Pemberton Southard, USN, Ret.
Donald R. Lennon
East Carolina University
April 27, 2001
Pemberton Southard - PS
Donald R. Lennon - DL
DL: East Carolina Manuscript Collection oral history interview, conducted April the 27th, 2001, with Capt. Pemberton Southard, US Navy, Retired, US Naval Academy class of 1941. This is reel number one, recorded in Annapolis, Maryland, by Don Lennon.
[Break in recording]
We aren't in the practice of deleting unless you, when you read the transcript, decide that there's something-.
PS: Not knowing exactly what you... I'll gladly start, though, for you. (0:41, Part 1)
DL: Okay. If you would, tell us about your background, where you were born and grew up and early education, and what led you to seek an appointment to the Naval Academy.
PS: Okay. I was born on February 4, 1918, in Augusta, Maine. Early life was just sort of routine youngster. I did skip the fifth grade. Went on to high school and graduated high school in 1935. My interest in the Naval Academy probably occurred my junior year in high school. A midshipman from the class of 1935 was home on leave and I talked to him, and my summers were spent on a freshwater lake sailing and swimming and doing all the things that youngsters do, so I got sort of interested in water type things.
DL: That uniform he was wearing looked good too, didn't it? [Laughs] (1:49, Part 1)
PS: Yes. He was a nice looking fellow. My dad was a lawyer and I really didn't have any interest in being a lawyer so I set my sights on trying to get in the Naval Academy. Out of high school my dad thought that I hadn't got quite the education necessary to get past all the exams for the Naval Academy so I went to the Bullis School in Silver Spring, Maryland and I spent two terms, fall of '35 and spring of '36, there. Meanwhile I accumulated five addresses from various and sundry Congressmen to try to get an appointment. At Bullis I took the entrance exam from some Congressman in Missouri-all I remember is my address was Buchanan County, St. Joe, Missouri-took the entrance exam and passed it, so now all I needed was an appointment. (3:07, Part 1)
That summer I was fourth alternate on the entrance exam from one of the representatives, I don't recall his name, and I didn't think I had a chance because one of those was bound to get in, but, lo and behold, in the middle of July I got a call from his office wanting to know if I could go to the Naval Academy and report, that the principal and three alternates had flunked either the entrance or the physical exam.
PS: So down I went, and I flunked the physical exam; had a hernia and didn't know it. I went back home and he said, "Well, we'll keep the appointment open and you get back here in August and you'll go in the class of 1940." Well, medicine being what it was then, it came about a few days before I was supposed to depart for Annapolis and the doctor announced that I was not properly healed and in shape to go down to the rigors of plebe year at the Naval Academy, so that was the end of the class of '40 and I went to the University of Maine a year, still trying to get into the Naval Academy. (4:28, Part 1)
Well, the following year. The story connected with it, Sen. Hale, a Senator from Maine, had a recount and my dad... I'd taken the exams again, competitive exams, and I was a fourth alternate again, and this recount came up and my dad was hired by Sen. Hale to take care of the recount problems. My dad said, "Son, we're going to get an appointment this time."
PS: I don't know what transpired but he came and he said, "I'm sorry, but Sen. Hale says the competitive exams are the only things he'll consider, and you're a fourth alternate." And he said, "I can't get you an appointment," but he said, jokingly, he said, "He hasn't gotten my bill yet either." (5:34, Part 1)
Well anyway, the same thing happened another year, that year. The principal and three alternates ahead of me flunked and I got a call, and actually I remember it was the 3rd of August and he wanted to know if I could be down there the 7th of August, standard class of '41. I was ready by this time, mentally and physically, and down I went.
DL: And the hernia was taken care of too.
PS: Yes, that was all a year later. So the 7th of August I reported as a midshipman, missed a plebe summer, which was fortunate I guess, but that's my entry into the Naval Academy.
DL: What was your experience at the Academy like? Was it what you had anticipated? (6:26, Part 1)
PS: Well yes, I think it was. I think I was a fairly disciplined guy to start with so I didn't mind the discipline and I'd had a year of ROTC at Maine so I knew how to handle a rifle and put one foot in front of the other. I missed a lot of... In the first year I tried to take, at Maine, courses that I would have taken at the Naval Academy because they didn't give you credits for anything way back then. I had trouble scheduling at Maine because he say, "We can't schedule all that. It's impossible," which I didn't understand, but I did what I could. I found out after I got down to the Naval Academy why he couldn't schedule it, because at Maine I was taking courses three times a week, like math, and at Annapolis I was taking math six times a week, so I took all the math courses I'd had at Maine and by December I'd had all that material. Also, I'd taken other courses which helped me my plebe year. The following years were a little tougher but I made it without any problems. I didn't stand very high but I had a good time. (7:59, Part 1)
DL: Was the instruction level here much different from what you'd experienced at the University of Maine?
PS: Yes. Looking back on it I thought... Well, it was more regimented. Maine, I was on my own. Nobody rang a bell and said study, in effect. But it was relatively easy and if you didn't want to go to a class, if you missed it, nobody seemed to care; just show up for exams, which I did, but I tried to make the most of my classes. But it was a totally different atmosphere as far as that was concerned.
DL: What about any of the instructors or personnel that made a particular impression on you, good or bad?
PS: Not really. The one I... I can't remember the... There was a lieutenant that was navigation [instructor] my junior year when we took navigation, and I know he used to have us do arithmetic numbers in our head, four or five numbers across and four or five deep, and you're supposed to look at it and add it up and put the answer down rather rapidly, which is a good mental gymnastics for you. But I like navigation so I think that's probably my best subject, I think. (9:41, Part 1)
DL: A lot of people had recollections of Uncle Beanie.
PS: Oh yes.
DL: He was one of Joe Taussig's favorite characters. [Laughs]
PS: Yes. I remember Uncle Beanie well, but I don't think I ever got put on the report by Uncle Beanie.
DL: You didn't?
DL: You must have been the only one in the class. [Laughs]
PS: He was-shoes not shined and whatever else was on his mind for the day.
DL: Well the harassment your plebe year didn't present a problem?
PS: Not really. We had a couple of first classmen that were rather, well, they were just mean little kids as far as-and, you know, bring your own [broom around 10:27], and if they. A couple of them got a little out of hand but then, if they did, why usually other first classmen would tell them to knock it off, which they would do, but I never really had a big problem with it. (10:45, Part 1)
DL: Did you participate in sports or sailing or any other extracurricular activities?
PS: Yes. I played baseball plebe year and the second year I was on the B squad. Max Bishop was the coach and I think the field is named after him now. Well, to put it mildly I was good hit and no field. I remember playing in right field in a game we had with the B squad, and it's totally flat and no fence or anything there, and there were three on base and somebody hit a screamer down my way and I went to scoop it up but I didn't scoop. I finally retrieved the ball and the runner was on third base, and I was of course a little disappointed. Two or three days after that Max Bishop said, "Mr. Southard, why don't you take up another sport?" and I did. I became a sailor, I went on the sailing team, and of course I'd done that in Maine. So I joined the sailing team and got my N in that. That's what I wanted, to get an N somehow. That was a lot of fun. I enjoyed that tremendously. (12:17, Part 1)
DL: I would think so.
PS: But that was sort of. Of course I'm sure I would have done that even if I hadn't been dismissed from the baseball team. [Laughter] But that was the limit of my athletic... Well I did run cross country plebe year too, and that's probably the only time I got in excellent physical condition. But I wasn't good enough to run varsity, so I-.
DL: Any other recollections of Academy days that come to mind, any incidents or anecdotes that you guys, when you get on the fifth floor, laugh about?
PS: Like midshipmen cruises and things like that?
DL: Anything pertaining to the Academy days, whether it's cruises or things that happened.
PS: [13:15 You mean classified as sea stories?] Is that all right?
DL: Yes. [Laughs] (13:18, Part 1)
PS: Midshipman cruise, our second class year, we were on four-stack destroyers and we went to New York and West Point, and also gunnery practice off shooting targets. This is an instance which I always remember. I was at four-inch guns on the deckhouse, midshipman crew, and the towed target was a... I've forgotten the range but it was four or five thousand yards, maybe. I was the gun captain with the binoculars and I was supposed to spot this follow shot. They'd fire and then I'd spot up or down or right or left till the next one allegedly hit, and the doctrine was to spot up until you cross the target and then spot down till you-and then hopefully you would get the right range. (14:19, Part 1)
They fired the first shot and I remember saying, "Crossfire." I don't remember the exact numbers but like up a hundred. Of course they plotted the spot and they fired the next shot and I said, "Up a hundred." They fired the third shot and I said, "No change," and they fired the fourth shot and I was looking and I said, "No change," and they fired the next shot. I think they fired six shots and on the last four I said no change on each one.
