“When Courage Was Not Enough”
(See R. G. Graves, pp, 36-41, Spring 1989 Naval History)
Commander Tyrone G. Martin, U. S. Navy (Retired)—Ensign Graves’s assessment of James Lawrence failed to discuss the search for “glory” and public opinion. In Lawrence’s day, the search for glory, for achieving something of significance through a daring martial act, was an integral part of being a naval officer. Stephen Decatur is, perhaps, the best- known example. Reportedly he, when about to begin the raid that resulted in the destruction of the captured Philadelphia at Tripoli, reveled in the fact that Charles Stewart and the rest of the force assigned to assist him had been delayed getting to the rendezvous; this meant that the deed would be more daring and fewer would share the glory if they succeeded.
Isaac Hull, frustrated when political considerations prevented his attainment of glory in the Quasi-War with France, “smoothed out” his report of the successful engagement with HMS Guerrière early in the War of 1812, compressing the time element and omitting completely any mention of two collisions between the combatants. By doing so he made himself look better. And he reinforced this effort by engaging a well-known artist to paint a series of pictures of the battle that supported his words. He had his “glory” in full measure.
William Bainbridge, who commanded the Constitution to victory in the War of 1812, also reported the battle in a fashion that made him look more swashbuckling. In this instance, the Constitution was within sight of the Brazilian coast when she made contact with her adversary. Bainbridge wrote that he immediately headed away from the neutral coast so that his enemy would have no haven to flee to in the coming duel. At least three of his subordinates wrote that they first thought their contact was an English ship of the line, so they turned seaward to avoid being pinned against the coast. It was only when it was seen that the enemy was faster than the Constitution, which no liner could be, that they turned back to engage. This is the action of a prudent commander, but it doesn’t stir the blood of “dear reader” back home.
Lawrence was every inch a naval officer and, as Ensign Graves shows, was sensitive to all those niceties of honor and station. He was sensitive, too, to the business of seeking glory and undoubtedly embraced any and all opportunities eagerly. In the spring of 1813, when he returned to Boston, he was engulfed in the heady acclamation of his victory over HMS Peacock and the joy of promotion to captain. While he was disappointed over his change of orders from command of the Constitution (which he hadn’t executed) to the apparently jinxed Chesapeake, still he had received command of a frigate. Perhaps the acclamation went to his head. Perhaps he felt that the public expected him to repeat his success on a higher level. Perhaps there were remarks in the Exchange Coffee House suggesting that the damned British frigate sailing insultingly close to Boston Light ought to be taught a lesson.
Because Lawrence did not put his thoughts to paper before his fatal voyage, we will never know what impelled him. And because we today really can’t appreciate the business of “glory” as they did all those years ago, let us be cautious with our criticism.
‘V’ is For . . .
Master Chief Hull Maintenance Technician Thomas E. Lahey, U. S. Navy (Retired)—In November 1988 I came across a photograph in Navy Times that I had seen before. It showed the Sullivan brothers gathered around the hatch on the fantail of the USS Juneau (CL-52).
I have tried every source I could think of to find out what the designation “V’ on the hatch means, but to no avail. Not knowing the significance of the letter is especially embarrassing to me since I served in the Navy from 1942 to 1985 and retired as a master chief hull technician. I am hoping that the readers of NavaI History can help me identify the “V” designation.
“The Short Life of the Squalus"
(See C. La VO, pp. 32-38, Spring 1988; P. Schratz and J. Hummel, pp. 2-4, Summer 1988 Naval History)
Donald A. Miller—I distinctly remember the date of 23 May 1939. I was a crew member on the USS Semmes (AG-24), homeported at the submarine base. New London, Connecticut.
She was built in 1919, a four-stacker, as they were called, and was originally DD-189. Although built too late for World War I, the Semmes did perform extensive service while on loan to the U. S. Coast Guard during rum-running days.
It was a beautiful, warm spring day, and I had just left the ship to get a haircut at the Navy exchange (with permission, of course)!
