Glenn B. Davis Oral History Interview


Vice Admiral Glenn B. Davis (Ret.)
July 28-29, 1977
Interview #1
Interviewer is Donald R. Lennon.

Glenn Davis: My real interest in the military I believe began when I was about six years old at the time of the Spanish-American War. My father at that time was a captain in the Ohio National Guard which had been called into active duty because of the war. They were in Florida, to proceed to Cuba, and as the story was told to me the transport on which they were embarked had a collision in Tampa Bay and had to return to the dock. Shortly after that the authorities in Cuba notified them that they didn't need any more soldiers over there. So they went into a camp in Fernandina, Florida; and my father sent for my mother and myself to come on down. So that way I went to the Spanish-American War so to speak. The one interesting thing to me on that trip was that we had a long trip in those days from Ohio, and we had to change trains at a place called Yulee Junction. It's just Yulee now. We were met there. My father had come over on a little train from Fernandina consisting of a locomotive and a combination freight and passenger coach on it. The old locomotive was one with a big stack--a wood burning locomotive which was the only one I had ever seen.
Then through the years, I was a camp follower in the fact the National Guard always went to camp once a year for training, and we went with them until one day my father said to me, "You go to camp all the time so you might as well get on the payroll, if you can." I was at that time blowing a trumpet and I could bugle. So I was below age, but he managed to get a dispensation and I enlisted in the Ohio National Guard as a bugler.

Donald Lennon: How old were you?

Glenn Davis: I think I was about fifteen at that time. At about that time or shortly after that of my enlistment, Mr. Teddy Roosevelt came to Canton, Ohio, to dedicate the McKinley monument; and the National Guard was called out for the ceremony. We lined the streets from the railroad station up to the monument. They wanted each regiment that he passed to render honors by having their bugler blow "To the Colors" for the President. The colonel in my regiment selected me to blow it for the Fifth Ohio Regiment which was headquartered in Cleveland. It was a big day in my young life. I can't think of anything more particularly, except as I say, I was connected with that group then until I got ready to graduate from high school.
I thought I wanted to go to West Point, so I approached my Congressman on an appointment. He did not have any vacancies at West Point, but he did have one at the Naval Academy. He had already made his principal appointment to it. So he gave me the first alternate appointment. The boy whom he had given the principal appointment to came down to Annapolis to prep for the April entrance examinations, and he took a look at the place and didn't care much for it. He didn't think he would like that kind of a life, so he did not try to pass the entrance examinations. At that time they gave a backup entrance examination in June. So I saw this boy on the street when he came back home and he said that if I wanted to get in there, I had better start doing some studying. So I did. I studied a little and went down to Annapolis and took a six weeks crash course and took the entrance examination. So that started it. I entered the Naval Academy on July 3, 1909. Plebe year was the usual year with the highlight being the Army-Navy football game I guess principally, until it came time for our summer cruise.
My first practice cruise was the summer of 1910, and I went to sea on the old battleship MASSACHUSETTS. In that cruise we visited Plymouth, England, from where I had a side trip to London; Marseilles, France; Gibraltar; Madeira Islands; and the Azor Islands. That of course was very, very interesting to a lad who had never seen salt water before, although I did live close to Lake Erie. The next summer I went on the training cruise on the battleship IOWA, the old IOWA. On that cruise we visited Queenstown, Ireland. We had side trips to Cork and Blarney Castle and up the Killarney Lakes. We went to Kiel, Germany; with a side trip to Berlin and Potsdam; to Bergen, Norway; to Gibraltar; and then home. On this trip the visit to Blarney Castle was where I had the chance to kiss the Blarney Stone; and then the trip up to the Killarney Lakes is very, very beautiful trip and very enjoyable to all of us.
In Kiel, Germany, we had a side trip of about three days to Berlin; and while in Berlin a classmate of mine whose father was German before he became an American citizen had been an officer in a German outfit which at that time when we were there was stationed in Potsdam. His father had given him a letter of introduction to an officer who was then in command of that outfit to which his father had belonged as a lieutenant. So we went out to Potsdam to deliver the letter and to see him. Well when we got there, the gentleman to whom the letter was addressed was on leave and wasn't available; but one of the gentlemen who introduced himself as a count said that the crown prince was out there exercising his horse and that he would ask him if they could show us around Potsdam. We went out there, and he held up his hand, and the crown prince galloped up and stopped. He asked him if he could show these midshipmen around. Ironically the only thing there was to see, it being a cavalry post, was the horses and where they stabled them. That was all there was to be seen.
We had another experience in Berlin that I will always remember. A bunch of us were in a nightclub one night having dinner and when we called for the check, the waiter said, "This table can pay for nothing."
We said, "What's this all about?"
He pointed to another table where there were some German people in civilian clothes. He had had instructions from them that our table couldn't pay anything. We were in American Midshipman uniforms. So that made a very pleasant evening because none of us midshipmen had much money as far as I knew.

Donald Lennon: Did you find out who the people were?

Glenn Davis: No, we never found out. We thanked them but never knew much about them. Another thing that illustrates the efficiency of the German people to me at that time was when we first arrived; they lined us up on the railroad platform. There were people there from the German government that had a list of the hotels and places that midshipmen could stay, guaranteed as OK by the government of Germany and all of varying prices. You could pick the one that suited your pocketbook. So we had a very fine time in Berlin. I've always looked back on it with a great deal of pleasure.
The other place we stayed that time was Bergen, Norway. The Norway fiords when we went in there--the scenery is just wonderful because as you go right along you can almost touch the limbs of the trees that are hanging over the bank. The water is so deep right up to them. That is the highlights of that cruise. The academic period of the year is very similar to any college with the military end added to it.
My third cruise which would be the summer of 1912 was made on the battleship DELAWARE which was a unit in the Atlantic Fleet. We didn't make a European cruise. We were spread through the Atlantic Fleet on different ships, and my group of twelve of fourteen was on the DELAWARE. That summer was spent on cruising with the fleet. We were based at Newport, Rhode Island, and also up through Maine at Bar Harbor and places like that. It was strictly a training cruise.
In June of 1913 I graduated. My first ship assignment was to the KANSAS. I joined the KANSAS in Newport, Rhode Island, after a little leave. I joined the KANSAS on July 13. While on the KANSAS our first really interesting port was Genoa, Italy. That came up, as I understood and was told, because Josepheus Daniels, who was then Secretary of the Navy, saw that the Navy had been advertising for recruits by saying, "Join the Navy and see the world." He checked and saw that there had been no foreign cruise in the last four years; and since the enlistments were normally for four years, he decided to send us on a cruise. So the ships of the Atlantic fleet were sent over to the Mediterranean, and the ships separated. Two of us went to Genoa, some went to Marseilles, and some to other ports. But we were on the one that went to Genoa. We tied up there for a month with orders to let everybody have leave, and it wouldn't count against their annual leave. That was a very pleasant visit in there. While in Genoa I took a side trip with a couple of classmates. We went to Pisa and to Florence and to Venice and then Milan and then back to the ship again. After leaving the Mediterranean, we proceeded to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
In 1914 when the United States landed personnel at Veracruz and took over Veracruz, we were in the navy yard at Philadelphia. We were hurried back into commission and sent to join the forces at Veracruz by way of Venezuela to return the body of the Venezuelan minister who had died in Washington. So we went to La Guair�, Venezuela, and landed the boy and then proceeded to Veracruz. Of course by that time our Navy was all ashore. They had taken possession. So we hung around there for several months. There were some British and also some German ships in Veracruz at the time. One morning the German ships got underway and left, and the next day the British ships got underway and left. That night coming back from shore, we saw the signal search lights blinking, and we read enroute back to the ship that war had been declared. They had been forewarned to get out of there.

Donald Lennon: Were there any events in connection with the Veracruz incident that you were involved in?

Glenn Davis: No. None of the KANSAS force was landed, because they didn't need any more people ashore when we got there. So it was just a question of supporting the forces ashore until they were told to withdraw and ordered out of there. I used to watch the admiral of the British Fleet, Admiral Cradock. He was a great sailor. He used to sail around the harbor there. I haven't got the figures here, but I think he went down with his ship later when the Germans sank it. I don't think there is anything else there particularly, and a few things that I don't think I ought to talk about.
From Veracruz we went to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. At Port-au-Prince, Haiti, I was landed with six signalmen to establish a signal station on the roof of the French legation which was up a mountainside aways and could be seen from the ships in the harbor. Another officer and men were landed at the American legation which was downtown and could not be visually seen from a ship. They had a portable radio generator that they had to grind to get the juice to talk. At the French legation the French minister's wife and two daughters were with him. While not specified in my orders, part of my duties was to play bridge with these three ladies and sometimes go horseback riding with the two girls. On one of our horseback rides out through the countryside we were stopped by a native woman with a baby, and they talked their language back and forth which I couldn't understand. But the young lady I was with said that she wanted us to be the godfather and godmother of that baby. So we agreed and were. I never heard any more from them or anything else. I don't know who they were or whatever happened to them.
We were living at a little hotel up back of the legation aways, run by an Irishman. I mean we ate at that hotel. We actually lived at the legation itself. The signalmen were stationed in the garage, and I had a bedroom there. In the yard in the compound of the French legation was an ex-administration of Haiti, and they had guards outside to see that they didn't get out. They were fed by their own relatives and people who would bring them food. They would put it through the fence to them. One night after dinner, we stayed around for a little poker game at the hotel with the Irish hotel owner. There were two American naval officers, a drummer from Minneapolis who had missed the boat, and a Haitian in that group. It sounds like a story from Kipling pretty near, doesn't it? After we were there for about three or four weeks, we were ordered out. But that was my first, you might say, independent duty.
Then I was detached from the KANSAS in 1915 and went to the KENTUCKY which is an older ship but one that was being withdrawn from what they called Reserve Fleet at the time to train ROTC officers. They didn't call them ROTC at that time, but that's what they were. They were reserve officers. We spent the time patrolling the coast and training those people. Then when that was over the summer, we were ordered back to Veracruz. They landed quite a number of our seamen to make room for marines. We had quite a number of marines on board, a machine gun company. They had machine gun carts. So we went down to Veracruz again, and while there we patrolled the coast from different ports from Yucatan Peninsula around until we were ordered up to New Orleans for Mardi Gras in 1916. We had been down in Mexico about six months.
New Orleans at the Mardi Gras time was very wonderful. Our captain was going to be King Neptune, and they entertained us royally with tickets to every show and everything that was going on. We had a little trouble getting there, because when we got up to the entrance of the Mississippi we found that there was not enough water in the pass that we normally used to get us up there. We hadn't received any notice about it, but we had to wait a day or two while the army engineers were dredging there and got it so we could get over and go. Anyway it was rather interesting. Our captain sent a message to Washington requesting permission to go to Mobile instead of there because we couldn't get to New Orleans. The reply he got back from the Navy Department was, "We do not understand why you can't get to New Orleans." He sent word back that there was twenty-four feet of water on the bar and that the KENTUCKY drew twenty-six. That was his answer, but the reply came back from Washington to stay where we were until we could get to New Orleans. I guess they checked with the army. Anyway, after a few days we got up to New Orleans and had a wonderful time.
While we were there Mr. Villa raided Columbus, New Mexico, just a few days before we were supposed to leave. We were supposed to leave there and come on back up north in the United States. But we got a message right away to transfer all of our men with short term enlistments to the naval station for long termers and then go back to Veracruz. Well, we gave midnight liberty to half our crew the night after we got that message. Then next day we finished the transfers and we gave midnight to the other half of crew in New Orleans. We sailed the following morning without an absentee, which everybody thought was pretty wonderful, including the Secretary of the Navy. He sent a message to the ship, congratulating them on this and asking that his message be read out to all men at quarters. I read it to my division and then dismissed them. As they were walking away from the formation I heard one of the boys say, "Congratulating you for doing your duty." He didn't think much of it, but it was a nice crew. But they had been in Veracruz for six months. They knew that they were going back. There no liberty permitted for them in Veracruz. They hadn't had any liberty for six months.
I had arranged down there for one our men to play baseball. There were eight baseball teams on the ship. Most anybody that could carry a bat, we got into a team. I arranged with the Mexican authorities ashore to use a ball park on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. They wanted it on Wednesdays and on weekends for their city team to play. So this league I formed, we had all eight teams get in at least one game a week. The proposition was in arranging this ball field that I would give the Mexicans a beer concession, but no other funds. I didn't have to rent it or anything. So that was all right. Every afternoon with the two teams that had to play, we would go ashore with the men we could spare from the ship. We landed at the dock and marched them to the ball field which had a high board fence around it because there no liberty for them in the Mexican city. They could have their beer because the Mexicans were in there selling the beer to them. It worked very well. It helped our morale a lot.

