were experimenting for the Bureau of Ships with somebody else, another ship not in our squadron, using infrared signal lights at night. We were testing those. I guess it was because our skipper, Squidge Lee. was the junior one in our squadron. So we were delayed a day. We sailed down alone to Sydney. By that time, the Americans in Sydney had it set up beautifully. You came in and they sent a boarding officer over and gave you everything you needed to get whiskey rations, numbers to call for places to rent a house for the time. I forget all what else.
Anyway, four of us from the TERRY (I had fleeted up to exec by then) rented a house in the suburbs of Sydney. We were going to be there a week. We bought our liquor rations and we rented a car. They even had people renting cars down on the piers for us. We went by and bought our whisky ration, took our car, and went to this house. It was like a four room house. Everybody had a bedroom. Man, what a time we had down there. It was really glorious. We went out and met girls and we would always bring them back to the house and serve them good whiskey and things like that. That was a wonderful time, a really relaxing time.
One of the things that happened just, as a little sidelight, one of the first evenings ashore, we went into a raw bar where they serve Australian beer and oysters. It was typical. That was great. It was early in our stay there, I think may be even our first night. We got to drinking Australian beer and eating oysters and they had a sing-a-long piano player there. He was playing stuff like “Waltzing Matilda” and he was singing into his microphone. As I remember, they had a little screen where they would put the words up. The four of us had played around on the ship sometimes and we had sung a little quartet. We would sing “I Had a Dream Dear” and “By the Old Mill Steam” and stuff like that. They got to doing those kind of things and the four of us were there singing in our little quartet style. Pretty soon we noticed the tables nest to us had quit singing. They were listening. This went on for maybe one song or something and finally the piano said, “How about you gentlemen from the U.S. Navy come on down here and sing a song for us.” So we went down to his microphone and huddled around his piano and sang, I think, “You Can Throw a Silver Dollar Down Upon the Ground,” they rolled. Then we sang one more that I don't remember. We got great applause and the management offered us free beer for the rest of the night. That was my one time of singing professionally. That was kind of fun.
Then we went back up to the Guadalcanal area just in time (I think this chronology is right--I wouldn't swear to it) to do the invasion of Bougainville at Cape Torokina. We went up there to do the deal. We had actually the commander of the Marine regiment that landed there. It was just a regimental landing as I recall. We were the flagship for the commander of the landing force and we shot up a lot of ammunition and stuff and put the Marines ashore.
You don't remember who the Marine leader was?
I surely don't. I think he was either a colonel or a brigadier general. I surely don't remember his name. Anyway, we did that. Then the most exciting thing that we did was before we left the Solomons. The central Pacific operations, the Marshall Island operation, had already gone on as I remember. They were planning the Mariana's operation. We were scheduled to go up and join up with the Fifth Fleet for the Mariana's operation. Just before we left, and I really got a kick out of that, our squadron went up and bombarded Rabaul for most of the night. Rabaul was the main base and everything. It had already been attacked and beat up pretty badly by the carriers on a couple of occasions. We went up there and lobbed rounds for about three hours. We must have expended a thousand rounds a piece right over those hills and down into the harbor.
You weren't getting any resistance at all from the Japanese?
No, not a thing. Of course, we had always been intimidated by Rabaul. That was their big base. I had, by now, two tours in the Solomons. The mere mention of the word Rabaul, why boy, you would begin to say “Wahoo!” Anyway, we met with no resistance at all and we beat it out of there and got back within our air support areas by dawn. We didn't even have any air opposition. There was no one following us in the air. We tried to hit the airstrip and so on to keep them down. I really got a kick out of that. I had worried about Rabaul and what was going on there for two years.
Then we went up to the central Pacific. We were in on the operation that started out in Saipan, then Guam, and then Tinian. We were there for all three of those. We had some interesting times. George Phelan, who at twenty-four, was our first commanding officer in the TERRY had been relieved by Squidge Lee. I think I mentioned that. Squidge Lee was now the skipper.
I was, by this time fleeted up to exec. I can't remember if I was exec under George or not. We got in on the invasions and we had some interesting things happen over there. In Saipan, we were part of the bombardment group that was getting call fire for the Marine and Army units ashore. One time we were sitting in the middle of the afternoon with no fire missions at the moment, just looking over the terrain with binoculars. The gun director was always pointed that way. It was looking up and down. There was a roadway that went from Garapan, I think was the city, up to the northern end of the island.
How close in were you to the island?
I don't know, a couple of thousand yards. We were within a mile or so. We could see perfectly well over there. We saw a group of tanks, we assumed/knew right away that they were Japanese because we knew where our front lines were. They were back down by Garapan. We were up several miles beyond that. We saw those tanks scooting up that road. There were four or five of them. Boy what a target of opportunity. We just let loose with everything we had. I don't know if we hit any of them or not. But we came near enough that they just dispersed and then it wasn't worthwhile for us to fire on them any more.
There was another interesting things while we were down in Guam. In the Guam invasion, we would have one day off and one day on giving fire support. We would be firing for twenty-four hours. At night we were fire interdiction fires and harassment fires. We would just lob them over there randomly all night long in Japanese areas to keep them down and not let them get any sleep. We spent twenty-four hours in close by Orote Peninsula. The next day we would go out so that everybody could get a little sleep. We would either refuel or reammunition or replenish whatever we needed. Then the next day we would go back in. We did like that for about a period of a week. We were supporting--I
have forgotten now which Marine battalion it was. Each Marine battalion had a fire support/control officer of a Navy type and a Marine type that did the call fires to the ships. They would call out the ships and designate the targets and tell you where and when. They would spot for you and the whole thing.
We established quite a rapport with this particular battalion. We had been supporting them all the way. Their job was to go to the back of the Orote Peninsula. In the back of the Orote Peninsula was a big mountain. The Japanese were up there in considerable strength. That's where they kind of filtered too. Their job was to go up that mountain and beat up the Japanese. The Japanese weren't giving up. As you know, we didn't find some of them until 1950 or something out there in Guam.
Anyway, we got to know these guys and so we invited them, whenever they could, one at a time, to come out to the ship. They would come out in a boat and join the ship and watch us fire. We would give them a shower and ice cream and a mob of cigarettes and cigars and candy bars to take back. They would sleep overnight with us and we would feed them a meal and so forth. We got to be pretty friendly with them. It turned out that that was one of the things that led us to the deal where, when they got to tough going there were caves that the Japanese had dug or maybe they were natural and they had improved them or something. up near the too. This was the big thing, to get to them. Our spotters and our fire control officers from the Marine battalion would talk to us like this: They would say, "Hey now look, we are at such and such a place and if you look through your range finder, you'll see a big rock there. It's shaped like a “U.”
We would say, “Okay, we got it.”
Then they would say, “Now, were just below that. Just up and to the right about a
hundred yards from that big rock is a cave. I don't think you can see it from where you are, but if you can, that's where we want you to shoot at.” We were doing all this talking it out.
Lobbing the shells?
Yes. We would shoot where they said they wanted us to, not by the grid thing you know and so forth. They would describe to us as soon as we got fixed in to the landmark, then we would deviate from that and find whatever it was they wanted us to shoot at. That was great because on a fire control grid map, that mountain was just a bunch of circles and the grid didn't mean much when you were trying to actually hit something, which we had to hit those damned cave entrances. We spent several days using that system as they went up there. They finally took those mountains and that was an interesting thing. It was all done by our just saying, “Hey, when you get the chance, come on out to the ship.” They would stay with us for a day, three or four different ones in a party. As I said, we would load them up with ice cream, candy bars, and cigarettes, and cigars to take back. That was interesting. We were in on the battle of the Philippine Sea, the so-called “Turkey Shoot.”
Down in Guam and Tinian, was there any Japanese resistance to your firing? Or were they just concerned with defending themselves against the land forces?
No, no we got no counter-battery at all. Yes, right. We never got any counter-battery and I don't think any of the ships did.
They had no planes left in that area?
They had none. They had the airfield on Rota and so forth and that had been wiped out. Before the battle of the Philippine Sea and when their carriers set off the first attack groups, they were supposed to land at Rota because they couldn't make it back to the ships. When they got there, they found that it was ours. Of course, we met them halfway.
So you felt relatively safe out there without a Japanese fleet or squadron close by.
Yes, we weren't worried about it at all. We were just enjoying ourselves. The only thing was that the noise kept us all night because we were shooting all night. As the gunnery officer, I would go for twenty-four hours without any sleep. I would have to sleep the next day. I guess I was exec by then. That was another thing that Squidge Lee and I did--he was the skipper and I was exec. We would be firing all night, so I would take his position on the bridge and conduct the firing for half the night and he would relieve me and I would sleep in his sea cabin when I was off. You couldn't get any sleep on a destroyer with those five-inch thirty-eights going off, one every thirty seconds or one every ten seconds. We worked out that little deal to where we split the night watches. I would maneuver the ship as necessary and give the firing commands when they were necessary. Always, the gunnery officer on watch would call to the bridge and say, “I am on target as required. Request permission to open fire.” They would say, “yes.” Of course they would look to see whether they were pointed right and all that. Squidge and I split that duty. That was a help to both of us. After about a week of it we were so tired we couldn't hardly think. Then when we were off, it was nice for a lot of the crew, but for us, running the ship and conning alongside for replenishment and so forth.
