|EAST CAROLINA MANUSCRIPT COLLECTION|
|ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW|
|Capt. Francesco Costagliola|
|USNA Class of 1941|
|March 30, 1990|
Tell me a little about your background--where you came from, your early education, and what led you to the Naval Academy.
I was born in Cranston, Rhode Island, in 1917, and grew up in the city of Providence. I graduated from Providence Central High School during the Depression. I wanted to go to college to become an engineer. I was particularly interested in going to M.I.T. and had directed my
education through high school in that direction. The Depression, however, was a problem. My father had a job during the Depression, but it was only part-time. The employees at his place of work went on part-time so that no one would have to be fired.
I am the oldest of six children and I became interested in the Naval Academy due to one of my younger brothers. My second brother, Mike, was interested in the Naval Academy, and he would go to the library and bring back books on it. When I was a junior in high school I happened to see an item in the newspaper stating that a certain senator was
holding a competitive examination at the post office and he had two appointments to the Academy. I wrote a letter saying I'd like to take the exams. My father was real unhappy with me, because he didn't want any son of his going in the military.
I took the exams while I was still a junior in high school. Despite not having had any physics courses, I did come out about halfway down the list. There were about twenty-four people that took the exams; so I was encouraged. As I recall, there were six subjects: Math, English, U.S. History, Ancient History, Physics, and Chemistry.
That started me on the track of trying to get an appointment. I took the exams the next year and did pretty well; I came out number two on one of the lists. I was a senior in high school then. I had to take what they called "substantiating exams." One "substantiating exam" consisted of math and another, English. I thought I was pretty good in math, so I didn't worry about that. I was not, however, a very good student in English; so, I crammed for the English exam, even got some help from an English teacher. When I got the exam results, however, it turned out that I flunked the math and just passed on the English. That meant I was not eligible to enter that year. I was, in effect, the first alternate. As I understand, the principal didn't make it either; somebody down below us got in.
The following year, I was nineteen. I was placed as a second alternate, but somebody ahead of me made it.
After you graduated from high school, what did you do?
I went back to school part-time. I took some more math courses and did post-graduate work. I did that for one year. In the afternoons I worked in an apple packing plant, a job my father got for me. A year later, in 1935, I entered Rhode Island State College as a mechanical engineering student, but continued to take the competitive exams. At that time,
the age limits were set between sixteen and twenty. In my sophomore year of college, after taking the competitive exams, I got two third-alternate appointments. I was tired and didn't study for the competitive exam as hard. A good friend of mine from high school, Bob Macklin, had also been competing, and we both got on those two lists. I was on one congressman's list as third alternate and another one's as third alternate; Bob was principal on one list and first alternate on another one. He could only take one of the appointments, and it ended up I was the only eligible one on the other list, so I got in that year.
As a teenager growing up in Providence, with a lot of water close by, had you ever done any sailing or spent much time on the water at all?
No. Not any at all. My father had a place outside of town, in North Providence. It was a ramshackle place, but we would go live there in the summer. My father always had chores for us boys to do there. We would have to hoe rows of tomato plants, potato plants, and so on. He kept us busy and we almost never went to the beach. At the time, I was really interested in an the education more than anything else.
When I got into the Naval Academy, my first two years were really a snap, because I'd actually taken just about all those courses at Rhode Island State. I was really repeating everything except for the language. I had taken French in high school, so when I got to the Naval Academy, I put down French as my first choice and Italian as my second choice. A short time after I got to the Academy, the Italian professor called me over and wanted to know why I was taking French. "With a name like Costagliola," he said, "you had better take Italian."
Did you have any background in Italian?
My father was an immigrant. He came over to this country when he was about
seventeen or eighteen. My mother was born in this country.
So, it was spoken at home.
We always spoke English at home, but whenever my father's cousins visited us, they would speak in Italian, so my ear was tuned to the language. Of course, it was tuned to the dialect of their area. It wasn't pure Italian. Actually, it was quite a bit off from it. Anyway, that's how I got into Italian.
I understand the approach to education at the Academy is quite different from what it is at a normal college or university. Did you have to adjust to their teaching style?
The fact that I had taken all those courses previously helped a lot. I didn't have a problem. It's true that their style was different. I think it was a very good system, at least it was at that time. We didn't depend on the "prof" to teach us things. It was up to each person to read the books and try to understand the material. When we went to class, we manned the boards and answered the questions they gave to show that we had learned. I didn't have any problem adjusting to that style of education. I stood pretty well in my class.
Class standing was the important thing in the Naval Academy. It determined our seniority. The first year, I starred. I was in the top ten percent of the class. The next year, I just missed starring. By my third year, however, I started dropping. I plotted my curve and I figured that if our class hadn't graduated in February, 1941, I would have flunked out about April or May! In my last year, I stood one hundred and something out of a class that graduated four hundred and something. I sort of knocked off my study habits. I was also having trouble with my eyes.
In our senior year, grease marks also were counted heavily. Apparently, whoever graded us on aptitude didn't consider I had much aptitude as a Naval officer. I had a
cavalier attitude in some things. I was older than most of the guys. The year I entered the Academy was the last year I would have been eligible. Twenty was the age limit for entering the Academy. My twentieth birthday came in August and I entered in August.
Incidentally, I had another hitch the summer I entered the Academy. Most of the class came in the first few days of June. I was scheduled to go about three or four days after this first group. Unfortunately, I flunked the physical. I had a bad cold and one of the doctors thought I had flat feet. The same doctor also said if I played football, I had a good chance of breaking my collarbone. So, he put me down for three deficits. They said I could come back anytime in the next two weeks and be re-examined by another board at the Naval Hospital, which at that time was on the Naval Academy grounds. Since I had a cold, I decided I had better take the two weeks and not get re-examined right away.
I went home and I saw my doctor. He gave me some medicine for my cold. He said, "There's nothing you can do about your collarbone." He sent me to a foot doctor. This foot doctor told me how to walk, so it seemed less likely that I had flat feet.
The day before I was supposed to go back, I developed a rash on my chest. So, I went back to see my doctor. Incidentally, as another way to get an appointment to the Academy, I had enlisted in the Naval Reserve while I was going to college. The doctor for our unit in the Naval Reserve was also my doctor. Anyway, I went back to see him. He looked me over and was puzzled about this rash I had. He said, "Gee, that sure does look like the second stage of syphilis or something like that!"
Well, I knew it couldn't be that! Finally, he said, "Pityriasis Rosea." He said, "It's going to take a month to clear up. It's not catching, but there's not a thing you can do about it. If they flunked you out on your collarbone, they're going to flunk you out on that. You
had better go ask for an extension." So, I did.
It was sometime in August when I finally checked in. They spent the whole morning on me. They checked my nose, and they put powder on my feet and made me walk all over the place. By noon, I was kind of tired of this whole thing. I knew I already had two years of college. Finally, the head doctor at the Naval hospital said, "Well, we'll take you." So, off I went.
They decided that your collarbone wasn't enough to keep you out?
They didn't worry about it. So, I got in. There were three other fellows that came in the same time I did.
What kind of extracurricular activities were you involved in?
I wasn't very athletic. I was more of what you called "a radiator squad type." I did go out for battalion soccer. In the Spring, the lacrosse manager was one of the first classmen that sat at my table. The team was looking for somebody to be an assistant manager, so I decided to try out for that.
I also had another problem while at the Academy. I mentioned that my family hardly ever went to the beach when I was growing up, consequently I had no swimming skills when I arrived. One of the things we had to do each year at the Academy was pass certain swimming qualifications. Those of us who couldn't pass had to go on a sub squad. We had to report to the pool twice a week. We had to practice until we could pass the test. So, every year from then, on up until my senior year, I was on that sub squad. I would manage to get off in the Spring, just in time to manage lacrosse. The sub squad took priority over other activities.
Being a bit older than some of the students your plebe year, you probably didn't
face as much harrassment.
I think it was just the opposite, because I would laugh at the upper classmen and would take the hazing more as a joke than anything else. As a matter of fact, I was assigned to a table, originally, but apparently someone thought I needed some extra instruction or something, so I was reassigned to Robert Fletcher's table. Robert Fletcher was the head first classman at this other table. He was a great guy, but he really made you "sit on the air."
Robert Fletcher was in the class of 1938. He was a big blonde guy.
I got educated pretty well by the first classmen at that table.
You never had to go under the table?
I don't remember going under the table, but I sure spent a lot of time "sitting on air."
I stayed with lacrosse each Spring, but I gave up battalion soccer. Just before Thanksgiving, my plebe year, I was scuffling for the ball and somebody caught me in the shin with their cleats. It was bad enough that I had to go to sick bay and I almost didn't get to the Army-Navy game. I decided then, that soccer, wasn't for me.
After plebe year, it was not required that we be enrolled in some sport each quarter. I was on the swimming sub squad in the Fall and Winter each year, and in the Spring, I was an assistant lacrosse manager. My senior year I was elected lacrosse manager, but since we graduated early I never got to wear my big "N." If you were a team manager, you were authorized to wear the big Navy "N" on your sweater.
Bob Macklin, my fellow high school classmate, was assigned to my battalion, but in a different company. We applied to room together, but of course during plebe year that wasn't feasible. He was already set up. Our second class summer, we got to room together, but since we were in different companies, we could not room together when school started
back in the fall. My roommate the first two years at the Academy was Richard "Dick" Hill. The next year, because I was trying to room with Bob, I sort of got put out by myself. Dick found himself another roommate, Plaxco, so, I roomed with Pierre Charbonnet. He was one of the characters of the class. We got along reasonably well. He was a great guy. He got to be a vice-admiral.
That about covers my days at the Academy. I don't remember anything really spectacular. I wasn't too involved in athletics; I was more of the studious type.
On graduation, I was assigned to the USS PHOENIX (CL-46), a brand-new cruiser. We drew numbers out of a hat and I happened to get a low number, so I got my first choice. These new light cruisers were considered very desirable to go to. I put in for one and got it. The PHOENIX was commissioned in 1938, so she was only a couple of years old when I went to her. Robert Hill, who was in another battalion at the Naval Academy, also was assigned to the PHOENIX. The two of us went out to Honolulu to join the PHOENIX, she was part of Battle Force Pacific Fleet. It was about that time that the United States Fleet became the Pacific Fleet.
To reach our assignment, we could either fly or take the train. I decided to go by air from New York to Chicago and by train the rest of the way to San Francisco. I remember riding in a DC-3. It was my first commercial passenger flight. At the Naval Academy, we got one week of flying in a Catalina flying boat. (We also went out in a submarine a couple of times, to get a feel for it; and, of course, we had our summer cruises in destroyers and in battleships.)
When I left Chicago by train, I went coach. Some of the guys went first class. It turned out there were four guys traveling first class and four of us traveling coach. We
spent the whole time playing bridge all the way across the country. I remember Wayne Hoof was with us. Everytime the train would stop for any length of time, he would leave the train for a while. Apparently, he had gotten married while on leave and he was getting a letter from his wife!
It wasn't legal for him to be married, was it?
It turned out a couple of months later he apparently applied for support for his wife and ended up getting kicked out.
He should have known that he would have.