Suddenly, the word was passed throughout the base for all crew members of the Semmes to return to the ship. We had received urgent orders to get under way immediately for Isle of Shoals, New Hampshire, because a submarine had gone down. Why the Semmes? The reason was that she had been converted to an experimental sonar ship, which in those days was called underwater sound. We had a chief radioman and eight radiomen on board. Our mission was to accept the experimental “heads” from such companies as RCA, Submarine Signal Company, and others, and evaluate their test pattern, efficiency, etc. We had three “sound rooms”—one in the bow, a main sound room almost under the bridge, and an after sound room near the stem. In short, the Semmes was well equipped to try to make contact with any survivors from the Squalus (SS-192).
We left New London at high speed and passed through the Cape Cod Canal, undoubtedly making the fastest run ever through the waterway. As I recall, we were the second ship on the scene; I believe a cruiser (possibly the USS Omaha [CL-4]), was there when we arrived. We immediately made contact by sonar with the submarine via Morse code. The men on board could hear our signals with no difficulty, but the only way they could answer was by tapping on the hull. Our man at the key was Radioman First Class Valentine “Pappy” Hoffman, now deceased. I was a radioman third class at the time and listened to all exchanges with the submarine. We continued communicating with the Squalus until the USS Falcon (ASR-2) arrived, and took charge of the operation.
“A Ship for All Seasons”
(See J. M. Waters, pp. 34-41, Winter 1988; W. L. Johnson and A. Stolze, pp. 2-5, Spring 1988; B. T. Brooks, pp. 9-10, Summer 1988; F. R. Shield, E. C. Allen, T. J. Keefner, and C. T. Durgin, pp. 8-11, Winter 1989 Naval History)
Langley Wood—Until fairly recently historians widely mistrusted oral remembrances, contending that accuracy diminished as the cube root of elapsed time. Although oral history is now a common historiographic source, many scholars prefer documents in which the actors in stressful episodes have set down the facts as quickly as possible—preferably with the breath still short and the adrenaline still running.
Of course, documents can also disagree, or we can find in a single record something to support our memories and unconsciously reject parts that do otherwise. Does this natural process mean we lie? I think not, not if we do so unawares.
I believe Captain Benjamin T. Brooks wrote in honesty from a wellspring of long-suppressed outrage. Those who, like me, know him and served with him in the Belknap (AVD-8) could not be much surprised by his reactions. Frankly, it sometimes seems there’s no end of things that elicit his honest outrage, and we know him to be capable of comprehensive invective. But Captain Brooks is a brave and honest man. He calls what he sees, and sees as much as he can. I’d be hard-pressed to impugn his honor, no matter how irritated I might become.
Frank V. De Sisto—Those who enjoyed Captain Waters’s article on the Coast Guard’s Secretary-class cutters, as I did, might be interested in the following. On the morning of 1 June 1988, I was treated to a historic view. There, waiting in splendid dignity, in front of Lady Liberty, was the USCGC Ingham (WHEC- 35). As the chopper we were in circled around her again and again, one could make out the rows of battle ribbons on the side of her bridge. The wood planking of her fantail showed her to be from another time.
As she got under way and headed up the Hudson River, we followed at a short distance. We were the only aircraft over her that morning. These are the last aerial photographs taken of the Ingham in the service of her country. Shortly after they were taken she was decommissioned at Governors Island, New York, where she remains today.
“The Pueblo Incident”
(See E. B. Hooper, J. J. Hyland, K. L. Lee, J. V. Smith, and G. P. Steele, PP. 53-59, Fall 1988; F. C. Schumacher, C. T. Durgin, and H. Iredale, pp. 2-6. Spring 1989 Naval History)
“Commander Bucher Responds”
(See L. M. Bucher, pp. 44-50, Winter 1989; F. C. Schumacher, C. T. Durgin, and H. Iredale, pp. 2-6, Spring 1989 Naval History)
Paul A. Cavallo—I much enjoyed the firsthand accounts about the Pueblo (AGER-2) incident. At the time, I was in the Air Force and home on leave and couldn’t believe that we allowed the Pueblo to fall so easily into North Korean hands. Having read much about it over the years, I believe now that Commander Bucher and his crew were truly men faced with no exit. Perhaps another commanding officer would have turned left instead of right or fired off a couple of rounds, but the result would have been the same. Our men and equipment would have been seized regardless of who stood on the Pueblo’s bridge that cold January morning.
There are several things, however, that trouble me about your series.
