|EAST CAROLINA MANUSCRIPT COLLECTION|
|ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW|
|RAdm. Roland Rieve|
|August 26, 1996|
I was born in Baltimore, but went to school in Washington, D.C. In my senior year of high school, I made plans to go to the University of Maryland, hopefully, getting a baseball scholarship. My teacher in high school was ill one day and we had a substitute teacher come in, a sweet young thing, about twenty-three years old. Her name was Anita Dunlap and, for reasons unknown to me, she took an interest in me and two other young men in our class. One day she asked me if I had ever considered going to the Naval Academy. I said, “Absolutely not. I want to go to the University of Maryland and be a baseball player.” The other two boys who she was interested in were Frank Edwards, who also went to the Naval Academy and we graduated in the same class, and another fellow by the name of Frank Espy(?), who was head of the cadet corps at McKinley Tech where we went to high school. He did not make the Naval Academy.
What was her interest in the Naval Academy?
I believe her dad was a general in the Army, but I really don't know what her interest was. She's still one of our closest friends. She's now eighty-six or eighty-seven years old.
When I discussed the Naval Academy with my family, my mother said, “Why don't you go to prep school and study for the examinations.” In those days, the examinations were quite different than they are now. We had English, Ancient History, American History, Math, and Physics. You were graded, but there was no such thing as college boards or anything like that. You had to write essays. I was only seventeen years old; so, I joined the Marine Reserve, in order to be able to compete in the national exams that were given. Only twenty-five people out of the country would qualify to go to the Naval Academy.
I went to ______ Prep School in Silver Spring, Maryland, with a number of other people who also became classmates at the Naval Academy. I competed for the exams and I stood number forty-two in the country. They ended up taking thirty-seven. When congressmen find out that one of their constituents has done well on these exams, they give an appointment, and that allows somebody on the list to move up. It gives a good benefit to those who can't get congressional appointments. They got to number thirty-seven and it appeared as if they were going to stop there. My mother was from West Virginia and she went down and saw Senator Neely. He had a third alternate. They go, principal, first, second, and third alternates: The principal failed the exam; the first alternate failed the physical; and the second alternate was color blind. So, in August of 1937, they called me and asked me if I wanted to go. I was one of the last members of our class to get in.
Had you ever been to Annapolis previous to that?
No. I went in on August 18, 1937. Most of the plebe summer was over. I spent three plus years there. (We graduated early because of the war.) While there, I played baseball, soccer, and squash.
Any particular anecdotes concerning your period at the Naval Academy?
Well, I got a lot of demerits and I had a very low aptitude record. I'm not bragging about it; it's just one of those things. I got along with the discipline fine, although there were certain things I didn't care for. I was very active in sports.
Did you experience much harassment your plebe year?
Some, but since I was on the soccer team and the baseball team, I sat at a training table and on a training table, they didn't harass plebes. You were accepted as one of the athletes. But, yes, I was made to do all those things and was wopped with spoons and pans and whatnot. I got mad at them and they did it more. It wasn't that bad, I guess it was good training.
With some, it sounds like it became a game.
I had one particular fellow that I didn't care for. You've heard of hundredth night.
That's when the plebes turn around. I got even with him that night.
What did you do?
I whacked him good. I poured a pitcher of milk over him and hit him with a ladle until he was sore. He never bothered me after that. We became good friends. He took it in good spirit. He didn't complain. Nowadays they can't stand for that kind of thing. It really wasn't all that bad. I think it did a lot of good things for us. Sometimes it got a
little annoying, and if you got a mean fellow, it wasn't much fun, but most of them did it in good spirit.
I enjoyed the sports at Annapolis. The studying was okay, I got through it fine.
The coursework and instruction were a bit different than most college settings.
Well, it's very regimented. It's disciplinary. It's a military academy and as such, as you look back on it, it served its function very well. We had a great time together, and I think because we did go through those sessions, our class is very closely knit. We had one of the smallest classes to come out of the Naval Academy, only 399. Today, the classes are 1,000 or so. I have a son that graduated from the Academy and they had a lot of camaraderie between them, but I don't think as much as we had it. Perhaps as you get older, you get a little closer to your classmates.
Not only the experience there, but you also faced a common threat in terms of the war immediately after graduation. It gave you all a common experience.
We grew up in a hurry. I look at the Naval Academy as a fine, fine school for engineering. They taught you well.
Some of the class have fond memories of “Uncle Beanie.”
He was the one who always smiled and then put you on report. In 1961, Lucy and I put this “Twenty-Year Book” together. I got a lot of the information, however, when six of our classmates were selected for captain early, earlier than the rest of us: Rusty Crenshaw, Dick Guinn, Sheldon Kinney, Frank Price, Mickey Weisner, and Lloyd Young.