Donald Lennon: What was the nature of the duty at Veracruz at this time?

Glenn Davis: If I'm not mistaken Huerta was the head in Mexico at that time, and there was unsettlement all along. We were just keeping a ship available down there. It was more of a standby. We didn't have any authority with anything. The officers could only go ashore but only during the daytime.

Donald Lennon: Showing the flag was the thing.

Glenn Davis: Yes. We went up to Tampico where the oil people were and back and forth at different ports. We never did have any serious trouble with any encounter. We were just available, you might say. We stayed there another three months, then they ordered us back to the United States. At that time we came back by way of Santo Domingo and landed that Marine machine gun company we had on board. We landed them in Santo Domingo, and then we proceeded on home.

Donald Lennon: Were you all concerned about the situation in Europe at this time?

Glenn Davis: Not ourselves as I remember, but I was just a young ensign and didn't know much of what was going on perhaps. But no, not so much as they were on the next ship I was on. Then things began to look a little hot.
I was detached from the KENTUCKY and went to the oil tanker MAUMEE. The MAUMEE had diesel engines in her. She was the first big surface ship with diesel engines. Admiral Nimitz, then a lieutenant, had been in Germany studying these engines with the diesel people and then had come back to the New York yard and built them. The ship was built at the Union Iron Works in San Francisco, but she was towed around to New York to get her engines. This was in 1916.

Donald Lennon: This was the first time you had been off a battleship since you had been in the service?

Glenn Davis: Yes. Of course, the KENTUCKY wasn't much of a battleship. She was battleship number six. The NORTH CAROLINA down there is fifty-five, isn't she? As I say, she had been in the reserve fleet, and they pulled her out just to train people. We had what we called the Plattsburg Camp afloat. They had a Plattsburg Camp for training Army officers, and that was a sort of start of consideration of the war because that was why they started training a lot of reserves a little bit more seriously than previously I think. Well, I went to the MAUMEE and joined her in the New York Navy Yard. After our shakedown cruise, we went down South with the fleet in the winter of 1916-17. During that time we became very conscious of the war situation.
You will find in my orders there where I'm ordered to examine for corresponding rates in the Navy the crews of several of our auxiliary ships, the coal carriers and colliers and ships. In fact I had to examine the crew of the CYCLOPS whose captain was a Captain Worley. Captain Worley had the CYCLOPS when it was lost. She disappeared, if you remember the history of later years. They were American citizens, all of them then, because they were in the Naval Auxiliary Service. What I had to do was go aboard and to try to sign them up and assign them a corresponding naval rank or rating to what they had in the service. We were doing that because if war came they were going to be put right into uniform right away.
We had gotten to Norfolk on the way home, and Mrs. Davis had come down there to meet me. We were in a hotel in Norfolk when I heard in the night this boy in the street calling, "Extra, Extra." I stuck my head out the window, and it was "War Declared." We were into the war. In due course we proceeded to go to St. Johns, Newfoundland, with a load of oil. We fueled the first destroyers that we sent to England. They came by there, and we fueled them and then proceeded with them to what had been designated as the war zone area, to the edge of that, and fueled them again so they would have enough fuel to go top speed into Queenstown or wherever they were headed for.

Donald Lennon: The old KEARSARGE was with that group, was it not?

Glenn Davis: The KEARSARGE was with the KENTUCKY down at Veracruz for awhile. We didn't have any destroyers named KEARSARGE. The KEARSARGE was the sister ship of the KENTUCKY. Taussig was in command of that outfit. When the first bunch of destroyers went over, he had been quoted as saying when he answered a signal when they would be ready, "I am ready when fueled." You've seen the picture of the "Return of the MAYFLOWER." That is based on those destroyers going over there. We did that, and then I think we came back to St. Johns and got more oil, and then we went back out there again. We laid out in the ocean at this particular point for days refueling anything that came by that needed it until a transport group came along. The commander had orders. He said to follow him; and we followed him in to St. Nazaire, France.
A little sidelight on my personal end of this is at that time when I left the United States, I was expecting a child in my family within weeks. The Navy Department had said that only life or death messages would be forwarded, and I thought that this was bound to be one or the other. But I got no word of anything, and weren't in St. Nazaire long enough, (only about twenty-four hours) when they sent us over to Queenstown to get rid of our oil. So I couldn't communicate in any way. When we got over to Queenstown, there still was no message for me--that was delivered to me anyway. I went ashore and went up to Admiral Sims' headquarters and got hold of the proper person and got permission to send a message home. He gave me the code name of the place to direct the reply to. So I went to the cable station and filed this. As I left the cable station, I met a friend of mine from the Class of 1915, and he was communication officer on Sim's staff. He said, "Congratulations."
I said, "What about?"
He said,, "You've got a son. The message has been here for ten days waiting for you to come in."
I said, "Well, why didn't somebody tell me this?"
I ran back into the cable officer to attempt to stop that message. Too late. It was on its way. So I went back to my ship, and the next day there came a little rowboat with a fellow rowing it and he came on board ship. He had a messenger sign and he delivered this message. It was addressed to "Ensign Glenn B. Davis. USS MAUMEE, Queenstown, Ireland." I thought my God, I'm going to be in jail. They named the ship and where it is in wartime. The code name didn't mean a thing apparently. When we got back for another load of oil, I got a couple of days leave and went home. I asked my mother-in-law--my wife was at home with her mother--how come she didn't address that in the way I sent it in the message. She said, "Oh, they had some funny name in there. I knew you were not on any ship as that. That didn't mean anything to me. I thought they had garbled something. So I sent it the other way."
But I never heard anything more. I was glad I didn't hear anything from it because her message brought me right up to date.
We escorted a group over and because we had a couple of four-inch guns aboard, we acted as sort of an escort for them too. The trip before that we had lost all of the regular officers but myself. I was the only regular officer left on. They turned the ship over to reserve officers. When we came back the next time, I was detached.

Donald Lennon: While you were on board, did you have any qualms about being on an oil transport rather than being on a warship?

Glenn Davis: Well, I can't remember particularly, although we had one night that alarmed me a little bit. It was when we were escorting this troop transport. In the moonlight I saw two streaks coming toward the ship that looked exactly like the wakes of torpedoes. I knew that black fish do the same thing. They would look exactly like that. Well, it was the middle of the night, the mid watch, and I didn't want to wake up the crew by sounding general alarm. I saw those things coming and I didn't think they were torpedoes. I gripped the rail and watched them. I thought to myself that if they were torpedoes that I was a dummy because I didn't wake everybody up and get them on deck. Well, those things came up right up to the side of the ship and they turned and went off. They were big black fish. I was a little nervous here thinking of whether I had made the right decision in not sounding the general alarm. I probably should have anyway under the circumstances, because I never saw a better imitation of a wake of a torpedo in my life than those fish made.
While coming out of St. Nazaire we saw a submarine periscope; and we had a general alarm for that, but he disappeared and we didn't see any torpedoes.

Donald Lennon: I was thinking that you would probably be restless being stuck on a transport ship instead of a warship.

Glenn Davis: Oh, I was anxious to get off of it for the purpose, yes. As it turned out, I didn't get into any combat during the First World War. I'll tell you what happened. The flagship of the Commander, Train, Atlantic was behind the torpedo nets down in Yorktown, Virginia, in the York River. I reported to him right after breakfast one morning, and he was leaving for New York that night. He said that he wanted me to go with him and that he was going to leave me in New York, the reason being that all of the ships that were being taken over and put in the Navy, he didn't see. They were all in New York, Boston, Philadelphia--merchant and cargo ships. That is what the train consisted of. They were taking them over, putting them in commission, and putting a crew on them, and then loading them, and sending them away. He said, "I don't see them, so I'm going to put you in New York, and you'll have repeated travel orders to Norfolk, Philadelphia and Boston and so forth. You'll look these ships over and keep me informed all about them."
So that's what happened. We went to New York and inspected one of the ships that was in New York harbor at the time, and then he went back to his command and arranged for office space for me down at South Ferry in New York and also arranged for a little yacht for me to get around in. I had a little yacht that the Navy had taken over.