Well, there was a commander who was in charge of midshipmen on the ship and when they'd finished firing he gave me "Hail Columbia." He said, "The spotting doctrine is so and so and you didn't follow it."
DL: Were you hitting the target though? (15:09, Part 1)
PS: Well, I thought I was. He says, "If you got a single hit out there you'll be lucky," and I put my tail between my legs and went down and got out of his sight. [Laughs] Then the tug reports-. There were several crews, and then tug reports back to the destroyer what hits were made. As I recall it there were seven crews and I think I was about the third crew. The commander had the message they'd gotten from the tug, and he said, "First gun grew," and he gave their results, which is like one hit. Then he said, "Second crew, two hits," and he skipped my crew, and I says, uh-oh. He's waiting for me till last. Then he went, "The fifth crew, you did a little better, you got three hits. The next crew, you got no hits," and then he came to me and said, "Southard, you go four hits," and with that he stomped up the ladder and disappeared. [Laughs]
DL: [Laughs] Oh that's wonderful. (16:28, Part 1)
PS: So I got revenge on him.
DL: That's good.
PS: But those were good cruises, all of them. I mean, those are the kind of things you remember.
DL: Right. Well, those are the type of things that add color to memoirs and make them so that they're particularly interesting to researchers because they are frequently looking for that type of anecdotes that are worthwhile. Well when you graduated in February of '41, you obviously asked for destroyers?
PS: Yes. Well we were the first class, as you know, to go to destroyers directly. Before you had to have two years of sea duty before you could be assigned with seven qualifications, so we were lucky to go directly-some of us-directly to destroyers.
DL: And you asked for destroyers and came up with the [USS] Lang. (17:38, Part 1)
PS: Came up with the Lang.
DL: Where was it at the time?
PS: Well, we got thirty days' leave, as I recall it, and I had to report to the Lang in March. She was at Mare Island shipyard, just completing a repair. That's where I joined her; a little anecdote, too, on my reporting aboard. I had my suitcases in hand, and they had sent a jeep to pick me up in San Francisco when I got off the train. They knew I was coming. I walked up the gangway and saluted the officer of the deck and said I was, "Ens. Southard, reporting for duty, sir," and this JG, Murdock, out of '35, was the officer of the deck and he said, "Boy, am I glad to see you," and he says, "You go ahead and get squared away and come back here," and he said, "You're going to relieve me as first lieutenant and I'll stand relieved then," and that's exactly what happened. I went up and dropped my suitcases and came back and he said, "You are now a first lieutenant." (19:01, Part 1)
PS: So I was the quickest department head and division officer, I think, that's ever happened.
DL: Were they short of officers?
PS: Yes. They had about... He was a first lieutenant and a gunnery officer, and he wanted to get rid of-the gunnery officer being a more senior job. That's how I became a department head and a division officer right quick.
PS: And of course I had a lot to learn at that stage but I had some good petty officers that kept me on the straight and narrow and taught me a lot of things.
DL: Well now, from Mare Island, were you in the Pacific awhile before you came to the Atlantic.
DL: .or did you proceed with the-. (19:56, Part 1)
PS: We left San Francisco, went down to San Diego, and then went to Pearl Harbor, escorting some ships over to Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor, I was there for awhile. I think it was. Let's see. March, April, or May we were on fleet maneuvers. The whole fleet's out there on big maneuvers. The captains all had secret dispatches that they were supposed to open when ordered, and they were ordered while we were on maneuvers out there, and they opened them up and we were assigned to two battleships, and I can't remember without looking up some history myself, but ships to proceed to the East Coast. Sure enough, we went, and a lot of the officers, they had cars on the dock and wives back in Pearl. They couldn't tell them anything but-.
DL: Just kept going.
PS: We kept going right from there, right through the canal and to the East Coast, and reported to Roosevelt's undeclared war.
DL: And where did you port once you were-? (21:25, Part 1)
PS: Well we stopped at Guantanamo, just for refueling really. Then we went to Charleston where we got a. We updated a lot of our equipment. I think we got forty millimeters put on there and the fifty calibers taken off, and the ship was lightened as they put this additional weight on. We were there. I wish I'd brought all that stuff, but I didn't. That's where I met my wife that I married two years later. From there we went to Norfolk and we were in Norfolk when the war started. Do you want me to continue the.
DL: Yes, yes.
PS: .whole trip, as best I remember it? I'm pretty accurate, I think.
DL: What kind of reaction was there to the starting of the war as far as you and your crew of the Lang? Was it something you fairly well expected or was it-? (22:53, Part 1)
PS: Well I think we expected it, but not then. I don't remember what my reaction was, other than we knew it was going to happen eventually, but we didn't expect it to happen the way it did. The fact is that, even in Norfolk, they got. On the 7th of December we started manning the guns and [unclear 23:22] and keeping somebody available if the Germans came over, which was ridiculous. They were wearing people out fast. We learned pretty soon that that's not the way to do things, but the fear was that, boy, the Germans are coming, really.
DL: An attack was imminent.
PS: An attack was imminent, and of course it never was.
DL: The Japanese attack the West Coast and the Germans the East Coast.
PS: [From there] we got, I think, our radar put on, which was a godsend. Then we went to Bermuda and patrolled out of Bermuda with a carrier-which I'm trying to think of the name of it and I can't-and a couple of cruisers, and we kind of patrolled over towards the Azores and back. (24:12, Part 1)
DL: Looking primarily for subs?
PS: Subs, looking for subs and actually if we found one I guess... The skipper didn't confide what his orders were for this, but we did drop depth charges on a contact off the Azores. That was before the war started, one of the earlier cruises. I've got my time mixed up here a little bit.
But from Charleston we went to the... I'm mixed up in my time. From Charleston we went to Bermuda and did some patrols and then went to Norfolk and got this other equipment, and on one of those patrols we dropped depth charges and probably got a whale or something. [Laughs]
DL: [Laughs] Good practice though. (25:03, Part 1)
PS: We also started out. When the French down in-when they were in Martinique, the ships down there, we started as part of a task force down there, but I guess they resolved everything and we never did get there. We continued patrolling. Then we ended up assigned to a task force that was going over to Scapa Flow in the Mediterranean. We went to Portland, Maine and from there-this is April, '42-went over to Scapa Flow. It was a [USS] Wasp. Then we went down to Glasgow with the Wasp loaded up with Spitfire planes on deck. We had some British ships with us then also. Then we went down to Gibraltar, fueled by the Wasp, and our escorts went into the Mediterranean, and we got I think about maybe two hundred and fifty miles, plus or minus a little, from Malta and they flew all the Spitfires off to Malta, off the deck. None of these pilots-they were all British-had ever flown off a carrier in their lives. Everybody made it, and it was to reinforce Malta. There weren't a lot of planes in Malta. Then we came back, went back to Glasgow and picked up another load of planes, and went in a second time. Did the same thing; never saw a German sub or aircraft or anything. (26:38, Part 1)
DL: So you were primarily ferrying British planes down toward-.
PS: Reinforcement of Malta, the Wasp was, and we were escorting, one of the escort ships.
DL: Right. And no effort by the Germans to-.
PS: If they knew we were there, they didn't bother us. Of course we had radar then. If we had air contact nothing came to bother us, nor did we have any submarine... Occasionally we'd have submarine contact but nothing-.
DL: Now you did have sonar on the destroyer by that time, didn't you?
PS: Yes, we had sonar, but back then at over fifteen knots it wasn't very effective, so if you speeded up you didn't really have a chance. I can remember we always used to zigzag regardless. (27:33, Part 1)
From there we went back to the States with the Wasp, to Norfolk, and then in Norfolk Navy Yard for repairs and better equipment. Twenty millimeters I think were installed and air search radar. Shortly thereafter we went back down through the Canal and Pearl Harbor and joined the task force with one of the new battleships that was then part of-[that] went down to get ready for the Guadalcanal invasion.
DL: So just as soon as you got to the Pacific you had to prepare for Guadalcanal.
DL: [Pause] Proceed with the action at Guadalcanal.
PS: We were still operating-.
DL: [unclear 28:59]
PS: We were still on the Wasp. We were escorting one of the destroyers with the Wasp.
PS: So Guadalcanal, initially we didn't have-other than the carrier, the Wasp supplying the plane support for the invasion of Guadalcanal, we were just escorting the Wasp. (29:24, Part 1)
DL: You didn't do any coastal bombardment or anything of that nature?