I know the better part of those. I don't know Dick Guinn or Lloyd Young.
Lloyd Young is dead; Dick Guinn is dead. Dick Guinn made vice-admiral; Kinney made rear admiral; Frank made vice admiral; and Mickey made four, he's the only four-star. Lloyd made captain.
Once you graduated early in 1941, what was your assignment?
I went to the USS QUINCY with another classmate, Ev Hopkins. We did the North Atlantic convoy bit. We would take ships up as far as Iceland and go into Hvaljordur Bay. One of my more interesting experiences was when we were told to go out and search for the BISMARCK, the German battleship. The captain sent me over to a British cruiser that was anchored in Hvaljordur Bay to get the charts of the mine fields. He sent me over in his gig and I went in and the British gave me the proper reception and invited me down to have a scotch. I was an ensign! I said, “No, I can't do this. The captain is waiting for this.” The captain was getting underway. We had a couple of laughs and they gave me the charts; I went back down and hopped into the captain's gig. The QUINCY was already underway so we had to go alongside and they pulled us up out of the water. We went on up north to about the Arctic Circle. It was so cold that our director on our spot one, our main director, froze.
Was this in the summer of 1941?
No, this was probably October, November, or December. It was cold. I remember a lieutenant on the ship said, “If we sink, I'm just going down and turn the heater on in my room and sit there and wait for it to go down.” The doctor said no one could last over five minutes in the water. Fortunately, we never found the BISMARCK, because if we had, we would probably not be alive today.
What did they think that a cruiser could do against the BISMARCK?
I don't know. We couldn't have done anything. They would have blown us out of the water. They were very accurate. The Germans were very good. We had eight-inch guns. They were pretty long-range guns, but we would have been no match for that thing. We wouldn't have lasted five minutes with that ship.
They thought it was up above the Arctic Circle?
They thought they knew the approximate area it was in. We went up there and we stayed up there for about, I guess, a week. It was absolutely miserable. It was so cold. We couldn't believe how cold it was. We couldn't walk out on the deck. There was ice on the railings. It was terrible. I don't even know that we could have trained the turrets around to shoot. It was that cold.
Seems like an unlikely place for the BISMARCK to be hiding.
Well, I don't know, but as I say, I'm so glad that we didn't find it. That would have been the end. I wouldn't be sitting here talking to you, I'll tell you that.
In your convoy duty, did you have any encounters with German subs?
No. We saw some wreckage in the water, but we never encountered anything. We escorted the convoys to Iceland and came back and got some more. When we came back, I was selected to go to what at that time was a very secret radar school. So, I went to Bodin College for three months and studied under Professor Little on advanced electrostatics and electromagnetics. I thought I was smart, but I wasn't. He was a very advanced physician and he taught us the theory of radar. After three months, I went down to the Navy Research Lab in Anacostia to actually look at the first types of radar they had: the old CXAM and the SCs. I was to be the radar officer on the QUINCY. My wife and I had rented a place in Anacostia, and that's where I was on December 7 when Pearl
Harbor was bombed. I heard it on the radio. I finished the radar school and went back to the QUINCY.
So you had married that early?
I was going to say, that sounds like a violation of Navy regulations.
It was. I was married in June of 1941. I did, however, tell the ship that I was married.
They just didn't report it?
They paid me my allowance, forty dollars a month. Man, was I rich! They did nothing more about it; they were nice people. I didn't do it deliberately to get out of the Navy; I just loved my wife. (We've been married fifty-five years). They were throwing people out of the Navy for that; however, and I could have been thrown out, too.
You must have had the right CO.
Yes, I was in the yard and my Ex. O was a man by the name of Commander Nichols. He was a reserve officer. He told me he had been married five times. When he met her, he jokingly referred to her as my sister. When I told him I was married, he said, “Oh, well, that's a surprise! I thought that was your sister.” He never elected to do anything. He was very nice and so I was happily married. Unfortunately, we were separated most of our early years.
We got outfitted with radar in the New York shipyard. We got an SC-1, an FC, and an FD. The FC was the main battery fire-control radar, the FD was the anti-aircraft radar, and the SC-1 was the search radar. The SC-1 was supposed to pick up airplanes.
In those days, they were very rudimentary. They were complex in the sense of our technology at that time, rather like the horse and buggy would look today.
They were the old “bedspring” concept.
Yes. They were very unreliable in terms of being able to keep them operating and they were not that good; not bad, but not good.