The thing I remember about the battle of the Philippine Sea was when our people who had been sent out on that strait and come back at night. Admiral Mitscher said, “Turn on the lights.” We all turned on the searchlights and turned them right straight up in the sky so that the guys coming back could see the Fleet. They were just about out of gas. They were landing on the wrong ships and everything but nobody minded that. The whole idea was to get them down and on the carriers. We were plane guarding a couple of carriers and
Squidge decided, I don't know why, that he would take the watch out on the wing of the bridge. He was to spot for us if he saw planes going down or anything like that. I would con. In plane guard position, you get up about three hundred yards behind the carrier and hold it. You are kind of a landmark for planes coming in. They fly right over you and also, you are right ready to pick them up of they fall into the water. I was conning the ship, flashing along, going twenty-five or twenty-eight knots or something. About then, planes started going in near us, so we deviated, with permission. The task force granted us permission to go rescue the pilots. Squidge would stay out on the wing and I would con the ship. I would con the ship up and he would tell me where he wanted me to go and I would back her down. We fished up three or four aviators that night. One of them was a guy named Kane. He had been wounded previously. I don't know if it was in aerial combat or on a ground attack run. He had his head all bandaged. We fished him out of the water. He was the air group commander on one of the carriers. We said, "What in the hell, you already have been bandaged up. What in the world can we do for you?" He was in the water and we fished him out and he had been wounded before, but he was up there, boy. His air group was up there and he wasn't about to let them go without him.
The reason they were in the water was primarily because they were out of gas?
Yes, they were out of gas. They just couldn't quite make it to the carrier. Some of them went in outside of the screen. That's where we went. A couple of them almost made it, being only a couple of miles short. We fished out three or four. That was a worthwhile thing to do. I was so proud of being at the con. Squidge would say, “He's right over there, he about a point on the port bow.” Then I would head for him. We would get out there and we would look and I would stop the engines and back down and do all that.
Trying to spot an individual in the water in the middle of the night out there wasn't the easy was it?
No, but their life jackets normally have a little flashlight on it. Sometimes they have lights and we could see the plane. The planes, as I remember it, had lights. They put their landing lights on when they came in and we could see a plane with landing lights splash in and we would go there.
The sea was pretty calm too.
Yes, it wasn't bad at all. We were able to find them once they went in. I don't know that we were able to find them at all. I don't think so. I think a number of them didn't quite make it back. We went out and searched for them the next day. That was one of the better things I was involved in during the war. We really made a contribution, particularly picking up that brave air group commander that wasn't about to let his group go out and fight the Japanese fleet without him. He was all bandaged up.
We got orders in the TERRY to go back, this is when we had wrapped up the Mariana's operation, to the Naval shipyard as I recall in San Francisco for an overhaul. An interesting thing was that I got to know real well and loved George Phelan, who had been our original skipper in the TERRY. As a matter of fact, he convinced me to go to Naval intelligence school. He had been in Naval intelligence before the war. He was a roughed up old guy, thin as a rail. He had a moustache. Up on the bridge, whenever anything got tense, George would twitch has moustache and scratch his ass, I knew he was worried. I can remember with the carrier task force, just before George left us, that it was a quiet afternoon. There were no flight operations. They had gone off. We were just cruising along. I had the afternoon or the morning watch. We had some awfully good JOs to come
along. I'll name Jim Mason out of the Naval Academy. He was a crackerjack. His words would come out on the bridge from the voice tube. That is when I was still gunnery officer. He would say, “Guns, who's your JP?” I would say, “Mason, sir.” He would say, “All right, turn it over to him and come in to the sea cabin.” I would go in there and he would be ready to play Russian bank. We would sit there and play cards. I don't remember how many times I would get that call to go in and sit with the skipper and play Russian bank. We would sit there and play cards. It was ten feet from the bridge so it was no great deal. We became quite good friends because of that. I did some things on line handling for him that he thought were fine. I remember one time when we were out in the screen for a fast carrier task force somewhere some place and we were roaring along. They ran up the FOX flag and that meant for people to take their positions for launching or landing, whichever it was. Our position was plain guard for one of the three carriers. I had worked out where to go on the maneuvering board, I had taken the direct course to it. The way I was going, I was just going to come in right behind the carrier and pull up in position. Of course I notified George. He was in taking a nap. the son-of-a-gun had worked so hard and he was up most of the nights and the whole thing. We let him sleep whenever we could. I hollered in, “Captain, they've hoisted fox. I'm going to plane guard station.” He said, “Very well.” In a couple of minutes, he came wondering out on the bridge. He looks and here's the way I was going, I was headed right here and the carrier was right here. I was going, it looked to him, on a collision course. I knew it wasn't. I knew that my speed differential would enable me to come right in behind him. I had it figured and I was taking bearing all the way. He said, “All engines stop.” I said, “My God, Captain, please don't do that. You will mess us up. Belay that. Hold what you got.” They looked and looked, and he said, “Yea, that's all right.
That's all right. You're all right.” then he went over by his chair and sat there twiddling his moustache and he stretched his feet up. He was long lanky thin guy. He sat there mumbling, “that little son-of-a-bitch telling me what to do on my own bridge. . . I can't have that god-damned thing on my bridge.... my very own bridge. . . I can't have that son-of-a-bitch telling me what to do. . .” That's the way he worked off his anger. We were friends from then on. I gave you that background because it was so interesting. When we came back in the TERRY, George had gone off to be division commander of a division of destroyers, I don't know which division or anything. He heard or knew from the fox schedules and so on that the TERRY was scheduled to go back. He had requested and been assigned to the TERRY for transportation to San Francisco. He came aboard his old ship as a passenger. I got orders on the way back, they of course knew we were coming back, that I was to be detached on arrival, thirty days leave, and then new construction. George and I were detached from the ship when we arrived in San Francisco. George said to me, “Guns, let's get us a hotel room together, it would be cheaper.” I said, “Okay, that's fine, Captain.” We got a room at the St. Francis I guess it was. We had about four days to wait. We had to send a message saying that were here. BUPERS had to do all their stuff. Then we got the message back through the district personnel officer and whole process lasted about four or five days. George and I shared the room. George had in his bag, a bottle of old Tennessee bourbon. He said, “I've carried it for a long, long time. I think you and I had better have some of this.” He opened his bottle of old Tennessee bourbon. We sat there, had drinks, and told sea stories. George had a wife, I knew her before she passed away. She was a wonderful lady. She died just after the war as I recall. He said, “Now Guns, don't stay in here because of me, you get on out on the town. If you want to bring a guest up here, all
you have to do is call from the lobby and tell me you're bringing up a guest. I'll get right out of here and out of your way.” He was being so considerate. That time of telling sea stories with him and enjoying his companionship and being roommates with him was just delightful. I really got to love the guy.
You were nicknamed Guns. Was that because you were the gunnery officer?
It was because I was gunnery officer under him. He called me Guns. I really enjoyed that. That was a charming incident. We got along famously. Then we separated and went on. Once again, my orders were to the HIGBEE under construction at the Bath Iron Works at Bath, Maine. I went back and spent my leave in Washington. Then from Washington, I had to go to Norfolk and take the pre-commissioning crew. That was it. I had to train them and then we went up to get the ship a couple of months later.
In any event, at some point along the line, I received a letter from this girl, Barbara Pittman from Bath. She told me that she had joined the Waves. Her brother had been killed in the submarine CISCO, or was missing or was lost in the CISCO. She was very idealistic. She was going to fill in for him and take his place. She joined the Waves and was assigned to duty in Washington as a secretary for an admiral, I can't remember his name. I used to know him so well. He was the Chief of the Bureau of supplies and accounts, the chief of supply corps officer in the Navy, and she was his private secretary. She was awfully good, very conscientious, and a whiz at typing and dictation and all. She could type four hundred words a minute or some darn thing. Anyway, I knew she was there. She had sent me her office number and so on in the letter. So I got in touch with her. We spent my thirty-day leave dating in the Washington area. I took her out damned near every night. We would go to parties or somewhere, this and that. At that point, we decided to be married. I went up to
Norfolk and she came down to visit me. Then I went up to Bath to put the ship into commission. While I was there, we arranged married in Washington D.C. because I could get away and she couldn't. I
n February, 1945, we were married. She came with me back to Boston where we honeymooned in the Statler Hotel, the old hotel right next to the Boston Garden. Then I had to leave. The ship left out of Boston where we were post-commissioning, post shake down over-haul. I left and she went back to Washington to her duty down there. The wedding we had was quite nifty. She and I were in uniform. She was a first class yeoman.
They didn't have any restriction on Waves marrying?
