Joseph E. Iacono oral history interview, June 25, 1975

Joseph E. Iacono Interview

June, .25, .1975

[Joseph E. Iacono]
My name is Joseph E. Iacono, I live presently at 329 Thornacroft Ave.
in Staten Island, New York. I enlisted in the Navy in November 28, 1940.
I was seventeen. I was on what they called a minority cruise or kiddy car
cruise and I went up to Newport, Rhode Island, training station up there.
From there I was assigned to the U.S.S. Camden which was a receiving ship
for the North Carolina, somewhere about commissioning time which was
April 9, '41. We went aboard somewhere around that time. I served from
that time until September of '43; we were at Pearl Harbor at the time,
At that time I was an apprentice seaman on one of the working parties.
The Navy was new and I was in a deck force at the time. The food was
good. Navy's good food, I don't care where you go. My battlestation
at that time was in the magazine room of number three turret; and then
again all you did, was as far as I was concerned, was take a bag of
powder out of a canister and pass it into a hopper.

I must have been a stupid kid because I don't remember being afraid
until the day after. we were torpedoed. We had been in an air attack
prior to that and the day after was the first time I remember the incident
too. I was sent back aft. I worked in the machine shop at that time,
and I was sent back to the starboard catapult to check out a crack that
probably happened when we were torpedoed. I was straddling the catapult
and in my mind the guy on the P.A. system was screaming "all hands stand
clear of the starboard side." Well we were so well trained to go forward
on the starboard and aft port. My battlestation was down in damage con-
trol on the third deck, Practically at the location where she was hit.
Here I am running down the starboard side down the ladders and finally

to the third deck, and all the time hearing this fellow say "stand clear
of the starboard side." I sat down against the bulkhead, and it was
between compartments, and I said to the fellow next to me, I said "Jesus
Christ, a guy could get killed around here." That was the first time
I really woke up. Really, I was a stupid kid but that's the way it was.

Do you recall when the ship went through the Panama Canal?

[Joseph E. Iacono]Yes,

Where were you?

[Joseph E. Iacono]
Well like I said originally, I came aboard in the deck force. TI had
gone to a trade school, so I wanted down in the black gang which I wound
up doing later, but I think I was in the deck force at the time. I don't
remember too much except going through it.

You mentioned the day after the torpedo. Where were you when the
ship was torpedoed?

[Joseph E. Iacono]
I was working in the machine shop on a big eighteen inch gap lathe.
She runs from port to starboard and I don't remember what I was doing.
But I do remember all the tools that I had on the carriage jumping up
and everybody just took off for their battlestations. I remember what
went through my mind, I never thought of a torpedo. I thought of another
ship in the distance laying one into us, you know. I remember running
around the shop shutting machines off and then taking off for my battle-
station which was in that area. I had gotten through that door. It
was closed off already. So that's the last door they kept sealed off
because forward of that compartment they had, if I can remember right,
they had cracks in the bulkheads and they had to shore it up. So our
station was moved aft a little. My first impression was that there
was a sea battery that had hit us. The ship went into an immediate
list and seemed that she came out of it as fast as she went into it.

Did they ever announce over the P.A, system that the ship had
been torpedoed?

[Joseph E. Iacono]
Not that I remember. I think that through that scuttlebutt,
we knew it was a torpedo rather than what I thought.

Do you recall being under air attack?

[Joseph E. Iacono]
Yes, I was on a one point one, I was an ammunition passer on
the one point one. That is the last mount on the port side between
the last five inch mount and the sixteen inch chart. There is forty
millimetre up there now. They put them on at Pearl, but that was a
one point one and that was my battlestation at that time.

You don't remember much about it except firing away?

[Joseph E. Iacono]
Kept passing the ammunition as they said.

You were on the ship from 1941 until 1943, is that right?

[Joseph E. Iacono]
That is right, September '43,

Do you remember any unusual incidents or humorous stories,
that might be worth putting down?

[Joseph E. Iacono]
I don't know what the heck is unusual. Well, if you think
catching a sand shark off the stern is unusual, I caught one one
time with a line and a hook, I had a friend in the machine shop, his
name was Fritz, who had a friend of his who was a cook, Naturally
everybody on the stern says naturally you don't eat sand sharks. Well
just because we don't eat them, we're going to, and we did.

How big was the shark?

[Joseph E. Iacono]
He wasn't too big, I guess he was about three or four feet.
So he got his friend to cook up and it was delicious. I remember
it being delicious. It had to be different, right?.

I was in the refrigeration. gang for awhile and we had-a little
pickings out of the refrigerator once in awhile when we would get the

keys under the roost and check in the coils and be able to get the
food right and cook it up in that little compartment back there. It
worked out real well. We ate good,

Where were you?

[Joseph E. Iacono]
I think we were at anchor and I guess we were around Wewak at
the time. If I remember right we did stop in there a few times, it
was more or less the staying area from what I remember,

What else do you remember?