PS: No, not at that time. We'd been at sea down there for quite awhile and they decided that we should go down to New Zealand for a little R&R, so we left-I don't remember what other ships were with us-and the Wasp still stayed there. The [USS] O'Brien destroyer relieved us. It was one of the ships that relieved us. The next thing we heard the Wasp was sunk, about two weeks after we left her, and we always thought if we'd been there she wouldn't have been sunk. We'd escorted her to the Med twice and been with her for all this whole time of the cruise. (30:09, Part 1)
Then we were assigned... We were halfway to New Zealand when we got orders to come back, the Japs are coming so come back, and we turned around and went back to Guadalcanal and did escort duties-for tankers or supply ships or that-up to Guadalcanal. While we were up there sometimes they'd ask us to go up the coast on Guadalcanal and shoot in at the Japs behind their lines, because it was sort of hilly, and we went and shot at the back of those kills where the Japs were. Rather effective at times [unclear 30:59] once we got [unclear 31:00]. Then that's what we did for quite awhile, escorting those ships from Guadalcanal. Espiritu Santo was the base where they were loaded up. Well, I'm going to give you... I have at home, which I forgot, the exact dates and times that we did all this.
DL: Okay. (31:30, Part 1)
PS: [unclear 31:31] from the ship, after our five-year anniversary, took all the logs and recorded everything, the dates and times that they were one place or another, and that will be... I may have [unclear 31:47] some of my dates a little bit.
But then the destroyers got more organized as a... The Japs were [31:59 sending. The "Tokyo Express" boys were coming down]. We avoided the Battle of Tassafaronga and. Was it-? I think that's right, where the cruisers were sunk, [near] Savo Island.
DL: Okay, part of the Solomon Island campaign? (32:20, Part 1)
PS: Solomon Island campaign. We didn't get involved in any of that. We were unhappy because we were afraid we would be, and the cruisers, [32:33 the commanders that were on our] cruisers, we didn't like to go with them because they weren't employing destroyers as destroyers. They had destroyers screening ahead instead of, if the Japs were coming, send the destroyers to torpedo them first and then the cruisers-this is at night, all night battles-send the cruisers. After the torpedoes had their run to hit the Japs, then the cruisers could fire at them. Instead the cruisers would start firing and tell the destroyers to go in and fire torpedoes, and several destroyers got sunk rather early by the Japs because of that in the Battle of... I can't think of the name. Anyway, that night battle when all the cruisers were sunk. They didn't even know how to employ destroyers, the commanders.
DL: Who was commanding the cruisers? Do you know? (33:26, Part 1)
PS: Scott was one of them, and Adm.-was it Callaghan?-got killed on one of them. Then there was an Australian admiral in charge of one of those night battles and, looking back on it, it was Disasterville. That's why eventually. Then we started operating with the destroyers and then the cruisers were either sunk or damaged. [Laughs] That's what happened in the Battle of Vella Gulf in August. We just had destroyers that went up there and Cdre. [Frederick] Moosbrugger used all the Arleigh Burke battle plans and we were highly successful. It was the first successful night action they had. That was August of '43.
DL: Right, right. Before we move on to the Vella Gulf, anything else pertaining to the eastern Solomons or the Guadalcanal campaign?
PS: Yes. [Pause] No, this is after the Vella Gulf action that I'm thinking of, so I won't go into that. (34:53, Part 1)
DL: Now, did y'all go directly from the Guadalcanal campaign up to Vella Gulf, or was there-?
PS: Well, see , we were down there from... Guadalcanal was August of-what?-'42, and we really didn't fire a shot in anger until Vella Gulf. That was in the shore bombardment.
PS: There was nobody shooting back at us.
DL: That was just pure escort.
PS: Yes, just escort duties with the Wasp until she got sunk, and then we didn't operate back with carriers until well after Vella Gulf. (35:36, Part 1)
DL: Go ahead and carry me through the chronology of Vella, the action.
PS: I'll read it. [Laughs]
DL: Well, if you have notes there that you need to refer to don't hesitate to do so. That's perfectly fine.
PS: [Pause; searching through papers] I'll have you look at some of this and if you want it you can have it. Let's see. Betty Taussig wanted [unclear 36:20] too for her book. That's why this is... Let me... [Pause; continues to search through papers] Well, I think I can probably remember most of it because I've been through it a couple of times with people asking me questions.
DL: Okay. (36:54, Part 1)
PS: Well, Vella Gulf, we left Guadalcanal and went up the west side of Kolombangara Island, and we received a report that there were [unclear 37:18] destroyers coming down from Rabaul. So Moosbrugger was told to go get 'em, [Laughs] and we left and got up in the Vella Gulf about midnight. There were two divisions of three destroyers each. We were then leading a second group of [unclear 37:45] with a commodore on board [unclear 37:48]. Moosbrugger was on the lead ship. The lead ships got a contact with our radar and they soon reported that there were three of them and they were making pretty fast speeds of allegedly twenty-five knots coming down there. What they did was just execute a decent battle plan. The three destroyers ahead fired the torpedoes at the proper moment, and the range was I guess about five thousand yards or less. They didn't know we were there. The next thing that happened was-.
DL: Now this was a night action. (38:33, Part 1)
PS: Night action, black as a black night. Now, I was inside the CIC giving the skipper and the commodore information about the ranges and bearings of the ships and anything else that they should have known, so I didn't see any of this. But anyway, the torpedoes hit and there were some pretty good explosions over there and a lot of fire, and our commodore then turned with. The famous capping the T maneuver, which they did at Jutland, we did the same thing, and when we capped the T then we started conflating them with gunfire. Some of the ships did fire torpedoes at them also. They were dead in the water and burning, so they told me. I didn't see it, but of course they were burning and two of them sank rather rapidly, and we thought we got the third one but it was not true. The battle reports show we got three of them but actually, after the war, we found out that one of them, the rear destroyer, did a one-eight and turned back to Rabaul, wide open, and somehow our radar didn't pick it up and nobody knew it till after the war, that one of them-.
DL: Was she damaged? (40:03, Part 1)
PS: No. I don't think that ship was. During the battle, or rather after they had sunk and there were no more visual flames or anything, we were directed by Moosbrugger to go back and see if we could pick up survivors. We wanted a little intelligence information. So we turned back after we combed the area through there and we were ready to retire back to Tulagi. We went back through the area and you could see people out there, bobbing, so we stopped the ship and the skipper gave strict orders that nobody was to be taken aboard except this one area where we put a cargo net over the side, and people armed, to try to throw life rings or whatever to these guys and get a couple of them aboard. One fellow got a hold of a screw guard, [unclear 41:13] you know, the propeller screw guard, and one of our fellows took a big empty five-inch shell casing and let him have it and he let go because he thought he'd go under. (41:28, Part 1)
While we were trying to rescue them they didn't come to the ship. There was a lot of noise out there. We didn't understand what they were saying. One of the sailors evidently yelled something in English to them, like, "Come over here, you SOBs!" [Laughs] Somebody blew a [unclear 41:56] whistle and yelled something, and then there was almost total silence from them and they all started swimming away from us. We couldn't stay there to monkey around too long, we felt in partial danger, so we never did pick anybody up. The skipper finally says, "That's all," and we took off and joined the other force and went home, down to Tulagi.
Then, as I say, the battle reports were missing and the only anecdotal story about that was we had a picture of Pres. Roosevelt in our ward room. The Lang was his escort ship prior to the war when he went on one of the cruisers. The Lang was used just to transport him from shore to the cruiser, and this picture said, "To the Lang, my escort ship," in 1939, I think it was, signed, "FDR." That picture, during the action, just fell off the wall and broke the glass out of it. I probably shouldn't be telling this story if we're going to record it. [Laughs] (43:17, Part 1)
DL: Time has passed to the point-. [Laughs]
PS: Afterward when we got back to Tulagi we had a correspondent on board to record this-the Pat Robinson I was telling you about-and he and the commodore saw this and said, "Hey, we've got to get a new picture from the President," and the picture wasn't damaged at all. So we don't know exactly what happened but the story was that they took it up in the commodore's cabin and threw darts at it and things like that to make a little damage to it and they packaged it all up and sent it to the President, told him the story behind it, and asked for a replacement, and he did. He sent us a replacement for it and he told us that the picture we sent would be up in his Hyde Park museum. Now I hope it's... I think it's maybe up there. I've never been up there to check it. (44:23, Part 1)
DL: Why did they not just put a new glass in that one and put it back up?
PS: Because of the publicity, I guess, PR. I think the newspaper man probably talked him into it.
DL: To say it was irreparably damaged in battle.
PS: During the battle.
PS: The skipper wouldn't sign the thing. He said he wouldn't have anything to do with it.
DL: Interesting. [Laughs]
PS: But those little side things that happened during these things.
DL: Yes, that's very good. So from there where did you head? What was next? (45:02, Part 1)
PS: From there we went up two or three times on these runs looking for if any Japs were coming down. One night there were barges going across towards Kolombangara, which the Japs at that time still held. We were the other side of them and we fired at barges up there in the middle of the night. You never knew whether you hit them or not. They fired back at us, and in fact the reason we knew they were firing back at us is because the next day on the deck we found bullets that hit. They just dented the metal and fell down on the deck. Nobody got hit. We had a dozen or so of those things on the deck.