He came back in after the war started and actually became an admiral. They forgave him then.
Were they not completely inflexible on that particular issue at that time?
Well, if you kept quiet and didn't make a fuss about it or do anything official, most ships would ignore it.
They would pretend they didn't know anything about it?
Yeah, that's the way it worked with some people. But for other people that was one way to get out.
In San Francisco, along with more than 200 classmates, we boarded the USS Henderson (a Navy transport). When we got out to Pearl, the PHOENIX was out and we spent a couple of days on the HELENA, a sister ship, which gave me a chance to get a little knowledge about a light cruiser. We spent a couple more days on the MEDUSA, a repair ship. Finally the PHOENIX came in and Bob and I went to see the exec. His name was James Earl Boak and he was a tough, old, crusty Naval officer. (He later became a commodore.) He gave us a little pep talk about engineering, and I jumped at the chance to
go into that. Actually, it turned out that half the ship's company was involved in gunnery. They had five triple turrets and eight 5-inch guns. But my eyes weren't doing too well at that time.
I meant to ask you why you didn't join the "Twenty-three Club." You said your eyes were bothering you while at the Academy.
The doctor that examined me, Dr. Ball, gave me every chance. He allowed me to squint and anything if I could read the chart. He would kind of hesitate if I didn't quite get the right letter. He gave me a chance to correct myself, so I managed to get through. I had even quit studying the last month or two before the exam.
I know some of them did not give any flexibility at all on that eye exam.
He gave me every opportunity. Actually, I never in my entire Naval career found that wearing glasses gave me any problem. I didn't wear glasses until after I got to Australia on the PHOENIX.
I didn't mean to interrupt you. But when you first started talking about your eyes bothering you, I was wondering how you got past the eye exam.
I did it. Maybe if we had been examined in June, I would have flunked out, but I managed to squeak by. The doctor passed me.
I went into engineering and Bob Hill went into gunnery. We were roommates on the ship. He was senior to me. He graduated just a few numbers above me. Over the four years, I think I ranked something like fortieth or fiftieth. Since Bob was senior to me, he got the bottom bunk and I had to sleep in the top one, but we were really good friends.
The Navy was beginning to build up their personnel and they had started with their "Ninety-Day Wonders" program. As a matter of fact, four guys out of the first group of
"ninety-day wonders" were already aboard. They were senior to us; they got their commissions before we did. Every few weeks there would be a new group coming in.
When I was assigned to engineering, the gunnery officer was looking for someone to fill a station up in the after main battery control station--the auxiliary control station--so he arranged with the engineering officer for that to be my battle station. Instead of going down into the engineering spaces, I would go up to control aft and be the range-keeper operator up there, when general quarters was sounded.
Around June, we had a gunnery school aboard. During one of the short-range battle practices, control aft was allowed to control the after battery. We got a real good score! We shot the hell out of the target. Initially, I was assigned to the B Division, the boiler division, as junior officer to an ensign out of the Class of 1938, Nathan Sonenshein, who was the division officer. He had been running the main battery range-keeper down in plot, even though he was in engineering. He was in engineering because he had applied to go into an Engineering Duty Only program--to go back to M.I.T. and go in the construction corps--and he was just getting his engineering time in. He left the ship in May and I became the B Division officer. Somebody else was assigned to that range-keeper down in the plotting room.
I continued in engineering until October or November. Then the gunnery officer had me transferred into gunnery, to run the main battery range-keeper down in the plot.
The whole time you were basically running maneuvers and things out of Pearl Harbor.
We did have what we called a "love cruise" around June or July. We went back to Long Beach, the homeport, for a ten-day period. They used to rotate the ships so the people
with families could get back there occasionally.
Incidentally, I spent five years on the PHOENIX, and in that time, we were in our homeport that one ten-day period and an additional one day in 1945, after the war was over. She was everyplace but in the homeport.
While running the B Division, a warrant officer came aboard named Jim McCabe. He had just made warrant officer but he was excellent. He actually ran the division; I didn't have to do anything but sign a paper now and then. It turned out that he and I both stayed on the PHOENIX until 1946. He was still on her when I left. He became the engineer officer, before the PHOENIX had gone to mothballs. I became the gunnery officer just before the war ended.
Isn't it unusual to stay on one ship that long?
It was extremely unusual, but that's another story.
I got into gunnery shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor. I was assigned to the main battery range-keeper, down in plot, and I figured it was because we had done such a good job shooting when we had the gunnery school exercise. I've always ascribed this to being the reason I ended up spending the entire war in gunnery, which I didn't like, rather than in engineering, which I really enjoyed. Later on I figured out, "My gosh, you could hardly miss the target at that range, unless you did a real bad job with your computer solution."
After the war was over, I applied for ordnance pg school and got it. I got into nuclear ordnance and just about all of my shore tours were in the nuclear field for the rest of my career.
To return to World War II . . . I was at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked. I was in my stateroom getting ready to catch a boat scheduled to leave at 8:15. I was going to go over to one of the battleships for church services. I had gotten up somewhere around 7:30 and was in my stateroom shaving when I thought I heard gunfire. I looked out the porthole over toward the two nests of destroyers on our port side, but I didn't see anything.
I resumed shaving and I heard them pass the word, "Set Condition III, Watch Two in the anti-aircraft battery."
I was in the fourth section so it didn't bother me; however, I knew it was very unusual to have a drill on Sunday.
They hadn't rung quarters or anything?
No, they didn't sound general quarters. They sounded "Set Condition III, watch Two in the anti-aircraft battery." Most of the senior officers were off the ship. The officers and the chiefs were authorized to stay overnight. The liberty system was such that the plain seamen had to be back at a certain hour, then the second class, and then the first class. Each higher grade had more liberty than the lower. My roommate, Bob Hill, was off the ship. His dad and his brother were working on some kind of a Navy contract ashore. I don't know whether it was on housing or in the Navy yard, but he was with them, staying overnight.
I was putting away my shaving gear, standing there in my underwear, and boatswain Bergstad came banging on the door. He said, "Mr. Costagliola, Mr. Costagliola, the Japs are attacking!"
I said, "My God, what do I do next?" The first question that came to my mind was, "What should I wear?" I didn't think it was appropriate to get into the uniform of the day, which was a white service with buttons and all that stuff. Because I was an engineer I had
dungarees, so I decided to get into them.
There wasn't any point in going down to the plotting room to run the range-keeper because I knew that we would not be shooting the 6-inch. My Condition III station was up in the after anti-aircraft director, but as a range-keeper officer, I didn't know much about running that thing yet. I'd only been assigned to it about two or three weeks before. I decided to go back there anyway and see if there was anything I could do.
I got my clothes on and started running back there. As I passed the quarterdeck, Mark Hanna, Class of 1940, said to me, "Costy, goddamnit, do something." He was the officer of the deck. He said, "Put on your .45!" So I turned around, went back down to my room, and strapped on my .45. I was in a daze. Then I headed on up to the after anti-aircraft director.
Well, was Mark Hanna the senior officer on board?
No. He was the officer of the deck. The senior officer on board was the first lieutenant, a lieutenant commander, and I think he and the chief engineer were both on board. The gunnery officer was off the ship, the captain was off the ship, and the exec was off the ship. This was a new exec. He had only been aboard a month or so, and his wife had just come out to Honolulu. Anyway, they were all away from the ship.
When I got up to the after anti-aircraft director, I looked around and there was the ARIZONA, just a terrific column of black smoke. I could see the crackling flames. I noticed a formation of high altitude bombers off in the distance, coming up from the south. The director was already fully manned, so there wasn't anything for me to do. By the time I got back to the director, Hanna had been relieved as officer of the deck by the communications officer, who was the officer of the deck in that condition watch. Instead,
Hanna was up there in charge of the director. He yelled down to me, "Costy, haul down the colors. Get the flag down." We had the great big Sunday flag up and it had started waving across the director line of sight.
I kind of hesitated. It seemed to me if we hauled down the colors, we would be surrendering or something. There was a first class fire controlman up there, and I said to him, "Gee, I don't know."
He said, "Let's run it up on the yardarm and it'll be out of the way." So, that's what we did. We hauled it down then ran it up on the yardarm.
I saw a B-17 off on our starboard side that looked like it was trying to land at Hickam Field. I yelled up to Hanna that it looked like our starboard battery was shooting at this B-17. He yelled down to me, "Costy, go down there and tell them to shoot only at the planes with the red balls on the wings!"
I went down to the starboard battery and passed the word. When I got down there, the gun crews were apparently having trouble getting ammunition from down below. I had been reassigned from the B Division to junior officer of the fire-control division. The fire-control division had charge of the electronic control of the guns, the plotting room, and that sort of thing. It also had the magazine group (ammunition storage) that included the gunner's mates, so this area was really one of my responsibilities. I headed down to the transfer station in the Marine living compartment.
Incidentally, there is a good reason for having a transfer station. If for some reason a bomb started a chain of explosions topside, it would stop at the transfer station; it would break the chain. There was another set of hoists that brought the ammunition from the magazines up to that station. The ammunition was transferred by hand from one to the
When I got down there, I found that apparently they had already squared it away. Somebody had gotten the keys and had the ammunition hoists working. On topside, we had what were called "ready boxes" with a certain amount of ammunition in them. They had already fired that ammunition up and the problem was getting the new ammunition up from below.
When I got down there I found that things were working okay and they had gotten the ammunition moving. I decided that I'd rather stay down there than go back up topside. It was an important place and they needed an officer down there. I spent the rest of the attack down there, until around ten o'clock, when they called General Quarters. By that time, most everybody, including the captain, had gotten back to the ship.
The ship got underway. I have a picture that was actually taken while we were underway. We hadn't gotten out of the harbor yet and you can see the ARIZONA burning in the background.
We were pointed out of the harbor. It looks like there's a little periscope in the picture. One of the interesting things is that the midget submarine that was in the harbor was the reason we were unable to get out until about noon. There were problems opening and closing the net. They were concerned about this midget submarine in the harbor.
The last wave of the attack ended roughly around ten o'clock and we finally did get underway. I remember hearing rumors that there was a Japanese battleship off Barbers Point. It turned out that we were the only ship off Barbers Point at that particular time. Somebody had reported us as a Japanese battleship.
The PHOENIX and the DETROIT, a light cruiser, got out. Admiral Draemel was
the senior officer and he was aboard the DETROIT. The ST. LOUIS, one of our sister ships, got out. One of our heavy cruisers was already outside. About five o'clock that afternoon we joined up with Admiral Halsey's task force. The ENTERPRISE was Admiral Halsey's flagship. They had sent planes out looking for the Japs, but they were looking in the wrong direction.
They were coming back from Wake Island, I believe.
They were coming back from Wake Island while the attack was going on. We stayed with them for a day and then the carrier went on in to Pearl. We stayed out for another day or two. It seemed like there was constantly somebody dropping depth charges, and being in the plotting room was like being inside of a drum.
How did it feel during the attack, when you were down below, not knowing what was going on?
Well, we did have a radio on. We could tell when another attack was coming when we'd hear the guns starting to go off.
The PHOENIX was never attacked, was it?