The QUINCY must have been one of the earliest ships to get radar, because this was just the beginning, the fall of 1941.
The CXAM was the original “bedsprings.” It was so large that there was concern about the weight control and also it was very unreliable. The one we got was the SC-1. It was much smaller and much improved, but it was still like a bad T.V. picture. It was fuzzy in the blips. It was very hard to be sure of anything.
It's kind of comparable to the T.V. of the fifties.
That's right, not very good with a round T.V. tube. It wasn't very satisfactory, but it was better than nothing.
We left New York and went around to San Diego where we were stationed. I knew we were leaving, but my wife thought we were just going out for a day's operations. We never came back, however, we just kept right on going.
When we left New York, I was standing officer-of-the-deck watches. I was an OD and an assistant communication officer, a radio officer. Going out, we operated under the old Battle Condition I plan, which was terrible. We stood watch-on watch-off at night, and watch-in-three during the day. I was one of the two watch standers that stood watch-on watch-off at night. There was a fellow from Princeton University, a Reserve officer that stood the other watch at night. He was a big husky fellow and he lost
so much weight, he got sick. I was skinny anyway, so I was better able to do it. I would stand the first dog(?) in the evening from four to six. He would stand the six to eight. I would stand the eight to twelve. He would stand the mid-watch from twelve to four and then I'd be back on watch from four to eight in the morning. Then, we'd go to a one-in-three rotation during the day. I would just go down and go to bed. We did that for twenty days.
There were only two watch officers on the whole ship?
At night. In the daytime, when the captain was up, they would let two other officers fill in. After I finished the four to eight, somebody else would come on from eight to twelve and another officer would come on from twelve to four. Then, he would pick up with a four to six and I would have the six to eight that night. He would take the eight to twelve and then I'd have the mid-watch that night. By the time we got to Guadalcanal, we were so tired, we could hardly stand up. We were exhausted before we ever went into battle.
It was a very naive Navy then. We didn't know how to fight. They gave up with that policy, that Battle Condition situation, when they found out that people just couldn't bear up under it. In Condition II, the gun crews were on four and off four, so all we did was stand our watch and go to bed. We'd do this for about ten days and we'd be zombies.
Not only physically, but psychologically, I would think.
Well, when you're half asleep, you just don't function. Also, the ship was hot; we couldn't sleep well. We didn't have air-conditioning. It was very difficult.
I can tell you about our sinking. We went into Guadalcanal. We were with the VINCENNES and the ASTORIA. Captain Moore was our commanding officer, Commander Gray was our executive officer, Lieutenant Commander Hennaberger(?) was the gunnery officer, and Lieutenant Commander Elmore was our engineering officer. We bombarded the shores with the Marines and we were under attack from Japanese aircraft during the day, so we were shooting bullets in the sky and shooting shore batteries at Guadalcanal. At night, when we stopped, we would form a column of three; the VINCENNES, the QUINCY, and the ASTORIA. The VINCENNES was in front because the commanding officer was the senior captain. We would be six hundred yards astern and we would cruise in a square. We did that for three nights. Obviously, the Japanese had watched us and relayed this information; they knew exactly where we were and what we were doing. On the night of the actual sinking, I had the eight to twelve watch, the twenty to twenty-four watch. When we were taking position six hundred yards astern, Captain Moore said to me, “Rieve, get in position. You're too slow.” I said to the captain, “Captain, I am very very tired and I'm doing the best I can.” He said, “I'm sorry, just get in position.” At twelve o'clock, when I was relieved, I was so tired that I didn't go to my room to sleep. (My room was down on the second level.) I told the OD, Baldwin--we may have been jgs then--that I was going down two levels below the bridge to sleep on a mattress in the passageway where it was cooler. I told him to send the quartermaster down to wake me up when I relieved him at four in the morning.
The general alarm went off and I looked at my watch; it was around two o'clock. My first reaction was, “Oh boy, what a nice guy. He's letting me sleep an extra fifteen minutes. I'll go up and relieve him.” Then I realized it was the general alarm. I went
down to my battle station, which was just one deck below, to radio. I went over to the radar set and put on the earphones so that I could talk to my classmate, Ev Hopkins, up in Spot 1. He had the FC radar screen up there. I remember Ev saying to me, “We've got blips, very very close to us.” I said, “Well can you tell what it is?” He said, “I don't know what it is, but they're big.” About that time, all hell broke loose. We heard our guns go off. I lost the phone connection with him; so I walked back into the Radio-1 central radio, where the radiomen were sitting. About that time, shrapnel went through the radar room where I had been, came through the side of the ship, and hit the mainframe of the FC radar. Those things had extremely high voltages in them and the biggest crack of voltage--it was just like lightning--came through there. I remember the chief radioman by the name of Dostal(?) came running and he looked at me and said, “They're shooting real bullets!”