[Joseph E. Iacono]
Well, you know, just to give you a little idea of what I think
of these people, I'm now an assistant chief mechanic in the city of
New York, for the mechanical division of all the motor equipment in
the Department of Sanitation. We have over five thousand pieces of
equipment; and, well the department top strata is the director, two
chiefs, and I am one of the assistant chiefs. So I'm pretty involved
in the mechanical works. Through the years I've learned a little
bit anyway; but, you know the older you get the more you realize
you don't know. Anyway, the point I'm getting at is that they had the
chief machinist mate in that machine shop, his name was Laurence Schwack.
They had a first class, I don't remember his first name, his name was
Macy. If it wasn't for those two people, I wouldn't be doing what L'm
doing today. They taught me the fundamentals you need at the machine
shop, and I think they made a pretty good mechanic out of me. Macy
was in service and then he went out and then he came back in. He
came in just before the war. Schwack was a professional. He later
became ensign, and I don't know how far up the line he went. Same
thing Masegee, followed in the same footsteps. Til this day I don't
see people around that have the expertise of those two people.

Evidently the machine shops were well run on board that ship.

[Joseph E. Iacono]
Well, we worked a seven day week, a regular eight hour day. . They
produced a lot of work and they did beautiful work. You don't realize
it at the time but when you look back and you see what is going on in
industry now, you realize how professional they were. They were really
professional. We did some jobs down there that were really unheard of.
I remember one job they put me on was they reconstructed an enteral
gear from scratch. They had nothing to go on, It was just a matter of
figuring it with formulas and the little bit that they had.

What was the gear for, do you know?

[Joseph E. Iacono]
I think that is was something in the turbine. It had just wiped out
all the gears, You could do just about anything down there. They made
a feed pump shaft for the U.S.S. Blue, Destroyer Blue at one time. She
had burned up one of her fuel pump shafts, feed pumps, and they made
one down in the shop for her. It was made strictly from prints. When
you're making something out off nothing or stainless steel, what ever the
material was, it was one of the two, I don't remember which, and you
are cutting large threads like three and four inches and so many
thousandths and nothing to try it with. Two men were working on it in
teams sort of around the clock, and it was crated and sent over. It had,
you know, will it fit? And this thing they got a radio message back and
from what I understand and the pump was running on the line so that
shows how much expertise was there. Mainly it was perhaps Chief Schwack
and his first class.

These were the men who ran the shop, they were the professionals,
You had people coming in who probably had little or no experience and
they worked with then.

[Joseph E. Iacono]
Well, they had some experience. I had some I worked in the trade

school in the same line. Later on there was another fellow, I think
his name was Conrose. He came out of Dearborn, Michigan. He worked
for the Ford Motor Company and he was of the same caliber. Of course
I had gone from apprentice seaman to machinist mate first myself on the
ship and eventually I wound up on a destroyer. I was the chief machinist
mate on the destroyer, but even the replacements they just had it. Maybe,
you know what they say, how an unusual ship this was, unusual ship, This
was an unusual ship. You know everybody has there little petty gripes, but
by-in-large the morale was good. I would say, after a while you were a
little bit bored I guess, when we used to run that so called torpedo
junction, just running back and forth, back and forth.

When did you have liberty, or did you have liberty?

[Joseph E. Iacono]
I don't remember any liberty. I remember going ashore on Wewak.
We did go ashore a few times. It was a day time deal until we went to
Pearl, then you had regular liberty there,

I don't know too much about what she did after I left her, although
I did screen for her for awhile. While I was on a destroyer, we were
basically in the same task force. We screened for everybody, and at
times we screened for the Carolina.

W. S. Maxwell was the chief engineer and I partly owe my job to
him, too. I'm sorry I didn't mention him. When I had gotten out of the
service I needed some documentations that I had worked on the machine
ship to show that I had five years experience to start off in the job.
I had written to the Bureau of Naval Operations and asked them if I could
find out where Maxwell was at that time. They sent me a letter back that

he was assigned to the American Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, and I forward

a letter to him. He was a captain at that time and he wrote me back a
nice letter, two letters, a personal letter and the other letter that
had given me the information that I needed. Incidentally he lives in
Brooklyn. He was quite a man. He was a great man; I guess you could
Say everybody loved him. Well respected, well liked. Well he had a
good crew and it was part of his doing. I did pick up the pieces about
him later. I saw something in the Inquiring Reporter. It is a New York
paper where he had written in at one time. At that time he was rear
admiral retired and he had something to say. I don't remember what it
was but I remember he was in charge of smoke control in the city of
New York. Then he had gotten another appointment, something to do
with the environment for the state of New York. So he was a very active
man even after he left the service.

When I was on the Destroyer Wedderburn, the 684, I was down in the
engine room on watch and we were under air attack. I don't remember
when it was, it had to be around the time of Okinawa I guess. You always
seem to brag about your old home which I did on that ship, and they piped
over the loud speaker, "the North Carolina just shot one down;" and I'm
jumping around, "see that fellows, you know." "Correct that, that was one
of ours,"

Joseph E. Iacono oral history interview, June 25, 1975
Oral history about Joseph E. Iacono's service aboard the USS North Carolina during World War II as a member of the United States Navy. Includes tape and typed transcription.
June 25, 1975
Original Format
oral histories
10cm x 63cm
Local Identifier
Location of Original
East Carolina Manuscript Collection
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