The PHOENIX was never attacked directly. Although, when I was topside, I did see a single plane come down real close and go overhead. At that time, we had two of those slow-firing 3-inch anti-aircraft guns. They had no fire control; they just had to be aimed and shot. Chief Gunner's Mate Baratz was up there by himself, firing one of those at that plane.
We did have a .50-calibre bullet go through our navigational range-finder, but it was probably a "friendly" .50-calibre--the bullets probably didn't go anywhere. As you probably know, the people in downtown Honolulu and along the way reported bombs dropping on
them. Actually, the reported bombs were probably ammunition that we were shooting. For some reason, the fuse wouldn't fire until the bullets landed on the ground, and then the back-up fuse would explode. It was probably the anti-aircraft guns in the fleet that caused the most damage to downtown. Our ship was probably a contributor. (Several months later, when we were out in the Indian Ocean, we found out we had a lot of defective anti-aircraft ammunition. We were a long way from home without any replacement ammo.)
We stayed out about three days. We went back in on Wednesday and spent the day loading stores, fueling, and whatnot. Then we got underway with the ST. LOUIS and headed for San Francisco. As we arrived off the Golden Gate, there was a convoy coming out, and the ST. LOUIS turned around and went back with the convoy.
One of our 5-inch guns had had one of the projectiles explode in the barrel, so we went into the bay and up to the Mare Island Shipyard. We got in there around one o'clock in the afternoon. We were told not to talk to anybody about what had happened at Pearl. The only people that went ashore were the supply officer and the captain. We were in there about four hours. They removed the barrel and replaced it with a good one. We got underway about five o'clock, anchored out, and the next morning took off with another convoy heading back to Pearl.
So, you had no shore time.
No. We got back to Pearl just before Christmas. On Christmas day, nobody was allowed to even leave the ship. We thought they [Japanese] might come back on a holiday. There was no regular liberty while we were there. We were in there three or four days while they finished installing our first radar.
Was it the bedsprings type?
Yes. It was a bedsprings type called an FA. The antennae was mounted on top of the forward main battery director. It was a combined fire-control and search radar, but it was a very primitive thing. We left Pearl a couple of days after Christmas and headed back for San Francisco again. As we arrived in the vicinity of the Golden Gate bridge, our radar picked up a channel buoy at six thousand yards.
A great accomplishment.We tied up to a pier in downtown San Francisco. I don't remember how many days we spent there. This was after the New Year. I know nobody slept except on their duty days. We were going out and staying all night at open nightspots. The city was usually blacked out at night; all the buildings were supposed to be dark.
That was during the period when they were really worried about an attack on California.
Yes. We got underway, about the seventh or eighth of January. This time we took two big liners. One was a President liner and the other was a Matson liner. There was also a big cargo ship. We thought we were going back to Honolulu but we ended up in Melbourne, Australia, on February first.
When we got there, as I understand it, we were burning diesel oil. Most of the way we had gone at seventeen knots and we had burned up just about all of our black oil and were burning diesel oil. The cargo ship had left us a few days before, headed for Fiji. We brought in the two big liners with a division or so of American troops.
Army, rather than Marine.
Yes, they were Army. We tied up at the pier in Melbourne about four or five
o'clock in the afternoon. We were granted liberty. I had the duty that day and stood my first top watch as od (officer of the deck). I remember when I was up there around 7:00 p.m., the sailors were all coming back in droves. This one chief petty officer was telling me, "Mister Costagliola, I'm never going over there again. Gee, there's nothing over there. Everything's closed up. Not a thing open."
It turned out that the Sabbath in Australia was strictly observed. They were also blacked out; the lights were out and everything was closed. Apparently, some people did find a speakeasy-type place, but most everybody came right back.
The next day, Monday, it turned out to be a great place. The Australians were very hospitable. At that time, the population of Australia was about seven million people and one million of them were in the Armed Forces. Most of them were in Africa or Burma or Singapore. We sailors didn't have any trouble finding girls. It was really a one-sided thing.
Australia was in really bad straits. I remember during the first week we were there, the newspaper headlines read, "A Hundred Japanese Bombers Attack Darwin--Two Whirlaways Took to the Air." A whirlaway was nothing but a training plane.
They did have a Navy. Incidentally, that was one of our scares on the way across the Pacific toward Melbourne. A couple of days before we got into Melbourne, around ten o'clock in the morning, I heard General Quarters. Just that morning, the lead fire-control man had asked me to get permission to take down the main battery range-keeper for routine maintenance. I had gotten permission from the gunnery officer to do it. When I heard General Quarters, I went running down to the plot, and there were the pieces of the range-keeper, all over the floor! On the phone I asked Spot One, Rue O'Neil, "What is going on?" He was the officer up in the forward Main Battery director, the F Division officer, and also
my boss. He said, "Gee, I see three pagoda masts over there on the horizon."
It turned out to be the Australian squadron. They had decided to come out and greet us and welcome us.
They knew who you were, but you didn't know who they were.
We didn't know them until they got up close. There was Admiral [V.A.C.] Crutchley in the HMAS AUSTRALIA along with the CANBERRA and the ADELAIDE as I recall.
Australia, at this point in time, was being attacked by Japanese air.
Yes. They had come down that far. We spent about a week or so in Melbourne. Then we expected to go back to San Francisco to pick up another convoy.
Is this spring of 1942?
This was early February, 1942. We got in there February first. When we left Melbourne this time, our convoy consisted of a bunch of old, very slow steamers. I used to plot our course in an old geography book I had. I'd go up and look in the log and see what the noon position was and then go down and plot it in the book to see where we were going. We sailed around the south of Australia and went into Fremantle, which is on the west coast. We spent about four or five days there.
While we were there, one night a couple of the other officers and I ended up at a nightclub somewhere between Fremantle and Perth. Around midnight or so, we started to get a taxi to go back to the base. One of the girls said, "No, you can't. You can't go back right now. There's something going on with you Americans."We went to see what the heck was going on and saw a convoy of airplanes being towed down the road! We didn't get back to the ship until after the parade was over.
The next morning, we saw those airplanes (P-40s) being loaded onto the LANGLEY. The LANGLEY was the first U.S. aircraft carrier (CV-1), but it had been converted into a seaplane tender (AV-3).
On Sunday, the twenty-second, (I remember because it was George Washington's birthday), I remember going over to church services on the LANGLEY. They had a chaplain on board. I had never been to a mass like that one. Apparently, the chaplain was really frightened to death. I don't remember any of the details of what he said, but I got the general impression that he thought it was going to be the end for them.
That afternoon, about three o'clock, we got underway. There was an Australian band and they were playing things like, "Nearer My God to Thee."
You thought you were on the TITANIC?
Yes. Incidentally, along the beaches at Fremantle, they had put up barbed wire and boarded up the houses. They were concerned about an invasion.
Anyway, we got underway. We had the same steamers with us that we'd taken from Melbourne, but we also had the LANGLEY and an American cargo ship, the SEAWITCH, which was loaded with P-40s in crates.
The next morning, I was up in the sky forward (the forward anti-aircraft director) on watch when I saw the LANGLEY and the SEAWITCH turn off and head north. They left us on Monday morning and the LANGLEY was sunk on Thursday. She never delivered any of the P-40s. The survivors were picked up by the tanker PECOS and then she got sunk.
I wonder if the poor chaplain survived?
I don't know. It would be interesting to find out.
However, as I understand it, the SEAWITCH was faster than the LANGLEY; she got in and off-loaded her stuff. The LANGLEY had been an old coal-burning collier before she was converted, and she could only make about sixteen knots or seventeen knots. By the end of the week, the Japanese were invading Java, so the planes all ended up in Japanese hands anyway. The exec or the captain never told us what was going on. I remember we rigged towing gear, and although no one told us why, we surmised that we were trying to find the HOUSTON, the flagship of the Asiatic Fleet which had been badly damaged in the battles up there. They hadn't had any reports from her. We were supposed to relieve her.
So the junior officers were not privy to any of the orders at all.
Everything was top secret.
It seems that your officers on board ship would need to know what was going on. Who was your captain on the PHOENIX?
At that time it was Captain Herman Fischer. He was an ordnance pg guy. As I understand, he was very nervous on the bridge. I'm sure glad we didn't get into any battles while he was up there. The communications officer was sort of the calming influence.
As we steamed east, we did meet several U.S. ships south of Java. They were all leaving and heading down toward Fremantle. We were trying to find the HOUSTON, but she apparently got sunk trying to get out. One of the Australian cruisers, I think it was the PERTH (named for the city of Perth), also was sunk. They both got trapped and sunk. We never heard what happened to them until after the war, when the survivors turned up in a prison camp.
We finally got orders to go back to Fremantle. We operated out of there for the next three or four months.
What kind of duty were you assigned in Fremantle?
We manned our anti-aircraft guns around the clock. Occasionally, we'd go out and meet a troopship or a cargo ship and escort them back into port. Usually, before we'd go out, a RAF Hudson bomber would make a sweep. If they saw a swab floating out there or anything that looked like it might be a submarine, we wouldn't go out. We didn't have any destroyers or any anti-submarine gear. We carried four aircraft, and, as I understand, there was some depth-charge ammunition they could drop from these airplanes.
The PHOENIX didn't have sonar or depth-charge capabilities?
The ship was designed to operate with battleships to protect them against destroyer torpedo attacks. We used to call our guns the "six-inch machine guns." We could fire something like a hundred twenty rounds a minute from the ship.
Don't they normally run destroyers with the cruisers?
In the Battle Force the destroyers were screened out ahead of the cruisers. They were designed to try to get in and attack the enemy battlewagons with torpedoes.
The cruiser didn't have any protection against submarine attacks.
No, it didn't. We depended on the destroyers to protect us.
In my opinion, after Pearl, they threw us to the wolves. We were sent out there to help shore up the Asiatic Fleet. I read, in one of the books about the HOUSTON, that although they were badly damaged, with at least a couple of turrets out of action, they were told to hang on until the PHOENIX arrived to relieve them.
So they weren't allowed to pull out and head for safer waters.
They weren't allowed to move until we came. The Asiatic Fleet consisted of two cruisers, an old light cruiser, the MARBLEHEAD, and the HOUSTON; thirteen old four-
piper destroyers, and support ships like the PECOS and the LANGLEY, which was a seaplane tender. Our sister ship, the BOISE, was also out there.
To backtrack a little bit, in August of 1941, we were detached from the Battle Force for about a month and escorted a troopship to the Philippines. This was when the things with Japan were beginning to get real bad. We were the first of what turned out to be sort of a continual rotation of cruisers to beef up the Asiatic Fleet. When we came back, one of our sister ships went out and did the same thing.
At the time of Pearl Harbor, our sister ship, the BOISE, was out there. She never did get into any action, however. She ran aground, apparently coming down from the Philippines.
We were sent out there after the actual war had started to beef it up. We ended up spending the war out there as part of what was eventually called, "MacArthur's Navy."
As I said, we spent three or four months, until around June or July, operating out of Fremantle. We spent most of the time in port. Every other day we would have liberty. Half the ship would be required to be aboard and the other half could go ashore. Ashore, we had a great time, of course, but these were tense times and we had sort of a lonely existence.