DL: Were they using machine gun fire or something? (45:53, Part 1)
PS: I think they were just rifles, rifle fire, from people that were in these barges that they were transporting from one island to the other, and probably supplies also. We never stuck around to see. It was black nights. The weather though was usually pretty good, calm seas. We did that two or three times and then we escorted some LCIs [Landing Craft Infantry], infantry, the Marines and the... No, the Army by that time were down on Guadalcanal and they were island hopping with APDs and LCIs sending a company or a small number of Marines and we were escorting them up and then back. Going back one day we had a Jap plane-this was in broad daylight-and we looked up and there he was coming over the island, and we saw him drop a bomb on us, towards us, and it missed the ship by, oh, I guess two or three hundred yards. (47:07, Part 1)
[End of tape one, side one]
PS: Beautiful day, you could see forty feet down, blue coral, clear sea, and we were sort of zigzagging in front of the LCIs we were herding back. I was on the bridge with the captain-I was the navigator-and the captain said, "Come here," and he said, "Look," and he pointed down off the edge of the bridge. I looked and I saw just nothing but coral reefs down there, beautiful blue. We were doing only about ten knots because we were escorting these [ships], ten to twelve knots, and about that time we felt a sort of a jar of some kind, like we'd hit bottom. The officer of the deck yelled "all stop" to the engines and we felt that jar and thought we sure as heck had hit bottom, but we didn't stop or anything. We just kept on going. We got the engines ahead again and we couldn't feel any vibration, which we thought we would if we'd hit bottom. (1:27, Part 2)
We got back to Tulagi and we put a diver over the side to check the props and sure enough one of the props had... We'd put the prop about, I would say, six to twelve inches into a coral head. Now, when this happened, we thought we'd hit. There were no buoys or beacons to range on. All you do is use the islands as tangents to get your fix, which I did immediately when the skipper said, "Look," and I couldn't understand it. We had the charts [unclear 02:11] us and it was thirty fathoms of water there. But anyway, we got back to Tulagi and looked, and we sure did hit bottom. Miraculously, as we found out that very night... They sent us back up the slot again and we had to do thirty knots, and we told them we thought we had a damaged prop and they said, "Well, just come on. You've got to do the best you can," and miraculously it sort of balanced. Each blade was damaged about the same so it wasn't badly out of balance, and we went twenty-eight knots on that thing, back up another night run of the slot. After that they sent us back down and we went eventually back to the States to get a new prop. (3:06, Part 2)
DL: You mean they couldn't replace a prop?
PS: They could but they didn't have a prop, and we were due to go. We went back to Pearl Harbor to get it replaced. I checked the chart and the chart said, "This chart is based on an 1898 survey by Capt. So-and-so, US [sic] Royal Navy."
PS: That was the trouble down there with navigation, and also it said-several of them say-"This island is reported to be five miles east of the plotted position." We were using, well, 1898 charts for that area, believe it or not, and as they found out later the Japs had perfect charts for the whole place. So I hit the prop of a destroyer in thirty fathoms of water. [Laughs] But I never received any bad things from it. They just accepted-.
DL: Seems like the United States could have gotten a hold of charts more recent than that. (4:18, Part 2)
PS: They didn't have them. We had the charts but they were based on early British Navy surveys, and I thought that was a kind of interesting aspect of it.
Well, that was about the end of anything interesting. We went back to Pearl. In fact, as we were taking the O'Brien back-[unclear 04:45 mentioned got torpedoed from the Wasp]-and she went down and they did some repair. Her back was broken from this torpedo attack and they put some strengthening members on her and they were going to take her back, to have her go back to Pearl Harbor, and then I guess-.
DL: So the O'Brien was severely damaged at the time the Wasp sunk.
PS: Yes. But the O'Brien didn't make it. Off of Samoa it got a little rough and she started too much yawing and the repairs started to break. We had a tanker with us also that we were escorting back and, slowly but surely, one day the O'Brien busted in half and they took all the sailors and everybody off and down it went, and that was the end of the O'Brien. (5:46, Part 2)
DL: But everyone got off safely.
PS: Oh yes. We had plenty of time to get everybody off. They all went over on the tanker. The crew was just a small crew on there anyway, just to get it back.
DL: Right, right. So once you came back to the States for the prop repair-.
PS: Prop repair and other repairs, because we were due a lot of repair. We had boiler and generator problems which needed something beyond our capability to fix, which we did at Pearl. When that was finished, we-.
DL: Did you [unclear 06:33]?
PS: Yes. We went back to the States for some of that repair. That was '43, and that's when I got married. I went to Charleston while the ship was being fixed. I even brought my bride back to San Francisco. (6:54, Part 2)
When that was repaired we took off again for the South Pacific, and I don't remember task forces but generally they were carrier task groups we operated with. I know the Roi-Namur and Kwajalein exercises, we were involved with the bombardment there with one of the new battleships. We did that, and Majuro Island, where most of the fleet was located, right near there. I got detached from the Lang and back to six months' recreation and new construction.
DL: This is in '44?
DL: But during this-.
PS: Well, this was '43, actually.
DL: We're still in '43?
PS: That's why I wish I had that thing. I've got the exact dates.
DL: Because you-.
PS: In fact, it was in the middle of-. (8:06, Part 2)
DL: You went to the [USS Myles C.] Fox in '45.
PS: Yes, okay. It's '44, '44's right, because I went to the... I had shore duty. I went to Norfolk and I was ONC of the fire control school, pre-commissioning destroyer training.
DL: Right. But y'all were not under any additional fire at the time you were with those task groups.
PS: No. That was it. From there I went up and [spent] six months at the fire control school, then I got a re-commissioning crew that I had to take through what I'd just been running. [Laughs] Then they all went to Boston and we commissioned the Myles C. Fox, and the Myles C. Fox went through training down in Guantanamo and through the Canal and joined a task force for the invasion of Japan. While we were going by-Midway, was it? Yes, Midway Island. What's the island right there at Midway? Right in that area? The Japs surrendered, so we were instructed to do a three-sixty, and all these ships in a huge formation [blew their] horns and whistles, and we kept going to Japan. (9:42, Part 2)
DL: So you just made some big circles.
PS: Circled in joy, I guess it was, and then continued on to Japan.
DL: What did you do once you got to Japan?
PS: We went into Tokyo Bay with the big task force and survived a hurricane, we call them. They call them a.
PS: .typhoon. It came right up the Bay of Tokyo. When that left I got detached as exec of the Myles C. Fox and I flew down to Kobe to take over command of a destroyer minesweeper down there. The war was over.
DL: Well did anything of note happen while you were in Japan, any anecdotes or observations or anything that you were particularly impressed with? (11:06, Part 2)
PS: Only connected with the [USS] Doran.
DL: Nothing while you were on the Fox.
PS: When I was on the Fox I never did go ashore in Yokosuka, or whatever you want to call it. That's where we were.
DL: So you just stayed out in Tokyo Bay.
PS: Tokyo Bay, waiting for... That's when I got relieved and detached and went over to the nearest airfield-I don't even recall the name of it-and got on a DC3 and flew down to Kobe.
DL: So you didn't come in contact with any of the Japanese.
DL: .or any of the-.
PS: None whatsoever. The fact is, I was pretty angry at them at that stage of the game. (11:56, Part 2)
PS: I wasn't going to give them any of my money to do [Pause] the things I understood were available for sale over there. I didn't have any love for them at that stage of the game.
DL: So once you became CO of the Doran-it was pronounced Do-ran?
DL: Do-ran, okay. What was the assignment?
PS: Initially we went... The ship itself had just completed the sea sweep in the China Sea where they'd dropped a lot of mines. I didn't participate in that. People were going home, they had the points to go home, and when I relieved on the Doran there were only... All the officers that had been on it for quite a while had enough points to go home; and the skipper also, that I relieved, he was waiting to get relieved so he could go home. When I reported aboard I found out that he... He was supposed to have orders, to give them orders. He wrote up orders for them and told them to go over to the airport and get on a transport to fly back to Pearl, or a ship, whatever would take them, which he wasn't supposed to do, I found out later. (13:37, Part 2)
DL: What was he supposed to do?
PS: Wait for orders from MINPAC [Mine Warfare Forces, Pacific] headquarters, which is at Pearl.
PS: When so-and-so has enough points they give them orders that enable them to be detached.
DL: So he wasn't even supposed to have left the Doran at that point?
PS: Well as soon as I relieved him he had orders, but some of his department heads and senior officers.
DL: I got you.
PS: .didn't have orders. They hadn't received them yet.