Suddenly, it got very quiet, there was no noise, and we had no contact with anything. We had had, when we were in the yard, a light-lock put in Radio-1. There had been a big heavy door that opened to the outside, but in order to keep light from getting out at nighttime, a type of steel shower enclosure had been built. It had another door inside, so that we could open this door, go inside, close this door, and then open up the outside door. That kept the light from escaping. After the explosion, we found ourselves inside that steel enclosure. I said, “Let's open the door and see what's going on.” So, we opened the inner door and tried to open the outer door, but we couldn't. We pushed and pushed and pushed and finally got it open a little, enough to see that there were bodies lying outside. We yelled and somebody pulled the door open enough that we could get out. The ship was dead in the water. There were a lot of bodies lying around, mostly
Marines from the 5-inch 25 battery, which was just outside of the steel bulkhead. My roommate, Second Lieutenant “Shorty” Gutman(?), had been the battery officer for that; he was killed. I wandered on down to the main deck. The ship was burning and the safety valves were going off. The high-pressure steam was coming out with that terrible shrieking noise. The planes were burning on the catapults and there were bodies lying around on the deck. People were just kind of standing around, you know.
Lieutenant Commander Hennaberger(?), who was the gunnery officer and at that point in time the senior survivor of the ship, came walking down the ladder. I said, “Commander Hennaberger, what's the score?” He said, “I don't know.” I said, “Are we abandoning ship?” He said, “ I don't know.” There was some attempt to try to put life jackets on some of the men and throw them over the side.
But the ship was definitely sinking?
No question about it. What actually happened was the ship suddenly took a roll to port.
What had it taken, a bomb or a torpedo?
Well, it had been riddled with shells. Everybody on the bridge was killed. Everybody in Bat 2 was killed. Then the number two turret was hit causing the magazine to blow the bottom out of the QUINCY. It just blew the bottom right out of it. When the ship started listing to port, Dostal and I got two life jackets on, and as we left the ship, the ship was at such an angle that we were able to walk down her side. When we hit the slime that grows on the bottom, our feet just went right out from underneath us. That was my biggest injury. I hit my butt on the armor plate.
So, you didn't try to get life rafts or anything like that.
No time for that.
No chance of it. We skidded out into the water and swam as fast as we could. I turned around and watched her go down. She was laying on her side and where the magazine had blown out through the bow of the ship, she just turned around and went down. Guys were dropping off the fan tail as she went down. She went down fast. We were in the water and we were scared to death of fire, of fuel oil. As I lay there in the water with my jacket on, I was looking at the VINCENNES lying on her side.
I was getting ready to say, was this when the VINCENNES got hit too?
All you could see of the VINCENNES was the line of the hull. She wasn't sitting up, she was lying flat on her side. She hadn't gone down yet. The ASTORIA--I always described it as a five and dime store going up in flames. Forty-millimeters were shooting off, going up into the air, and she was upright, but dead in the water. I don't know when she went down.
But all three ships went down that night.
Oh, yes, they all went down. I got into a group of, I guess, seven or eight. Two died while we were there. We had to let them go. We got a bunch of 5-inch cartridge cases and I used those to put my feet up on with my life jacket, so I could kind of lay back. A destroyer came through during the night, about an hour after we were in the water, but we couldn't tell what it was. I said, “No noise, no noise, guys.” It disappeared. The ship's barber was with our group, a fellow by the name of Foster. I'll never forget him. About dawn we saw an American destroyer. We didn't know what she was, but it turned out to be the ELLET. She came in and started picking up people. I was a young
fellow then, only twenty-three, and I thought I was in pretty good condition, but after being in the water for four hours. . . . At the time we didn't realize that we should have never had those 5-inch cartridges under us, because the glint would attract sharks.
I was getting ready to ask you, was there a shark problem out there?
We didn't see any, but there were some that had that problem. When we saw the ELLET, we swam over. I was so tired, by the time I got to the ELLET, I could barely climb. They put a cargo net over the side and we climbed up and got on board. They sank the CANBERRA from the ELLET while we were on there. That was the Australian cruiser that had also been involved, but in some other area. It scared the daylights out of us. We were down with the crew of the ELLET getting dry clothes to wear when those damn guns started shooting off on the ELLET. I thought, “My God, what are we doing now?” We went up topside and saw they were trying to sink the CANBERRA. She was lying on her side. They finally sank her with torpedoes. The ELLET took us to the AMERICAN LEGION and the AMERICAN LEGION took us to Espiritu Santo.