On one occasion, we had a real old Australian cruiser join us in port. She was nothing but an overgrown World War I destroyer. Another time a destroyer came in, but other than that, we were by ourselves, protecting the entire west coast of Australia.
You really didn't know where the Japanese were or how they were moving.
We knew they were in Java and their task forces were operating out of there, but we didn't know when they might come our way. The chief concern was that they might have an armed merchant raider.
In late 1941, there had been a German raider operating in the Indian Ocean, attacking the supply lines. The Australian cruiser, SYDNEY, apparently encountered it and sent a boarding party over. Both ships opened fire simultaneously. There were only survivors from the raider. The SYDNEY was lost with all hands. (I learned this on a recent visit to Australia.)
They sank each other?
They sank each other. I think there was a concern that this could happen in our area; so I think our main purpose was to be a protection against that sort of thing. Actually, we couldn't have done much else. If the Japanese had sent a task force down there, there would have been little that we could have done.
From Fremantle, we were ordered to Sydney. We went into drydock and had the barnacles scraped off the bottom of the ship. They hurried us out before our rudder was properly secured and the ship ran aground, briefly, when we lost steering control. We had rosebudded two propellers and had to spend another week there, while the propellers were being repaired.
From Sydney we went to Espiritu Santo and then joined up with the carrier task force off Guadalcanal. We were there for a couple of days. There were Australian units there, also, with the fast carriers. There were three carriers: the WASP, the HORNET, and the SARATOGA. Each one had it's own cluster of cruisers and destroyers. We were with the SARATOGA. We got there something like the twenty-ninth of August. A couple of mornings later, about seven o'clock, some people on our bridge saw a torpedo wake. The next thing we knew, the SARATOGA had been torpedoed.
They worked all day on the SARATOGA, but she had to limp off to get repairs. Of
course, they didn't need all the support ships, so we were sent back to Brisbane, Australia.
Prior to joining the carrier task force, we went into Espiritu Santo to get our orders and find out where we were supposed to go. Shortly after we arrived, I went up to my stateroom and the steward was setting up a cot in the room. I said, "What's going on, Johnson?"
He said, "We're getting some officers aboard temporarily."
Sure enough, later on in the evening, an officer came into my room. It turned out he'd been a classmate of mine at Rhode Island State College. He was an aviator and the cruiser he was on had been sunk off Guadalcanal during the first battle. I hadn't known him at Rhode Island State, but apparently after graduation he'd gone to Pensacola and become a Naval aviator. The cruiser that had sunk was not actually his. He had been temporarily transferred from his cruiser to the ASTORIA. She had been sunk and he was picked up. They put a group of survivors aboard our ship until they could get them back to their own units. Anyway, I had an additional roommate for a few days.
We went back to Brisbane. For the next few months, our operations were basically inside the Great Barrier Reef. The idea was to be there, ready to defend against another Japanese attempt to take Port Moresby. We got all of our supplies from Australia. We would tie up alongside an Australian supply ship, and get some beer among other things. Then occasionally we would go off to some island and allow the crew to play baseball and drink beer.
We went down to Sydney for Christmas, 1942. One of my memories is of the NEW ORLEANS coming in the harbor. I saw this strange looking ship, and it was the NEW ORLEANS, backing in. She'd lost her whole front end, from the bridge forward. She had
backed all the way down from the Guadalcanal area--from the "slot." She was going into drydock to get a temporary bow.
That's amazing that they could keep her floating with a third of the ship missing.
She had good watertight compartmentation. My roommate at the Naval Academy, Pierre Charbonnet, was aboard the NEW ORLEANS. He'd been up in the after director during the action and told us all about it. Things were really rough up there in the "slot," but nothing had happened to us where we were located. We were under MacArthur's command. These people were under Halsey's command.
Even at this point in the war, you were under MacArthur's command?
Yes. Admiral Hart had been Commander Asiatic Fleet. He was called back to the States. A Dutch admiral, Admiral Helfrich, took over the area command. We were under the command of U.S. Admiral [A.S.] Carpender, who replaced Admiral Hart. Then MacArthur came down from the Philippines and established the Southwest Pacific Command, including the Australian armed forces. He was the Allied commander of the area. We, together with the remnants of the Asiatic Fleet, came under him in what eventually became the Seventh Fleet.
Our job in the Great Barrier Reef was to be there in case the Japs sent another task force like they had in the Battle of the Coral Sea. Apparently, they were thinking of going around the south part of New Guinea and cutting off New Guinea from Australia. Our job was to protect the supply lines between Australia and New Guinea. MacArthur had started his offensive going across the Kokoda trail. Our forces had gone over the mountains and started working on Gona and Buna, a couple of towns on the North side of New Guinea.
The Japanese were not operating submarines too much down in that area, were
That was the reason we were inside the Great Barrier Reef. It was too shallow for submarines to operate in.
When the PHOENIX began operating off the north and east coasts of Australia, we had a squadron of American destroyers with us, so we weren't all alone anymore.
They were giving you protection against the submarines.
They provided us with submarine protection. But most of the time we operated inside the Great Barrier Reef and it wasn't practical for submarines to operate in there.
During this period, we made a couple trips to Sydney. I remember we were at Bondi Beach on Christmas Day, 1942, sunning in the sun. It was summer in Australia. While I was there, I developed a boil on my face. Several weeks later one developed on my leg, and then I got real sick. The doctor got me into a room up topside, where I could have access to a bathroom close by. This went on for a few days, until they decided to transfer me to the U.S. Army hospital in Townsville, Australia. Townsville was a small town up on the north coast of Australia. The 12th Station Hospital of the U.S. Army had actually taken over a street of houses; one house was the operating room, another house the mess hall, and so forth. The house I was in was the officers' sick ward. Across the street was the Section 8 ward. That was for the guys with psychological problems.
The house I was in contained all the sick officers. They were all Army Air Force or infantry guys that had been fighting up in New Guinea. Most of them had the Tengue fever or malaria. I remember there was one Air Force lieutenant who had flown B-17s in the Philippines. When the B-17s were all destroyed he got transferred to B-25s. Apparently,
he'd been on a mission in New Guniea and his plane had crashed in the jungle.
[End of Part 1]
|EAST CAROLINA MANUSCRIPT COLLECTION|
|ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW|
|Capt. Francesco Costagliola|
|USNA Class of 1941|
|February 7, 1995|
|Interview by Don Lennon|
Will you start on your hospitalization day in Australia, right at the end of 1942 and the beginning of 1943?
This is in early '43 and after I had been there a month, over a month, I wasn't quite ready to go back to the ship apparently. They decided, because it was a station hospital it was requirement to send a (-----) to a base hospital. So they had a hospital train leaving to go to the base hospital in Brisbane, Australia. It is about a 900-mile train ride and we got aboard about 6:00 in the evening and the train had one officer car and the rest of the cars were for the enlisted men. The windows were wide open and the locomotive was a coal, soft coal burner. By the time we got down to Brisbane, a day, we were gone all the next day and as I recall it was a half day after that, it have been two and a half days. I remember by the time we got down to Brisbane, we had about two inches black cinders on the deck and on the bunks and so on.
In Brisbane they did find out what the trouble was, apparently the infection had gone to my prostate. I spent about a month there in Brisbane and then I was sent back to the ship.
Were the boils very painful?
The boils themselves were painful. At first there was a boil on my face and then one on my leg and then I got real real sick. The doctor aboard ship couldn't figure out what was causing it.
Well to take a 900-mile train ride in open coal burning training in your physical condition was not very good was it?
Actually, by that time I was feeling pretty well. They had given me penicillin, but the problem was that my heart rate, at any little exertion I made, my heartbeat went up. Apparently this was an after affect of the infection. That was the reason they didn't want to send me back to the ship. Actually the trip was rather enjoyable. The only interesting part of it was the only thing they fed us was an Indian dish. It was rice and curry. That was the only thing they fed us.
I love it but I doubt in your condition that you would.
Apparently that was the only thing they could cook on the train. We did stop for one meal at the town McKay; I believe the name was, a town along the coast there. They actually brought a full regular meal aboard. That one meal, but all the other meals were all rice and curry.
In Brisbane I spent another month. Where they actually found out what was wrong with me. By that time the infection had been overcome and my heart rate became okay and I was sent back to the ship. I got back just in time for the ship to leave and go back to the states. We went all the way from Australia through the Panama Canal to the Philadelphia navy yard to get an overhaul. Apparently all the west coast yards were busy with Pacific fleet ships. We were not part of the pacific fleet, we were part of the south west pacific force under General Macarthur so we got to go all the way to Philadelphia to get over hauled. We spent three months in the Philadelphia navy yard. There in the navy yard I got
a months leave, so I got to go home for a month. I went to see my folks and relax and then they sent me to fire control school for a couple of weeks. I came back to the ship and spent the last month or two there in the yard. Once we got out of the yard I found myself one of the few batch of officers that was left aboard. The rest of them had all gone to new construction, to new ships. I was the main battery assistant when it came out of the yard. My boss, I had been the fire control officer, the F division when we came into the yard, my boss had been the plotting room officer. He was the main battery assistant. He had become the gunnery officer and anyway when I came out of the yard I had a lot more responsibility then I had when we came in.
We went down to the Gulf of Pariah (?) off Trinidad, to do our refresher training and to get the crew exercised. Fortunately we didn't loose very many enlisted men to new construction. So we had a lot of old experienced hands going back and getting the ship back in shape after the yard overhaul. While we were down there we got orders to go up to San Juan, Porte Rico and take the secretary of state aboard and we took the secretary of state over to Casablanca and from there he was going to fly to the Tehran (?) conference. We spent about three days there in Casablanca. The harbor was still a mess from the North African landings; there were still sunken destroyers, from the battleship JEANBARD (?). I think it was still there in port, damaged.
I wonder why the secretary of state did not go with the president?
Well one thing I gathered that he came along with us to kinda get a rest. To get away from things.
Because the president sailed on the IOWA with Kevin Burly(?).
I'll be darned I didn't know that.
He told me about that yesterday.
Then I guess he didn't rate a battleship being the secretary of state. He only rated a cruiser. I don't know but maybe their time was different or something or he just wanted to be away. Anyway kinda of an interesting trip. We had two destroyers escorting us. When we came back we had a problem with the boilers and we had to go into Norfolk, to the Portsmouth (?) navy yard, very briefly. Then we took off for the West Coast, went on through the canal back up to San Francisco. From there went onto Mare Island (?) briefly and then we just sorta sat around there waiting for orders as I recall. I know the captain seemed to be real nervous. Finally we got word to proceed back to New Guinea (?) this time and to go into the harbor at the east end of New Guinea. That was our base of operation for a short period.
While we were there we had a very traumatic experience. We decided to try an experiment with our main battery and to do what we call indirect fire. Use a reference point that was not the actual target as the reference point and then just shoot at a separate target. There were two islands not very far from were we were anchored that were uninhabited and available. We used one as the reference point and we used the other island as our target. We opened fire and my gosh we missed the island, I don't know how far, but it was a tremendous amount. Our skipper was just enraged. See here we were coming out there to fight the war and we couldn't even get close to the target. Well it turned out what we were doing were we were using a chart that was made up of two charts that were prepared by a Captain Cook back in the 1700's. What somebody had done was taken these two small charts and put them together and xeroxed them and they didn't line them up right.