Donald Lennon: Were you still an ensign at this time?

Glenn Davis: No. I had made junior lieutenant. I had made several of these trips around and inspected quite a few of the ships. It was a very interesting job because of what they were; they were all ex-merchant marines. You took the ship over. You said to the captain if he was an American citizen, "We'll make you a lieutenant commander. You go down on Sand Street here in New York and buy yourself a uniform."
As soon as the Navy Department got word about it, a couple of mail bags came aboard with Navy regulations and court martial orders and all of the dope he needed. In the meantime he was being loaded and probably sailing in the next day or so in a convoy. One of them came back one time, and I went to see him; and the captain said, "I'm certainly glad to see you. I've had a chance to read these regulations over coming home. I think I could be court martialed for what I did going over."
I said, "What's the matter?"
He said, "Well, you know you have to make decisions; and I made decisions and I didn't read the book yet; but I read the book and I don't know whether I should have made that decision or not."
Well, I told him, "Listen, what we need are people who can get ships from here to there. You handle this ship just like you have always handled it and make the decisions; and when you get a chance, read the book; and maybe if you find out something, all right; but don't worry too much about court martials."
He said, "Thank goodness for that."
Shortly after that they organized what they called the Naval Overseas Transportation Service with headquarters in New York and took this on. It was a long way from the Train Atlantic Fleet. So I was detached from Admiral Rogers' staff and ordered first to the receiving station for transportation to Europe. But they canceled the orders right away, and I didn't even get there. They ordered me to the Naval Overseas Transportation Service in New York, I guess, because I had been doing this work up to that time. So I reported there, and that is where I stayed during the war. It was a great experience too, though not from the standpoint of combat or anything like that; but in dealing with the merchant marine, I learned an awful lot. I was twenty-six years old and I was dealing with people forty and fifty years old who were captains of these ships that we needed.
They had to be handled properly in my opinion, otherwise they could turn in their suit if they wanted to and resign. In fact the captain on the MAUMEE just practically did that one time. We were in the Boston Navy Yard having some repairs, and that is where I was detached. He had me go up to the commandant's office with him to a conference that they had on repairs of ships. In the meantime the admiral who had inspected the dock where the MAUMEE was tied up didn't like it. He said that the dock was dirty alongside the MAUMEE, that it wasn't clean. He restricted the MAUMEE's crew to the ship, so they couldn't leave the navy yard. The commanding officer told the admiral of the yard that his wife, Mrs. Anderson, was arriving in Boston on such and such a train, and he was going to meet her regardless of this order; and if there was going to be any objections to it, they could have his uniform right then and there.

Donald Lennon: Could he do that?

Glenn Davis: He could give his resignation right then and there. They could have put him in irons and locked him up if they wanted to. But he left the conference, and we went back to the ship. He was getting out of uniform and getting into civilian clothes. The admiral's automobile arrived on the dock, and it had a Marine for a driver. He came aboard and he said, "Orders from the admiral. This car is for the captain to take to the railroad to meet his wife."
The captain said, "You return to the admiral and say that I don't want this car."
He went and pretty soon he was back again and said, "The admiral says that you have to use this car."
So he did. He took it and went to the station and got his wife, and that ended the whole episode. But anyway it was a very interesting duty for me with those people because I enjoyed getting their slant on things. They were all good sailing men. They knew how to get things over, and just because they didn't have all of the Navy regulations at that particular time didn't make any difference. I had one fellow that we ordered from New York to Philadelphia to load. He had come back to New York and he was empty, and we said that the cargo was in Philadelphia. Well, they were having a party that night for the reserves in New York. I didn't realize it at the time, but it wouldn't have made any difference. I would have had to order him anyway. But he came in to see me in the afternoon about his orders. He said, "You know I need fresh water."
I said, "Haven't you got enough fresh water on board to get from here to Philadelphia?"
He said, "Well, I don't know. It's kind of questionable."
I said, "You have got some evaporators on board, haven't you?"
He said, "Yes, but we never use them."
I said, "Well you could, couldn't you?"
He said, "Yes, I guess we could; but they only make about twelve hundred gallons a day."
Then I said, "How much do you use?"
He told me. I said, "If you start those evaps right away, how long does it take you to get to Philadelphia?"
He said, "Four days."
I said, "Well, if you start them right away, in four days you'll make up enough water for another day and that's five days. Don't you think you can get to Philadelphia in five days? Wait a minute, supposing our positions are changed. You're sitting here, and I'm telling you what you're telling me. What would you tell me?"
He said, "I'd tell him to go."
I said, "You got it. That's it."
But he wanted to go that party that night, and he was hoping he could lay over for the time of that party.
Then after the MAUMEE, I went to the Naval Overseas Transportation Service. I was detached from there in 1919 and ordered to a post graduate course in ordnance engineering in the Navy Department headquarters. In that course I spent some time at the Naval Academy, the Powder Factory at Indian Head, the proving ground at Indian Head, at the naval gun factory, Midville Steel Company, Edgewood Arsenal for Gas Warfare and finished that up in 1921. I was detached after that cruise and then ordered to the TENNESSEE which was on the west coast. I joined the TENNESSEE in July, 1921 at Seattle, Washington. I was on there until 1924. She was engaged as a unit of the Pacific Fleet in gunnery and battle training and maneuvers all up and down the west coast from Puget Sound to Panama. We operated in Puget Sound in the summertime and we operated in Panama in the wintertime and going back and forth stopped in San Francisco.

Donald Lennon: Wasn't it rather boring after a while just being involved in training and maneuvering exercises?

Glenn Davis: Yes, it can be. You are ready to leave usually when the time comes, looking for something else again; but there is usually something going on of interest. Of course that cruise was a very happy cruise in one respect in particular. That was a period of fuel economy right after the war, and the cruising of the ships was restricted quite a lot. So they were in port an awful lot, and the families followed us all up and down the coast. My family was living in Long Beach, California, which was our primary base. When we would go to Puget Sound, they would follow to San Francisco and stay and then on up when we went up and the same on the way back. We had our regular target practices during the year which was when we won those trophies as champions. But it was a very happy cruise, and she was one of the new ships. She had just gone into commission in 1920 or 1921. Our first competition in gunnery was in 1921. I don't know of anything else that I can point to. Panama was always interesting, I thought.
Then from the TENNESSEE I was ordered ashore to the naval proving ground at Dahlgren, Virginia. I was experimental officer there and I was there for three years from 1924 to 1927. That again was very interesting because it was a shore duty in which you still had a lot of professional work. In fact it was all professional work, testing guns, testing armor, testing projectiles, testing powder, testing high explosives and airplane bombs and what have you. As experimental officer it was particularly interesting during that time, because sometimes they worked and sometimes they didn't. Dahlgren is a very small area down there in Virginia somewhat east of Fredericksburg and on the Potomac; and we didn't have a large number of people. Most of the employees were civilian employees. But we had nice living quarters and conditions. In 1927 I was detached from Dahlgren and ordered to the WYOMING. I was gunnery officer on the WYOMING in 1927. The WYOMING was the flag ship of the Atlantic Fleet, the scouting force of the Atlantic Fleet as they called it then. Again it being peacetime we spent the time in drills and maneuvers and battle practices and gunnery practices in the Atlantic and Caribbean. As I say, I was the gunnery officer on that ship. We wintered in Guantanamo and sometimes in Panama. In the summer we sailed up the coast to Bar Harbor and different places. We operated out of Newport Harbor generally, but nothing other than just normal ship operations.
Only one thing happened on that cruise that I can remember, and I really wasn't involved in that directly. It was while we were off on another ship operating with them on target practice. The old VESTRUS was sinking off of Hampton Roads, and they sent the WYOMING over there to rescue the people and bring them in. But I was not on the ship then. We had all of the people that they saved off of their aboard the ship when I came back and joined it. There is nothing else that I can think of that is noteworthy or interesting.
From the WYOMING I again went to shore duty in 1930 to 1932 in the Bureau of Ordnance in the Navy Department in Washington. I had the gun section. I was chief of the gun section which was responsible for the manufacture and proof and putting aboard ship all of the big caliber guns. That was routine business work.
In 1932 I was detached from that job and put in command of the destroyer BLAKELEY. She was destroyer number one hundred and fifty. I joined her in June, 1932, at the navy yard in Boston. We proceeded to Norfolk shortly after I joined her where the division formed. We had five boats. We were all ordered to join the Pacific Fleet. So we proceeded under the division commander to San Diego. Shortly after we left Norfolk we got hurricane warnings and we had a tugboat that was coming up from Panama to Guantanamo that got hit with it quite badly apparently but wasn't damaged. I mentioned that because it comes in a little later in the story. Well anyway we didn't have as good weather reporting in those days as they have now; so the division commander, thinking the way the reports were coming in that we were going to run right into it, turned us around and ran us back away. But it ended up that we got right into the hurricane, and it was kind of nasty. In fact it was the only time in my Navy career that I've seen the signal "Commanders take charge, save your ship." So we broke up. Each of us fixed our own speed and course and so forth to satisfy ourselves. Within thirty minutes I couldn't see one of the others. Of course the weather was bad anyway, and the rain was coming in.

Donald Lennon: Was there any danger of your colliding?

Glenn Davis: No. We separated too fast for that. Each captain picked up a course. I got a course and a speed--I had steerage--and I rolled and rolled like hell.

Donald Lennon: How can you maintain a course in a hurricane like that?