First, I find Admiral Hyland’s residual animosity toward Commander Bucher unbecoming, but probably in character for a senior military officer. (One might expect that after 20 years and finally having had the time to see the Pueblo seizure in the context of a never-ending game of international cat and mouse, Admiral Hyland’s feelings would have changed.) Simply because Bucher did not fall gallantly on his sword as the high command apparently expected him to do does not mean that he is any less a leader. But it does indicate to me, at least, that if there are truly any guilty individuals involved, it is senior staff. For how was it that they knowingly allowed an electronic reconnaissance ship to operate off the coast of one of our most unpredictable and barbaric adversaries without Mach 2 protection ready around the clock? It’s one thing to send an SR-71 (Mach 4) over enemy territory and tell the pilot to avoid contact with the enemy, but quite another to float a 12-knot tug 20 miles off the coast of North Korea unprotected.
Second, why were there no firsthand accounts by Air Force officers? It would seem that had Admiral Lee been half the officer Admiral Hyland implies Bucher hasn’t, he would have contacted local Air Force Tactical Air Command, which Would have notified within seconds the closest U. S. Air Force air support, which stands ready 24 hours and does not need to have decks cleared to launch.
Third, perhaps Navy intelligence and the lack of proper high-priority interservice communication procedures had more to do with what happened to Bucher than any reluctance on Bucher’s part to fire his Weapons or maneuver the Pueblo away born incoming Korean torpedo boats.
Finally, one wonders that even now at bis advanced age and wisdom, does Admiral Hyland still believe those men and officers who were on board the Pueblo should have sacrificed themselves so that Navy staff could save face and careers? Does Hyland really believe that a reconnaissance ship tumid with top secret electronic equipment is “a less prestigious’ ’ assignment? What does that say about naval leadership and hierarchy? What does that say about the self-esteem
of officers who command something less than a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier? Because a man commands a carrier, does this mean ipso facto he is a better leader than a man who commands a reefer? Lee’s lack of decisive action certainly seems to prove the contrary.
Perhaps, as Hyland tells us, Bucher does deserve “a completely failing grade.” But, I ask, if that’s true, what do Hyland and his staff deserve? No better, or all of the sea lore and tradition and qualities of leadership espoused by the instructors at Newport’s Officer Candidate School was nothing more than a flight of vain fantasy.
Lieutenant Commander Lee F. Bellar, U. S. Coast Guard (Retired)—The articles concerning the Pueblo (AGER-2) incident aroused a feeling within me that I must express. I, along with millions of other Americans, had almost forgotten the Pueblo incident, for which we should be ashamed.
During and after the Pueblo incident, I was the operations officer on the USCGC Venturous (WMEC-625), homeported in San Diego. All of the officers and most of the enlisted men kept aware of the Pueblo situation as best we could, if only through the news media. Discussions in the wardroom were frequent concerning all known aspects of the incident. Upon conclusion of the court of inquiry, we all agreed that Commander Bucher was administratively keel-hauled without benefit of a court martial. These last two issues of Naval History reaffirm my belief.
Many senior ranking officers feel that Commander Bucher’s most serious error was that he did not fire a shot in defense of his command. Others state that had he done so, the act may have plunged the country into another very serious situation during a time when we were already committed in Vietnam. The vessel from the beginning was not intended as one capable of defending against any armed vessels. One burst from the Pueblo's .50- caliber weapon would have surely meant the loss of all hands but not necessarily the classified material and equipment, which was being destroyed as fast as possible. I believe Commander Bucher exercised excellent judgment in not creating the possibility of another conflict. In my opinion, his most serious errors before and during the incident were his lack of preparation of a usable destruction of classified material bill and his hesitance to scuttle his ship. But we were not on scene, were we?
I believe that the entire project as visualized by the Office of Naval Intelligence was doomed from the start. This was caused in part by five major factors: the lack of funding and planning for the proper operation for the concept; the selection of a less-than-suitable vessel to accomplish the desired mission; the lack of knowledge of those force commanders involved of the mere existence of the Pueblo, much less her operational mission; the less-than-desirable and necessary logistical-administrative support ashore; and the inadequate crew training. Most of the above should be placed with the project officer in Washington, D. C., where the buck starts and where it stops.
I believe that Commander Bucher and his entire crew acted admirably during their internment and we should not abandon them. They indeed deserved the Prisoner-of-War Medals that were approved in late June.