It sounds like there may have been faulty planning on some admiral's part in having the cruisers sail in squares like that each night.
I don't think it was anyone's fault. My opinion is, the American Navy had never fought a night war. We hadn't fought a war in years and years and those were relatively unfamiliar waters to us. Everyone had trained for night battle, but training for it and having a target and shooting it is one thing, but to be surprised is another matter. In retrospect, everybody would have done a lot of things differently. At the time there didn't seem to be, I don't think, any fear that Japanese ships were going to come down there; so consequently, we were free to bombard and do our thing and just protect ourselves
against aircraft. When the Japanese came down, I think it surprised them. As things would be, there were some very heroic things done that night and there were no medals given to anybody. When you lose you don't get medals.
We had a dentist who did heroic things in the battle stations. He was shot up, but survived and then had to retire; I think they recognized him as much as they could.
Anytime you got wounded, you got a purple heart.
That's about all you got out of that. We buried a dozen men on the way to Espiritu Santo. They had gotten picked up, but died. We slid them over the side of AMERICAN LEGION. Those of us who were not wounded were flown to Auckland, New Zealand. We were put on Admiral Halsey's COMSOPAC Admin staff to work in communications. We deciphered messages and tried to break Japanese codes.
Captain Jupp, a commanding officer of the U.S. Navy base in Auckland, New Zealand, called me up and said, “Lieutenant Rieve, I want you to sail the KOHI, from New Zealand to New Caledonia. The KOHI was a ninety-foot scow, drew four and a half feet of water, had a main and a mizzen, a diesel, and could only handle deck cargo. I was given four sailors: a machinist, a cook, a radioman, and a seaman, along with Ensign Aldus, ex-bo's'nmate, who was to relieve me of command when we got to Noumea, New Caledonia. We also had a New Zealand civilian sailor with us. I don't remember just why, but he was there. Ensign Aldus was to take the KOHI up to Guadalcanal. It was loaded with portable airfield mats, for Henderson field on Guadalcanal. The Navy was losing so many merchant ships from the Japanese airplanes that they decided to use small boats like the KOHI for inter-island traffic.
We were given two weeks to outfit the boat. We had a very small American flag made. We received a gas refrigerator--propane--in which we could carry enough meat for about ten days. A 50-caliber machine gun was installed on deck. God knows what we would have used it for, because the only concern going up there was the danger from the Japanese submarines.
For my navigation equipment, I found a sextant, an old sextant at a boat shop in New Zealand and the Navy bought it for me. They bought a chronometer from, I think, the same boat shop. We were given a radio and charts. Then, I asked them what I was going to do to navigate. At that time, the most advanced navigation, and what we'd been taught at the Naval Academy, was H.O.217, but they didn't have it. I had to use Dreisenstok's. At the Naval Academy, the first navigation tables we learned to use were Dreisenstok's and Ageton's, but they were very cumbersome. You had to be very careful or you made big mistakes. H.O.217, which we later studied, was much improved. All of that is gone now. You just use a satellite, boom, push the button, and it tells you where you are.
For three days, I went up to the tops of the buildings in New Zealand and I practiced with this sextant and with Dreisenstok to make sure that I could work it. Actually, I had never used Dreisenstok. We were shown it and maybe used it once at the Naval Academy, but it was antiquated. It was out of date. No one used it anymore.
You were probably told at the Naval Academy that you would never use it.
Yes, “They don't use that anymore. We just show it to you. It's history.” So, I went up there to where I could use this equipment. Remember, I was in the Southern
Hemisphere; the stars are different, so I had to go through a whole new chart. I had never done that. They did have a Rude's Star Finder, so I could find the stars.
When we came down, Captain Jupp commissioned us the USS KOHI. It was not what I'd call the most flamboyant commissioning I've ever seen in my life. There were six of us standing there and he said, “I commission you the USS KOHI.” There was no band. There was no nothing.
No bottle of champagne to break.
No champagne, just, “Good luck, son.” So, we set sail.
These were being sent as individual ships. You weren't being sent as a group.
No, and ours was the first one to go.
It seems they would have sent several of them together.
Ours was the oldest one and the only one that was a sail ship. The rest of them were motorized. It's eighty miles from the port of Auckland to North Cape. North Cape is the northern most point of New Zealand and it's the point at which you take your point of departure. The sea was so rough that all of the sailors got sick except one, Ensign Aldus and myself. We had to take turns at the wheel. Can you imagine the commanding officer having to take a turn at the wheel. We got past North Cape about one o'clock in the morning. I thought we were never going to get there. It took us, I don't know, nine or ten hours to get up there.