Glenn Davis: You can do it only by your engines, by maintaining enough power; and even then it will knock you off a little, and you have to correct. We were riding very easy, but along about that time we got word that this tug boat was in distress, and we were to hunt for him and aid him. He had left Guantanamo and come up and got north of Cuba just in time to run into the same damned hurricane that had curved around like that. So he ran into it twice. So we all started out. They told him to fire rockets and everything, but none of us could go very fast because of the storm. The seas were high and very terrific. Well, the next morning the sun came out, and we all got a sight to see where we were. We got word from him where he was, and he was doing better than we were. He was way ahead of us, way up towards Norfolk by the time that we got his message. So that turned out to be very good. So we joined up again with the division and went on into Guantanamo and down to Panama, through the canal and to San Diego. During those two years we operated with the Pacific Fleet in the usual training, maneuvers, gunnery, fleet problems and things like that.
I was detached from the BLAKELEY in 1934 and ordered to the proving ground again as executive officer. I stayed there until 1937 on this shore station duty. As executive officer you're number two on the station. You are not involved in the detail of the work that's going on but rather in the administrative end of the whole thing with the civilians, the quarters, the houses and all of that sort of thing. It's like being the manager of a city on a small scale.
In 1937 I was detached and went to the PHILADELPHIA and assembled the crew. We went into commission September, 1937. We made our shakedown cruise to Bermuda, Havana, and other Caribbean ports including San Juan. We also made a trip up the coast to Bar Harbor and Portland. This is all independent work, I mean before we joined the fleet. In 1938 we joined the fleet and were picked as flag ship of one of the cruiser divisions. Admiral Todd came aboard. Let me step back a little. While we were still operating independently, we took President Roosevelt on his fishing trip. We picked him up at Charleston, South Carolina. He didn't want any ports. This was a sea going trip. We proceeded down into the area of Puerto Rico and we would stop, and he would go fishing. When he got tired of fishing, we would go on somewhere else.

Donald Lennon: That's not exactly the kind of ship you use for a fishing boat, is it?

Glenn Davis: No. We would have to lower a lifeboat and that is rather interesting considering his handicap. Of course the Secret Service came aboard ahead of time and told us all about what he needed and looked over his quarters, the flag quarters where he would be. We had a special gangway put on. It was a wide gangway and very substantial, wide enough so that his aide could go down the gangway with him. You know he always had his aide as a sort of crutch with him. Also I had reeved off all new hoisting lines to one of the life boats to make sure I didn't have a line carry away if I had him in it for any reason or other, never thinking that that was what he was going to use. We had what was his so-called fishing boat on board that he had taken to different places, and that is what we thought he would use. But when he got there, being an old sailor like he was and loving the Navy, the first thing he did was to take off his braces. His valet would lift him from one chair to another. He didn't care because he was with friends. He never thought about how is looked. Then he announced that he was going to use one of the lifeboats to go fishing. Well I had a special life preserver covered with white canvas so we could easily pick him up. I thought we would lower the boat in the water and bring it alongside of the gangway and put him in it. No sir. We would just lower the boat down from the davits to the gunwhale of the main deck and gripe her into the ship's side. The crew of the boat is in it, and we would life him up and set him down in the that boat with her hanging over the water and then let the gripes go and let her swing out and drop the boat in the water. Well, I don't know if he tried to worry us or not, but I was always glad to see it get down there all right. He wouldn't put the life preserver on. All the crew had to wear them, but he wouldn't wear one.

Donald Lennon: Didn't that make you feel uneasy?

Glenn Davis: Sure, but we would always hope for the best. But he was a good swimmer of course. He didn't use his legs but he was a good swimmer. On the first trip when they came back, we thought he would come to the gangway and we would lift him out of the boat and bring him up the gangway. No sir. He came in under the falls that you hoist a boat with. He told the coxswain to bring him in under there. We hooked the boat on, took the lines for the boat to the winch, hoisted her right on out of the water with him and the crew in there, up to level of the deck, and griped her in. The valet had his little cart down there and he reached in and lifted him up and set him in his cart down there and he reached in and lifted him up and set him in his cart and wheeled him away. Then we would secure the boat to the davits. That went on every time that he went fishing.

Donald Lennon: When you let the boat down, was the crew on board the boat, too?

Glenn Davis: Oh, yes, the crew was always in the lifeboat. We thought they would bring the boat alongside. It was a power boat, and they could bring it alongside the gangway, and he could get in it from the gangway. But no, he was riding it all the way to the water and all the way up. He was one of the shipmates of course. He would go to the movies. I've got a picture where he is sitting at the movies on the PHILADELPHIA. He didn't put his braces on. The valet would wheel him back in his cart, and here with the crew all assembled to lift him out by his arms and sit down in a chair too see the movie. He figured he was just one of the crew. He was just with friends, and it didn't worry him a bit.

Donald Lennon: Were any of his family or aides there with him?

Glenn Davis: Yes. He had his aides. His naval aide was there and two or three others were along on the trip. I think the military aide was there too and also a couple of civilians. But they had quarters somewhere else. We had to have special arrangements in his quarters. His valet slept on a mattress across his door after he got him to bed. He smoked; that is what worried us the most. He was a cigarette smoker, and they told us--I didn't see it because I wasn't in there when he went to bed--that he would smoke in bed. That worried me more than anything else, that he might accidentally set fire to himself. He gave a nice dinner party in his mess for the captain and myself and his aides.

Donald Lennon: How did he get up to the flag quarters, from one deck to the other?

Glenn Davis: The main deck on the PHILADELPHIA is a flush deck all along. His quarters were right off the main deck; but we wouldn't have had any difficulty the way they handled the thing. He gave this dinner party for us. He was sitting at his desk when we went in, and he swung around in his chair and talked until it was time to eat. The valet came in and lifted him out of that chair and sat him at the head of the table. We had a nice dinner and a nice talk. He told us a story about being surprised one time and about having to give a toast. I don't remember now the circumstances, but he was at the table and he had his braces on, but they were bent. Anyway, it turned out that he had to get up and give a toast. He said, "Well, I just stuck a leg out and snapped the braces and got a hold of the table and pulled myself up and gave the toast." Also on that cruise we touched a coral head and punched a hole in us. He took us to a place where we shouldn't have been. It flooded one compartment.

Donald Lennon: Whose responsibility was that?

Glenn Davis: Of course the captain is always responsible, but nothing ever came of this. We were going into Samna Bay, and it was rolling pretty good. He wanted to go in there. The charts showed that everything was all right but with the sea rolling, we touched on one of the coral heads. As I say, we contained the water in there; and when we got to Philadelphia yard, they put us in dry dock and drained her out and patched up the opening; and that's all there was to that. If it had happened under different circumstances, there would have been an investigation I suppose. It looked perfectly all right where we were going--in other words the situation wasn't bad enough for anyone to say, "Well Mr. President we can't do that. We can't go in there." We brought him back to Charleston. Of course the governor of South Carolina and all of the politicos were down at the dock to see him. When they brought him out in his little cart, of course he had his braces on then. They stopped him behind a gun mount where they couldn't see him from the dock and pulled his legs out and pulled him up onto his legs and then walked him around to the front and down the gangway to the dock. The point I want to make is that to the dock. The point I want to make is that he felt so at home with the Navy, he didn't hide anything from them. He wasn't embarrassed or anything with any of them.

Donald Lennon: I'm sure it must have been a relief to get rid of those braces.

Glenn Davis: It must have been.
We went into Havana on one of our trips when Mr. Batista was a power behind the throne down there, and the actual President and Batista came to call and took the salute. Batista took the salute too although he wasn't officially in any office at that time. He was just running the place.
When I went into Norfolk in 1939, my son was graduating in 1939 from the University of North Carolina. This was in May, and my relief was to arrive the day the ship was due to leave. I was all packed. The man who was to relieve me walked aboard the gangway and we shook hands. I walked off of the gangway; the cranes lifted the gangway off onto the dock; and the PHILADELPHIA left. When I got off, I went down to North Carolina for his graduation.
Then after the PHILADELPHIA I was again ordered back to Washington, to the Bureau of Ordnance, and became assistant chief of the bureau. I was there until July, 1942. During that period of course was when we were building a two-ocean Navy. It was a very busy period with that, and we had lots of material to get and we had to build some new ordnance plants. We built one down in Georgia and we built one out in Canton, Ohio. We built one in Louisville, Kentucky. We built in different places because the manufacturing concerns couldn't handle a whole order. It was a good thing we built them because the war came along and we needed them all.

Donald Lennon: What was the feeling between 1939 and December, 1941? Was there a feeling that the United States was eventually going to be dragged into this, that it was just a matter of when?

Glenn Davis: Yes. That's right. That was the feeling of all the people I was with. We couldn't see any way to escape it with all the things that we were doing. We were neutral presumably, but you will find in those orders somewhere there is a letter from Canada, for instance, on the efficiency of the ships and the good condition of the destroyers and the nice turnover that was made when those destroyers were turned over to Britain and Canada. We did that. We sent stuff down to the French down in the islands, some bomb stuff. As you know we had destroyers cruising the Atlantic out there. The Germans didn't think we were so neutral, I'm sure of that. But there was no question; we all felt that it was just a question of when. We did the best we could to get everything ready in that case. The president didn't give us any reason to doubt but what it was going to happen either. I mean by that, all of these things he was doing. I remember an aide to CNO brought me an order one time on a written note to do some one of these things. I said to him, "Listen, we're not at war yet. Should we do this?" He showed me this note and down at the bottom was "F.D.R." I said, "Well all right. Here we go." As I say we were really building these plants and getting the ordnance and encouraging the manufactures--for instance American Locomotive--to build stuff for us and also the Norden bomb sight people. All of them we rewarded with permission to fly the Navy E for "excellence." Going out there to present these awards was part of the duty.

Donald Lennon: What was the nature of the order that had F.D.R.'s initials?

Glenn Davis: It was about the delivery of something to one of the allies. I don't remember exactly what it was. There was no secret about much of it. The destroyer deal was certainly out in the open. We couldn't keep that secret. I don't know that he wanted to keep it secret.
I was detached from the bureau in July, 1942, and ordered to the WASHINGTON. I took command of the WASHINGTON in the New York Navy Yard, where one of her turrets was under repair. In the middle of August we left for the South Pacific by way of the Panama Canal. I had three destroyers as escort.

Donald Lennon: During the period between December, 1941 and July, 1942 when you were ordered to the WASHINGTON, what was your feeling?

Glenn Davis: My feeling was to get to sea as fast as I could. I admit I was very happily surprised when the detail officer called me on the telephone and told me that they were writing my orders to sea. I said, "Where am I going?" He said, "I can't tell you right now, but I think you'll like it." That's all I knew then until they were written out and given to me. Of course I couldn't ask for a better job, because at that time it was one of the two new battleships that we had.

Donald Lennon: That was probably the pick of assignments, wasn't it?