Daniels and the Bottle
Lieutenant Colonel Merrill L. Bartlett, U. S. Marine Corps (Retired)—A fundamentalist Southern moralizer and prohibitionist, Josephus Daniels, was the most interfering and boorish civilian ever to hold the portfolio of Secretary of the Navy. He turned the old-line Navy on its ear during his eight years in office, 1913-21. On his first visit to a battleship, he waved away the guard of honor and receiving party on the quarterdeck. Walking to the forecastle, Daniels mounted a wooden box and asked the sailors to gather around him: “Boys, I’ve come to tell you that I am going to run the Navy for you. There won’t be any more of this oppression by the officers.” (Archibald Douglas Tumbill, “Seven Years of Daniels,” North American Review, November 1920, page 607.)
The motive behind Daniels’s infamous order corking the bottles in the wardrooms of the fleet was an indefatigable quest to erase the social class distinction between officers and enlisted men. When his argument that the wardrooms should not serve alcoholic beverages when they were denied to the messdeck produced mostly stifled yawns, he then suggested that drunkenness prevailed throughout the officer ranks and impaired the effectiveness of the fleet. Thus, Daniels won over his critics and gained the tacit approval of President Woodrow Wilson for General Order Number 99.
Journalists enjoyed poking fun at the pompous Daniels, not only for his carping moralizing, but for involving himself in the detailed affairs of the naval services. On the heels of Daniels’s selection of William S. Benson to be the first Chief of Naval Operations, rather than the better qualified and more popular Bradley A. Fiske, one member of the Fourth Estate lashed out: “We could make shift to live under a debauchee or a tyrant, but to be ruled by a busybody is more than human nature can bear.” (George Harvey, “The R. Hon. N. C. B. [North Carolina Boy], Our First Lord of the Admiralty,” North American Review, April 1915, page 481.)
Pricking Daniels’s balloon became the social sport of the Washington scene. When the Secretary expanded his ukase prohibiting the consumption of alcohol on board ship to official functions at naval stations ashore, the witty socialite wife of the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Lelia Montague Barnett, gained his permission to continue to use liquors in cooking. She then served the stuffy Daniels a dinner that he and the other guests would long remember: grapefruit laced with two cocktails, clear soup— mostly sherry, terrapin soaked in Madeira, roast beef, rum sherbert, champagne frappe, and brandied peaches. Pressing a second peach on the senator seated to her left, Mrs. Barnett received a grave reply: “Madam, I couldn’t eat another drop!” (Lelia Montague Barnett. “Washington Dinner Disasters,” n.d., George Barnett MSS, Marine Corps Historical Center.)
Senior Navy officers exchanged wry smiles of relief when they read Daniels's farewell message of 5 March 1921: “For eight years, I have been your commanding officer. All my life, I will be your shipmate.” But only guffaws could be heard following Daniels’s remarks at the ceremony honoring the service of the women Marines during World War I: “We will not forget you. As we embrace you in uniform today, we will embrace you without uniform tomorrow." (Quoted in Linda L. Hewitt, Women Marines in World War I, GPO, 1974. page 41.)
(See D. Beaumont, pp. 72-75, Fall 1988 Naval History)
Vice Admiral Frederick L. Ashworth, U. S. Navy (Retired)—I am the proud owner of an Arthur Beaumont painting of the USS Maryland (BB-46) titled "The Watch That Never Ends.” The following statement in the article caught my eye:
“Since the early 1930s, Beaumont refused to sell his paintings through art galleries or art auctions. His work was in such great demand that he always had a list of 50 to 60 people waiting in line for his next commission. He merely had to call the next person on the list and say he was ready to paint and the deal was made without having to pay a commission to an art dealer.”
In 1938 I was stationed at Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego, assigned to Utility Squadron One. In those days, the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles had what they called “Nightclub in the Afternoon,” a fun thing that my wife and I attended more frequently than we could afford. On one of these visits we heard of a hanging of Beaumont’s paintings on the floor below the hotel’s street level; several paintings were on display. One was my painting of the Maryland, and I remember one other of the New Mexico (BB-40). I inquired as to whether a painting of the West Virginia (BB-48), the first ship to which I had been assigned, was available. I was told “No, Admiral [Harold R.] Stark has that,” and inferred that that would be the only one of its kind. Since the Maryland was the West Virginia's sister ship, my wife and I were interested in that painting and were quoted a price of $150 for it.