No one had made an effort to make new charts of that area since Captain Cook was there in 1771-1774 period?
The charts we were using were all from Captain Cook's time. But these changed not very long after that though. I was the one who had to solve the problem. It was the main battery problem, and I was shook too. Anyway, very shortly after that, we went out on our first defensive mission. Christmas day we were on the way to support a landing on Cape Gloucester (?) and it was on the Island of New Britain. The idea was that there was a narrow strait there that the ships had to go through to get on further up the coast. They wanted us to secure this territory. So, we had to go in and make a shell bombardment before the landing and everything worked out great. Our gunnery system was working fine. We only stayed there one day though. Then we got out of there because the Japanese still had a big force up at Ribald (?). As a matter of fact they sank one of our accompanying destroyers later on in the day after we left. So, we went back to (Miyon?) bay, is where our base of operation was. Anyway this landing was on the 26th of December 1943.
In our next operation we made a quick night bombardment of another town further up the coast of New Guinea (?) and it was just a dash in and dash out sort of thing. The most important operation was the next one. Which is the taking of the Admiralty Islands (?) and incidentally shortly after we arrived in (Miyon?) bay Admiral Burky (?) came aboard and took over. We became his flagship, and he became commander of cruiser division 15. Two of our sister ships joined us, NASHVILE and the BOISE. From then on we operated as a group and they called it task force 75. We worked along with the Australians. The Australians were task force 74. They did the same sort of things we did. But they would have a different area to bombard or something like that.
Were the Australians by '43 still as worried about a Japanese invasion of Australia as they had been earlier in the war?
Not by that time, not by the end of '43. In early '43 they certainly were. It was our job really. That period when I was in the hospital, the ship was operating inside the Great Barrier Reef because we didn't have any asw capability. Inside the Great Barrier Reef submarines couldn't operate. At the same time we were sort of handy to Fort Moresby (?) which had been their earlier target.
The Admiralty Islands occurred in March of 1944. General Macarthur came aboard the PHEONIX and went up to operation. He complimented us on our gunnery, we did initially some shore bombardment and we also did a little bit of what we call fire support work. In other words the army needed a target taken care of and we were able to provide them with some support. Again we didn't stay very long. We left and went back to Miyan (?) Bay. It wasn't long after that that we shifted our base up to the Admiralty Islands and it became our base for the next series of operations along the coast.
The next operation of any importance was a landing. We hit some carriers and gradually the Japanese air superiority was diminishing. Then we went along to another place called Itopian (?) and did another landing. Then came the (V- ACK?) operation. In this one, as we were on our way to V-ACK (?) we came under attack by a couple of Japanese bombers. One dropped a bomb right along side us. The shrapnel killed one man on the signal bridge and a number of other people were minor injuries from shrapnel. We also got a small hole in the side, but it wasn't enough to keep us from operating. We went ahead with the operations. As I recall we had to go back and use Hilandia (?) as our base of operations for the V-ACK (?) operations. The V-ACK (?) operation, apparently they had quite a bit of trouble the army had trouble getting the Island under control. We were called back up there. Apparently had some intelligence that an enemy surface force was coming down to bring some more reinforcing Japanese troops. We tangled with this group, we did
take these destroyers under fire but when they got within range when they just turned around and left their barges loose and took off. So we had a very brief surface engagement there. They didn't shoot back at us and apparently they didn't have any torpedoes to use against us. There were another one or two unopposed operations further down the Dutch part of New Guinea. I remember one of the operations we used a tree from the tree as our reference point for the shore bombardment. Incidentally about this time we began to get real good shots. They used aircraft mapping techniques.
I was getting ready to say how would they be able to chart them during the war. So, They used aerial charting?
From then on, sometime in 1944.
No more Captain Cook?
No more Captain Cook, we began to get real good charts of the area and a lot better information. Then we supported a landing on Helma Hera (?), which is an island that has a volcano on it. You could see the smoke and so on, on the volcano. Another stepping-stone up to the Philippines. Then in October there were some real big landings and Lady Gulf, where the Pacific Fleet and the Seventh Fleet combined. By this time also Macarthur began to get a lot of amphibious craft. We began to get a bunch of LST's and that sort of thing.
I was going to ask you how Macarthur fit in to what you were doing during this time. Other then that you had mentioned that he came aboard the PHEONIX and addressed the personnel. You were supporting his move up the coast.
The military under Macarthur included the Australian army and the Australian navy and the US seventh fleet and the US fifth air force, the US sixth army, and eighth army. At one stage we had some rains under his command. Basically his mission was to take New Guinea back and that was separate and apart from what was going on up in the South
Pacific. Which was Ben Dover (?). Ribald (?) was completely ignored except for air attacks and that sort of thing. We just by-passed it and isolated it. At Lady the whole Pacific fleet was involved in that one. At that time it was the operating part of the Pacific Fleet was the third fleet, Halsey. Anyway our job in that operation was that basically we had a certain area to bombard and then provide gunfire support to the army troops in that particular sector.
You really weren't getting any resistance as far as endangering the ships?
I don't remember any submarines.
No naval, Japanese naval forces at all?
Initially we spent the 21 of October and then after we had been bombarding two or three days we got worried that a Japanese force was approaching. We got worried there were a couple of battleships coming up through the islands, south of Lady, up Sere gal straits (?). The old battleships were part of this bombardment force and part of the landing force. The commander, the overall commander, lined up the battle wagons up across the strait and our cruise division together with an Australian cruiser formed what we call a right flank. We were between the battleships and the group closer to the enemy battleships. In this night attack, first they had to line up torpedo boats way down the channel and started to make attacks. It included two battleships; there were really two forces, each under a different admiral. They had a number of destroyers and cruisers with them.
As I remember it was about 4:00 a.m. when they finally got within our range and we opened fire on a battleship. I remember spotting one, he could see our traces and just follow them right in. They were hitting the Battleships right on. Anyway everybody was shooting at them and even the battleships opened up on them. The battleship was sunk. In effect they were repulsed. The other battleship apparently turned around and scooted before they got
within range. I know there was a cruise and some of the destroyers were sunk and so on. The thing that shook me up was at 7:00 a.m. we were cleaning up. We had been shore bombarding for three days and then that night battle we fired most of our ammo. We were just about all out of ammo. We got worried that there was another force coming down from the north outside the entrance and they were attacking the baby carriers that were out there. Their aircraft, I guess was initially attacking the baby carriers. They were off the mouth of Lady Gulf. We reoriented the forces to deny entrance to the gulf, but we were all out of ammo.
No ammo ships around to replenish?
Yeah that afternoon, well it so happened anyway, that apparently the baby carriers, their planes were able to frighten off the main Japanese force. They never did get within range of us, so that we could shoot at them. That afternoon we went along side a ship that was loaded with ammunition. We had to because of the rules of the merchant marines, we had to provide all the people to man all the equipment on the ammunition ship and bring it over to our own ship. People who had been up for twenty-four hours.
Were ammo ships like that was not a regular Navy ship?
No, this was a cargo C-3, and a civilian crew manned it. There was a little unhappiness about that. That was the battle for Lady Gulf, our part in it. We were one of the many ships that managed to sink a battle ship. That was the only other surface engagement we got involved.
The PHEONIX never took a hit?
No. It was just about this time we began to get these kamikazes and the HONALULU was hit by a kamikaze. The Australian flagship was seriously damaged by a kamikaze during this period.
When the HONALULU was hit, was that after it was no longer the flagship for Admiral Ainsworth (?) was it? It had at one time been his flagship.
(---) Ainsworth, Admiral Ainsworth.
I don't know, she was a sister ship of ours she belonged to the pacific fleet.
Well I know that was his flagship during the Solomon (?) Islands thing.
I doubt if he was still on it. I think somebody else had taken over. The PHEONIX, BOISE, and the NASHVILLE by this time didn't really have communications or an occasion to get together with our sister ships. Originally we had all been cruiser division 9, back before Pearl Harbor. Then we got shanghaied to the Asiatic fleet, or what was left of it.
The next operation that I remember particularly was around thanksgiving. It was to escort a force all the way up through the islands up to an island that they wanted to take over to make a landing field for the aircraft; Medora (?) was the island. We had this flotilla of LST's to escort up there and we knew we were under threat of kamikaze's and Japanese air attack. Apparently on the NASHVILLE they decided to stay at general quarters from the time we left Lady Gulf. On our ship we just went to our normal condition 3 watches. We stood watch in four. We kept the anti aircraft battery manned around the clock; with four different sections each taking their turn. About 3:00 in the afternoon a kamikaze came in and the NASHVILLE didn't get around to firing a single shot and this plane just crashed into their starboard anti aircraft battery. Apparently they had all been at general qaurters for so long that there reaction was slow and this plane came in low over the water. Anyway she had to leave and go back to the states to get repaired. I don't if she went all the way back to the states or to just Hawaii somewhere, anyway she left oru force for the next three months. The rest of the trip there I don't think we got any other kamikaze attacks.
Now when a ship such as the NASHVILLE gets hit and has to be pulled out, do yo just continue with a depleted force or are they able to bring in a replacement ship?
There is no replacemnet we just keep on with what we got.
That could create a real hole in your ability to provide adeqaute escort wouldn't it?
That's right, you have to make due with what you got. The operation anyway was sucessful and we managed to get back. I don't remebr any other attacks on that trip. At christmas time we were back there in Lady Gulf and one nice thing is that our captian decided we all deserved some egg nog on christmas. So he authorized the doctor to provide us some medicinal liquor to put in the punch. So everybody got a little paper cup of eggnog spiked with medicinal alachol on christmas day. An interesting thing about that christmas was the day before christmas we were going to general qaurters cause there was another air attack. On christmas day they didn't bother us one bit. It just stayed quiet.
The next operation was the Lingayun(?) Gulf landings. As a result of the baby carriers not havign any big ship support at Lady, they only had a couple of destroyers and DE's as I remember, operating them. We were designated instead of being part of the shore bombardment force we were designated to stay with the baby carriers and protect them. One thing I marveled was how those aviators ever got those airplanes off that little deck with the ships rolling and rocking and so on. It was during this period that we came under one attack were a kamikaze just kept coming and one of our gunner's mates decided that we weren't going to be able knock the plane out of the sky before it hit. So he jumped over the side and actually the kamikaze disintegrated just over the ship. Part of it landed on the main deck and part on the starboard side and part on the port side. The guy we never found. We searched but we never found him.
You had no damage or injuries from the disintegrated kamikaze?
No injuries or damages.
The only loss was the man overboard.
Apparently he was thinking of the NASHVILLE. Then we made several other operations. We had one operation were we went down to Sambewanga(?). Another landing in another small city down in the southern Philippines. Another thing we were involved with was cleaning out Manila Bay(?) and taking back crigador(?). In the Crigador(?) operation Macarthur used paratroops. Our job during this operation was an initial bombardment and then just be prepared for air attacks and so on. But Macarthur had all these paratroops on crigador(?) to take it back.
Was there a great deal of resistance to the Crigador(?) campaign, in other words did the Japanese still have a large force there by that time?