DL: So he just made them himself. (14:08, Part 2)
PS: He just arbitrarily did it. So I got aboard, and the only qualified officers who could stand watches was myself, the chief engineer, and one other officer on the Doran, and all the rest of them were JGs and ensigns that were waiting for enough points so they could go home.
PS: It was rather a trying situation, shall we say, because I remember the skipper, when I left the Fox, he says, "Make sure you have them inventory all the commissary items for the supply officer because otherwise you'll get in trouble." He'd evidently been through this.
DL: Right. (14:54, Part 2)
PS: Sure enough, I said, "I want an inventory," because he had everything all prepared for me-because he knew I was coming-to just "sign here." I said, "No, I want an inventory with the commissary officer of all his goods," and the commissary officer said to me, he says, "You aren't going to like this," and when he got through he was about five thousand dollars in the hole, overdrawn. I'm glad I did this because-.
DL: You would have been responsible.
PS: The boss in MINPAC, when this was reported, said, "Well, you'll just have to eat less and do better to make it up," which I objected to violently, not to him directly but just to my commissary officer. I said, "We're not going to do that."
DL: So they didn't hold the departing CO responsible at all. (15:48, Part 2)
PS: No. They went their merry way. But that was one of the things at the end of the war, and then of course they loosened up because they knew there was no way you were going to feed the crew with half rations or anything like that. [Laughs]
DL: Not at that point in time. [Laughs]
PS: Not at that point, which I wouldn't have done anyway. But that was a tough part of the end of the war because all the reservists-and you can't blame them-wanted to go home. They had enough points and they were entitled under the rules that they'd laid out. When they got x number of points they could be detached and go home to whoever, and there were a lot of them like that, but they couldn't get their release through. Those of us in the regular Navy, we didn't have that prerogative. (16:34, Part 2)
But we did go, and we went and acted as a sort of station ship for some small minesweepers at Wakayama while they were sweeping at the entrance to the Japanese inland sea.
DL: Was there a serious problem with mines in those.
PS: Those areas.
DL: .inland waters?
PS: Yes, there were.
DL: Did you have Japanese aboard to help.
DL: .with the minesweeping? How did you do that? (17:09, Part 2)
PS: Well, the Doran was too big. It was a destroyer equipped for ocean minesweeping and we couldn't do the inland, so we acted as station ship for the smaller minesweepers. We had radar and we would direct them and make sure they swept areas for a channel up to Kobe. I said Kobe before. Kobe's the one we.... What's the one on the end of the island, [Pause] the southern end? Anyway, I can't think of it, but Kobe was the one we were sweeping, clearing mines from, and there were a lot of magnetic mines also, not with any lines attached but just on the bottom, and they had a big Liberty ship that they used also to go over the area and it was supposed to be built and had enough-.
DL: Now, when they located a mine, they exploded it there rather than trying to remove it, didn't they? (18:19, Part 2)
PS: Yes. If stuff floated up they'd just shoot at it with a twenty millimeter usually and explode it, and the mines that were magnetic mines, most of them would be set for you to run over it like once, twice, three times or whatever. So this big Liberty ship would do this, run back and forth over it, and if they exploded, why... The Liberty ship was never hurt any because it was specially fitted to survive. I know they had padding on the bridge and all sorts of things up there to prevent any people from getting hurt.
DL: Well now, these were anti-ship mines, weren't they?
DL: But the Liberty ship was-?
PS: Oh, they could run over these things and disarm them somehow. I don't know how. I think some of them were made so that after a certain period of time they'd automatically disarm themselves. (19:21, Part 2)
DL: I never heard of that before. I always pictured the Liberty ship as being used for transport rather than.
PS: Well, normally they are, but these were special.
DL: .being able to withstand mines.
PS: Well, they evidently did a good job because I was the first ship in the harbor as big as a destroyer. We went up and tied up at the... Some of the docks were very badly damaged.
DL: Now, in some locations-and you may not even know this-in some locations didn't they require the Japanese to get out and sweep the mines?
PS: I honestly don't know.
DL: It seems like I had heard that at one point.
PS: Where we were, at Wakayama, there was a captain running this whole show, a mine squadron commander. But we went ashore there and the people seemed to be pleasant enough, a little frightened, maybe, of everybody.
DL: Yes, I'm sure. (20:23, Part 2)
PS: But I was still mad at them.
DL: .you may have intimidated them.
PS: Looking for cigarettes and things like that.
DL: How long were you there in Japan?
PS: [Pause] I can't honestly tell you. Not too long, maybe three or four months. There were other DMSs there and we all got together and came back together; went to Pearl and from Pearl to San Francisco. We tied up at San Francisco and the ship I was on eventually went down to... I took it down to San Diego. It was decommissioned and put in the reserve fleet down there. From there then I went to the East Coast. This was-.
DL: It would have been '48 when you went to BUPERS. Didn't you go to Bureau of Personnel after you left the Doran?
PS: Yes, okay.
DL: That would have been '48.
PS: No, no. When I left the Doran I went as EX-O of the Vermilion. (21:43, Part 2)
DL: Oh, did you?
PS: To Norfolk, Little Creek.
PS: In '47 I was on her. It was '46, I guess, that I went to the Vermilion and in '48 I finally got ashore, shore duty. I went as exec on the Vermilion, AKA-107.
DL: Okay. I didn't have that down.
PS: Well, the problem then was that-.
DL: What was the duty?
PS: I was executive officer.
DL: I mean what was the ship's assignment?
PS: Part of an amphibious group. It was an attack cargo ship, Marines and all their cargo. We would take tanks and all the vehicles and that type of thing on the AKAs. (22:37, Part 2)
DL: So you just engaged in maneuvers and training and stuff?
PS: We went to Little Creek for training. We went down and made a training landing near Panama City, Florida. Then we went up to Pensacola. But we had Army people on board for training there.
DL: What was the attitude at that time-?
PS: And then we also went to the Mediterranean, made a Mediterranean cruise on the AKA.
DL: In '47 there you were in a situation where you'd just fought a major war, your foes were vanquished; what was the attitude among the personnel as far as maneuvering and training and things like that? Understand what I'm asking?
PS: Yes. Well, it was my lifetime, so-.
DL: Well, I know how you-but I mean the enlisted men? (23:36, Part 2)
PS: Well, I think it was the same. A lot of the fellows-. You always had some that wanted to go home-the war's over, send me home-but not many of them. Most of them, at that point in time-.
DL: The ones that wanted to leave had left.
PS: Had left, and people who were there had their enlistments to do and they were mostly a good hardworking bunch. You had the occasional guy that you wanted to get rid of, and could back then. But with the amphibious force the reservists had manned most of the amphibious ships, and that's one reason I'd been assigned to them. Before, the ship had. The skipper was a reservist, and the exec was a reservist, and they had a regular Navy captain when I went on board. I was a lieutenant commander at the time. They were slowly getting back to regular Navy. (24:41, Part 2)
DL: Right, right.
PS: We went way up... One trip we made on the Vermilion was over to a Mediterranean cruise. We were over there five months.
DL: Just visiting various ports?
PS: Gibraltar, and we went to Piraeus, Greece, Crete, Rhodes, and coming back we got to Gibraltar, headed home, and the Swedish ambassador, Hammish-what's his name? You've got to come up with it for me. Anyway, he got assassinated in Israel, Lebanon, and they were going to send some-.
DL: Oh, Hammarskj?ld, the United Nations?
DL: Yes. Dag Hammarskj?ld. (25:43, Part 2)
PS: Yes. I couldn't say it. Well anyway, that gentleman, and we were going right by Gibraltar so I have a picture of us turning in the wake of the Vermilion and the Rock of Gibraltar's in the background. They told us to go back to Crete. We had a lot of equipment aboard and they wanted that equipment to be used to... They were putting some Marines, I guess, ashore in Lebanon, or wherever this happened. So we went back to Crete and transported it, gave it all to another ship, much to our despair.
PS: Finally, after we did that, we just left and got home to Norfolk, and I left in '48 and went up to the Bureau of Personnel.
DL: And what was your duty there?
PS: I was personnel officer for the amphibious force. [unclear 26:40]
DL: After being at sea for so long.
PS: I was in the office of personnel section. (26:44, Part 2)
DL: This was your first shore duty, wasn't it?
DL: How did it feel to be at home with your family instead of-?
PS: It was great. I had a wife and a small boy. He was almost a year old before I... I saw him when he was... He was born when I commissioned the Fox in '43.
PS: '45, right. I left her and went back to the Pacific on the Myles C. Fox.
PS: So anyway, we went up and I lived in Falls Church.