No. She became pregnant and had a miscarriage about six months after I had left. That was when she was discharged from the Waves and went back to Bath Iron Works and worked there doing the same kind of thing doing secretarial work. Then I went out in the HIGBEE and Lindsey Williamson, I guess he was out of the Class of 1932 or 1933, was the captain and I was the exec. I trained the crew down at Norfolk at the training station down there. Then I took them up to Boston on a train. Then on to Bath. We took over the ship in Boston. No, we didn't take the crew up to Bath at all. The ship was brought down to Boston by the pre-commissioning crew and then we took her. We went down to Guantanamo, the usual thing on the shakedown and so on. Then we went out to the Pacific via San Diego, the usual thing. We went out with a couple of carriers and exercised all the way out. The HIGBEE was designated as a radar-picket ship. She was a DDR rather than just a plain DD. She had everything that a DD had, one of the long hulled twenty-one hundred class. Except we had fine search radar. It was a huge big air search radar that was brand new. And we had a SPS-8 radar. I still remember that. It was a height finding radar.
We had a large combat information center. We had experienced fighter director officers assigned to the ship. We had two or three of them whose sole duty was fighter direction and control of aircraft from our combat information center. They were great.
By this time, we didn't get out with the Third Fleet until on around July or August of 1945. The Japanese were about to surrender and everybody pretty much knew it. We did have one exciting time. Our job with the carrier task forces was to be out approximately fifty miles from the task force and we would be fifty miles toward the enemy in advance. It would be one of us, one radar picket ship, and a division of destroyers around you in a little circular formation for anti-aircraft protection. We had elaborate things of passing the aircraft through because the Japanese were doing at that late date was to tail our aircraft back. That was the only way they could find us. They would see one of our aircrafts coming back from a raid and they would follow him back to the Feet. We had a funny little name for doing that. When ever our strike aircraft came back, they had to check in through us. They had to identify themselves by radar and give us the proper IFF signals. We would check to see if anybody was behind them. I wish I could think of what the name of that was. It was de-fleaing them or something like that.
Anyway, just about August, it must have been, it was late, late in the war and the Japanese were down to their last gasp. Of course, we didn't know what all was going on in Japan at the time. They came out with some strike aircraft. We had an attack on the Fleet, they were headed for the Fleet. They came right by us. There were, I guess, as many as twenty or thirty slow moving aircraft that were following in a line, single file. They had apparently one guide aircraft and the rest were following them. They were Kamikazes. That was the whole idea. They were going to find the Fleet. They were slow moving old
training aircraft, I guess. At that point it was just about dusk, or towards sunset. We had what we called the “Dad Cap,” the dawn and dusk combat air patrol or two night fighters from one of the carriers. We had them and we vectored them out, or I didn't, Dave Wilcox, who was the fighter director officer directed them out, they were coming on these guys one at a time. They were whacking them down. They were doing this but they couldn't get them all. It turned out that three or four or thereabouts, at least that I saw, got in as far as us out on the picket station. They still had fifty miles to go to get to the carriers. They decided apparently or had orders to hit anything they saw floating.
We had a kamikaze attack on us. We were the center ship of this little group of five. He got in and we shot at him. We couldn't shoot too far because our Dad Cap was chasing him. It was a mess. Anyway, he got in and we started firing on him with the short-range stuff, forty and twenty millimeter, he was into that range and about four thousand yards and less, coming right in. We had seen pieces of fabric coming off the wings so we knew we were hitting him, but nothing that was stopping him. He came right in. I was in C.I.C. but that was on the bridge level. When I saw that guy coming in, I thought, "Boy, I'm going out there." I was a combat information officer. I was not the fighter director so I had no immediate problem. I went out on the bridge to see what this guy was going to do. He came over and right down on us. He went, at just bridge eye level, right over gun two which was right there and he just missed gun two, I bet you, by three feet. He had come too shallow. His left wing tip missed the bridge by about two feet and he went into the water just off on our port side. That was close. That was the last effort that the Japanese were able to make as far as I know.
That was the only kamikaze attack on one of your planes?
Yes, that is the only one that I was involved in. The ships down around Okinawa and a little earlier in the Philippines had a little problems. I wasn't in on those operations. I was back bringing out a new ship. That was the end of that particular thing. Shortly after that, the surrender took place in Tokyo Bay. We went in there in the HIGBEE and were along the U.S. Fleet who stayed there. Shortly after that, in September, l945, I got orders to command of the DOYLE. She was then in Okinawa. So, I left the HIGBEE in Tokyo Bay and they went on back to the States. I went back to pick up the DOYLE in Okinawa. She had just arrived, basically. She was designated to stay.
She was a new ship?
No. She was the 494 destroyer. She had been in the Atlantic. I forgot just how old she was. She had been converted to a DMS. She was a DMS and it was pretty obvious that my experience in the ZANE was how I got command of her in Okinawa. That meant, I and everybody else knew it, that I was going to be out in the western Pacific for another year at least. We had kind of a problem overseas with ships in those days because of personnel. All of our personnel were going back on this point system and so forth. We were receiving very few. They were just taking from one ship to out in another. They were borrowing from Peter to pay Paul to keep some ships operating. Fortunately, we were in Sasebo, we were in MINEPAC organization, and Don Clay, Class Of 1934 or 1935, was the operations officer for COMINPAC. They were, in Sasebo, the flagship. I was just bored to tears and the ship was just sitting there and we were rising on a mound of our own coffee grounds. The crew moral was down and the whole thing. I would go over and pester him, almost daily, to give us some kind of a job to go somewhere.
We did something special, therefore we were not out with the rest of our squadron
sweeping the Yellow Sea. We were there. So I would go over and pester Don Clay, “Did he have any kind of a job?” He began to think in terms of that and he gave me little jobs, that is the ship, not me personally. We had a job like, we had to go up to a little Bay, I forgot the name of it, up a little way from Sasebo, fifty or a hundred miles away, and refuel one of mine-sweeper's squadron commander's ships. We went in there and anchored and they came alongside. We refueled them. We went ashore on this little island, I think it was call Ikishima. A bay was on it. The people ashore there hadn't heard that Japan had surrendered yet. They were not unhappy with us. We went ashore armed. We looked around and found a couple of people who could speak a little English and we told them the war was over and that we were here and we weren't going to do them any harm and we were going to leave in a few hours. And, we did. That was kind of interesting.
Another thing, we had a lot of Japanese. We made the Japanese minesweepers sweep the harbors rather than our people. They were a little bit reluctant about that whole thing. We had a whole squadron one time that was supposed to go from one place to another in the Inland Sea and they disappeared. They were never heard from. Don Clay sent me up to see if I could find these guys to round them up and to see where they were. I finally found them in a little harbor and I radioed back where they were. It turned out that they had gotten their orders mixed up or some darn thing. That was the kind of thing that I would do. Then he had a deal where we had to take some official mail, highly classified mail, to an Army and Navy contingent in Formosa and also in Shanghai, so Don sent me and the DOYLE. We went down to Taipei and Formosa and spent a couple of days and off loaded this classified mail. Then we went over and up the Yangtse and the Whangpoo and up to Shanghai for several days. Boy it was just great. We had a ball. When I got back to
Sasebo and had some time heavy on my hands, I was to report to Don and have him send me, as an individual, an inspector or coordinator or whatever for COMINPAC. I went down to places like Kyoto to the I-corps area to confer with the commanding general on how the Japanese mine sweepers were doing.
About the Japanese mine sweepers, was it an entire crew of Japanese on board or were there American officers on board?
No. They were under American direction but they were Japanese manned.
They had been stripped of arms and everything.
Yes. The only thing that we did, we had a couple of old Liberty Ships that went back and forth to explode pressure mines. The Japanese didn't have anything that they could do that with. We had remote control Liberty Ships.
What kind of status did the Japanese have? They weren't P.O.W.'s
No, no. They were the Japanese Defense Force or something like that. I can remember on one mission that Don Clay sent me on to the Admiral in charge of this Japanese mine sweeping effort. I remember walking into his office, I was in full uniform and everything and I think I even wore my sword. I went stomping into his office. He had an interpreter there. I said, “Admiral, Goddammit it, we haven't gotten word that you've done this and this and this, and we want to know what and so forth.” I was just laying down the law to him. Here he was a very distinguished Admiral, not in uniform by the way. I was the emissary and I would just go over and walk right in. We were still mad at the Japanese a little bit. Not really, but anyway.
Did they allow the officers to remain in position more or less?
Yes, in that particular thing, in the minesweeping job.
We're talking about May l945 and early of l946
Yes. I don't know how long that mine sweeping effort by the Japanese went on. I think it was on toward April or May of l946 that we finally got orders to go back to San Francisco where we would be home ported. When we got back there, I sent for Barbara and she came out and we got Navy housing, while I was still in command of the DOYLE.
[End of Part 2]
|EAST CAROLINA MANUSCRIPT COLLECTION|
|ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW|
|Commander David M. Armstrong|
|USNA CLASS OF 1941|
|July 7, l988|
I joined the DOYLE in Okinawa. She had been there during the typhoon which had just passed through there a week or so earlier. There were many ships that had been damaged there but the DOYLE was not among them. She had been at sea in the actual passing of the typhoon so she was undamaged. In any event, I relieved command there and a guy by the name of--I forget--who later became a Senator from Kentucky stayed with the ship as we went back into Japan out of Okinawa. We went into Sasebo Harbor. He waited on board for transportation back to the States. He was to be released on the point system. His name was Thruston Morton. He was a charming guy and had the gift of gab as you can imagine and he later became Senator and so on. He and I, while just sitting there waiting, played a lot of bridge. We played against the best the wardroom could then offer. I recall that one time we played for twenty-four hours. We started at twelve noon on a Saturday and played through till twelve noon on Sunday without stopping on the basis that we bet five dollars a corner that we, he and I, could be twenty thousand points ahead of our opponents in that time period. That was enjoyable. His motto in that bridge job was, “We'll overbid at least one every time because I can talk them out of one trick.” He was a delightful guy. I never had
anything to do with him after that except to follow his career in the Senate and in the Congress.