In those days that was about a month’s pay, and twice the monthly rent I was paying for my house in Coronado! My wife and I retreated to the small park across the street from the hotel to decide whether we could afford to buy the painting. After a few hours of soul-searching, we decided to throw reason to the wind and buy the painting. It has been one of our most prized possessions ever since.
Winter 1989 Cover
“The Development of Night Fighters in World War II”
(See W. C. Odell, pp. 33-35, Winter 1989 Naval History)
Robert L. Lawson, editor-in-chief, and Barrett Tillman, managing editor, The Hook—The fine cover photograph is not an F4F Wildcat; rather, it is an FM-2 Wildcat. The F4F was designed in the 1930s by the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation and built by Grumman until May 1943, at which time Eastern Aircraft Division of General Motors look over production. The Eastern Wild- oat versions were the FM-1, basically equivalent to the F4F-4, and the FM-2, which was the operational version of the XF4F-8, designed, but not built, by Grumman.
In addition, the cover caption incorrectly states, “A few F4Fs still survive in flying condition.” No existing F4Fs are known to be in flying condition. It is our understanding that only two F4Fs exist at all—one F4F-4 at the Marine Corps Aviation Museum, Quantico, Virginia, and an F4F-3A wreck recently recovered from Lake Michigan. The caption would he correct if it referred to these aircraft simply as Wildcats.
The Wildcat misnomer is a minor glitch. However, Colonel Odell’s article is another matter. Beginning with misidentification of the Hellcat in the lead Photo as an F6F-3 (it is a VF(N)-107 F6F-5N), we noted the following errors:
►Project Affirm (sic) was misspelled. It should be “Afirm.”
►Although the F4U-1 Corsair was indeed selected as the basic airframe for the Navy’s first night fighter, the operational version was the F4U-2. No mention of Phis variation appears in the article, leading the reader to believe that the F4U-1 Was the night-fighter edition. Thirty-two F4U-ls were modified by the Naval Aircraft Factory as F4U-2 night fighters carrying an airborne Intercept Model A(AIM) radar unit mounted in a pod built into the starboard wingtip.
►The statement that the VF(N) was “commissioned” is an honest mistake. In recent years, the Naval Aviation History Section of the Naval Historical Center has been industriously attempting to correct this misconception that has been perpetuated by official Navy correspondence and orders. Navy ships and officers are “commissioned”; squadrons, stations, and other units are “established.”
►The author’s comment that VF(N)-75’s primary mission was to intercept “Washing Machine Charlie” is totally out of touch with reality. VF(N)-75’s mission was to intercept and destroy serious bombing attacks against the Allied ground forces and airfields in the Northern Solomons. Between October 1943 and January 1944 Commander William J. Widhelm’s squadron destroyed two Betty bombers, three Rufe floatplane fighters, and two Val divebombers. These aircraft could hardly be considered “Washing Machine Charlie” hecklers; they were out to wreak as much death and destruction as possible, not merely to harass.
►The Night Fighter Training Unit was based at the Naval Auxiliary Air Station Charlestown, Rhode Island, not at a nonexistent Naval Auxiliary Air Facility Charleston.
►The statement, “In January 1944, Navy night fighters flew combat missions from a carrier for the first time,” may be technically correct, but it disregards the pioneering efforts of Lieutenant Commander Edward H. “Butch” O’Hare, commander of Air Group Six, who lost his life 26 November 1943 while flying a night intercept combat mission from the USS Enterprise (CV-6). Curiously, Colonel Odell mentions O’Hare in the last paragraph but does nothing in his article to recognize the work of the (CVG- 6) or Air Group Six Enterprise in the night intercept field.
►Although not clearly identified by date, the first night engagement by VF(N)-101’s skipper, Lieutenant Commander Richard E. Harmer, was not a credited kill; the results were inconclusive. This engagement was 19 February 1944. Chick Harmer and VF(N)-10I’s first credited score took place at 2010 on 24 April. Though not strictly night kills, no mention is made of Lieutenant Commander E. P. “Pete” Aurand’s VF(N)-76 outfit scoring five kills at dawn on 22 February 1944 flying from the USS Bunker Hill (CV-17).