Glenn Davis: It was as far as the battleships were concerned--anyway in my opinion. The voyage was uneventful to Panama. There we fueled as full as possible including double bottoms, as we had to have oil enough to fuel our destroyers en route, and then proceeded through the canal.
It was sort of a tight fit for those ships to go through the canal because our beam was a couple of inches or so over a hundred and eight feet and the width of the canal being only a hundred and ten, it didn't leave too much on each side. They put three pilots on board the WASHINGTON, one on the bridge and one at each side at the point of maximum width of the ship, the maximum beam. These two that were down on the sides of the ship each had T-squares, and they were connected by telephone to the master pilot on the bridge. As we would go through a lock, you could hear them calling out, as the ship veered a little right or left, the distance they were from the wall of the lock. Finally you would get the cry of "rubbing" and see a little cloud of cement dust come up where it touched. But there was no damage of any kind except that we had to take our gangway in of course and we had to take the fitting, the bolts, that were secured to the side of the ship, we had to cut them off before we went through in order to have them to put back on again. Also, we had to fly our airplanes across. We had two catapults with a plane on each catapult. We had to fly them over to the Pacific side and pick them up after we got over there because their wings stuck out, and we couldn't get them in far enough. They would have been damaged by the lamp posts that were alongside the canal locks. But everything went smoothly, and we didn't stop on the Pacific side. We just kept going and got out into the Bay of Panama where we had room enough and picked up our airplanes and hoisted them aboard. Then we put some ship fitters over the side with torches and welding gear and welded back the bolts, the I-bolt fittings, for our gangway underway. We put them on a stage that we hung over the side, and they worked there while we still kept going.
The trip was uneventful all the way to Tongatabu in the Tonga Islands, which was where we stopped first. En route we did have the usual ceremony for crossing the equator. We fueled the destroyers as necessary en route. When we got to Tongatabu we found that the SOUTH DAKOTA, which had preceded us by a short period of time, had damaged herself a little with a coral head and had gone back to Pearl Harbor. Admiral Lee, who was the division commander who was on board her, was waiting there for the WASHINGTON and transferred his flag immediately to us. While we were there we fueled the whole ship and provisioned as far as we could with what was available. We had some store ships there in port. Then we were ready to sail again.
We left there to act as covering force for the force which was replenishing Guadalcanal with provisions and with reinforcements. That was our main duty for some time. Our base port after we left Tongatabu was in Noumea, New Caledonia; and we operated out of there for a time and would go out in the Coral Sea and just patrol. We would see the Japanese search planes although they would never come close enough for us to hit them. We did knock one down one day I think, but mostly they stayed out of gun range. There were no surface ships.

Donald Lennon: Of course the WASHINGTON was one of the first great super fortresses to be completed and go to the Pacific. How did people react, both naval personnel and others?

Glenn Davis: Of course they were very happy to see us for the reason that while they had not had any contact with large surface ships at that time, there was always a chance that they would have. They needed and liked to have one of the big boys around that could help with any situation that arose. In addition those new ships had a great anti-aircraft battery. As the war proceeded that became almost their principal duty, protecting the carriers and the other ships of the task force against airplane attack, helping with their fine battery of aircraft guns that they had.

Donald Lennon: Were personnel awed by the size and splendor of the WASHINGTON?

Glenn Davis: I don't think so. They were pretty blasé those fellows by the time we got out there. I know one cruiser that had been torpedoed and was making its way to port in Espiritu Santo. We were assigned to more or less cover him. We would disappear over the horizon and then we would come back. A classmate of mine was the captain of that cruiser and of course he was going very slowly, and I didn't want to go as slow as he was because of the danger of a submarine attack. So we would run around and go some distance away and then come back. He told me later that he was always glad to see me come back over the horizon to know that I was there, because he didn't have good protection. But he got in without any attack, thank goodness. During that period up until we were put into the Guadalcanal picture, in the sense of actually going to fight, our duty was primarily patrol duty, protection of the carriers. The carriers would go up and launch their airplanes to help cover the forces at Guadalcanal and cover the replenishment forces that were going in.
We were with them until the situation got so bad in Guadalcanal with the surface ships of the Japs coming down through the so-called "Slot." Admiral Halsey decided to throw the two of us in after he had lost those cruisers, and they had been badly beaten up. So we were operating at that time with the ENTERPRISE. The ENTERPRISE had been damaged in the Santa Cruz Island affair and still had workmen aboard repairing the elevator when she took off, and we were with her, the SOUTH DAKOTA and the WASHINGTON. The order from Admiral Halsey was to proceed to the Guadalcanal area because they had word of another bombardment force of the Japs coming down. We left the ENTERPRISE, but they gave us four destroyers and we proceeded up. We got up to the Savo Island area about midnight and went around Savo Island. We kept it on our starboard side. We had not been given a call number because we had been organized so fast, I think. We heard on the talk between ships on our radio what appeared to be and was the little "Mosquito Fleet" that was up there--the little torpedo boats--saying, "Here come two big ones. I don't know whose they are." That was the first thing we heard. That worried us a little. The thought that we had come that far when we hadn't been in any surface engagement before only to be torpedoed by one of our own forces that didn't know who we were, was a little startling. So Admiral Lee went up on his radio and called the Guadalcanal station and asked them first for information. They said that they didn't recognize us. They hadn't been shipmates with General Vandergift at one time in China, he told them something to this effect, "Tell your big boss that China Lee is out here." Then we heard these other people coming up, and he called in to them again to ask the boss to call off his boys. Then they came back up on the air, the little torpedo boats, and said, "We understand." Well that was all. We had gotten by without any trouble.
Shortly after we got inside we found that the Japs weren't there yet. We were ahead of them. But shortly after we turned west to head towards Guadalcanal, we picked up a ship on our radar. It turned west to head towards Guadalcanal, we picked up a ship on our radar. It turned out to be a Jap cruiser. We opened up on him, but he turned and left out of range, and we didn't hit him. We were headed west and we turned again to the northwest to go out through the channel between Guadalcanal and Savo Island. Shortly they opened fire with torpedoes and some guns against our four destroyers primarily. One of them had his bow shot off and another was burning. You could count the ribs in his ship and the third one was badly damaged.

Donald Lennon: What ships were these?

Glenn Davis: The names? Well let's see, the WALKE was the leader. Then they had the PRESTON, the BENHAM and the GWIN. The PRESTON was burning. The BENHAM was damaged in this exchange, and the GWIN was damaged but as badly as any of the rest of them. We were continuing on, and I changed course to keep the burning ship between me and the Japs to keep from being silhouetted. As we went by these ships where there were men in the water--the crews from these ships--we threw over life rafts to them. One of the boys called back up, "Go get them, big boy." None of them asked to be picked up or anything. So we proceeded by them.
The SOUTH DAKOTA, who was behind me, in order to miss the BENHAM which had been damaged, had to go the other way; and he got silhouetted by the fire of the burning PRESTON; and the Japs just opened up all over him. I didn't get hit. We had splashes around that we could see, but the SOUTH DAKOTA absorbed practically all of the firing and was badly damaged and lost her radar. To make things worse the circuit breakers opened on her, and she lost power for awhile on her turrets and guns. The result was that she was shortly out of action, and she departed.
In the meantime we had picked up this large blimp on our radar. It looked like one of the big ships, and we began tracking it and opened up fire on it. That was the one that turned out to be the KIRISHIMA, the Jap battleship. A couple of our five-inch guns were firing star shells and the other five-inch guns were firing on cruisers and anything they could see. The Japs had turned on their searchlights to pick up the SOUTH DAKOTA. They never put them on me. I don't know why they didn't unless they were so involved with the other ship that they didn't see me. We got quite a number of hits. I think after the war we were told that there was a good seven or more sixteen-inch hits in her and numerous five-inch. We were close. We were within eighty-four hundred years, which is pretty close for a ship that is able to shoot from thirty or forty thousand. The waters aren't too wide there anyway. But anyway she went out of action. We silenced her all right.
Then there was what appeared to be a torpedo attack. In other words our lookouts reported torpedoes headed towards us, and we maneuvered back and forth and managed to miss any of them that were there. There were numerous of those reports. How many were actually torpedoes, I don't know. I think we had some seventeen or eighteen reports of torpedoes coming. If there were some, we dodged them. There were some, I'm sure, because their destroyers had put in that attack.
Then shortly after that they apparently decided to withdraw, because they put up a big smoke screen and headed back north. At that time Admiral Lee was on the bridge with me. He turned and he said, "Glenn, let's get out of here." Of course we were all alone by that time. The destroyers were gone; the SOUTH DAKOTA was gone. So we turned and went out. We couldn't raise the SOUTH DAKOTA because her antennas had been shot down, and the emergency radios weren't working. They got them repaired shortly, because on our way out we raised her and set up a rendezvous point. They just went back out to the open sea because the captain realized that she was no good to us. She was a liability, so to speak. So that practically ended that affair. We did have the next morning shortly after daylight a report of a group of Japanese planes coming in from the north, so we had to go back to general quarters again. But actually they did not make any contact. We had them on the radar, but they turned and went on. Whether they had dumped their torpedoes before, I don't know. Anyway they didn't come in.
So then we returned with the SOUTH DAKOTA to Noumea. The SOUTH DAKOTA later on came all the way back east for repair and was heralded as battleship "X" because in those days they couldn't tell the names. It just came out in the paper in big headlines about battleship "X."

Donald Lennon: It was the engagement at Savo Island for which you received the Navy Cross, wasn't it?

Glenn Davis: Yes. That's right. For some time after that because there were no more heavy ships coming down to Guadalcanal, they (the Japs) did send some smaller ships down and they landed some of their men. But we made no more contact with anybody other than one submarine contact when we were on one of our patrols. We didn't see the submarine at all. We were at dawn alert. Every morning and every evening we went to general quarters and manned the batteries because those were the times when the airplanes liked to come in down-sun so you would be blinded by seeing them. My orderly was looking aft a little bit and he said, "Captain, here comes a torpedo." So sure enough there was a streak, and I turned the ship to avoid, and there were two of them. One of them blew up in my wake--just exploded in the wake of the ship. The other one missed the stern and went on through and then surfaced on the other side of me, and we could see the torpedo there before it sank. It came up to the surface and was just bobbing around there. So we didn't get hit that time.

Donald Lennon: The one that blew up in your wake gave quite a concussion, didn't it?

Glenn Davis: It did. You felt that and you saw the big smoke and the water go up. She was under water when she hit the wake. I don't know why that should have caused her to go, but she did.
Then we had normal patrols, boring periods of time with not much to do except drill and be alert. We did cover, I think, the New Georgia activities with the cruisers. We proceeded up with an aircraft carrier to be in the area if they needed any help, which they didn't. So we actually made no contact with the enemy. I had been detached before the operation with New Georgia and I had been promoted.