Once we got past North Cape we were in the Pacific Ocean, and then began the problem of navigating. The next morning I was up bright and early, taking sun lines, and that night, taking my first stars to get a fix. I couldn't get a fix. I was supposed to get three lines that intersect from stars, and that would tell me where I was. Unfortunately,
mine was a square about three thousand miles wide! I didn't hit the panic stage, but I began to wonder what was wrong. I decided the only thing that was wrong could be the chronometer. So, I had the radioman sit down with his radio to get a time-tick out of London at Greenwich. He sat there for five hours before he could finally get a time-tick. I'll never forget this as long as I live (and navigators will laugh at this when they hear it); the chronometer error was seventeen minutes and forty-five seconds. There is no way I could have allowed for that. Once I had the chronometer error, however, I could use the navigation tables. I did and I got a fix and I found, much to my surprise, that I was sixty or seventy miles east of where our dead reckoning was. I discovered that because the bottom of the boat was flat, it didn't go straight through the water; instead, it floated to the east. I found that everyday we drifted about thirty miles to the east of where we thought our dead reckoning would be. We corrected that by steering thirty degrees west, which brought us back on line.
Every morning the cook would get up and fix me coffee and say (remember, I was a jg), “Well, Captain, where are we today?” I'd show him on the chart where we were.
We saw a lot of sharks going up. We tried to fish, but the sharks would get them. We shot the 50-caliber a couple times just to see if it would work.
As we neared our destination, I began to look for Ameedie(?) Island lighthouse, which was near the entrance to Noumea, New Caledonia. I had figured that I would see Ameedie(?) Island lighthouse about ten or eleven o'clock the morning of the tenth day. Well, the morning of the tenth day came and at ten o'clock, no Ameedie(?) Island lighthouse and no sign of New Caledonia; eleven o'clock, no sign of island; twelve o'clock, no island; one o'clock, two o'clock, three o'clock, no sign of the island. I'm
taking sun sights like crazy and I'm wondering where in the hell I am. Have I missed the island? Are we going to be lost in the ocean? What I had failed to take into consideration was that the ship is so low in the water, I could not see very far. The horizon was very short and obscured with clouds. Finally, I sent one of the young sailors up the mast. I said, “Get up there and see what you can see.” Low and behold, about three-thirty, all of a sudden, the cloud cover disappeared and boom, there was New Caledonia right in front of us and we could see Ameedie(?) Island lighthouse. Boy, I'll tell you, I never felt so happy in my life.
When we got to Ameedie(?) Island lighthouse, believe it or not, a pilot ship came out. This fellow came on board and said, “Who are you?” I said, “I'm the USS KOHI.” He said, “We don't have anything on you.” I said, “Well, I'm not surprised.” He took us in through the buoy nets, which had been put there to keep submarines out; told us where to anchor; and then got off. We dropped anchor and put the captain's gig, which was a little rowboat, over the side, and I went over to the CHICAGO or the HELENA, I've forgotten which one. I had to get some food because we had run out. The next day I took the “gig” alongside the dock and I went in and told them I was supposed to be detached. They put me on an old merchant ship and sent me back to New Zealand.
When I got back to New Zealand, they told me I was to go to the USS SOUTHERN SEAS, an Army transport ship that was being sent to Noumea. It was quite a beautiful boat. It had been a luxury ship and had something like sixty staterooms on it, all with private baths, a big bar. . . . A lieutenant commander in the Merchant Marines was going to be the skipper, and since I'd been to Noumea, this time I was to go along as
executive officer and navigator. It would have been a very nice trip, but at that point in time I got orders to go to flight training.
Those ten days on the KOHI. . . . The Pacific Ocean was awfully big and awfully lonesome, wasn't it?
Big, lonesome, and we just swayed back and forth. When we came off the KOHI, we could not walk straight from the motion of the ship. I actually could not walk a straight line. It took about two days to get rid of that. It was because of the ship's flat bottom. Fortunately, we didn't run into any storms.
That would have been disastrous.
It would have been difficult. It was a very memorable voyage, however.
Were they successful in getting the other scows up to New Caledonia?
Another officer took a power boat up and got there about five days after we did. He made a lot better time. The SOUTHERN SEAS got up there. I don't know how many more they took up, because I came back to go to flight training and I lost contact with it.
Was this in 1942?
This was in 1942, yes. The QUINCY was sunk August 8, 1942. I had been in New Zealand about two months, I think, before being sent to flight training. I think I made lieutenant while I was in New Zealand.