►In the next paragraph the USS Independence's (CVL-22) Night Air Group 41 is referred to as NAG-41; properly the designation was CVLG(N)-41.
►The statement in the next-to-last paragraph comparing the successes of night fighters to their daytime contemporaries is a classic case of apples and oranges. How can the results of totally different missions be compared? Possibly a better comparison would be how well the night fighter squadrons alone fared at night compared with their daytime efforts. (Even this example is hardly a fair comparison.) According to Dr. Frank Olynyk’s authoritative and exhaustive study “USN Credits for the Destruction of Enemy Aircraft in Air-to-Air Combat, World War 2,” VF(N)-41 achieved 27 night victories and 19 daytime. VF(N)-90 scored 19 night and 12 day kills, while VF(N)-76 scored 12 night kills and 24 during day engagements. The question, however, is: “How many night opportunities were there compared to day engagements?”
Too Good To Be Forgotten
Dr. William J. Veigele, a retired lieutenant in the U. S. Naval Reserve and a board member of the Patrol Craft Sailors Association—Not all World War II ships have been remembered with books, movies, and memorials. Although 315 patrol craft (PCs) were commissioned and operated in all theaters, they have been almost ignored by historians. Like the men who served in larger ships, those who “rode” the PCs were good men and deserve recognition. These men sailed the PCs in weather, sea states, and combat equal to those encountered by ships twice their size. Life on board was grueling. The PCs were called the “Broncos” of the fleet, and truly, their crews rode them as they would a bucking mustang.
To keep the almost 50,000 World War II PC sailors from being forgotten, a few former PC sailors formed the Patrol Craft Sailors Association (PCSA). To date, 1,150 officers and men are enrolled. Our motto is “Too Good To Be Forgotten.” The organization’s second reunion is scheduled for April 1989 in San Diego.
The goals of the PCSA are to generate fellowship and communication among PC shipmates, to have the sailors’ names listed on the Navy Memorial in Washington, D. C., and to restore a PC as a memorial and historic museum ship.
The PCSA is trying to locate more PC shipmates, and to enlist aid from them and other interested persons in restoring a PC. It’s an all-hands effort and the PCSA would be grateful for assistance and advice. Former PC sailors and interested persons are requested to contact Pat Ward, PCSA, 4345 Fletcher Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46203-1544.
“Launching the SPARs”
(See D. C. Stratton, pp. 58-59, Spring 1989 Naval History)
Captain B. P. Clark, U. S. Coast Guard (Retired)—On 1 January 1943 I reported to Captain N. R. Stiles, U. S. Coast Guard, in the Division of Officer Personnel at the U. S. Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D. C. Captain Stiles, whom I had met before, had followed my assignments with the Navy with interest and had written to me on several occasions. After greeting me warmly, he said, “We are organizing a Women’s Reserve for the Coast Guard like the WAACs [Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps] in the Army and the WAVES [Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service] in the Navy.”
Not being particularly interested in having women in the Coast Guard, I brightly asked, “What else is new, sir?” He replied, “Admiral Lyndon Spencer, the Chief of Personnel, wants to see you.” We went to the admiral’s office, and he said, “The Commandant wants to see the three of us.”
When we entered the commandant’s office he greeted us and said, “This young officer selected to train our first class of women has a challenging job before him.”
I was so shocked that I asked, “What does that mean, sir?”
He replied, “We are enlisting 150 young women in the Coast Guard Reserve, which we will call SPARs [Semper Paratus Always Ready). We will send them to the Naval Training Station in Cedar Falls, Iowa, to receive recruit training.”
“Sir,” I blurted out, “I don’t think I am qualified for such a job. I am a bachelor, and I know nothing about women.” Everyone laughed, especially when the commandant said, “What man does know anything about women? The job is yours, and I am certain that you will do a fine job for the Coast Guard.”
After leaving the commandant’s office, I was sent to see the new senior female officer in the Coast Guard, Lieutenant Commander Dorothy Stratton. After listening to her, she took me to see her opposite number in the Navy, Lieutenant Commander Mildred McAfee. Commander McAfee had been president of Wellesey, and she was a remarkable woman. She gave me some valuable advice for the training program.