Donald Lennon: Was there any other involvement in the Solomon Island campaign?

Glenn Davis: Only to cover the forces as they went up. It was all done practically by cruisers, destroyers and airplanes and the transports that went in. Those were very close waters, and they didn't want to risk their big new ships in there when they hadn't seen any Jap ships yet to fight except that group that came down there. We were there and we went up with them, but we stayed out unless they yelled for help or unless they needed something sent in.
I was detached from the WASHINGTON and promoted and given command of Battleship Division Eight. Battleship Division Eight consisted at that time of the INDIANA and the MASSACHUSETTS. They were the next two big ships. I raised my flag as commander of the division on the MASSACHUSETTS as flagship. There again there was lots of drilling until the Gilberts campaign came on. We were assigned with certain aircraft groups. At this time the Navy began to use the group business with the carriers with a couple of battleships with them and some cruisers and destroyers with each group. We were split up and put with them. We didn't operate as a separate battleship force except for a few times after that. In the Gilberts campaign we were with the MAKIN force that was landing there, but the surface ships had no attacks except by air. We were always fighting the airplanes. None of my ships was hit by any of those attacks. After the Gilberts were secured, we left there and went back to Efate which was in the same group of islands in the New Hebrides. But en route we stopped and bombarded the Island of Nauru. There was no retaliation. We got no return fire of any consequence. If any, it was very small caliber stuff. After that bombardment we proceeded on to base and went through a rest period and got ready for the next campaign, which was the Marshalls.
Again when we went to the Marshalls, we were at the beginning. My division set up to bombard Kwajalein before the landings. That was carried out and the night after the bombardment we . . . My flagship was the INDIANA. I shifted from the MASSACHUSETTS to the INDIANA at various times depending on the availability of the ship, whichever one was there. If they were both there, I was usually in the MASSACHUSETTS because that was really my flagship. But if the MASSACHUSETTS had to be away for some reason or other, I would shift flag to the INDIANA. So I was not always in the same ship. The INDIANA was my flagship at that particular time and they were detailed as a single ship operation to fuel destroyers. So we started fueling them at night. They had a bright moonlight, and we fueled them until about two o'clock in the morning when the moon set. They told us to stop and continue the next morning. I had been up watching this fueling, although I had nothing to do with it particularly, because my flagship was operating as a single ship for that operation; and the captain was handling it. I lay down and went to sleep, but I did keep my clothes on and left word with my staff to be sure and let me know when it came time for the ship to leave formation and go out and start oiling again. You see, we were in a formation at the time with the carriers. For some reason or other they didn't report to him when they were going to go. The first thing that I did when I got the word that they were going, I had just gotten my feet on the deck when "Bammo!" I didn't know what had happened, whether we were hit or had hit something on the ground or what had happened. My orderly came rushing in then and said, "We've just collided with the WASHINGTON." And we had.
The WASHINGTON hit us just about at the number three turret, the after turret, scraped down and came in several bulkheads and carried off the starboard catapult and killed some men who were sleeping on the deck underneath the catapult. We picked up some of the gear from the WASHINGTON on our quarter deck. It wasn't his fault though. But that was a very sad moment because it put two heavy ships out of the fray for a little while. Where the WASHINGTON came into us we only had one outside bulkhead left before we would have been holed all the way to the Engine Spaces. But he had thrown his engines full astern as soon as he saw the ship. The captain of the INDIANA had turned to go out of the formation but had misjudged these other ships coming up. So unfortunately he was blamed and carried the blame, and the commanding officer of the WASHINGTON was in the clear and in fact got promoted. Not because of that, but it didn't interfere with his promotion. But they both had to go back to the navy yard for some time. I rode the MASSACHUSETTS as a one ship division for awhile until they gave me the ALABAMA.

Donald Lennon: Wouldn't something like that ruin a captain's career?

Glenn Davis: Yes. The captain of the INDIANA didn't go any further, and he had an excellent reputation up to then. But it was just one of those things, one of those judgments. You see, the ships were all darkened. He lost his command. They took him off the ship, and it was a very bad situation because he had been a wonderful officer. Just one affair did it.
After the finish of the Kwajalein operation again we were based at an island. They had moved our base up to the island of Majuro which is in a similar group. We based there and replenished and made plans again for the next operation which was the Marianas and Guam, which is part of the Marianas. I can't remember dates so I won't try to say them, but I would like to say this. The details and the tactics engaged in in these affairs are very well covered by Mr. Morison in his history, and I wouldn't attempt to repeat them because they are all there and better than I would remember them here.
When they started us out for the Marianas, I was still in the INDIANA. We were assigned again a bombardment mission on the island of Saipan prior to the landings. So for one day we did that and then we withdrew out until the landing started. After the landing had taken place we came in and actually dropped our anchor for a few hours while they had a conference. It was during that period of time when word was received that the Japanese had sortied from the Philippines and were then east of the Philippines.
So Admiral Spruance, who had overall command, took his fleet and left the old ships and the landing group there and proceeded to go further west. He remained close enough to cover them if there was any reason to, any end around play or anything like that. They threw the heavy forces out about fifty miles ahead of the other carriers, and we formed all of our battleships and come cruisers into that group. We were attacked by some Jap planes who got some hits on some of the ships, not many. But one of them had come over the outer ring--we were in a circular formation--and the INDIANA was in the center like the bull's eye of a target. This fellow came over the outer ring of ships, headed right for us. He never varied; and I often wondered if he had been shot and killed and the plane was flying itself or not; but it was coming down all the time and headed right for us. So we cleared the starboard side of the ship, and he hit us right at the water line. In fact he hit the water and then bumped into the armor plate and blew up. The only damage done to personnel on the ship was to a few of the people at the anti-aircraft guns who got a little signed from the flame from him. We picked up the fragments from the fuselage including the name plate that was tacked onto the plane, and we cut it all up into small pieces and stamped them and gave each member of the crew a piece of the plane. But nobody was hurt, and the only damage to the ship was a slight dent in the side.

Donald Lennon: Was he a kamikaze?

Glenn Davis: That was before the real kamikaze business had started, but he may have been. If he had been wounded or anything, he may have decided to end it up that way. It was the same effect, except that he didn't get high enough to do us any damage. He hit us right at the water line. He hit the water and us right at the same time. But we had cleared the bridges on that side over to the other side in the lee of the deck house. So nobody was hurt. As I say, a few men got a little bit signed but not badly. The anti-aircraft guns were shooting at him all the way in.
The next feature of that operation was the so-called "Turkey shoot." We went out further. We had no surface engagement. We were thrown out ahead again, but the forces were so far apart that we never made contact. It was entirely aircraft that took care of the situation. That pretty well ended our part in that show. We stayed there of course until the islands were secure and until Guam which they landed on right afterwards was all secured. We did go with Spruance on this little sortie that he made to Truk after the island affairs were more or less secure, but we had no contact except with airplanes, if any. We never did get into another surface engagement with the big ships. We were in the Hollandia affair again as a covering force. MacArthur was landing down there with his groups and we acted merely as a covering force down there on that. There were no contacts and no use made of the big ships.
Our next big affair of course was the Philippine operation. Various groups were out there covering MacArthur's landings at Leyte. It was awhile the landings at Leyte were going on that Halsey got word about a Jap force up to the north. So he ordered our battleships away from the carriers and formed a battle line with them and started us north. It turned out later on that that became one of the great controversies of the war, because it was while we were heading north at full speed expecting and hoping to meet the Jap ships that the heavier forces of the Japs came out through San Bernardino Strait and moved down towards Leyte and gave our carriers a bad time down there; and we were too far away.

Donald Lennon: Was that bad intelligence that caused that?

Glenn Davis: Well, you could call it that of course. There was that force up there, but they were a decoy apparently. A day or two before the aircraft had indicated that they had pretty well damaged the Jap fleet in the Philippines. I can't know exactly what went through the admiral's mind, but with all of the information that he had available, which we in the lower echelons didn't have, he decided that his job was to go after that bunch that was up north. That's what he based his decision on.

Donald Lennon: Did he ever confer with his division commanders on it?

Glenn Davis: No. He may have conferred with the battleship commander, Admiral Lee, I don't know. he was the overall battleship commander. He had all of the battleship divisions under him. I really don't know who he conferred with as far as that goes. Of course Admiral Carney was his chief of staff at that time. Anyway that was his decision. He tells you in there why he did it in a little paragraph. It was his thinking, and he still thinks he was right. He told me that one time in New York after we both had retired. It turned out that he wasn't right, but the decision at the time with the information he had was right.
We had one fast division of battleships consisting of the latest ones, the IOWA, the MISSOURI, the WISCONSIN, and the NEW JERSEY. He turned that division around because they were faster and started them back down. But they were so far away that by the time they got there, the Japs had gone back. Why that Jap commander turned back, I don't know, because he was raising hell down there; but he did. We finally found that this bunch we were going for had turned and were retreating, so to speak. So he sent the cruisers after them; and he hit them with air. His planes got over there and hit them and the cruisers finished them off. So as far as the big ships were concerned, we never fired a major caliber gun. It was all anti-aircraft. I think it was around that time or prior to that that in one of our forces when we were working over Okinawa way, that the carrier PRINCETON was hit and blew up. As I say, my experience from then on was entirely against air. We had no more ship operations.

Donald Lennon: Wasn't that Japanese Navy getting pretty weak by that time?

Glenn Davis: Yes. They were practically finished.
When it was secure so we could be released, we returned to the island where we were based then which was Ulithi and provisioned and got overhauled and did what we needed to do. That was late in 1944, in December. Admiral Nimitz flew out for Christmas and had Christmas on Halsey's flagship. Then on December 26, I was detached and ordered back to the states. So that ended that.

Donald Lennon: Did you leave before the kamikaze business got bad?

Glenn Davis: Yes. That got bad more or less on the follow-up through the Philippine Sea inside the passage ways there. Okinawa in particular. They had a bad time in there. The landing on Okinawa had not taken place. We lay around there and protected the landings that were going on in the Philippines by containing the Jap forces that were on Okinawa which were principally air forces. It was after I left the ship that the actual Okinawa campaign took place, and that is when the kamikazes got very vicious, very bad. When I came back to the United States as I have indicated before I was in the Western Sea frontier as Chief of Staff and Deputy Commander, and the superintendent of the gun factory and the Commandant of the Potomac River Naval Command and Commandant of the Sixth Naval District with headquarters in Charleston. Then I retired in 1953.