From my point of view the problem that we had was that every once and a while they would open up from the beach at us or at the ships. One of the destroyers, I recall, one of my classmates was on that particular destroyer and he was killed on it, we were only a shot distance away. I was on duty, in charge of the anti aircraft battery at that particular time, but the destroyer got hit but we couldn't tell were the bullet or firing came from. There was no indication of any gun. The admiral kinda of chewed me out, Admiral Burk he came up and said," well just shoot any place, just shoot."
Was that after the paratroopers had landed or before?
No, actually this was before the actual landing. This was a few days before and we were doing the initial bombardment.
Who was your classmate that was killed on the other destroyer?
Hutchinson (?), I remember was his name.
What was the destroyer?
It's the standard destroyer. One other aspect to it, one day we spent, one of the islands they call stationary battleship or something. We had built it as part of a defensive before World War II. We got up close and tried to get some of these bullets to try and penetrate the armor. I guess they were five-inch ammo. Trying to get through the armament of this fort. Apparently the Japanese inside and our job was to make it ineffective. The only way we could do that was to try and get some of our six-inch bullets to get through. We did get some through. I don't know how effective it was. That was one of the problems we had to deal with.
Shortly after that we got some liberty. The army had retaken the city of Manila(?) and the admiral allowed us to go ashore there one day. We had to do it as an officer and ten men or twenty men. We had to stay together and go as a group. It wasn't the normal liberty of going to find a bar and stuff like that. More just a sight seeing thing. There wasn't much over there, the old city was completely destroyed. Anyway we got ashore and decided which way to go. One of the fellows said he knew some people over at Sana Tomas (?).
That had been the prison hadn't it?
Yeah that had been the prison for the civilians. So we decided to go over Sana Tomas (?). These people were still all there. They were released but there was no place to go until the ships came to repatriate them. They were free and under American control but they hadn't figured out a way to get them to some other place.
We have the papers of a missionary who was imprisoned there for the war. Included are a couple of newspapers that were published from the prison.
Yeah, they were telling us of there experiences. This one man in that group who apparently had people who he had contacted were friends of people he had met in Australia. So, anyway that was the opening of finding these people he was looking for. He
found the people he wanted to see and we just sat around and listened to their stories. About life, apparently they weren't treated too badly.
Now you said that Manila was virtually destroyed. Was that by the Japanese or Americans in trying to retake the island or combination of both?
Probably a combination of both. The air attacks and initially though I think a lot of it was done by the Japanese.
Were there many Japanese prisoners there or had they already been removed?
We didn't see any. So I gather they were being held someplace else. A lot of them committed hari Kari (?).
What kind of impact had it had on the philipino population in the area?
Well they were real happy to see Americans.
Their casualties had been no greater then would have been expected.
Frankly I don't know how, I imagine a lot of them were killed during these attacks that destroyed so much of the city. One thing I remember is this bridge going across one of the rivers was just a tangled mass of steel that people were clambering over. No vehicle traffic of any kind that I could see. We all walked on foot from wherever they dropped us off to Sana Tomas (?).
You did walk?
Yes, we had to walk it was the only of getting around. I guess it wasn't too far away cause we had a whole afternoon. So it couldn't have been too far away and we were able to find it. After we got through with the Philippines we used as our base subik(?) bay. There was an island off the mouth of Subik(?) bay that we used to use for recreation. We would have parties and stuff like that. The officers had one section for ourselves and the
enlisted men had a ballpark and that sort of thing. I remember one day sometime in February and I happened to have duty and I was aboard ship and a typhoon came up. Suddenly the wind just picked up and the water just picked. There was a group of officers over on the island and apparently during this rough period something happened to one of the boats bringing the officers back. I remember our navigator he swam all the way back to our ship. The steward's mate who was riding in the boat was drowned. Other then that everybody else managed to make it back to the ship. That was a sad experience.
Speaking of the stewards and the steward mates were they ethnically what?
Normally at that time they were either blacks or philipinos usually. On our ship I think we didn't have any other black members other then stewards. For battle stations they did serve on the guns just like regular people. For normal routine duties that was there job. They stewards mates that took care of the cooking and cleaning and making up the beds and so forth.
The last phase of our period we made three different operations down in Borneo. While the pacific fleet was up in Okinawa taking back Okinawa we were down in, I think the first operation was Terakan(?) and again it was shore bombardment. Then Balik papan(?) was the last operation and then we went back up to Subik bay(?). About this time, august 1, I became the gunnery officer. The gunnery officer was ordered back to the states to some shore job so I became the gunnery officer and a week later. The eighth of august we left to go back to Long Beach naval shipyard. We were finally going to go back to Long Beach, which was our homeport. They were going to put us in the west coast yard for overhaul and then we were to be ready to come back out in November for the big landings in Japan. Planning to make the landings in Japan.
The next day we stopped in Lady Gulf briefly and while we were there we heard something about an atom bomb. Nobody knew what exactly an atom bomb was. Anyway it was supposed to be some really big thing. We left and headed on back without any escort, back to pear harbor. Of course on the way back things changed pretty rapidly. The day we got into Pearl Harbor was they day that the president declared day of thanksgiving that the Japanese had agreed to surrender. This was the first time we had been back in Pearl since 1941. We left right after Christmas 1941 and this was the first time back there. We were only there one day, this one Sunday. There to get fuel and we also picked up two whole four-piper destroyers. They weren't able to make it back to the states without refueling. So about halfway back to the states we had to refuel them at sea. The following Sunday morning I remember the captain about seven o'clock called for me up on the bridge. He said," We got orders to just keep right on going, were just going to be in Long Beach for one day. What we are going to do, all the west coast people we are going to send them on leave. And use the rest of the people to man the ship and take it around to the east coast and we are going to the Philadelphia navy yard and going to start putting the ship in moth balls."
Wow, they didn't waste anytime on that one.
No. So, we got to our home port and we were only in there one day and everybody had to shift gears. Also, we had to take these two destroyers and we were going to take them around to the east coast too. It was decided on the way around that we would refuel them again in Acapulco. So we went into the harbor of Acapulco and it was a really nice sheltered harbor. We refueled and spent one day there. The night we got out of there we hit another, what they call a Tijuana pecker, which is a small typhoon or hurricane. I happened to have the duty on the bridge, and saw suddenly the barometer dropped. One of the destroyers reported they rolled sixty degrees and anyway we got a hectic three or four hours
there going through this thing, trying to find the safest course. Had to keep the ships stable and together. Anyway that was the last really big event in the history of the PHEONIX. We went through the canal and on up to Philadelphia and I left the ship in February of 1946. After having been on there for five years I received orders to report immediately to the staff commander tenth fleet.
Its very unusual for someone to serve that long on a single ship.
Usually they are sent back for new construction or what have you. How did you manage to stay aboard?
Its just the way it worked out for me. Of course I always felt during the war that well I was on the PHEONIX and I liked it and I enjoyed my jobs. In the fitness reports they had a place there were you request your next duty assignment and I just kept USS PHEONIX on there. I don't know if that made any difference or not. Usually the navy does just the opposite of what you wanted. Anyway that was my five years on there. I was still a lieutenant when I got these orders as gunnery officer. Then after we got back to the states, they came out with a selection list and I became lieutenant commander, which was the appropriate rank for a gunnery officer. By the time I left the ship though, one fellow that had been on, he came aboard about two weeks after me and this was Jim Mcaid(?) and when he came aboard he was just a brand new warrant officer. He had walked through the ranks and made warrant officer. I was the b division junior officer and he came to the b division. He was a boilermaker; he was an expert on the boilers. During the war he became an Henson and he stayed aboard and he became a full lieutenant and he was the senior engineer aboard when I left the ship. The officer who had been the navigator was the commanding
officer so I was the second senior officer aboard by that time. So I had gone from boot Henson to second in command during my tour on the PHEONIX.
The next job I went to was as flag secretary to commander of tenth fleet and this was a fleet setup to, it was really a paper fleet, and the idea basically was to sorta of be a contingency force for the south Atlantic and the Caribbean. The idea was basically that we make more social kinds of things. With the idea that if there were any insurrections somewhere with these south American republics or anything like that, the tenth fleet would be then ready to take the ships and take care of the problem.
Who was the commander?
That was Vice Admiral Bernhard (?) Beary (?) and it seems the reason I got this job was that somebody thought Costagliola was a Spanish name. They thought I Spanish flag secretary would be appropriate going to all these countries down there.
But it's Italian not Spanish?
That's right. Anyway it was kind of interesting and I was only aboard on the staff. The staff was just forming up when I joined it and they had an office in the navy department. The old navy building down there on the mall. A month or so after we got there we went to the USS FARGO was our flagship and we started on a good will cruise to south America and up the African coast. That was the plan. We started out at Bermuda and then we went down to Trinidad and then on to one the cities in Northern Brazil and then to Reo. That was real great. Then we went on down to Mona Video (?) and in the meantime I had gotten orders to go to PG school in august of 1946. It was going to be impractical for me if we were over in Africa to get transportation back in time for school. Anyway the plan for me to leave the ship in Mona video (?) and then get back. The way my orders read was that while I was outside the states it wouldn't count as leave but once I got back in the states
then it would count as leave. So, my strategy was that I had such a good time in Reo that I would spend as much time in Reo as possible. That worked out great in Reo and had some stuff he wanted taken up to somebody up in Washington to and I was glad to do that. SO he arranged for me after I had spent about a month down in Reo to get a flight back to Washington. Anyway that's the way it worked. In the meantime Admiral Beary (?) suddenly got worried that instead of finishing the rest of the cruise he was to proceed and the FARGO were to proceed to the Mediterranean were he was to take over the command of six fleet. The chief of staff talked to me about just staying on and I had already committed myself and the war was over. After the war I wasn't thinking much about Korea or anything else I just wanted a good time. So I said I would rather just go and so I did. I wasn't in very good graces with Admiral Beary. I was Italian with my Italian background and he was going to go to Naples. Anyway I had a good time and then I got a months leave when I got back to states besides. So I was home for a month before I went to PG School.
PG school, I had decided that since I had been in gunnery all during the war I might as well go into ordnance, or postgraduate training, and the captain of the PHEONIX said he would give me a good endorsement and all that. So when I went to PG school that's what I was in was the ordinance postgraduate. They had a number of different specialties that we were in. I remember there were about twenty-four of us in that class, in ordinance. They were divided up into electronics and guided missiles and so forth. I got started on my second choice, which was electronics. I got into electronics but I wasn't doing very well in it. It was awfully hard to get back to studying after all these years in operations. After I had been in there about two or three months, they came up and said they wanted anybody who was interested they were going to start up another specialty called nuclear ordinance. I thought that would be great. I was so impressed with the atom bomb and so I applied for it.