DL: So the assignment with BUPERS was nothing particularly exciting. It was routine. (27:45, Part 2)
PS: It was routine in the office of personnel. I was responsible for lieutenant commanders down, for manning all the amphibious ships, and [unclear 27:56]... No, I didn't have the [27:57], just the amphibious groups, Atlantic and Pacific, and it was some good people to work for. There wasn't any problem. The only problem was the Korean War broke out in '50 and then I did some dirty tricks to a lot of people on orders from higher up. MacArthur wanted LSTs [Landing Ship Tank]. There were a lot of LSTs in Japan and he wanted them to be used in the invasion of Inchon. We were told to get them manned and fixed up and ready to go.
DL: So people got assignments they-. (28:44, Part 2)
PS: Well, they didn't want to go in the first place, and we had ten people who had a little experience in these ships. We gave fellows on the East Coast five days to get to the West Coast, and those on the West Coast I think had three days to close up whatever they were doing and get on an aircraft or a ship, and away they went to Japan to MacArthur's Korean War.
DL: Did you have much problem with friends wanting you to give them choice assignments?
PS: Once in a while, nothing really... The trouble with the officer detailing, I found out, at that time everybody wanted to go to San Diego-you know, they've got their preference cards of where they want to go-and you just don't detach a guy that hasn't completed his tour [unclear 29:48] qualified to relieve certain jobs, and it became obvious that if you only had ten people being relieved-their shore duty is up in San Diego-and twenty people want to go and are due to go to shore duty, ten of them are going to go to their second or third choice. That was the only problem, but most of them would accept it. (30:12, Part 2)
DL: Now, why I ask that question-.
PS: If they had a big problem we usually would try to solve it for them.
DL: Why I ask that question is I've heard many of your classmates and other naval officers say that they had been assigned something they didn't want and they went by Bureau of Personnel because they had a friend there and said, "I really need another assignment," and.
PS: It can be. They can work it.
DL: .they would fix it for them.
PS: They can work it, but sometimes it becomes impossible. I mean, that was one of the problems. Otherwise if a fellow said, "I want to go to Norfolk," you could usually say, "Well, okay. Just stay on for another three months and his time is up and we'll send you down there." You'd extend his sea time-that was the simplest way to do it-and wait till somebody was due to go. You didn't want to detach somebody on shore and cut short his shore duty. That was dirty pool. (31:14, Part 2)
DL: I've heard some who wanted sea time.
PS: Yes, I've had those.
DL: They didn't want a-.
PS: We'd give a fellow orders and he'd say, "I'd rather stay right here." We'd say, "Fine." [Laughs]
DL: [Laughs] Then next you went to the Naval War College, right? Any more about the deployment to Korea that the Bureau of Personnel-?
PS: No. That was basically a... Yes, I had a choice. The junior course, the War College Junior Course, I think they called it then, for lieutenant commanders, had just started up after I'd been two years at the Bureau of Naval Personnel, and my boss was on the selection board for officers going to the War College. I said I'd like to go and he gave me a choice. He said, "Well, you can do another year here easily if you want to or I'll put you on for the War College." I told him if that's my choice I'm going to the Naval War College, and that's what I did. I only spent two years up there at shore duty, on that shore duty. Then I went to the Naval War College for the commander staff course, they called it. (32:32, Part 2)
DL: Well, if you want to move up in the Navy that's almost mandatory, isn't it?
PS: Yes. It's nice to get those things on your record, because I wasn't making any money just being in a BUPERS section. But somebody has to do those jobs, I guess.
DL: Then from there you went to the [USS] Turner.
PS: From there I went to CO of the Turner. [Pause] The Turner was based in Newport, Rhode Island so I don't think I moved. Yes, I did. I had to move. I was in quarters when I was at the War College and then... But anyway-.
DL: Just think how close you were to your home terrain.
PS: Right. Not very far from-.
DL: Run up for visits to your family very easily from there, couldn't you?
PS: Yes, which I did. (33:36, Part 2)
DL: What kind of duty did the Turner have? What was its-?
PS: The Turner was a radar picket ship. We had an extra at that time, height finding radar. A picket ship, we'd operate with the carriers as fighter director for fighter planes in various exercises. Whenever they had some fleet maneuvers or something we'd get involved in it. Made one Med cruise, which was six months at that time, and over there we'd operate with the Sixth Fleet in whatever they-and port visits, Naples and Leghorn and southern France.
DL: This would have been around, what, '55, '56, we're talking about? No, it was before that. It would have been '53, '54 that you were-.
PS: I'll look it up.
DL: You were assigned to the Turner in '53. (34:53, Part 2)
PS: '53. [Pause; searching through papers]
DL: This was before the Middle Eastern problems erupted there in the Med, wasn't it?
PS: Yes. [Pause; searching through papers] I can't find it right now, so. [Pause; searching through papers] [unclear 35:42] sometimes, but I was on the Turner just for two years.
DL: From '53 to '55.
PS: I made one Med cruise, which was-everything looked fine, as far as I know.
DL: And from there to the Naval War College on the staff.
PS: Naval War College on the staff.
DL: You kind of liked staying up there in New England, didn't you?
PS: I spent fifteen years in Newport with sea and shore duty of various kinds. (36:12, Part 2)
PS: Oh, I thought of something interesting when I was on the Vermilion. Part of our duties over there was what they called repatriation of the dead. We went into Algiers, for instance, when they were bringing the bodies of some of the soldiers back to the United States. We had a company of Marines on board while we were over there, on the ship, that went over with us and were assigned to the ship. When we would go into these ports we would make arrangements with the French to have a parade of some sort when these, what they called the repatriation of the dead or whatever, and a parade of the Marines, and some of the French [unclear 37:05] would sometimes participate. It was a parade. The Marines would get all dressed up and march through the streets, and these bodies would be eventually put on a transport back to the States. Some of those French places-I mean Algiers and Sfax and Tangiers-were rough spots. (37:41, Part 2)
DL: Oh yes. Probably still are. [Laughs]
PS: Yes, they were real rough. Again, this is another instance. The little fellows, ten, twelve years old, fifteen at the most, we were tied up at the dock and the Marines go ashore and the sailors go ashore and go down a long ladder down to the dock, and then all these young fellows, little kids down there, would get close to them-they had papers and so forth-talking to them and yakking. Some of them could speak English. They'd get a hundred yards and they'd find their watch was missing, or their wallet was gone, and they'd come back and these little fellows would distract them in some way and take their watch right off and they never even knew it, and pick their pockets. (38:39, Part 2)
We saw the ringleader. The skipper saw the ringleader. We knew about this now and we were trying to figure out who was the ringleader of this group of maybe half a dozen or more kids. So we called and the head policeman from there came down-the skipper spoke French fluently so we didn't have any problems-and told him what was going on. Meanwhile, just before this happened, the skipper called a couple of Marines to him and he said to the Marine major, "I want you to get two Marines, and you see that youngster down there? Take two Marines like they're going on leave and you go down and grab him and bring him back aboard ship," which they did, and they were screaming bloody murder when the Marines grabbed them and brought them back aboard ship. (39:31, Part 2)
Meanwhile he got the chief of police, or whatever his title was, to come down to the ship. He arrived and the skipper explained to him what was going on, and while he was conversing this youngster tried to say something and the chief of police backhanded him across the face, a blow that would have knocked you and me right over, and told him in French I guess to keep quiet. He did it twice, and both times I swear he hit him so hard with an open hand across his face. It didn't have much effect. But anyway, it finally did, and then he had other policemen and they took this youngster and another one, and the skipper said, "It's all squared away. We won't have any more troubles," and we never had another bit of trouble from then on from this little group. We had shore patrol with the police headquarters and he said you wouldn't believe how rough those policemen are on those kids that do this stuff. (40:37, Part 2)
PS: All sorts of events do happen. [Laughs]
PS: I don't know what good that is for history, but.
DL: You went from the Naval War College staff to commander of Escort Squadron 18.
PS: That was the DER, Destroyer Escort Radar, DERs, that were on barrier patrol from [Naval Station] Argentia over to the Azores. I think we had three of them equally spaced between the Azores and we were supposed to report all air contacts for the Cold War. I was stationed at Argentia, which was a communications center, and then we'd receive their reports and report down to Norfolk, Virginia, CINCLANTFLT's headquarters, these contacts which we all both plotted in case the Russians were coming, which they never did. We spent a long time. That was rough duty for those DERs across that... But they used to rotate between, from one post to another, so they could go topside once in a while. (42:13, Part 2)
DL: The weather up in that area I would think would be horrendous.
PS: It was horrible [unclear 42:18]. You might recall the Russians cut a cable up there during this period, and I happened to be up in Argentia at the time. Adm. [William]Martin, the aviator, was the commander at Argentia, at the base up there, and he said, "You go out..." He wanted me to get on one of the DERs to go to this location and see what was going on. So he helicoptered me out to this old DER. [Laughs] I was let down on a line to the deck of this DER.