Finally, I sat there in Sasebo and we were just about to run aground in our own coffee grounds. I think I mentioned this before, Don Clay, out of the Class of 1935 was the operations officer for COMINPAC and I kept going over. In the meantime, the others of our squadron were out doing a mine sweep of the South China Sea and we were left out of that because of some arrangements about the flag and so on. I don't recall now exactly what it was but we just sat. Finally, I got to make some trips to Shanghai, Formosa, Taipei, and a number of trips up to the Inland Sea and so little excursions to try and find missing Japanese mine sweepers and so on. We had quite a lot of fun out of it. As I remember, we went back. I had been married in February of 1945 and had gone out in the HIGBEE(?) and then stayed with the DOYLE. It was about April of 1946 by the time we got back to San Francisco. In San Francisco, we were just simply operating in and out of Treasure Island and in and out of municipal piers #33 and #54 and did some exercises. It was nothing very important. We lived in a little Navy housing outfits out in Oakland and Richmond and in Guam Village in South San Francisco. Our homeport was changed to Long Beach as I recall. We went to Long Beach Naval Shipyard for an overhaul. I moved the family down there on the Long Beach Naval Shipyard. By this time we had one little one. While all this was going on, I had applied for and I got orders to, upon relief, to be later on in June of 1946, to the Naval Intelligence School as a post-graduate student. In the meantime, we did some towing of targets down in San Diego and our homeport arrangement was shifted to San Diego. We operated out of San Diego for a month or so towing targets because we had all the mine sweeping gear and the winches to handle the targets with. We did that. I didn't live permanently in San Diego at that time. We lived in a auto court, a sort of motel type of thing.
There in one question comes to mind, not to digress too far, but you mentioned living in
Quonset Huts at Long Beach. I can remember that there were an awful lot of those around during the World War II period. They didn't look too comfortable. They looked like they would be hot in the summer and cold in winter. Were they air conditioned and insulated or were they pretty basic?
I don't recall. I think they were either. I think there was a provision for heat but by and large, in southern California, it didn't get hot or cold enough to worry about it. I don't recall that we had air-conditioning but I'm pretty sure that we didn't. They were fairly comfortable because you would use one end of a Quonset Hut and another family would have the other end. As I recall, we had a kitchen, dining room and living room all in one great area and then a couple of bedrooms and a bath and it was quite comfortable as I recall. I suppose now I would find it quite uncomfortable but at the time, I didn't. Later on, we lived in a Quonset Hut up in Hunter's Point when I was in the ROCHESTER. Whenever the ships went to the yards, the personnel of the ships could move their families temporarily into the Quonset Huts right there on the shipyards and keep them there. Then I got orders to proceed to Washington in July. I had them for some time. I was relieved but now I can't for the life of me remember the name of the officer who relieved me. I do remember and thought very highly of my exec for the most of the time. I had two or three different execs when the release of reservists went on and then I finally steadied down. One guy was out of the Class of 1944 by the name of Ernie Hipp, who was a very fine executive officer. Later I ran across him up in Newport. He was the exec of the MITSCHER while I was the skipper of the LEE. Anyway, he was a very fine guy. He's one to the ones I remember. I don't remember the other officers very well. We had a tremendous turnover during that particular period.
I went back to Naval Intelligence School as a post-graduate student. There was a class of around thirty of us as I recall. The school was located in Anacostia on the receiving station out in Washington. There was a large frame building there which was adequate to the staff and the
student body that we had. The intelligence portion of the course was about six or eight months, I've forgotten exactly. Primarily, the staffs were not the real experts. We had experts from the Washington area to come in and do the lectures and segments from the instruction, from the O.N.I. and the Navy Department and the people from the State Department. The C.I.A. was just getting underway and various people like that came in and conducted the instruction, by and large.
What types of things did the teach you?
Well, we had all sorts of things. We had strategic intelligence, for instance, in which we learned about how all these studies are done of countries and so on with all the background information, industrial information, historical information, political information and so on which forms the basis of anything that goes on from there. They are done in segments usually by the Office of Naval Intelligence. There are other contributors to it. The State Department contributes to all these Strategic Intelligence studies that were available by country. We had a lot of information on that and a lot of information on the structure and organization of the Office of Naval Intelligence and the other Intelligence services and how they were organized and operated, including the F.B.I. and so on. People from each of those organizations came and gave the basic instruction involved. We had such things as public speaking but the idea was to teach students how to give proper intelligence briefings. I forget, we didn't get into the highly classified materials such as communications intelligence at that time because that was still on a need to know basis and you only got into that if you were assigned to it. Basically, the whole scan together with a lot of history of intelligence during World War II, primarily, (this was in 1946 and 1947) we were taking advantage of the experience gained during World War II to form the basis of instruction in the school. As I recall, I stood number two in the class in that. A guy by the name of Cliff Campton(?) stood as number one. I remember that very well. Then the remainder of our tour as students was in
language study. During that time the Cold War was getting underway, most of us were required to take Russian language, although I had requested Chinese. Most of us took Russian. Several others took various exotic languages. A lot took French and some took Arabic, though not many. In any event, as a result of language study, I received an interrupter's certificate in the Russian and I stood number two again in language studies after a guy by the name of Paul Garbler. I was the number two man in both intelligence and language studies. Everybody got ordered, just before we were to complete and graduate, to exotic places. There were attaché officers were going to Paris and Berlin and all sorts of places like that. My orders came through to stay on the staff as an instructor. I stayed together with Andy Bergdon(?), who was in the class and Morye(?) Caylin(?). The three of us were ordered. . . Morye was an aviator and Art was a previous intelligence specialist. We were ordered to stay on on the staff to relieve the people who were then there. That was an interesting thing. I got in an awfully lot of teaching experience. I got a lot of public speaking experience by preparing lessons and delivering lectures and so on.
What aspect of it were you teaching?
Operational intelligence, which was combination of a number of things with hints about the general ideas about how communications intelligence worked. I also taught counter-intelligence. I didn't provide most of the substantive instruction. We used the people from the F.B.I. and from O.N.I. and so on. We had them to come over and do it. My main job, other than introductory work and summary work, was to coordinate the visiting speakers by arranging for them to come over and set them up in logical order to provide instruction. That was the way. There was not enough expertise or enough staff to handle the thing as a staff instructional thing. It was strictly for the visitors who came to us. We were on our second class of people at the Intelligence School when Art and Morye and I decided it was time. By this time, Captain Eddie Layton, who was the
Intelligence Officer of the Pacific Fleet just before and during most of World War II, came on as skipper of the school. With his permission and his support, we decided to devise an intelligence practical problem for our students. To make it as realistic as possible, we went to the Naval War College and they provided us with a framework of an operational problem that they were teaching, not on the basis of intelligence but on what the U.S. Navy might do in these circumstances. It turns out that it was a Persian Gulf area and it was the Strait of Horminz and the Jast Peninsula and so forth, which is prominent in the news right now. That was the area the War College provided us with the operational details. They had worked out the ships that were to be available, the amphibious Marine units, etc., and all the operational units were all worked out in this thing by the War College. The idea was that, at that time, the Russians would come down and make an entrance into the Persian Gulf via Iran. At that time, there was a lot of dissidents in Iran and the whole country was in turmoil. The idea was that perhaps the Soviets would take over Iran in that state of turmoil and then we would be required to take it back or at least to establish ourselves or clear up the Gulf so that the Strait of Horminz would be available.
Anyway, we were on solid ground operationally because the War College used the precise things and laid out exactly what the operation was going to do, how it was going to be done, the “H” hour, the D-day and the whole business. We built around that framework. We didn't give our students anything in the War College solutions about what the situation was intelligence wise. We gave that to them bit by bit by introducing messages and preconceived letters and so on. They were to imagine themselves at various levels. The first level was to have been that of O.N.I. There they took out all the strategic information and so on and wrote strategic evaluation of the areas of industry, population, and etc., etc. From that point, we presumed that they sent that appreciation to the Fleet Commander. Then they were at the Fleet Commander staff and they were working on a
CoSid(?) level and then finally down to being the actual intelligence officer of the commander of the amphibious force as he went in to make this attack, using only the War Colleges' approved. We were on solid ground and didn't invent anything that was contemplated as contingency work in the Navy.
At the time of the landings, we had worked up scripts. We had our students to divide it up into teams and offices. We had worked up scripts of incoming messages that we sent in through voice radio and all kinds of stuff right to the end when the whole thing was over. Then we had them, at the end, to write up an appreciation of the intelligence effort for the entire operation. The whole thing took about a month to six weeks. The students, after they had done it, said how much they got out of it. We gave the operation a code name, Operation Sandstorm to indicate the area and so on. The students, about a week after getting into it, called it Operation Shitstorm. Anyway, it was a good deal and as a result of that, the idea of a practical problem in intelligence was generated for the intelligence school, which was badly needed.