I was lucky enough to get it. Six of us were in the group; Victor Delanore (?) was one of them. Victor and I were two out of the class of '41. John Dicey (?) who was number one in the class of 1938 he was our senior one in our group. There was Roger Payne (?) out of the class of '39 and another officer out of '38. Then Mike Moore out of the class of 1943. He was a submariner. Roger Payne and Mile Moore were both submariners. The rest of us were regular line surface force types. After a year at Annapolis we were sent to MIT and I really had a rough time at MIT. Well all of us did. At the end of our first semester there, we spent the summer there, we went to school all summer that was our first semester. We were all warned that unless we improved our grades we wouldn't be allowed to pursue the degree we were on, we could shift to another degree. Came the end of the next semester and three of us were considered unset. You know they had a kind of run of the mouse tours, if you don't have an effective b average, they use a different system. Its different from the naval academy they had a number system. We weren't really unset in any subject. We just didn't receive high enough average to meet the criteria. So, anyway three went on and worked for the degree but we all took the same courses still. John Dicey went back to talk to the PG people. The head of our program came up and talked to them at MIT and what they did was keep us on as what they call special students. We just took all the same courses and everything but at the end we wouldn't get a degree. So anyway we just kept on going. All of us managed to keep from being unset. We got through our course in February of '49 and then we had a period from February till the summer were we went to various installations that were part of the navies nuclear program or associated with the navies nuclear program. We spent sometime at the Washington navy yard at Dagren (?) Virginia. Then we went out west to, we spent a little time in Albuquerque at the defense. They had one of the support programs, the atomic mc (?) program. Then we went out to the naval ordnance test station.
That town was called China Lake, and there we were farmed out to different places. I happened to be farmed out to the place were they were making the nuclear explosive for the bombs. Anyway I spent a good month or month and a half there with the guy that was in charge of that program. Then we ended up in Los Alamos, and while there captain Martel (?) came down from Washington and told us that he would like to have, the officer of the chief of naval operations, wanted us to stay, instead of going to sea after the end of our three years in PG school, they wanted us to stay at Los Alamos and get ready for the big nuclear test they were getting ready for in 1950. Anyway I had orders in hand to go to executive officer to a destroyer. So, I talked to the captain and I told him, my naval career and I was a lieutenant commander and my total naval career had been on one single ship. I thought that for my career that I ought to go back to sea and take the job as destroyer exec. To get some different sea experience. Well he agreed with me and so I went back to sea and the other guys all stayed at Los Alamos. It turned out that it was the worst to me, it was about the worst naval experience in my entire carreer.
What ship was this?
The USS BROWNSEN(?) DD-868. It had just come back to the states from a tour in the Mediterranean. I went aboard it in the Boston Navy Yard. So here I was back in Boston where I had spent two years there at MIT. Winter was fast approaching and the ship was being all torn up and they were going to take off the forty millimeter guns and replace them with three-inch guns. There was an entirely new fire control system. They were replacing the steel mainmast with an aluminum tripod mast. That helped topside, utilized the topside weight. Some other things they were changing, some radars and all that. It was going to be a major overhaul. Our three sister ships in the same division were all doing the same thing.
We were all in the same yard. We were the squadron flag. We had the squadron commander on the premises.
That winter was a miserable cold winter and we had to put the men in barracks on the beach. We couldn't keep them aboard ship. The yard like that, it seems like you would have a lot more disciplinary problems, cause sailors tend to get into trouble. But we survived.
Who was you CO?
The skipper Captain Wilson, Ralph Wilson. He was a very nice guy. He was out of the class of 1932 as I remember. He was kinda of senior but he was getting in his destroyer command. Our commodore was a great commodore. His name escapes me at the moment. We three used to go to the club. None of us had wives there in Boston. I was a bachelor still and their wives were back wherever their home town was.
So this assignment wasn't miserable because of the command structure but because of the winter and the situation?
The situation and it became worse. The bad part came after we came out of the yard. This happened to be 1949, when the secretary of the Navy was, or secretary of defense, but he was off cutting back the navy. We were short handed and me, I was green at being a exec officer of a destroyer. We headed on down to Gauntanamo. First of all we got delayed because there was a aluminum strike so we couldn't get out of the yard as son as we were supposed. Somebody burned up one the computers for the new fire control system. Apparently somebody took this package that was being trashed and it turned out that it contained a million dollar computer.
Anyway we got out of the yard and sure enough we were real shorthanded and the ship was a mess after the yard. The weather was bad until we actually got down to the Caribbean. It was very hard to get any outside paintwork done or anything like that. Then we had a kind of miserable down at Gauntanamo, getting through what they call refresher training. I didn't really know what to expect and I guess my subordinates didn't either very much. Anyway we did squeak through. There was a side though that some of this new gear just wasn't working right and rather then go to the Mediterranean as originally planned it was decided that we would take midshipmen cruise that summer. So after our refresher training was over we had to immediately start making plans for taking aboard seventy midshipmen. So that meant we had to send some of our people on leave even though we were shorthanded. We had to be even more shorthanded by making room for the midshipmen. Anyway we finally got through the summer with the midshipman cruise and about this time the Korean War got started.
The MISSOURI had to offload their midshipman. I had forgotten what they did with them. Anyway we continued with the rest of the midshipmen cruise on schedule. Then we went into the yard in Boston and spent another month in the yard getting our gear squared away. Then we came out of the yard and went on an exercise. That exercise with an ASW carrier, an anti-submarine aircraft carrier. Our four destroyers were screening this carrier and we were operating wartime conditions, darken ship. It was election eve and a couple other officers and I were set up in the wardroom until about 11:30 listening to the election returns. It was a little rough outside and it seemed I had hardly gotten to sleep when felt an unusually strong wave hit the ship or something unusual. The next thing I heard was something about clothes all watertight doors or something. I guess it was collision quarters. Anyway I went running up, stopped long enough to dress, to the bridge. On the way up
there was this young man that said," Commander can I break the lock on this door?" I said," Go Ahead." It was one of the damage control lockers. When I got up to the bridge the captain was there and he said," God Dammit Costy(?) we hit the RUNE(?)." The RUNE was our sister ship. Anyway thirty feet of our bows collapsed and we had rammed them right square amidships.
Now who was on duty?
The officer of the deck was Bob Lake(?) and he was our best OD and he was our CIC officer. The situation was this, he had been on watch a very short time when this happened. The aircraft carrier put the signal up in the air, which was supposed to be executed as soon as you understood it. Normally when they put up a signal to do anything to change course or change this position or anything, usually they would put the signal up and you would have a little time to digest it and then when they haul the signal down or give the word to execute sometime later. This signal was to do it immediately, which meant you were supposed to start turning or changing course to go wherever you are supposed to go right now. We started to turn.
Was there some reason why he needed to turn immediately?
Yeah, start going to your new station.
Was there a particular reason why he didn't provide any lapse time?
Well we never did find out why they did that. Apparently it was somebody, probably an aviator didn't understand the situation or there was something about the thing. Maybe they had an airplane that was in trouble or something. We never did find out. Anyway the sign was such that the carrier was just going to turn in to the wind and that meant in this particular case they were going to change course a 180 degrees, go off in the opposite direction. This meant the four screen destroyers of course would now be a stern
and they had to pick up speed and go to their positions in the new direction. There is a regular procedure for doing this in the book. It still required our officer tech(?) to work out the maneuvering board problem. To figure out exactly what course to take in order to get to the new station. He being the CIC officer, Russ(?) told CIC to go work out the maneuvering board problem and he did it himself right there on the bridge. He was doing this real quickly. As soon as he got the solution squared away and got the ship squared away on the new course. He noticed this dark shape up ahead was one of our sister ships and it looked to him like we were on a collision course. We were both steaming at 25 knots on a crossing situation. Anyway he got on the radio and told the other ship on the TBS that he was coming right to clear you. On the other ship apparently the Captain had been awakened and he was up on the bridge and he was looking through his binoculars and he decided that collision was eminent and he had to do something so he decided to change course to avoid us. What happened was the two ships just turned into each other. He was not aware of the signal from the TBS. He hadn't heard it. He was just out on the bridge. In the meantime our officer of the deck hadn't gotten around to notifying the captain. His habit was to just call the captain on the phone what was going on and he hadn't gotten around to that and he didn't think to get a messenger to go wake the captain. Before he knew we were in this collision situation and backed down to emergency full and all that. Anyway we hit them square amidships.
You said you had turned right into the side and hit them right in the engine room I believe.
Our bow, the stem was higher then the destroyer is amidships. What happened was our stem bow broke there. The side plate of the destroyer is pretty tough stuff, its really armaplate, but not very thick. There deck held ok except for the part where the keel actually
went inside. The top part of our bow stayed together and it just rolled up along the main deck and crumpled the after superstructure. It just was a sort of angle thing. They were moving along like this and then our bow was just riding up and it gradually got further and further in and mashed all the after aluminum superstructure there. There were some people in the first class quarters up there on the main deck and a couple of people were killed in there. Then one man was killed up on the after three inch mount it got all mangled. Anyway they lost four people.
What about the engine room?
Nobody killed in the engine room. One man though was in the machine shop right alongside the engine room and he came out through the hole. We picked him up out of the water. He had somehow come out through the hole in the side.
Did he come out voluntarily or was he thrown out?
Whether he floated out or whatever it was that was the way he got out. Of course they had no power. They were immobile. This all happened around 12:30 in the dark. The force, apparently the exercise we were on was just part of our bigger exercise and they sent a big repair ship to us and also a fleet repair tug. The repair ship of course by daylight arrived and asked us what we needed. One thing we were out of was toilet paper. The message came over asking if there was anything we needed. One of the things I learned was that all of our toilet paper was up in this forward area and somebody wanted some kind of paint. There were several things we needed.
No one was killed on the BRONSEN ?
No none was killed on our ship. The forward bulkhead of the chief's quarters was were the effects of the collision stopped. It had just been reinforced in the yard as part of our big overhaul. Incidentally on the big overhaul, part of the addition was a hedgehog up
on the forward deck. That required some reinforcement and that probably is what saved us. The reinforcing they did on the structure for that saved our chiefs quarters. Our damage control people were busy shoring up bulk heads up forward there. We were able to steam at about 6 knots but of course they had to tow the RUNE (?). The commander of chief of Atlantic fleet decided that since we were just about halfway between Bermuda and Portsmouth navy yard and that it was hurricane season that it would be safer if we headed for Bermuda rather than go back to Norfolk.
It was a dry dock there in Bermuda so both ships headed for Bermuda. We went in first and they sawed off the mangled mess on the bow and put a temporary snug bow on for us to go back. Meanwhile they had the court of inquiry. The captain of the RUNE and our officer of the deck were the two people they decided should be submitted to a court martial. The only thing our officer of the deck was he lost some numbers, it was a nominal amount of numbers for failure to inform the captain. That's violation of navy regulations. Your supposed to keep the captain informed of any change in formation and so forth. That captain of the RUNE(?) he got off scot free. He did what he thought was right under the situation.
Well he was reacting to an eminent collision?
Yeah. So, that's the way it ended. The collision occurred in early November and by December we got into Philadelphia. They decided to send us to Philadelphia navy yard to get our bow put on. There was the stem part and the anchor, were the anchors are were ok, so they put that part of the bow on our ship. The merchant ship took it to the yard. In the Philadelphia navy yard they put the stem back and of course filled in all the material in between. We got out of the yard in January of 1951.