PS: We started out. Meanwhile, it was in the winter because there was lily pad ice all over the ocean up there where we had to go, up the Labrador coast, and we couldn't make much speed through those things. Some of the berg-y bits were [unclear 43:27]. Well anyway, to make a long story short, we got about halfway there when the powers to be got things solved and I came back and they helo-ed me back off this thing to-. (43:43, Part 2)
DL: Well now, had the Russians cut it intentionally, the cable?
PS: Well, they claim that they did but. I mean we claim they did, but the Russians claim they didn't, and who was right... They were fishermen in boats and they did cut the Atlantic cable. And then again communication problems we had. It was classified in making reports about this instance, and this poor little DER only had a simple decoding device and he couldn't do it quickly. It took him a long time to put all this stuff together to make it a secret dispatch. Nobody would declassify it. So you'd get information, you know, two or three hours late where they'd unclassified it, which it should have been to start out with. They could have got instant responses.
DL: The government has a propensity to classify anything, just about.
PS: Yes, back then they did, and there was no reason for a lot of it. The same way during WWII. (44:58, Part 2)
DL: Right. Anything else while you were with Squadron 18?
PS: [Pause] No, I don't think so. I would spend... There was another squadron commander that had other DERs. We used to rotate and he and I used to rotate going to Argentia and to Newport, one up there and one... I'd fly up, whatever was available, and told he or somebody to take the ship up, and really nothing... The only instance-and it wasn't an instance. I was only. I'd get a request from Adm. Jerauld Wright, who was CINCLANT at the time, and I knew him, and he knew me better than I knew him. He'd say, "When you come back send some lobsters down here, the biggest ones you can find." I think I sent him a seven-pound lobster once.
DL: Goodness gracious! [Laughs]
PS: It was big. [Laughs] Lobsters were a dollar a pound then. (46:09, Part 2)
DL: Wow. That's a little bit different from now. Then you finished off your career as a naval science professor at Princeton, right?
PS: Well, no. Before that, from the DER squadron, I went down to Key West, Florida as exec of the naval station.
DL: Oh, okay.
PS: I was down there a year when I made captain. So, having made captain, it was a commander's job as exec, and I said, "Well, just make me the CO of the naval station." (46:54, Part 2)
[End tape one, side two]
DL: East Carolina Manuscript Collection oral history interview conducted April the 27th, 2001, with Capt. Pemberton Southard, US Navy Retired, Naval Academy class of 1941. This is reel number two.
[Break in recording]
DL: .naval station at Key West. Was there anything going on?
PS: Not really. The Cuban thing was on and we couldn't go to Cuba, although our wives could. In fact, the air station at Key West flew over to Havana on routine flights at that time and they could take the wives over. My wife went over and I think stayed overnight, that was all, and then back, but military people could not go. But there wasn't any problems. We had no people coming over by boat at that time. (1:10, Part 3)
DL: This was before the Bay of Pigs.
PS: Yes. A submarine squadron was also stationed down there, plus Boca Chica-I think is the right name for it-Air Station was active with naval aviation. The rest of it was just running a naval station, and the civilians, and we had a shipyard also, and supply depot, which was all part of the naval station. It was a pretty.
DL: Sounds like good duty.
PS: .active job. The swimming pool was just beyond my quarters.
PS: But then when I got promoted I went to Princeton University, much to my surprise, and I found out why. Usually the NROTC billets used to be filled by senior captains, who that was their last tour of duty and when they retire somebody else would come in. I found after I got to Princeton-because I was surprised, being a very junior captain. In fact, I had just made captain, going to that billet. The gentleman that I relieved had already been retired and he was out of the class of '26. (2:39, Part 3)
DL: Goodness gracious.
PS: Or thirty years. Let's see. That was what? Whatever it was, he was out to thirty. He had completed his thirty years. Whatever dates back to thirty years, he was in that class. What happened, they'd submitted names up to Princeton, as I found out, and the president of Princeton and the dean of students wrote back to the bureau and said, "We don't want any more people assigned here who don't have at least two to three tours of duty left."
DL: So they didn't want people to go there to retire.
PS: To retire, and I guess there are other colleges that probably started doing the same thing because I noticed that some of my classmates also, about that time, started getting professors in ROTC units. That was a very pleasant three years of shore duty, the only time I ever got thirty straight days of leave. (3:48, Part 3)
PS: Because usually they'd send you, during the summer, down to Little Creek-or if you were an aviator you'd go to Pensacola-to assist with midshipman training on their summer cruises, wherever they might go, but I never got involved in that, fortunately.
DL: How long were you at Princeton?
PS: Three years.
DL: Was a lot of it administering the program or actually teaching?
PS: No, I didn't do any teaching. It was administering the program. I could teach if I wanted to but I had good instructors and didn't need to do it. I had a Marine major, and my exec was a commander, and he didn't teach either. He didn't have to teach. We had a big unit at Princeton. It was a real pleasant tour. The midshipmen at that time, they were top dog at the Princeton campus. A midshipman was captain of the football team, and captain of the basketball team, and captain of the soccer team. (5:03, Part 3)
DL: Goodness gracious.
PS: What was the other one? Basketball. We had four or five captains of teams, and there was an Army unit there and also an Air Force unit at that time. There are none now, I understand. But they made life very pleasant for you. They treated us great. I was a department head, full professor. Got a certificate to prove it. [Laughs]
DL: Not everyone can say they were a full professor at Princeton. [Laughs]
PS: But it was three years of great duty. From there, where'd I go?
DL: I don't have-.
PS: The [USS] Grand Canyon.
DL: Grand Canyon?
PS: Grand Canyon, AD, destroyer repair ship. (6:00, Part 3)
DL: Okay, I didn't have... I knew that wasn't the end of your career but I didn't have that information. [Pause] Where was it stationed?
PS: That was Newport, of course.
PS: I don't know what I did with that stuff. I'll find it when I get in the room. [Pause; searching through papers] Here we go. I got it. I was at Princeton... I reported there in August '60 and I went to the CO of the Grand Canyon in August of '64. Is that right?
DL: So you were at Princeton four years then.
PS: [Pause] No. Well, this says August '64 I reported. After Princeton I went to CO Grand Canyon, AD-28, at Newport, Rhode Island. In '60, that's right. In '60 I was detached from Princeton and I was on the Grand Canyon... [Pause] No. Let's start all over again. I was on the Grand Canyon from August of '64 to October of '66. (7:50, Part 3)
DL: Okay. So that would put you at Princeton for four years then.
PS: I wasn't there for four years. The dates are mixed up here. [Pause] No. It's '61 when I get out at Princeton.
DL: When you went to Princeton, you mean.
PS: I was there three years at Princeton. In '61 I was detached, so I went-.
DL: No, '61's when you arrived there.
PS: '61 I arrived?
DL: Right. Detached in '64 and went to.
PS: I've got my notes all mixed up.
DL: .the Grand Canyon.
PS: I've got my notes all mixed up then.
DL: I had you going to Princeton in '60. (8:40, Part 3)
PS: Yes, I think that's right.
DL: But three years would have you leaving in '63.
PS: [Pause] Well, I know I was only there for three years, but whatever. It must have been '61. Turn that thing off a minute and we'll-.
[Break in recording]
DL: Okay, so you went to Princeton in '61 from Key West and stayed there for three years, leaving there in '64 and going to the Grand Canyon.
DL: Okay. (9:22, Part 3)
PS: In October of '66 I went down and was chief staff officer of the Fleet Training Group, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. From the Grand Canyon I went there.
DL: Okay. And was there anything going on at the time you were on the Grand Canyon?
PS: Yes, because ADs were famous for just tying up alongside the dock in Newport and repairing destroyers. My first assignment was to go down to Jacksonville at-what's the name of the base down there?
DL: In Jacksonville, Florida?
PS: Yes, Jacksonville, Florida.
DL: I've been to it. [Laughs] My mind's not functioning tonight. (10:18, Part 3)
PS: Okay. Well, that's my problem. But I went down there to... The AD that was stationed down there-that was over there-went over to the Mediterranean so they sent us down to assist in repairing destroyers down there, and we didn't stay there too long. Then I remember going in the Navy Yard at South Boston for repair work. Beth Steel did a lot of work on the ship to get her ready for the nuclear war: storage of any nuclear weapons and also a platform on the back of the ship where we could land a small helicopter. (11:10, Part 3)
From there we had to go through the fleet training so we went down to Guantanamo Bay for training on the Grand Canyon-which is, what, three weeks or something like that-and then back to Newport. I mention this because they usually. That was a lot of sea time for AD because people liked to get on them and just stay in port. Surprisingly, after I left the Grand Canyon I got assigned down at Fleet Training group at Guantanamo Bay. We couldn't take families down there. The families had been evacuated because Castro was acting up, and I had been down there less than a year when they opened it up and let the families down there.