After serving for about a year and a half on the school staff, I had orders to the Commander Amphibious Training at Coronado, California. I was to be intelligence officer on his staff, which was primarily to be the officer in charge of the Naval Amphibious Intelligence Command School on the Amphibious Training Base at Coronado. I went there and found that I had the same sort of thing. It was a little school that was used to train primarily officers in the reserve, Army, Navy, and Marine Corps reserve in the latest intelligence techniques in amphibious warfare and so on.
About when was this?
This would have been in 1949. I left the intelligence school there and went out to Coronado. It was a delightful place to live. Coronado was isolated from San Diego then. One could only get back and forth via ferry. The population was about ninety percent U.S. Navy. It was
not a Navy housing area. The Naval Air station of North Island was at one end of Coronado and the Naval Amphibious training base was at the other end. Nothing went back and forth except by ferry. That was a delightful place to live. I taught there and ran that school and had the good luck to have a joint staff. I had an Army, Marine, Air Force, Coast and Geodetic Survey Officer on the staff. We carried on the instruction ourselves. We had enough expertise to do this. We did a lot of innovations, particularly in the use of graphics which I had been sold on in my tour of duty at the Naval Intelligence School. Fortunately, we had on the base, available to each school, a graphics and photographics section headed up by a chief petty officer who had come from the Naval photographic center. He was a real genius at drawing up maps and charts and pictures. He could do anything. We took advantage of him while other schools didn't. We had some classy graphics. We were noted for them. People would come just to look at our graphics, not to take the course but just to see what we had. That was great.
In the middle of that time, an interesting thing happened. I was order back to Washington on temporary duty to the Naval Intelligence School again to make a training film. After we devised this intelligence problem which I just spoke about at the Intelligence School, the three of us, Art, Morye(?), and I and we had a chief petty officer, Chief Yeoman, formed a travelling team. We put on a briefing on this problem. We traced it right on through to the end of what happened and what the intelligence was. We put it on up at the Naval War College, the C.I.A., the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk, and we put it on a couple of times at the Pentagon for mixed audiences. It was quite a show thing because we had beautiful graphics that were made up by the Naval Photographic Lab and everybody helped us out. We used to go on a Navy plane and the whole back of it full of graphics, it was a great big deal. I think that as a matter of fact, there is a picture in some of the materials that I left with you of the three of us and the chief yeoman. We presented it a dozen times
at least, all over Washington, down at Norfolk, up at Newport, Rhode Island and so forth. Anyway, we made a training film using that briefing as a basis and it was made into a training film called *Operation Sandstorm*. It was classified “Secret” because we used in preparing the materials, actual intelligence materials. We didn't make anything up. It was all actual materials and an actual planned operation.
The Korean War broke out in June or July of 1950. I had been out at Coronado by about a year at that time. Shortly after the war broke out, I had orders to report to the U.S.S.ROCHESTER, a heavy cruiser as operations officer. At the time, she was in the West Pacific engaging in operations in the Korean War. I flew out to Japan and joined the ship in Sasebo. She came in for a routine upkeep period. The ships at that time, the cruisers, were on the line for about a month and then in for about ten days on upkeep and R and R type things and then were out again for another month or so. That was a rotational deal. When one cruiser was in, one was out and so on. We kept a battle group of, generally speaking, one carrier, one heavy cruiser, or two heavy cruisers, a battleship, and a squadron of destroyers off the bomb line, the front line extended in Korea. I reported and relieved a guy named Bill Ratliff out of the Class of 1938 as operations officer. We participated in the usual things that the Navy did in the Korean War. It was nothing truly exciting. About every third or fourth day, we had a gun strike mission assigned by the task force commander of Naval Forces in the Far East, to run up the North Korean coast and to bombard a certain place or whatever and then to go back and join the battle group again. The battle group, in the meantime, was sending Naval Aircraft over from the carriers and so forth. It was quite an operation. We got it down until it was pretty much routine. We used to go into places like Wonsan Harbor. I think we were the first cruiser to go in there. We circled around a little island there called Wolmido. We had an intelligence team telling us what to do. We would run around there and shoot them up and
have a big time.
Did you get a response from the Koreans? They really didn't have a Navy themselves.
No. To my knowledge, we didn't get any counter battery at all. We just went in there. We always were ready for it and were expecting it but we never had it. We always had aircraft spotters that were the main things used for spotting because we didn't have accurate charts of precise installations we were shooting at.
Did they have shore batteries?
Yes, but we never did see any. Other ships may have, we never did even though we ran in and around Wonsan Harbor several times right in and around. That was supposedly their best-armed port. I don't recall that we ever saw any counter-battery at all. Maybe we intimidated them, I don't know. Destroyers had gone in there before, but we went in there with eight-inch guns. When you fire a nine-gun salvo of eight-inch, it really rocks them. That may have been it.
The ROCHESTER had a couple of interesting things to happen. It happened just before I arrived but it was still going on as part of an investigation and search. A ROCHESTER helicopter went behind the lines in North Korea, the Chinese lines, on a call that came round about some the agents that were on Wolmido but it had been relayed to them that a Navy prisoner of war had escaped. I guess maybe a pilot had not been captured yet and he was being hidden or kept at a certain place. The ROCHESTER sent a helicopter in and apparently, it was a set-up. It was a trap. This helicopter no sooner landed in this specified and gave the necessary signals and so forth and the North Korean troops sprang up out of the bushes and damaged it. It did not get away and the pilot and co-pilot were taken prisoners. They actually saw the Navy pilot and he was bandaged up and on crutches and so forth. There was a lot of hoo-rah about as to whether this Navy flyer had cooperated in this effort to trap the helicopter. That continued. The Navy pilot who was taken; I
didn't know him until later when I was back in Washington again. He was still around. He wrote a book, I can't now recall the name, about his experiences having been taken prisoner in that bizarre situation.
Did they remain prisoners throughout the war?
Yes. He remained as a prisoner and was one of those who resisted and helped to organize the resistance of our prisoners to brainwashing. The big deal in Korea was that the prisoners were being brainwashed. He was a guiding light in that resistance effort. Apparently, he was chastised rather severely by the North Koreans on a number of occasions for sounding off about it, “Among our people, don't do it, don't do it, don't let them.” He just kept doing it and they would beat him up and throw him out in the yard. He wrote a book about those experiences. That was an interesting thing. I came aboard just after they had lost the helicopter. Nobody knew exactly what had happened except that transmissions back to the ship and to the circling combat air patrol that was watching the helicopter said, “The aircraft had stumbled and troops are closing in.” They tried what they could to stop them, but they couldn't.
There was another thing that was an interesting little sidelight. The story only appeared in the predecessor of the Army and Navy Times, which are sort of tabloids that come out now.
Was it the Stars and Stripes?
No. It's not that. It was a thing that was published in Washington in peacetime for all the troops and services and it had all kinds of information on congressional actions and notable events within the services and not really noteworthy things. This was a little story in there and it actually happened while I was on board. We went up to some place along the North Korean coast and our target was a transmission and transformer station. It was a brick building that set out alone and it resisted pretty much any attempts to bomb it or knock it out. It was a fairly small building about
fifty feet of brick construction and it housed apparently, transformers for power lines. It had great big high-tension lines coming in at both ends of it. It was some kind of transformer--I've forgotten the details now. We had them at the time. We were sent up there. The distance to them was twenty-six thousand yards. That's precisely the extreme range of eight-inch guns from where we were to where that thing was. We had the coordinates on a chart. We had an air spotter and the way you did those things was to fire your first round cranking in your information to the fire control people from the chart, measuring out the range and bearing. The fire control people would crank it into the computer and when they were ready, you would fire one ranging shot, just one and this was to go and you would say, “Flash” or something like that to indicate that you had fired it and “Splash” as it landed so your air observer could look down and see where it was. The guy up there was from the U.S. Air Force and we fired that one ranging round and apparently we hit that damned little thing dead center. I forgot the exact quote that I had remembered for years. He said, “I'll be god damned, you hit it the first time! Cease-firing.” We didn't cease firing. We sent over some other rounds so that was written up in the paper. It was extreme range. We had no idea. Of course, the normal dispersion patterns of your battery will take care of that. Just sheer luck and we hit it on the first round. We did hit it, dead center with an eight-inch high explosive round.
You didn't leave much.
We didn't leave much there. That guy was so delighted. Anyway.
Our homeport was Long Beach and we came back.
You mentioned destroyers and cruisers being there, was there much aircraft carrier operation using Naval aviators in North Korea
Oh yes. The carriers were operating on a continuous basis, launching and landing on various missions. I have no idea how they divided up their missions but they were doing an awful
lot of bombing runs and combat air patrol runs.
They weren't assigned in connection with the cruisers and destroyers as part of the shore bombardment?
No, no. They were operating separately. Occasionally, we would get them but mostly we got Army and Air Force aircraft spotters because they were trained in that sort of thing. Some of our people were trained in aircraft but mostly they weren't. They were for different things.
You didn't happen to know Jack McGinnis during this time, did you?
He was from the Class of 1935, the highest-ranking Naval officer wounded during the Korean War.