When we got into the yard at Philadelphia, my reaction was to immediately as soon as I could take a day off and go down to see the detail officer in Washington. See if I could get out of these destroyers. When I went to see the detail officer the first thing he asked me, "Are you qualified for command?" I told him yeah I was qualified for command. He said," Well another month or two you are going to be getting your own destroyer." He couldn't understand why my face fell. Sure enough in late January early February I got orders to put the USS HALSEY POW(?) DD-686 back into commission. I got ordered from the 868 to the 686. I always look back on it as my most enjoyable tour. It took me awhile to figure out where the HALSEY POW(?) was. It turned out it was in Long Beach, California. On the way I drove across country and I stopped off in San Diego to see the cruiser, the admiral in charge of the west coast cruisers. There I found out what our schedule was and I didn't believe it. It said I had three months to get it back out of mothballs and ready for sea. Then there was to be two or three weeks refresher training and then we were supposed to be in around Japan in early August as I remember. I thought it was almost, after having experienced the de-moth balling of the PHEONIX, it seemed to me a pretty optimistic schedule. Actually it worked out fine. There were four destroyers, three in Long Beach and one in San Diego. They were all going to form up this new destroyer division. We were all going to deploy together and go out to west bank for the Korean War. Well everything worked out according to the schedule.
I remember the first day though to get it under way. It was scheduled to get under way at 8 o'clock on Monday morning to go out of long beach and just run the ship a little bit and then come back in. Just to make sure things were operating. I get up on the bridge and the first thing they told me was that the gyro wasn't working. My question was to me was well should we go out or not. I decided, that if we start chickening out every time
something goes wrong were not going to get very far. I decided to go ahead and go out and use magnetic, they did get the gyro working almost immediately afterwards. Off we went, drove around a little bit and came back into the harbor. I think we were actually about one week behind schedule when we actually went out, compared to the original plan. We all went out together and we stopped at Midway. We went into Pearl and then we stopped at Midway for refueling. Then got out to the coast (---) (?) and started.
Our assignment out there was to work with the ESSEX as a part of a destroyer screen. Part of the time we escorted a convoy. I was detached from the rest of the division to escort a convoy from Northern Japan to Inching (?). Part of the time I was assigned to escort admiral Dire (?) who was commander of blockade and escort force. He was in the cruiser TOLEDO. He was over there making his wartime pay. You got extra pay if you were in a war zone for a certain amount of time.
On this tour we went into Pusan (?) and there the admirals invited were invited to a party by the South Korean cno and I went to that. It was wintertime and it was cold. It was kinda of interesting to go into some of these buildings. The way they heated them. There was a sort of an interior system that they had. There was a big vacant space under the floor of the building; really I guess just a big long chimney. That allowed it to heat. One thing they had to watch out for was for the food we ate. Part of the time we did go and do a little shore bombardment.
Then shortly after that we actually became part of the blockade and escort force and I was assigned an area of the North Korean coast. I was to enforce the blockade and to keep fishing boats from fishing and any time minesweepers would go through and back them up. Try and protect them from any shore fire. We were supposed to be available to pick up any
downed aviators. There was a certain area that if aviators got in trouble and weren't able to get back to the carrier they were supposed to ditch in a certain area to be picked up in.
Did the Koreans have much in the way of shore installation that they used against the navy vessels?
Well that's one of the problems we ran into to. Taking care of this section of the coast incidentally when I paid my respects to Admiral Dire he told one of the things he was interested in was capturing any of these North Korean boats that they could use for intelligence missions. I setup a party you might say or group, which were to be available. The operations officer was in charge of the boat crew and my young Henson was in charge of the other whaleboat crew (?). We set up a scheme to use CIC. Also made up a kind of reflector for each of the whale boats and the idea was that on dark nights we would watch for any activity on the water using radar. We set them up to vector out form the ship. Vector our boats out with the idea of capturing one of these boats. One night the situation came up and this small boat showed up on the screen. We manned the two whaleboats and sent them out. We also had a South Korean liaison on board. He was on one of the boats. We jumped this one boat but it turned out that it was South Korean intelligence mission returning. Fortunately there wasn't any gunfire or anything like that. Apparently the only guy that was awake was the helmsman and they jumped him. The Korean officer interrogated him of course. So we backed off and went.
Then we went had a little bit of R&R. Went back down to ucosca (?). While I was in ucosca (?) my old roommate on the PHEONIX, classmate roommate bob Hill, was on the PHEONIX together, worked there at the naval ordnance. The magazine we had there. He was the commanding officer or assistant commanding officer of ammunition depot of the coast guard. I asked him if he could get us a couple of bazooka's to put on our whaleboats.
He managed to get us a recoilless (?) rifle and a bazooka. So I had a bazooka in one and a recoilless rifle in another one. But when we got out there it was bitterly cold and for some reason we couldn't get our whaleboats started. I was real unhappy with the engineer officer and the officer in charge of the boats. It was about a week before they got those boats to operate.
One day we where skimming along manchia (?) and noticed on this island what looked like, it was nice clear day, and I look through the binoculars and here was a guy and a big hole. A big cave it looked like in the side of this island. He was just standing there leaning against the side of it and looking at us. I figured it looked like they were setting this place up to have a gunning placement. I decided the next morning to send over my boat crews to take a look at the backside of this island. We were able to get any closer because of the what they call a mine line. The minesweepers would only sweep up to a certain part of the beach. There was always a possibility that there were mines further in. It took the boats far enough out that it took the boats an hour or hour and a half to get around behind the island. Everything was going along great, but then they suddenly began to get message over the radio that they were under fire. They were having to come back. They had taken a couple of boats in tow but they had to let them go because of the fire they were receiving from the beach. It seems that one of my men, one the radiomen in the boats, a bullet had just grazed his head and part of the earphones. Unfortunately one of the men was badly wounded and he got a pretty good size wound forma machine gun bullet in the groin. We had to knock it off and get him back to the ship. He had to get hospital care. He was not someone we could take care of aboard ship. So they evacuated him by helicopter and that was the end of that.
You didn't open fire on the island?
Yeah we did open fire from the ship. Of course we had to use blind fire cause we couldn't see over the island. We did kind of blanket it to minimize the effect on our troops. Anyway the boats did get back.
But you weren't able to knock out the gun emplacement?
We had another experience before that. This was just about the end of our tour out there when this happened. Earlier we started doing a reconnaissance, another reconnaissance thing. This time I had this ship with the anchor and the foot and we had the engines ready to go and all that. There were strict instructions that we were to steam at least 10 knots. Well this particular time I decided that I could take my own responsibility to just stop. This time we set out the boats at about six o'clock in the morning and at eight o'clock I was on the bridge and all of a sudden there was this tremendous blast and great big splash only about two or three hundred feet form the ship. In this case the firing apparently was from a cave way across this particular bight(?) that we were in. Anyway I had to immediately I jumped in the side of the bridge and grabbed a hold of the engine auto telegraph and signaled back all emergency full. My bow was pointed right into the beach. The anchor was under foot. We were at general quarters at the time so everybody was ready. They hauled in the anchor and were getting over and shorts but we managed to squeak out. We finally got out of range. We worked out while we slowly backed out. We recalled our whaleboats. We had been sitting there in that position from six o'clock on. Apparently those guns were available to move into position form some place and they opened fire on us. I thought they had us but we managed to squeak away.
You were able to blast away.
It was just a very small hole to get in. I had forgotten if we even bothered to shoot back. It seems to me that it was at maximum range for our gun. I don't think we ever did shoot back at that particular spot.
The Korean boats that you were trying to capture. Were these naval vessels, fishing boats, naval vessels disguised as fishing boats or what?
These apparently were just fishing boats.
Were they used by the North Korean government for intelligence purposes or were they actual legitimate fishing boats?
Well my impression was that they were using any kind of innocuous kinds of type vessel.
To lay mines?
To just bring somebody behind the lines or something.
Aside from that type of bombardment from the island were they were putting guns, how great was the danger of aircraft fire or whatever?
We never had a problem with aircraft. The only thing was the mines. Apparently had obtained these from the Russians. And the gunfire problem. One time when I first got up there I was escorting and these minesweepers and they were right behind me sweeping the mines and they almost approached Wansan and that would be outside my area. I decided it was time for me to turn around and go back. Right after I left they taken under fire by a shore battery. I caught a little bit of hell for letting them go too soon. On the other hand I don't know how effective I would have been to do anything about it.
As far out as you were having to stay cause of the minefields.
The other problem was trying to find when your looking at the beach, is trying to find were that bullet came from.
How great a problem was the weather there?
The winters are awfully cold. It wasn't very rough that I remember. I didn't get seasick, which for me is pretty good. Usually when I would take a Dramamine the day we got under way and then I would be ok. IT was just plain cold that was the only weather. I don't remember any storms. Down in Japan sometimes you run into typhoons.
The weather didn't interfere with your ability to carry out your mission?
I remember the time we couldn't get my whaleboat to run. Sometime in February we left for the states and that was the end of our tour.
Was this February of '52?
Yeah. What I must mention that Bob Hill, one of the things he did was introduce me to this navy nurse on New Years Eve of 1952. Anyway we had one or two other times were we all went out to dinner together. It turns out that she left Japan the same time I did but she left on a transport to go to duty to Mare Island. To a Naval Hospital in Mare Island. At the same time I went back to the states and we went into the navy yard at Hunters Point for an overhaul. While I was there one day I saw that they were having a bus strike up in Mare Island. So on a whim I decided to call up see if I could get in touch with her and offer her my car.
You knew she had been returned to Mare Island then?
Yeah, she told me before that that was were she was going. She was leaving there in February to go so I thought I would just check and see. Sure enough was on the phone and I offered, I had a car and understood that they had a bus strike and was glad to take her out. She said okay. One thing led to another and we got married in June of 1952 there at Mare Island. At age 35 I became a married man. She resigned from the Navy and I had orders back to Washington to go to OPNAV. To the atomic energy division of OPNAV. When I
got back to the states and reported in and not too long after that Maggie arrived. We found a house there in Arlington.
Any other thoughts on Korea this May be a good place to break and let me come back sometime and talk about you career in the atomic energy field.
Sure. That's fine.
Any other thoughts about your duty in Korea?
Well on the way back I stopped at San Diego and I paid my respects to the commander cruisers and destroyers. I guess command of destroyer's pacific fleet. He was asking me about the same sort of question. I told him it was an excellent really an excellent way of training. There was a certain amount of opposition but too dangerous. At the same time we got a whole broad variety of experiences one was as a screen for the fast carriers. Part of the time doing independent escort duty and you had experience doing assembly ling along the coast. We were given an allowance of so May round of ammunition per day or per week to shoot at targets of opportunity. Occasionally we would shoot at a train or something. Find something to shoot at. A couple time we shot at a fishing boat. Anyway we had a variety of pilot time and we worked with the small carrier. They had some small carriers out there as well as well as the big fleet carriers. There was a certain amount of time to exercise asw capabilities. It was very good realistic training.
You didn't feel like it was quite as dangerous as the South Pacific during World War II?
No. As I say I considered my most enjoyable tour was in command of my own ship.
That was a good feeling wasn't it?
Even if it was a destroyer.
Destroyers are nice fast ships. It was a good ship.
[End of Part 2]
[End of Interview]