I started a ship's log; not in an official Navy logbook, but in an old green register book. I made entries everyday; where we were, the crew, and all of that. I tried to get a copy of that log but I never could. I would have loved to have had it. There is some history on the KOHI:
During the war, along with other scows, she was taken over
by the United States government for use in the Pacific. She carried
supplies to many island outposts and received the nickname of the
“Ice Cream Ship.”
Let's take up with you going to flight training.
I went to flight training. I got about halfway through the flight training course and I was surveyed out for hay fever. I could not fly. I had too much difficulty breathing, so I went back to ships. I went to the USS BOSTON, put it in commission and served on it for about a year and a half. I went through the Majuro-Kwajalein Island operations, came back and put the USS BENNINGTON in commission, an aircraft carrier, CV20, and went back out and participated in raids on the Japanese islands. We got involved in a massive typhoon out there where we lost part of our flight deck. We had to go in for extensive repairs in Ulithi atoll.
Anything about that you want to give us the details of?
It was the typhoon where the PITTSBURGH lost her bow, the HORNET went astern in order to launch aircrafts and we lost twenty feet off of our bow.
It just broke off?
The water bent the flight deck right down over the bow.
In Ulithi they cut the flight deck off and built a ramp so we could go back out and the guys could fly again. We were in Ulithi for about three weeks while they did that. We were subjected also to the usual kamikaze attacks; almost got hit once by one.
Any specifics about that?
We were operating off of Japan. The guys were flying raids in, and the Japanese came out and their kamikazes dove into the ship. One of them just missed us. They hit just astern of us.
I stayed on the BENNINGTON for almost four years and put it out of commission in Newport News in 1947. At that time, after seven years at sea, I transferred to the Supply Corps.
Is there anything else about the last two years of the war in the Pacific that you could share with us?
I was an officer of the deck, senior watch officer, on both the BOSTON and the BENNINGTON and was gunnery officer and combat information center officer.
There are no particular engagements or incidents that took place on either of the ships other than the typhoon and the kamikaze raids?
We were in a fast carrier task crew and we were not involved directly in the Philippine Sea battles. Those were up north and were over by the time we got down there. It was typical war-time aircraft carrier duty; a lot of flying, a lot of losses.
The BENNINGTON was the official photographer at the surrender ceremonies. We were also the carrier that remained out there after the war. We anchored in Yokohama Harbor, and--outside of the army, (MacArthur and his crew)--we were one of the first ones to go to shore.
What were your observations?
In those days, we carried a forty-five with us, which was unusual for a Navy guy to do. A fellow by the name of Beau Mylan(?), a lieutenant on the ship and also a deck watch officer, and I went up to Tokyo. I remember it. We rode the subway to get up
there. We had a very difficult time getting directions. The Japanese never looked at us. They always looked away. They were very sullen.
There was no hostility?
Well, there was nothing there. You'd look at them and they'd just look away. They weren't friendly, but they didn't do anything. When we got to Tokyo, we ate in the Imperial Hotel. We thought it would be good. When they brought in the food. I said, “You know, that doesn't look good to me. It looks like rabbit.” I don't think it was, however, I think it was a cat. There was little or no food there. We were out in Yokohama Harbor for at least three weeks. Everybody else was going home.
I have heard others say in response to the controversy about the dropping of the bombs that there was evidence that the Japanese would have continued to fight had the bombs not been dropped.
I don't doubt that.
When they went ashore, they saw plenty of evidence that there were still planes and. . . .
When we went ashore, we didn't stay ashore, so we didn't get a very good view of the Japanese people. They were going about their business and not doing much or saying anything. We were an oddity to see, and also, we were walking around with a forty-five strapped on. You wouldn't want to argue with somebody with that. We were on the ship most of the time and we were allowed to go in, but not encouraged to do so.
This was very shortly after the signing, I take it.
It was right afterwards, yes. I had some wonderful pictures of the signing that I gave away. Our official ship's photographer went over and I had pictures of MacArthur,
Nimitz, and the others sitting at the table signing this thing. I even had a copy of the document.
I served on the USS GENERAL A. E. ANDERSON during the Korean War. We took troops into Pusan and went into Inchon to pull out some Army troops off the beach, there. I think that was the time when the Chinese were coming down and overrunning. We went in one evening and pulled out about fifty to seventy-five Army people. It was in the wintertime, in December. Boy, were they glad to get on board ship! I don't blame them. It was cold and snowing when we got them aboard. We could hear the shooting on the beach.
Colonel McReynolds was right up there in that Inchon area.