No, I guess I didn't know him.
As I remember, his ship caught a shell.
We had enough to do and then whenever we went into Japan, we would be in for a week or ten days. We would go in and refuel and re-ammunition and so on and then go back out. That we did on a rotating basis. We went back to Long Beach. I went out about the middle of the deployment. After about three months or so, I came back to Long Beach. We stayed there for about six months doing normal operational training, usually out of San Diego. We would go down in the training area off San Diego and shoot shore bombardments on San Clemente and fire at air targets and all sorts of routine training stuff. After about six months, we went back out again and had the same sort of thing. We went out by Pearl Harbor. An interesting thing was that on our way out, we took a group of V.I.P. civilians with us who had been selected by the naval district because they were prominent men. We took about eight or ten of them with us on a cruise. We took them as far as Hawaii and we let them off there. There were some delightful guys among them. Some of
them I remember, I don't remember their names. This was a program that the Navy had initiated and still does this sort of thing. It was a valuable thing. These guys didn't know anything about the Navy and they were just impressed by what we did, how clean everything was, and how efficient everything was. They couldn't believe this kind of thing was going on right under their very noses. That was an awfully good program. I remember a couple of people who I really got to know briefly. One of them was an owner and manager of a big resort area up around just north of L.A. up in the Valley. He invited my wife and me to come up and stay for a weekend to stay at his resort hotel. We did that. He was as good as his word. He met us at the door and said, “Come on in.” He had given us a little villa out on the edge of the golf course and so forth. He was a particular friend. He was an interesting person.
After serving in the ROCHESTER, I got orders back to O.N.I. in Washington.
Had the war ended by this time?
Yes. As a matter of fact, on one of our replenishment recreational runs of about ten days, instead of being sent back to Japan, I think the initial armistice had been signed by this time because it would have been 1953 or 1954. We were sent down for a little recreational cruise and we went in to Manila and stayed there a day or two. Then we went down to Singapore. There must have been about three weeks we were doing this. We went down to Singapore and stayed there for a few days. Then we went up to Saigon and stayed there for a few days. Of course, we enjoyed Manila and I enjoyed Singapore particularly. We got into Saigon and the war as such had not really started. There were small guerilla bands running around the country. They later became the Vietcong when it became institutionalized. There was some rebellion going on. The French were still in charge there at that time. We went in and we were the guests of the French Navy was the whole show as far as we were concerned. There wasn't very much concern about our safety. I do recall that we
had to put the bow in the mud on one side of the Saigon River and have the tugs push us around because there was no room to turn around. We couldn't turn the ship with out own engines. We turned hard into the mud in the bow on the far side of the river and the tugs pushed us around until we came loose and we went alongside a pier in Saigon.. The first time we were there, the Cercle Sportif of the sporting club, tennis club, and swimming club in Saigon was operating and officers were invited to give courtesy. We went over there and the French were all over there. The French ladies were in their abbreviated swimsuits. We had a grand time there. It was a nice thing. Then, later on, we went back to Korea. Incidentally, on that trip, we ducked down under the equator on our way to Singapore so that we could induct all our polliwogs in to being shellbacks. We had a great time there. I was senior shell back that neither the exec nor the skipper had ever been across the line before. We had a big time. We had been in Manila and were planning all this because we knew what we were going to do. The chiefs and the warrant officers were big on these things. We went over to Manila and got costumes from a movie company that was in Manila, bought them. We had costume celebrations there. Before I left the ship, which I did, we went back to Saigon a second time. By this time, Dien Bien Phu had occurred and the French were out. It was quite an occasion as I remember it. I think my facts are right on this. The Vietnamese government, the government of South Vietnam received the ship as a good will visit. The French were no longer in charge. This was the new government of South Vietnam. I knew we were going. We had been sent specifically because we had been there before. Dick Phillips, our skipper at that time, spoke fluent French and I spoke some French. That was one of the inducements. I couldn't find, you know when you go in on a formal visit like that, you fly the country's flag at the fore(?) to indicate your honoring that county. So I didn't know what the hell the flag of South Vietnam looked like. I sent a message to LOMNAVFE and they didn't know.
It had just happened!
It had just happened. But then I remembered that in a recent edition of National Geographic, there was a picture of it. It was shown, not in connection of recent events, but as a general story on Vietnam and so forth. One of the pictures in color in this thing showed the South Vietnamese flag. We went on that basis and I had the sail-maker to make it up looking at that picture. In the meantime, when we got that just about done, we got a message from Washington via COMNAVFE that gave us dimensions and it turned out that it was the same thing we had been working on. We mad that up and we used that. By this time, we went through the same routine, but instead of the French Navy entertaining us, the President of Vietnam entertained us in a big hall, castle-like thing that has been in the news so much from time to time. We went up on the second deck. There was a receiving line of all the dignitaries in the Vietnamese government. One captain or rear admiral of the French Navy was at the very end of the receiving line as we all came in and went through it. After we got in, one of the doors opened. This was up on the second deck overlooking a big sunny balcony. The ladies came in wearing their colorful Vietnamese dresses and carrying trays of goodies. These were the wives and daughters of the Vietnamese officials and it was a signal honor that they did the serving. They came out and served these little goodies and so forth and they had a little bar set up. Then these ladies joined the group and then waiters took over from then on. I wrote a story on it for my local newspaper down in Naples.
This particular occasion with that background, a girl from the U.S.I.A. and I had been talking, I don't know how we got into this arrangement, but anyhow, we were walking out over the balcony to view the city because she knew the city and I didn't. She was stationed there and she said, “I'll show you some of the sights that we can see.” It was just about sunset. There was a French Naval officer out there standing, looking over the city. He was looking out over the city,
just looking over the balcony. He was a rear admiral as I recall. Although, he might have been a captain. He was fairly senior. He was the same one that was in the receiving line. We came along beside him and she spoke to him. She apparently knew him. I knew him. He was looking around and was very disconsolate. He said in effect that it was just too bad about Diem Bien Phu and it looked like the French were out and it was just very much a pity. It looked to him that the U.s. were going to make a commitment and we were. We knew, or somebody knew at the time that that was the case. He said, “It's too bad because I think you are going to find yourselves in the same position that we are. You are going to find this an amorphous situation that you can't control.”
About that time, an aide came up and tapped him on the shoulder because that was apparently the earliest time he could leave without insulting his host. He was just waiting to get out of there. He wasn't having a drink or anything. He was just there duty-bound. He started out back across this floor in the reception room to leave, he got out a few paces and then turned around and came back to us on the balcony, we were standing there still, and he said, “You mark my words, you'll get into big trouble here and I'm sorry for you.” And, then he went. I was in uniform and so forth. That was interesting. That was exactly the way it turned out.
Were there any French civilians still in Saigon at that time, or were they all removed?
I don't know. I really don't know because we didn't have that much time there.
They weren't evident the way they were the first time, were they?
That's right. We had there, at that time, it was an interesting thing. Jim Cannon out of the Class of 1940 whom I knew reasonably well was assistant naval attaché in Saigon at that time. He was accredited now to the government of Vietnam. I went out to his house for dinner. He had invited me to dinner. The interesting thing was that he had a pet chimpanzee. Anyway, Jim was there and we talked about it and he said that they had these M.A.A.G., military assistant groups, and
stuff coming in and he was busier than a bee in a tar barrel because of these things coming in. I loved his little chimpanzee whose name was Cowboy. Cowboy was ordinarily kept out on the back porch. They had a big ole ramshackle bungalow-type house typical of east Asia. The back porch was a bit full but it had these anchor fences with a chain-lock fence. Cowboy stayed in there. He had an automobile tire and all his toys like that. Whenever there were people around that liked him, he was allowed inside the house. He came in, and I'm pretty good with animals so Cowboy and I got to be great friends. I'm sitting there and we were having a drink before dinner, Jim, Betty, and just me. Cowboy climbed up on the couch, I was sitting there, and he came and sat on my shoulder and put his elbow on the top of my head. He thought I was fine and we got along fine. Cowboy was not supposed to beg at the dinner table. They had a nice long white table cloth on and we were sitting there eating a delicious meal, I don't recall now what it was and I feel this tap, tap, tap on my knee cap and then underneath as I lifted the tablecloth this little black hand came out waiting for a handout. I sneaked some to him. I have told that story and have gotten so fond of Cowboy.
It was just after leaving Saigon that I was relieved and Bob Baxter, who was the navigator at the time, fleeted up to become operations officer. It was an on board relief so I didn't have to wait or anything. When we got back to Japan, I got transportation back to the States and I was ordered to O.N.I.. I went back to O.N.I. in the Pentagon. We bought a place out in Arlington nearby and lived there. I was the fleet support officer. I had a little group of three or four officers. Our whole purpose in life was to check on how the fleet was being supplied to fleet units, not necessarily fleet headquarters. They were being supplied with information on any personnel matters and all kinds of things to do with intelligence. As a result of that position, I had all kinds of clearances to look into almost anything that I thought might be of interest. I could re-address messages. I would get a whole mob of messages each day and would screen them. If there were messages like from Naval
attachés to O.N.I. If there were something in there of interest to a fleet unit, I knew where everybody was and could extract it and send it on. We were worried about the personnel on the intelligence staff and their qualifications. It was just a little sheparding-type job but it was interesting and I kept up with things. I had access to things that we got involved in that are still going on so I won't go into too much detail. The idea of using auto-hypnosis on our personnel who were in special categories as a prelude to resisting interrogation. It was a way of hypnotizing one's self as a way of resisting pain and so forth.