I boarded the train for Cedar Falls that night, feeling very depressed about my assignment. After arriving in Chicago, I had to wait for my next train. During the wait, I walked past Marshall Fields department store, and in the window there was a picture of a WAVE officer modeling the new overcoat to be worn by officers in the women’s naval services. That model turned out to be Esther Ruth (Sally) Sahlin, who subsequently became my wife.
The morning after I arrived in Cedar Falls, I reported to Navy Captain R. K. Davis, the commanding officer at the Naval Training Station. I told him that I had no idea why I was assigned to this duty.
“You don’t know why you are here?” he replied. “Hell, I haven’t the foggiest idea why I am here.”
Captain Davis; his executive officer, retired Navy Lieutenant Commander Petty; and I were the only three regular officers on board. There were about 30 male reserve officers, about 40 WAVE officers, and three Navy nurses. Two SPAR lieutenants (junior grade) and one SPAR ensign had just arrived to assist me. These three SPAR officers were rather exceptional women. Lieutenant (junior grade) Theresa Crowley had been an executive of a large company. Lieutenant (junior grade) Ineva Myers had been a dean of women at a university. Lastly, Ensign Elizabeth Riggs had taught at the Sorbonne.
The second day, 1,000 newly enlisted WAVES reported to the station. I gave the oath of office to about 20 discharged WAVES and enlisted them in the Coast Guard. The next day I went down to St. Louis and called on Commodore Beckwith Jordan, who was serving as district commander. I obtained the services of a yeoman to assist me and procured administrative supplies so I could set up shop at the naval station. I wanted things to be shipshape.
All the while I was reviewing procedures of instructions carried out in training Coast Guardsmen. I also reviewed the Navy procedures, since the Navy had already trained one complete class of 1,000. I told the three officers that we would make SPARs different from the WAVES. First, SPARs could wear lipstick; second, SPARs would turn up the comers of their hats; and third, only SPAR officers would enter the rooms of the enlisted SPARs to inspect their clothing and dressers. I also told the officers that one of them would be in the medical examining room when any SPAR was examined by a Navy medical officer, whether or not a Navy nurse was present. We used Navy manuals to become familiar with the stowing of clothing, the routine of the day, general Coast Guard history, seamanship terms, and basic rules of discipline. We started right away on close order drill without arms, and I was pleasantly surprised with how quickly the SPARs caught on. I was quite pleased to learn that the Navy personnel believed that the SPARs were outstanding in both appearance and ability. It was very inspiring to hear 150 young women sing “Semper Paratus” proudly as they marched to classes, drills, and physical training.
The SPARs and WAVES marched everywhere and counted cadence in high- pitched voices, which rather startled me. They also sang songs about their services, plus old sailor songs that they cleaned up.
Two SPARs had to be discharged for physical reasons. When I gave them the word, both of them started to cry. That was a very uncomfortable experience. The SPAR officers and I agreed that we should tell all the other SPARs so there would not be any unpleasant innuendos. This I did. All of us in the first groups to •rain women for the services realized that this business of women in the military was entirely new, and we all had to be roost watchful that nothing would happen 10 give them anything other than a positive experience.
After training the SPARs, we started Preparing them for their assignment. We told them that they could submit their wishes for assignments to Coast Guard district, but that all personnel had enlisted for general duty and were to be assigned to accordance with the needs of the service. All did receive their choice of districts. I was pleased to learn that we had a number of SPARs who possessed college Agrees. I learned later that many were fleeted up to commissioned ranks.
I wrote a letter to the commandant recommending that the Coast Guard either enlist WAVES discharged from the Navy as SPARs, or establish its own SPAR training center. Commander (later Admiral) E. J. Roland approved my recommendations and forwarded them to Admiral Spencer. Commander Roland told me that Lieutenant Commander Stratton was disturbed by such a letter, even though the Navy commanding officer supported my recommendations. It was announced that the Coast Guard planned to establish a training station for SPARs at St. Augustine, Florida.
Commander Roland told me that as I requested, I would be reassigned to sea duty upon the first class’s completion of the SPAR training program. He said that he approved completely of my job in Iowa. Admiral Spencer called me a few days before the completion of the training program and said, “You did a good job for us out there. It was not like rendering safe mines or bombs, which you had experience with, but perhaps it was even more dangerous.” I did appreciate the comments from these two officers whom I admired so much.