Donald Lennon: You mentioned one time about having gold on board the WASHINGTON at one time. Would you like to comment on that?

Glenn Davis: When I took command of the ship, she had just returned from being with the British battle fleet operating in the North Sea and protecting the runs into northern Russia. When I reported aboard to take command, the captain told me that in one of the brig cells he had these cases of gold bars. They were supposed to be anyway. I looked in the cell and the cases were there all right but none of them were opened. So he asked me to sign a receipt to him for them. So I signed it. I think the receipt said that it was "alleged to contain gold bars." They were being shipped to the United States from Russia. I think I'm correct on that. I presume that Russia was getting a lot of help at that time from the United States. He said that the Federal Reserve in New York was supposed to get them but that they hadn't contacted him yet. It was after I took command that I got the note saying that such and such a man whose signature was on there would be out there to get it. So I was in dry dock, and they brought their armored car down on the dock. We slung these cases of gold out from the ship with a crane. I often wondered that if the sling had carried away or anything and one of them had dropped in the bottom of dry dock. We would have a lot of gold, wouldn't we. That was that. He gave me that receipt and I've always hung on to it.

Donald Lennon: I have a note here concerning a court of inquiry on the loss of destroyers. Were these the destroyers lost at Savo Island or some other destroyers?

Glenn Davis: During the operation in the Philippine Sea when we were covering MacArthur in his landing in the Philippines, we withdrew presumably to fuel destroyers. The sea and wind had begun picking up and hurricane indications were there. The seas got so rough that we tried to get a destroyer alongside, but we couldn't. We couldn't even put a man on the forecastle of the big ship, the seas were coming over so. So we had to call off the fueling, but we did stay in proximate formation because we had carriers, cruisers and battleships. Well, it turned out that there were three of these boats, the names I would have to look up. The MONAGHAN was one of them, I remember. They had been preparing to fuel and had pumped the ballast out of their tanks, so they didn't have any ballast in their tanks. After the fueling was called off, it was so bad that they were unable to get it back in again. The captain of one of the ships told me that he actually smacked his stacks against the waves, but he came back up. He managed to save it. These other fellows with what ballast they did get in would wash from side to side and perhaps amplify the roll. In any event three of them were lost, sunk. We searched for survivors when we could, as soon as the weather permitted. During the storm you didn't know if you were going to collide or not. One small aircraft carrier came down across my bow, just very close aboard. We couldn't see beyond the bow of the ship hardly because of the heavy rain and water. We saw this thing coming on the radar, and they were watching for something. But he did just get by without our crashing into him. They lost airplanes overboard. Some of them broke loose on the hangar decks and just crashed up. Some of them broke loose on the hangar decks and just crashed up. It was a nasty one.

Donald Lennon: Wasn't there sufficient prior notice of the typhoon?

Glenn Davis: They got notice about a storm, but in those days we did not have the reporting systems that we have now and which they later put on out there by having ships report things. They didn't track it right. In other words, the courses that he selected carried us into it rather than away from it. When I was detached in December, they had ordered a court of inquiry on the loss of theses destroyers, as to what happened and so forth and to put the blame if possible. There were three members including myself on this court of inquiry, and we met after Christmas after I was detached. I reported there for that court, and we called all the witnesses we could and just investigated it thoroughly, including having Admiral Halsey himself, who was in command, as a witness. When we ended up we more or less exonerated the destroyer commanders fairly well anyway and put the blame primarily on Halsey. Mr. Morison says we didn't do Halsey right by doing that, but I don't know. He held on a little too long. I mentioned a hurricane I was in when my commanders released us. Perhaps if he had released his ships sooner and let them pick out their own destiny on the thing, it might have made a difference. Nobody knows whether that's fact or not. It was a sad thing. They lost a lot of men.

Donald Lennon: Did any of the destroyer commanders survive?

Glenn Davis: I can't remember. There was one named Sharp who was I think the senior survivor from one of the ships who we had on the stand to testify.

Donald Lennon: Tell me about Admiral Halsey--your impressions.

Glenn Davis: That's a question that you might say that I have a little self-interest in, prejudice. I worked under two fleet commanders. We laughingly used to say that they changed the drivers but never changed the horses. We would be Task Force Thirty-eight under Halsey and Task Force Fifty-eight under Spruance with the same big ships. Halsey was beloved by everybody that worked for him and he was very, very aggressive. He was a fine fighting admiral. I still think so. He was what we needed at the time out there. We spent some bad times before Guadalcanal and at Guadalcanal with the loss of ships and so forth. We needed a man like Halsey. But his tactics were entirely different from Spruance. Spruance was a quiet type. I knew Spruance personally too, and we loved Spruance. But they were two different characters as far as their tactics. You might get your business changed by Halsey by radio most any time, but Spruance would have his operation order and all the rest of it right down, and you never deviated from it unless the enemy made him do it. It was right there. But he didn't have the appeal to the individual that Halsey did. They would follow him through hell and high water, and I guess they would for Spruance if he asked them too as far as that goes. They felt very confident with him. I remember what Admiral Lee said to me one time when I was captain of the WASHINGTON and he was on there and we received some change in orders from Halsey. He said, "Glenn, do you realize that we have never made a rendezvous? They change it before we get to it." That was a good explanation of the way Halsey worked, but he got results. Anyone who was with him in those early days, when you stuck your head out from Noumea, you weren't too sure that you weren't going to get it knocked off before you got back in again. You were very glad you had Halsey back there. Spruance was a strategist and also a tactical man. Later on he was president of the War College.

Donald Lennon: You liked Lee too, didn't you?

Glenn Davis: Lee was a wonderful fellow. He also was a quiet type and didn't have much to say anytime.

Donald Lennon: Did you have any direct contact with MacArthur when you were supporting him in the Philippines?

Glenn Davis: Not personally. Not until after I retired. Then I had a little contact with him once in New York. He was chairman of somebody's board, and I was working as a civilian in the shipping business. We were all at a party one time. That was the only time. We never discussed any military things.

Donald Lennon: Concerning the WASHINGTON and the NORTH CAROLINA being sister ships, was there any playful interchange between them?

Glenn Davis: I don't think so. Not as much as there was between the WASHINGTON and the SOUTH DAKOTA because we operated together. When we got out there the NORTH CAROLINA had been back at Pearl Harbor under repair. When she finally came back out again, she stayed in Battleship Division Six, I believe, which was directly under Lee. He was commander of battleships and commander of Battleship Division Six, and I had been moved to Eight. So we worked more with the SOUTH DAKOTA. I know there was some feeling one time ashore with our crew and the crew of the SOUTH DAKOTA after that Guadalcanal flight that night, because the SOUTH DAKOTA had been badly hit; and they lost a number of men killed while we didn't lose any. When we were back in Noumea and some of the boys were ashore on liberty during the day, I think there were some words. The SOUTH DAKOTA accused us of abandoning them or something like that. The fact of the matter was just the reverse in a way. They had to leave. They didn't abandon anybody. They had to get out of there while we stayed there alone. But between us and the NORTH CAROLINA, I can't remember any feeling whatsoever because we were not actually with each other a whole lot. When we were with an air carrier division the NORTH CAROLINA might be with another carrier division. There was so little liberty where the men could get together. In fact, at the tail end there wasn't any liberty to amount to anything. When you go to a place like Ulithi, they would move the natives off of one island so the men could use that one. We got permission to carry beer aboard the ship if we didn't open it. But we landed it whenever we could and put the men ashore in the afternoon and let them drink a couple of bottles of beer or something like that. That was the only times the groups ever got together.

Donald Lennon: What other incidents or reminiscences come to mind concerning individuals or life in the South Pacific?

Glenn Davis: Whenever we could get ashore, a few of us would get together at a clubhouse and swap yarns. The only thing that I can remember of any particular thing there, involved myself a little bit, was that in those days the West Point football team was beating Navy pretty regularly. They had a guy on it named Glenn Davis, a halfback. Some word had come out to the ship about the last game or something. The captain of the WASHINGTON who had relieved me came ashore and we were sitting around a table in this little clubhouse as we called it, and he said to me, "Why did you send your son to West Point?"
I said, "I'm not guilty. I didn't. He doesn't belong to me. I'm not responsible for him at all."
There was very little discussion about operations and things. Sometimes there might be a little list of whether what we did was right or wrong, because we made lots of mistakes at many places. But most of it was an attempt to release yourself from all the tension you had been under during the days you were operating. For instance on the Marianas operation, our ships as I remember were underway for seventy days except for a few hours when they anchored to have that conference. When you get back off one of those things, you aren't much in the mood for fighting things over again.
You have to be able to flop down and catch your shuteye once in awhile. I had a friend who wasn't with us but he was in the Atlantic end and he was an excellent officer. He stood number one or two in his class at the Naval Academy, but he was a worrier apparently. If you get to worrying about what you are going to do and try to outguess what the other guy is going to do all the time instead of getting some sleep, well he broke after a fine operation. He made a fine operation, but he broke completely. I used to say that you had to be a little bit dumb maybe to take some of it, but if you don't rest--that's what they found out at Guadalcanal in the early days. The cruisers that got shot up badly during the first landing had been at general quarters and had been standing what we called Condition Two of watch on and watch off and watch on and watch off for forty-eight hours or so before this thing ever broke. Well, you can't do that. You've got to find time to take a nap and hope that somebody else will take care of anything that happens before you get back up. You can't stay up all the time. If you do, you're going to go down.
You put the men ashore over on one of those atolls. In the South Pacific we didn't get into any ports that had any towns or cities or anyplace where the men could relax in a normal way. All they had was a coral reef there with nothing but some breadfruit trees or something like that on it, and they had to make their own fun. I remember one little ensign who was an aviator, and he had been in some terrible stress things. I mean that is punishment going out and going out from the carriers. He had a little too many beers and he a little tight and he saw me and a couple of other officers and proceeded to tell us what he thought of us. And we just laughed at him and said, "Forget it lad, go on and have a good time." We realized that he was just breaking tension. Something had happened aboard his ship or something that made him mad, and it came out with us. We didn't even know him, had never seen him before. You would be crazy to make an issue out of a thing like that. I felt sorry for the lad to tell you the truth and so did the rest. We just laughed at him.
Those fellows that were flying day in and day out and going out--as I said we didn't get into it except to shoot down planes and run the risk of a bomb or torpedo now and then. At that stage of the game we were more or less a defensive ship. We used to call ourselves expensive oilers because we fueled the destroyers and we furnished the anti-aircraft guns for the defense of the carriers; but the real contact with the enemy was done by those boys up in the planes, most of it. Our destroyers got into some of it of course because they got into close waters when they were escorting landings. We couldn't get there. They wouldn't put us in there anyway. They always used the old battleships like the old MISSISSIPPI to cover the landings. They used us to bombard before landings sometimes while the place was still manned because we could silence the guns or blow up the ammunition dumps from a distance.