Does it work?
Well, I can only tell you my experience because I don't know how far it went. We had a lot of civilian experts involved in this thing. I can still do it if I want to, using some of those techniques, but I'm afraid to. It was an interesting subject and we were all involved in it. I was involved in it as a fleet support officer and not just as an observer. I can still numb up my little finger on my right hand so that you can do anything with it and I can't feel it.
Just with autohypnosis?
Yes. But I've practiced a lot on it. I've practiced a little bit on not only autohypnosis but actual hypnosis. I could do it with my wife and give her post-hypnotic suggestions and so on. I was getting out of my depth so I quit that.
That's dangerous isn't it?
Yes, it's dangerous so I didn't fool around with that. The idea would be that you could implant a post-hypnotic suggestion in a person so that if they were captured, they would no longer remember what's been taught. Now, I don't know how because the Soviets were working on that too and had supposedly made considerable progress. I think it's in the public domain that they had been playing around with that. We were interested for that reason. I don't know what the project
developed into, if anything. I do know that we were interested in that. That was an example of the type of thing that I got involved in, not that I made any significant contributions, but was just a monitor. I hated Pentagon duty, I really did. Like a little frog in a big pond, I was wee little frog in a huge pond. I'm not a patient person and I do not like paper work basically. It just was terrible. My first experience after I arrived there for duty... The decision had basically been made. There was no more convincing to be done. The convincing had pretty much been done and the CNO had decided. My predecessor, Earl Abrams, had done this much on it. Established a fleet intelligence center in Pearl Harbor which would be the, presumably, duplicate of the one like we had in Port Lyauteu in Morocco, the fleet intelligence center, FICNELM. We were going to have a FICPAC. It fell to me to write up the actual message that was to go out. Well, that turned out to be the damnedest thing. Just on my message sheet alone, internal within divisions all had these initial off sheets, I had ninety-six sets of initials on this thing before I could take it to Admiral Burke for him to release it. It involved everything. It involved personnel. It involved equipment. At that time we had it in effect that the Secretary of the Navy had to approve every new printing plant because the printers around the country were worried that the government was printing too much stuff and that they ought to be getting it on contract so I had to get the Secretary's Office in on it, the Personnel Office in on it, and all the fleet organization people. I don't know if that was a world record, I suspect that it wasn't but to do that just wears you down. You go and sit outside some Admiral's office and wait so you can answer some questions and you give this thing here and you go through the same silly procedure and you've wasted an hour or two hours it might be. And there you've done this ninety-six times. I tried to wish this off on one of my young JGs. I sent him down to some medium level admiral's office, the division head of some kind of organizational set up, I don't recall now, with this folder and it was secret. On this side was all reference papers and here's the
message and all the previous oath programs and so on. This young JG went in and the secretary was there. The admiral said, “Well, I don't know about this.” He said words to that effect. My young JG, bless his heart, said, “Admiral, you need not worry about it. Commander Armstrong says it's all right.” Needless to say that I got a phone call from the admiral who said that he admired the loyalty of my young lieutenant but he did wish to ask me a couple of questions and would I come down right away, so that didn't work even though it was a funny little incident. The Pentagon, boy, I hated that.
All that bureaucracy.
It was fantastic. Anyway, I was there for three years and over. Then I got orders to the command of the WILLIS A. LEE a destroyer leader. She was home ported in Newport. At the time, she was just about to be deployed on a NATO cruise which was to last a couple of months. It was imperative, at least in my orders, to get up there right away and leave before starting on this cruise, otherwise it would be a complicated thing. They had a job for the previous skipper. I left and went up there and joined the LEE. Barbara and my family, I had three kids, moved up to Newport after I had gone to sea. In a couple of months later, I came back and they had already moved in after finding a place to live. That NATO exercise was a good one, that first one I went on. We were teamed up primarily with the British ships. The LEE again--I guess the reason I got command of the LEE was because I had experience in the HIGBEE. She was a radar picket ship. She had very special air detection radar, the SPS-17. She was a floating platform for that thing. The exercise in itself was interesting because we went up above the Arctic Circle, above Norway. The idea was that we were going to intercept any Russian traffic coming out into the NATO countries. We paired off with a British radar picket ship. I've forgotten her name now. I think it was the SALISBURY. I learned a lot on that, particularly about the climate and operation of the NATO
command which I had not messed with before at all. We went into British and Scottish ports. We went into Glasgow, the First of forty. Then we went into South Hampton and had a nice time there. We were royally entertained by the British and had a nice time. We got back and on the LEE, we went on a Caribbean cruise, which is a nice little thing they did right after Christmas, every year, when the weather was cold in Newport. We could run around the Caribbean for several weeks and have a nice little exercise. We would go down and shoot up Vieques Island, that's what we always called it. Then in the L EE, we had one big overhaul, about a three-month overhaul at Boston Naval shipyard during my tenure. The reason for all this was to put on some new boiler feed pumps. The ship had been restricted in her speed by the fact that the feed pumps would not operate properly. They operated somewhere in the five thousand to eight thousand rpm range and they were mounted vertically with the pump end down here and the steam end up here. There were turbines. There was a steam turbine at the top and a water turbine at the bottom processing feed water into the boilers, taking it at low pressure and putting it in at high at tremendous speeds. The solid metal shaft, as I remember, was about six or eight feet long because the two ends were separated. In any event, the ship rolled, as destroyers always will. This was a great big gyro. It would try to stay in position and would precess against the ship's roll. The shoes that were down on the bottom end that held all the weight, it had some brass composition shoes that held this shaft up at the bottom, would just get rubbed looses and all of a sudden we would be going twenty knots and you'd hear, Wheeeeeeen, and it would be one of those shoes going and we would have to shift pumps. It would be a mess. They took almost exactly the same pump, but mounted it horizontally lengthwise so that when the ship rolled, it rolled around the axis of rotation. The thing didn't precess and it was very limiting to have these shoes holding up the whole weight of the thing. We were in there for three months and had some other electronic gear installed.
We were all living down in Newport and that was an interesting thing because we formed a carpool. Fortunately, it was over the summer months. We changed to summer hours on the ship. We started work at seven o'clock and finished at three o'clock to avoid the rush hour traffic in Boston because we were in the Charlestown Shipyard in the northern part of Boston. We had to cross the city every day, twice a day to get back and forth. We had these carpools and we did this for about three months. Highway I-95 was just being built from Providence up to the southern part of Boston. Segments of it were coming in to use each couple of weeks or so. We would watch those segments and when we would come back from Boston in the evening, we would see that there would be nothing but a two-by-four sawhorse sitting out there blocking you off. The next morning, we would zing out around that sawhorse and head on out the next two miles. We had a way of getting in to avoid the outpourings of traffic to get in to the highways of Boston. We would go over the bridge and we all just memorized it. We would turn left at the white house and then turn right at the next gas station and so forth so as too take a little outside path. Anyway, we enjoyed that. We lived in Newport and went into Boston everyday.