DL: Well, things had quieted down after the missile crisis, had they not, things at Guantanamo, after the Cuban Missile Crisis was over and done? (12:38, Part 3)
PS: Oh yes, yes. That had been over, but the base was closed. Castro wouldn't let the workers come on the base. They had many, many workers.
PS: They had closed the gate except through some-
DL: I remember that now.
PS: -[13:03 fuel]. They had a desalinization plant built for water, and that was in place when I went down, but you couldn't get off the campus. There were a couple of companies of Marines stationed down there to patrol the perimeter area, and of course we had all the many ships that would come down there for training with us. That was a nice job too. We did a little sea duty ourselves, the instructors, on the ships. We'd go out and critique them, give them how good or bad they did. (13:34, Part 3)
From there I left and went to the staff of the Commandant of the First Naval District in Boston. I was assigned to deputy chief of staff for naval reserves. [Pause; searching through papers] I spent about two years at that job. That was fun because, again, it was a little traveling job because we were responsible for Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Massachusetts reserve facilities and we had to go and check on those for training and inspect them to see that they were doing what they were supposed to be doing. It all operated out of Boston when the Commandant was active. That has now disappeared.
After that two years I had three years to go to retirement and I got assigned as commanding officer of the Fleet Training Center at Newport, and that was war training, so I was in the training business for quite a long time.(15:04, Part 3)
DL: Sounds like it.
PS: But I had various schools there: signalman school, navigation school, fire-fighting school, all the many things that. A destroyer would send people over to get trained on small engines or fire-fighting, and we had all that equipment there to use and to train them, and also electronics training, radio, electronics. It was a full session. I was there for three [years.] That's where I retired later.
DL: Sounds like a full career.
PS: I don't know if I should tell you this story, but I will anyway. Of course at that point in the game I'm getting eligible for flag rank.
DL: Right. (16:06, Part 3)
PS: Well, I had a friend down in the bureau who was in the personnel business, and I called him several months before I was due for retirement and asked him what he thought my chances were for flag rank. He knew me well, and I knew him, and I gathered they'd been rehashing things down there. He said, "Pem, I tell you, we have two choices. We can either retire you come July 1 or make you a flag officer," and he says, "The choice was easy. You're going to be retired." [Laughs]
DL: The choice was easy?
PS: Laughingly he told me that. He didn't mean it in a derogatory way, you know, it was just a-.
DL: I'm afraid that's the only way I could have taken it, [Laughs] if I was you.
PS: Well, knowing him and knowing that I had a very slight chance as a flag rank, it didn't bother me any. [Laughs] Well anyway, I retired, and we all came and moved to Beaufort, South Carolina, and that's where I am now. (17:25, Part 3)
DL: Right. That's a beautiful area there.
PS: It sure is.
DL: We went by there and spent a weekend at Hilton Head last year.
PS: At Newport I was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal by the boss for service, which is nice to have.
DL: Right. Any other anecdotes from any phase of your career that you want to share with us?
PS: [Pause] I'll think of a million of them when I leave.
PS: [Pause] Well, let me see. I told a couple at a... You mean like "the choice was easy" one? [Laughs]
DL: [Laughs] Well, I've never seen two or three naval officers get together that they aren't telling sea stories right and left. (18:59, Part 3)
PS: Yes. [Pause] Why can't I think of one? Yes, I can think of one. This was on the Lang. Our division commander was Cdre. Don P. Moon, later Rear Admiral, the gentleman that shot himself in the southern France invasion. He was our division commander. He was a commander at the time. I was torpedo officer on the Lang. Don Moon was a very smart individual and he knew more than any commander I had ever met at that time. In fact, he'd listen in on the radio dah-dah, dah-dit circuits and he could... His initials were on some of the guns because he was at the gun factory and he knew all about those. The torpedoes at that time, you might recall, had magnetic exploder mechanisms on them.
DL: And they didn't work. [Laughs](20:18, Part 3)
PS: And they didn't work, but at the time we didn't really know that, when he was in. He called me into his room when he found out I was the torpedo officer. He said, "Southard, I want you to take one of those torpedo exploder mechanisms and take it out of the torpedo," but he says, "Arm it so it'll go," because it's the magnetic lines of force that'll activate it and make it go boom. He says, "Walk around the ship with it and see whereabouts on the ship that it actuates." Gosh, I was flabbergasted. So I went and got the chief torpedo man and told him my problem, and we went and grabbed all the books we could find on this torpedo exploder mechanism to arm it and do this.
DL: Was it easy enough to take them off of the torpedo? (21:17, Part 3)
PS: Well, we weren't sure at this time.
DL: Oh, you'd never done it. [Laughs]
PS: We'd never done it. Anyway, in the course of this study we found that it was the magnetic vertical lines of force which caused it to activate, and there was no way walking around the ship that we could make it do that. So, armed with that information, I went back to Cdre. Moon and told him. I said it won't work because it's the magnetic vertical lines of force passing under the ship-which has a magnetic signature-that will make it explode. He was satisfied with my answer, fortunately.
PS: But he was concerned about those things way back then. But on those eventually, when we got down in the war zone, we had them all set for six feet. They were running deep and we set them really for contact, even when you. You can disarm them entirely. (22:21, Part 3)
DL: Did they work better that way?
PS: Well, we wanted them to work on contact.
DL: Right, right.
PS: They were better if they worked on the other device because under the ship you'd get a much better explosive force and destructive force to the ship. But if they didn't go off, why, forget it. They worked at Vella Gulf. I don't know... No, because at that time we had all the ships set them for contact.
DL: Well now, you said he shot himself, intentionally? (22:56, Part 3)
PS: Yes, just before the invasion of southern France. The story was, the report. You remember the Germans got into the rehearsal in England? Some German torpedo boats got in and damaged a lot of the rehearsal things that he was in charge of, and he was a very intense man. If he didn't know it he went and looked it up. We always felt that his problem was that... Well, he just would... He'd do everything. He learned shorthand. Once in a while-here's an anecdote-he'd give the signalman a signal to send in shorthand, and the signalman would say, "Commodore, I can't read that," [Laughs] and he'd give it back to him, and the commodore would say, okay, and he'd write it in longhand.
DL: What a loss. What a waste.
PS: It was, because he was really a brilliant fellow, and there were many stories on him told. (24:01, Part 3)
DL: And he took personal responsibility?
PS: They said he took such responsibility. He knew as much about any operation as any expert on his staff did, and I think if he hadn't been so intense and want to know everything that he might not have felt that way about-and most of us that knew a little about him actually were not surprised when we heard that. But he was a good commodore. Some commodores get in ship's business, which skippers don't like. [Laughs]
PS: But promotions were rapid then and he wasn't there very long with me [before he got promoted.] Well, that's the best I can come up with [unclear 25:00] now.
DL: Right. Well that is good, and I do appreciate everything.
PS: All right. Now look, are you interested-? (25:08, Part 3)
[Break in recording]
PS: .in our rooms. They could be turned on during study hours, 19:00 to 22:00 I recall. My roommate, [Littleton 25:21, known as Brook] had to spend Xmas holidays at the Academy because he was "unsat" in math. Brook was a radio ham and understood electrical stuff. During Christmas he ran wires into cracks between the wood floor, from the radio electrical connection to the door, which he thumbtacked with a thumbtack connection on the edge of the door. The door closed, the circuit was closed; the door opened, the circuit opened. So we played the radio, low volume of course, and if the duty officer thought he heard music he would push the door open, radio now off, he didn't hear any music. We never got caught but the door did fly open frequently. [Laughs] (26:13, Part 3)
DL: [Laughs] That's funny.
PS: I was telling this to Betty for her-because she wanted an interview. He also had a ham radio transmitter and receiver under his desk first class year and he used to drop the antenna out the window to use it. It didn't have much range but he talked frequently to the US Navy Academy ham station, but he never told where he was. During June Week he told our company officer, Lt. Presley, about it and the next day we saw Lt. Presley was over there looking under all the desks. Everything was wood in those days and hiding things was fairly easy.
DL: Did he find it? (27:03, Part 3)
PS: I don't know whether he. No, he never found.... Well, this was during graduation week.
DL: So he had already taken it out by then.
PS: Presley asked a bunch of us over just for cocktails and things and Brook told the lieutenant this story, that he had this the whole year stuck under his desk, which you couldn't see unless you got way down and looked at it. The next day we saw Presley was going in every room looking under desks to see if anybody else...
PS: The fun days. Well, any questions, sir?
DL: I think we've covered everything. At this point I can't think of anything else. (27:53, Part 3)
[End of tape two, side one]
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