Donald Lennon: Before the war you were on battleships. Was the WASHINGTON the first ship that you were on that had radar and sonar?

Glenn Davis: Well, they put an experimental set on the PHILADELPHIA. As I remember it was more of a surface radar both for navigational purposes and to see other ships. We used to call it a bedsprings business. They had on the top a thing that looked like a double bed spring hoisted up there. But I was detached before we had much experience with that. I had seen some at the experimental station down here on the Potomac where they really worked it up, but it was still very experimental then and hadn't even been put aboard ship. But I hadn't had any experience until Guadalcanal about the actual use of it. We used it for spotting. They got it so good on the surface that we could see the splashes come up. If you are firing at a ship, you have the ship in there and then you see the splashes come up around it. Of course that was very, very helpful. The fact of the matter is with some of the firing we did, that was the way we controlled the firing.
I remember when two ships had come out and joined us, and Admiral Lee was in command of all the battleships. They were having trouble with their radar. We used to go out in the back areas when we could when we weren't right up where it was too dangerous and make one ship a target and fire what was called offset practice, have our guns offset from him and do it entirely by radar. But they were having trouble with their radar, and of course Lee was a scientist in some ways. He had been working with radar for years and he had been head of the target practice office in Washington. When they were having trouble, he sent a telegram back to Washington requesting some radar experts to be sent out there to help get this back in shape. He got a reply somewhat to the effect of, "That radar was tested thoroughly at Chesapeake Bay, and we don't see why you can't handle it out there," or something like that. I can't remember the words. Anyway there was a little reluctance to send anybody out. He sent word back that testing was done but not quite so close to the enemy. He preferred to get some real experts out there to work when he had to work as close to the enemy as he did. So they sent them and they got whatever it was in shape. But Lee was a great guy. He was back in Pearl Harbor with the WASHINGTON after I had been promoted; and I had a task force working out of the New Hebrides, two battleships working with the old SARATOGA and those people. There was a question then about small boats aboard ship. The newer ships that came out had no small boats at all or cranes that lifted them out of the water and set them on deck.

Donald Lennon: You mean no lifeboats?

Glenn Davis: No, the motorboats. We used to have motorboats that carried liberty parties ashore and stores. I had a crane and I had one motorboat that had been left on the WASHINGTON. They wanted the cranes off because they didn't like the cranes sticking up there. They would just be more metal fragments to fly around if they got hit by a projectile apparently. Well Lee had been with me, and we had used that crane and the one boat we had in loading the ship. In the early days out there, we needed it. The shore outfit didn't have enough to do it. It was up in Espiritu Santo that we had to load some ammunition and provisions and stuff like that, and if I hadn't had that boat crane . . . He knew I thought that we ought to have it. Well I got this message from him one day down in the South Pacific: "Regarding your recommendation concerning the keeping of one crane aboard ship to handle stores and stuff like that, we would let the boat go because they could bring a barge alongside if you have a crane to lift it aboard."
I said to myself, "I wonder why he sent me that? He knows how I feel."
I sent back and told him that I thought we should have it. When he got down in the South Pacific again I said to him, "Admiral, what did you send me that message for?"
He said, "Hell, of course I knew how you felt, but I wanted them to know. I didn't want to have to tell them. I could show them this message from you since you had been working with it."
He sent the message to get the answer, and that's what he wanted.

Donald Lennon: You were on active duty for forty years. Who was your most memorable character?

Glenn Davis: I don't know what you mean by character. Do you mean real naval officers, because I served with a lot of characters who didn't get very far, but they were loveable? Well, Nimitz was number one, of course. I served with him in the First World War for a little while when he was the exec and chief engineer of the MAUMEE in the early days of the war. He was the type of man--well, he called me in one day to talk about something about my end of the ship, and when I left his stateroom and got out on deck, I said to myself, "I believe he was balling me out." He could correct you without hurting your dignity or making you feel badly, if he had some idea that what you had done perhaps wasn't just the right thing to do. The way he handled it, you could learn an awful lot from him about handling people. I think he was one of the best.
Along the line I served with different people. I served with a Captain Robinson who was a wonderful guy. We used to fight and when I left him I said, "I've enjoyed fighting with you, sir more than any officer I've ever served with." But we were the best of friends and always have been. He sent people to me to find out how to do something after I had left him. He would send a guy up and say, "You go up and see Glenn Davis. He'll tell you how to do it." Of course Lee was one of the best. I'll always put both Halsey and Spruance in there. I admired both of them immensely. They were two different people though. In the early days beginning with Nimitz, he had one of the greatest influences on me and my approach to things. I served with another captain, the one that wrote me when we won the efficiency trophy. He had been captain of the ship and then he wrote from St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, where he was governor of the Virgin Islands at that time. He taught me a great deal about leadership and handling personnel. That was in the TENNESSEE. I was either a lieutenant or a lieutenant commander on that ship.

Donald Lennon: While you were head of the Potomac here, one of your major duties was taking part in official and social functions here in Washington with the diplomatic corps. Do you have any thoughts on that? Did this become burdensome after awhile?

Glenn Davis: Yes, it did in certain cases that you would have to go to. But there were some that you would like to go to. That was a distinction that you had to make. For instance, in the visits of the foreigners in their small ships that they transferred to come up the Potomac when they couldn't bring anything very big up there, I enjoyed meeting with them and what entertainment we had to do for them. They always returned it on the ship. I enjoyed that. Some of them were easier to know than others just like anybody else. Admiral McGregor was very easy to know. another thing I enjoyed there was my relationships with Congress. Being here in Washington, we got many calls from congressional offices either from aides or from the Congressman himself. They would get a letter from some of their constituents about their son or somebody who was on duty somewhere around here. I would know him or something about him, and they would call me. I got along fine with them. I remember old Senator Taft called me one day himself and he said, "Admiral, I've got this inquiry here. I hate to bother you with it but I really hope you can give me something I can put as a return. I'm not trying to raise any fuss or do anything about it." Well, that was fine, and I worked with a lot of them up there on different things and I had fine relationships, so good that one day I got word that I had been nominated for governor of Guam. I heard it from a man coming in from the Pacific and I thought, "Hell, I was right here in Washington and the other people were right here in Washington; why the hell did I hear it from him." So I beat it up to the Navy Department and I said, "What's this I hear about me going to Guam?"
He said, "Well, they mentioned your name, but we wouldn't send you without asking you about it first."
I wasn't too damned sure that was right. Anyway, I said, "I don't want to go to Guam. You are turning it over to the Interior Department. This will be the last naval governor."
He said, "That's why you were mentioned. You get along with these people around here so well, we thought maybe you could turn it over to the Interior with good graces."
I said, "Thanks for the compliment, but send somebody else."
So I didn't go to Guam. That duty was very interesting. As far as the social end of it went, I enjoyed working with the Board of Trade here and the District Commissioners on all of the parades and Navy days and stuff like that. That was work that needed to be done, but the so-called cocktail parties and things like that, many of them were just a bore. We made three in an afternoon sometimes. We would go and stay twenty minutes or so just to show ourselves and then go on to the next one and then call it a day and go home. I did have to host the naval attaches, some that I got to know and like very well. The one from Thailand named Abacoine, I liked very well. The other thing, I was just available for lots of things by being here. It didn't cost the government anything to use me because they didn't have any transportation to pay or anything like that. I served on numerous boards they would have in the Navy Department. They would always put on one because I could go home to lunch, and they didn't have to pay any extra to get me. Some of those got kind of troublesome, but at the same time I enjoyed quite a few of them.
Then when I was ordered to the Sixth Naval District in Charleston, they asked me if I remembered Mendel Rivers. Mendel Rivers was top guy on the Naval Affairs Committee then. I said that I had met him once. He had been down at the dental office there, and I happened to walk in there, and he was in a chair, and they introduced us. They said that I had better go to see him if I was going down to Charleston. So I made an appointment and went up to see Mendel, and he sat me down and we talked. He said, "Well, now you know affairs down there are close to my heart. That's my stamping grounds. I think a lot of that naval base out there, the navy yard, the mine force headquarters, down there at Beaufort where the marine base is, Port Royal and so forth. You probably will be getting a lot of letters from me about different things. I said, "Well, sir, that will be fine, except I want to make clear that if I can do them I will be happy to do them; but if it's something that I don't think I should do, I'm going to tell you so."
He said, "You and I are going to get along all right."
So he called me up once in awhile and said, "How about getting an airplane. We ought to go up and see the christening of a ship up in Norfolk," or something like that. He was out to the quarters a lot. We did get along fine, and he didn't ask me to do anything I shouldn't do. So I didn't have to tell him "no."

Donald Lennon: Back in 1940 you received commendations from the government of Santo Domingo and Haiti. What was this about?

Glenn Davis: The occasion of that was that we were in the PHILADELPHIA on a shakedown cruise and we stopped at Santo Domingo City and were visiting back and forth. Admiral Todd was then on board the ship too. Trujillo was the main fellow down there, and we entertained and had a change of visits and so forth. They entertained us with a luncheon and Trujillo was there and his officers. It was stag luncheon. First thing we knew--it didn't happen at the luncheon--but we got word from our representative down there that Trujillo had decorated Admiral Todd and Jules James and me with that order Juan Pablo Duarte. Earning it was nothing. We were all just there, and that was all there was to it. Well, we went from there to Port-au-Prince, and the Haitian government had heard that Santo Domingo had decorated us and they weren't going to be outdone. So they decorated the same three people. I always say that I have two foreign decorations that are both from Negro republics, and I got the one in Haiti for not stepping on my partners' toes at a dance they gave for us. I would hate to have them know that I felt that way, but I men to say that there was no action, nothing done except they felt it was a good gesture.

[End of Transcript]

Glenn B. Davis Oral History Interview
Vice Admiral's career in World Wars I and II. 2 tapes
10cm x 63cm
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