I got relieved from there to Naples, Italy to NATO command COMSTRIKEFORSOUTH. At that point, the selection list for captain had come out and I was not on it. I was passed over for captain. It was pretty much the handwriting on the wall that this was to be my last tour before involuntary retirement. That's the way it was. I enjoyed Italy very much. I had a fairly undemanding job. It wasn't in NATO. We were dealing a lot of special materials and a special sort of speed and efficiency that you don't do in a Navy command. Things are done on a much more leisurely basis. Deadlines were not as soon and volumes were not as large. It was an easy thing to be in. I had a lot of nice trips on conferences. I went down to Malta and over to Istanbul and Athens. I went up the Riviera and up to Paris and so on. NATO is always having conferences and
this is where the NATO commands were located. It was just as nice as it could be. After I had been there for a year or so, I got unhappy with the NATO way of doing business. I wasn't used to that. “Couldn't we do this faster? Couldn't we get a commitment?” But if you wanted to get a commitment from a local commander CINCAFMED in Malta as part of the gear in our effort, we had to go clear back to England to get national authority approval and then come back. That was the way it was. The first conference I went to as representative of COMSTRIKEFORSOUTH, as our command was called, was in Paris. We met, starting at ten o'clock in the morning, and we recessed at noon, then went to lunch, and we came back at two o'clock in the afternoon and then recessed at four. we were there for a week. I didn't realize it, but that was the way we got our work done. We got our work done by going to lunch together. In the conference with maybe twelve or fifteen nations there and all of us representing our governments as well as our services. We had our position papers and we would read them off. Then someone else would get up and read his off. When we would go to lunch there on command and have a couple glasses of wine we could say, “Now look, couldn't you guys work out something so that if we say this, you would say this.” They would say of course, “We'll have to check with national.” And we would say, “Well, we do too, but can't we get this thing going?” “Yes, yes, we'll do that.” We couldn't do that on the floor. That's when I realized that was how the business was done, the real business of getting the conference decisions made. I learned a little lesson there. We enjoyed the tour. We had a beautiful place on the fourth top floor of an apartment building overlooking the Bay of Naples and Vesuvio. We could see Capri out here and the city of Naples over here and it was a delightful thing to go out on the balcony and spend your life there watching the ship traffic and everything. We lucked into an arrangement because we knew a couple of Americans who were leaving. We had known them before. We were invited to join an Italian civilian who was a jeweler who was quite wealthy and
who liked Americans because of his trade with them. He had a deal on with the PXs and so forth to sell costume jewelry throughout the PXs and this kind of deal. Anyway, he had a box in the San Carla Opera House for every opening night of the season. The box would seat about a dozen people. We paid for our seats, with season tickets, in his box. We went to every opening night for two years at the San Carlo Opera, white tie and tails and the whole thing. They had about one opening a month from October through April or May. It was beautiful. That's when I became an opera lover. I had never seen an opera in my life but I'd go to see something like La Boheme or Madame Butterfly and the Puccini operas that are so melodic. Boy, the way they would stage them. In San Carlo in La Boheme in the opening act they were on the street and we would meet Mimi who was on the street selling flowers. They had real horses and buggies coming by and Mimi was selling flowers in and amongst the tables there on the stage. The staging was elaborate. It was great, great theater and great music. My only real contribution of note in Naples other than finally learning how the system worked in NATO was when I was president of the Naples Little League. We had a red hot little league going. We went out to all the companies that were doing business in Italy, U.S. companies like Coca Cola and American Export Lines and had them each chip in a thousand dollars to finance their Little League teams. We had all our kids in the classiest uniforms and ball gloves you ever saw. We played a full League schedule. [I contributed an] innovation in my second year at it. There was a children's program, sort of like the Mickey Mouse Club Show, on the Italian television. It was called Piccolo Mundo, which is Little World. I forget now the exact arrangements, but I got in touch with the guy who ran this thing and he had mentioned on the show that he had some boys who played American baseball and anyway, we got up a deal where we obtained uniforms for them. We had to get permission from Little League headquarters in Westport, Pennsylvania to do this. Every Sunday afternoon, that little PiccoloMundo would play
one of our teams in rotation. The first game we played, we had the command band there. Admiral Brown, who was head of the NATO organization was there. The little Italian boys would always present flowers to the captain of our team and our team would present [them back.] We had a great thing going. and there were crowds. It was something brand new. When they opened up that section of the NSA field to the Italian civilians and they let them come over. I was afraid that our guys would run away with it and things would get out of hand, score-wise. I always made myself chief umpire for the game so I could control things. It turned out that, after the first couple of games that were like twenty to one, those kids got pretty good. They were like jackrabbits on the bases. They really were. They would run like killdeer. That was a fun thing and I really enjoyed that.
We traveled. We took a Mediterranean cruise which the MSTS ships, as they brought over personnel and supplies for the various commands in the Mediterranean, would stop at Barcelona and Naples and Athens and Istanbul and Tripoli and so forth. They discharged a bunch of passengers at Naples and then take us the rest of the way around and then discharge us there and load the passengers going home. That was a delightful thing. Everybody made an automobile trip through northern Italy going through Verona, Pisa, Venice, Florence, and all that. I got a lot of trips to various places in Malta and the Riviera. My wife Barbara, at that time was running the local Girl Scout troop, I don't know if she was the Scout Master or not, but she was some kind of official in it. She got some trips on her own and she took some girls to Switzerland for a couple of weeks one time. She took another group of just two or three outstanding girls to England and spent some time up there.
You both had a very pleasant two years didn't you?
Yes, they were. It was kind of a nice farewell to the Navy really. we had a nice send-off
before we went home. We got to ride home on the INDEPENDENCE this time. We went over on a MSTS ship were there was no frivolity or anything. It just took us there and back and it was pretty good, the tours were alright. We came back on the INDEPENDENCE and came first class. That was really classy arrangement with all the doings and the dinners. Every dinner we ate in tuxedos and the ladies wore long gowns and it was a real nice thing.
I was retired upon arrival in New York coming back, as I indicated coming back from Naples on the INDEPENDENCE and had no real indication of what kind of job I wanted or what I wanted to do. I was pretty depressed about the whole thing. I took my family up to Maine and we bought a summer cottage, it was in the summertime in June. They were going to stay there while I went down to Washington. My mother was still in Washington and had an apartment. She put me up there. I looked around for jobs and had some offers that didn't sound too good. I ended up working for a department store, Garfinkels in Washington. In about a year's time, Ii got to be a department manager of two or three departments and so on but I didn't care for that, although I was quite successful at it. I could have stayed but I didn't like the idea of selling. That just didn't quite hit me right. In this time, actually it started back in the Pentagon, I started drinking. I drank too much and I was aware of that. That contributed greatly too my failure to be selected. I just simply wasn't functioning properly a lot of the time. It kind of got worse over in Naples. I had known that I had been fired by the Navy and I simply didn't give much of a damn whether school kept or not. That became a thing and I guess, although that wasn't the immediate cause of our divorce, after about a year of my trying to get a suitable job so that I could bring my family down from Maine, I still hadn't found anything other than this job at the department store that I didn't like and didn't want to latch onto permanently. So, Barbara instituted divorce proceedings, which she blamed basically on desertion. And in that, she was right. By this time, I had gotten a hold of the drinking
thing pretty good because I had realized that it had messed me up with my family as well as the Navy. I had a hold of that. I was staying with my mother in the Washington area. It had come fall and she said, "Well, I'm going, as usual to Florida to spend the winter. Why don't you come with me and see what you can do down there?" She had a place down there. I drove my car and she drove hers. She had told me about this little Chamber of Commerce chicky hut that sat on Tamiami Trail just on the city limits of Naples. She said, "You might look in there and see what they have." So I wheeled in there and they showed me a bunch of brochures and things. They had a register that you could sign if you were interested in employment, what your qualifications were and so forth. I signed that thing. The next day, I got a telephone call from the Naples Daily News wanting to know if I could come in for an interview. I did and I got a job because they were just switching from the old hot-lead, flat-bed press to the new cold type rotary press. They didn't need and didn't want the people that they had doing the lino-type work and pounding in the type. Everybody was just starting out on this. The guy who hired me said, "Well, what we are looking for is people with some gray matter because we're all starting out on this thing in the cold." I took the job. While it didn't pay much over the years, I really enjoyed it. For about ten years, I guess, I designed and put together the paper every day. I decided what pictures went where and what stories went where and the whole thing. I really enjoyed that. It was a real test because I had never done anything like that in my life. I really enjoyed the challenge. Also, I started writing for the paper. I volunteered that one story that I told you about in Saigon, talking with the French naval officer. That was on my mind so I wrote it up and they put that in their Sunday feature. They had tremendous reader response saying that was good stuff. They said, "Okay, whenever you can, give us a feature story for every Sunday. We'll run one for every Sunday." I said, "What do you want me to write about?" "Anything you want." So I did for years. I wrote a feature for the Sunday paper, whatever came to
mind and so forth. I enjoyed that. Then, they had me do special articles on tidal phenomenon and so forth. By this time, I was doing little prediction, astronomical predictions, sunsets, sunrises, positions of the stars and so on for the paper. I got pretty heavily involved in it. When I had been with them for not quite twenty years, I developed eye problems. Cataracts were interfering with my work badly. I was legally blind according to my ophthalmologist. We had to do something so I went and had some operations and that took me out of the newspaper business for almost a year. They kept me on part time and whenever I could, I would go in for almost as long until I left Naples four or five years ago. I would go in on Friday afternoon and a Saturday and help them get the weekend editions out. I would design the pages and so forth. I enjoyed that. I did a lot of writing. You've seen the magazine articles. I played a lot of golf in Naples. I remarried in 1964. I had only been down in Naples for a year and I got my job and married a lady by the name of Mildred Jennings who had been through a recent divorce. She had come down to Naples for the same year. She wintered in Florida every year. We had a nice life together there. We bought a little house and played a lot of golf and did a lot of things like that. I lost her. She died just a month and a half before what would have been our twentieth wedding anniversary. She had a massive stroke and it paralized her on the left side and so forth. She never recovered from it really. She died in July 1984. I was retired by then. I had officially retired because with my commitment to her, I couldn't work. When she passed away, my brother Dick, who lived in Swansboro--I had visited him a number of times, said when she died, "You ought to get out of this place and come up and live in Swansboro. I'll help you out and introduce you to the right people and get you in the country club and you'll be fine." I thought about that for approximately three minutes and remembered that Camp LeJeune is up the road about ten miles that way and Cherry Point is about twenty miles that way and they have all the facilities, golf courses, hospitals, commissary, etc., etc., and that this
wouldn't be a bad idea at all. This is when I was visiting up here after my wife's death and then I went up to Maine for a while. I rented this place at the time. Then I went back to Naples, packed up my stuff and then moved back here. That's about the entire story. As of now, I keep myself busy, doing practically nothing I suppose. But I play golf occasionally. I work at the museum in Beaufort on Saturdays. I belong to the Civil War round table.
Do you do any writing?
No, I don't. I've found that I'm not really going to be a successful writer.
[End of Part 3]
[End of Interview]
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