I guess it was a bad scene for them. After that, I was on the carrier FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT in the Mediterranean and that was kind of a normal cruise. I did two of those.
Is this the early fifties?
Yes. It was about the time that the Lebanon situation came up. We were in drydock at the time. They closed us up and got us out in a hurry and we headed on over there. That was on my second Med-cruise. After that, I came back and went to the Harvard Business School. After earning a two-year MBA degree, I went down and worked in the Secretary of Defense office for two years.
Then came Vietnam. I went out to Subic Bay as commanding officer of the supply depot. I went to Vietnam two or three times, helicoptered in an Army Huey. We went over primarily to see how the PBR's were doing, the old concrete boats we had made for them. They were having some problems and I went over to see how the spare
parts were and see whether they needed any more help. We flew fairly close to Laos, flew over in a Huey and put down at one of the campsites there. I stayed for about three or four hours and then went to Saigon and had to stay there three days. What was the name for the time when they were doing all the bombing over there?
The Tet Offensive?
It wasn't the Tet Offensive. It was something else. Anyway, they kept us there for three days. We couldn't get out. After that, I went back to Subic Bay where I was selected for admiral. I worked in Washington for a year and then I was selected to be auditor general of the Navy. I worked for the assistant secretary of the Navy as auditor general for three years. At the end of that I went back out to the Pacific Fleet staff as the logistics officer for three years and retired in 1975.
In Korea, in Pusan and Inchon, did any particular incidents take place other than the fact that you were loading troops there at Inchon?
We would go to Pusan and drop the troops off and then we would go up to Japan and take dependents back.
I know the Navy didn't have as vital a role in the Korean War or in Vietnam as they had, of course, in the earlier wars.
No, I think that's true. I was in Subic Bay for about eighteen months and I saw a lot of ships coming in, and, as I said, I flew to Vietnam three times to make sure that we were giving them the proper kind of support, but that was the extent of my activities over there. I think my most vivid memories are World War II, by far. We were young and didn't really know much about the world then.
It was a different world then.
Yes, it was. You could see the progress that was made. Even though Korea wasn't good, the advance in weapons and techniques of fighting were obvious. Vietnam, on the other hand, was an unfortunate thing.
How many were lost in the sinking of the QUINCY?
About 50 percent. I know we lost half our officers. Did I ever tell you about Captain Sam Moore, the skipper of the QUINCY who went down with the ship?
The Americans found a native wearing Captain Moore's Naval Academy ring. I don't remember if the native was from Guadalcanal or Tulagi. It was so strange.
Was the body washed ashore or something?
No one knows, but this native had Moore's ring Did you see the National Geographic pictures of the QUINCY?
I think I have seen them.
They interviewed me for that over the telephone. They were interested, because at this point in time, I'm the senior surviving officer of the QUINCY. When it came out, they put a Hollywood touch in it. I didn't like that. They had a Japanese man and a U.S. ex-sailor/officer, reminiscing with each other, which was meant to bring out the human emotions in it, I guess. They said they wanted to make it factual but they really didn't get into what went on. They just didn't.
Here is the statistical information concerning the QUINCY, “Complement: officers, 76; men, 944; killed 370; wounded, 166.” About fifty percent. We took the biggest losses of all, because we went down so quickly. The other ones didn't lose that many. VINCENNES lost 332 and the ASTORIA lost 216. The ones who didn't get out
were the ones down below. The ship went down so fast they didn't get a chance to get out.
If you had actually gone down to your bunk after your watch instead of sleeping on the mattress, you probably would not have gotten out.
Who knows? I would have come out of there and gone to my battle station. I just assume that I would have gotten to my battle station before we got hit, but we were hit awfully quickly.
Did you ever get anything from Hopkins? Ev Hopkins got out of the Navy after the war and went with IBM. He was on the QUINCY. He was a classmate and he was Spot 1 up on the top. He's the one I had conversations with. I'm trying to think where he lives now.
I can tell you real quick; Florida. He has a summer home at St. Michael's, Maryland, and a winter home apparently in New Smyrna Beach, Florida.
I didn't know he was down in St. Michaels. He's a good sailor. “Hoppy” is a great guy. He got out of the Navy and went to work for IBM. When Kennedy was inaugurated, there was a big snowstorm in Washington and I got held up in traffic. I looked over and there is Ev sitting next to me in another car. We sat there for about fifteen or twenty minutes. That's when he told me he was with IBM. I think I have seen him at one of the reunions, too. I don't know how much “Hoppy” would know. Hopkins stood watches in gunnery, so, he didn't get exposed to all the machinations of station-keeping and so forth. But he's a nice guy and very interesting.
[End of Interview]