The day before all the SPARs were to depart, I gathered them together and gave them this happy word:
“You are under my orders until you arrive at your next station for duty. I do not care whether or not you participated in the use of beer, wines, or other alcoholic beverages in your homes. You are ordered not to use any such drinks en route to your new duty stations. If any men on the train disturb you, you shall call the shore patrol, military police, or police. These are my firm orders with which I expect complete obedience.”
To my knowledge, these above orders were implicitly obeyed. I couldn’t help wondering of what a group of sailors would think if I told them not to drink any liquor or speak to any women while on the train. The men would believe I was some sort of nut.
I left the station and reported back to headquarters. I was assigned as commanding officer of Coast Guard cutter Thetis (WPC-115) in late February 1943.
I left the SPAR training with great respect for the American women who answered their country’s call to military service. They were superior.
“Looking for Columbus”
(See J. E. Dumene, pp. 33-37, Fall 1988 Naval History)
Captain Jorge Navarro Custin, merchant mariner—In 1936 three Cubans proved that Bariay Port was the first place Columbus landed in Cuba. Their identification is unique as it permits the fix of the “India” landfall; Columbus ignored that he was in a New World and assumed he had landed near Cipango and the riches that moved the Catholic kings to patronize the enterprise and to acquire half of the port of Palos.
By sailing backward from Bariay and closely following Columbus’s log as well as additional references of the contemporary historians and the “Pleitos,” the only reliable track crosses the Crooked passage and ends at Conception Island. Columbus missed San Salvador (formerly Watling Island) because of the prevailing darkness and mist and, like some other crew members, only sighted the torch lights of the natives. Along this track it is easy to identify the islands.
The oceanic track from Hierro Island to the Bahamas is a different story. I made several crossings, confronting sea and weather conditions quite similar, and each time arrived at a different spot. Every crossing was the result of an equation with many variables of the natural and human kind. Computer-aided theories on Atlantic crossings (such as that postulating that Columbus first landed on Samana) are pure nonsense.
For six years before 1985 I sailed throughout the outer Bahamas, Caicos, and Turks islands checking their shapes, physical features, and similarities with Columbus’s log, and I concluded that tiny Conception Island is the only one that fulfills all requirements.
Father Bartoleme de las Casas, the historian whose diary constitutes Columbus’s “log,” describes in his “Apologetica Historia” Guanahani (the name originally given to the island Columbus first landed on) as a tiny island (isleta) appearing in the sea charts as “Triango” and looking like a “bean.” Conception is quasi-triangular and resembles a bean. This early description is unknown to many investigators. Conception has lagoons; a north-northeast coast section; a sound peninsula; two anchorages (from one you can see neighbor islands) and a narrow pass, deeper in the past, that lead into a harbor. No other island can claim so much from the “log”!
In “de La Cosa” and other early maps, Guanahani, like Conception, is shown in the rim of the Central Bahamas. Samana appears near here, too, but Samana does not comply with the log’s description.
During his voyage toward Florida, Juan Ponce de Leon, unbeknownst to the Spaniards but not to the Portuguese, sailed along many of the southern islands already proposed as possible “landfalls” and anchored at Guanahani for repairs; he fixed its latitude a little higher than Conception’s. Baron Alexander von Humboldt and Didiez Burgo noticed that Ponce's latitudes were excessively erroneous. Ms. Dumene in her article mentions a Spanish pottery piece that perhaps is a remain from Ponce’s voyage. Dr. Mitchell’s geological investigations tend to confirm the upheaval of the coastline of Conception as already found in other islands. Indian artifacts are few because the native population was scarce and not so big as Columbus made it seem; he wrote to impress Queen Isabella. The discovery of Cuba and Hispaniola saved him!
Incidentally, Ms. Dumene assumes that Dr. Mitchell reopened the Conception theory after R. T. Gould, but it was I who did so. I offered ample information in Miami newspapers, by radio, and at Miami University’s Koubec Center. My theory complements Commander Gould’s, who first considered, then rejected, and finally accepted Conception as the landfall. His “theory” is laudable because he never visited the Bahamas. In his recent book The Log of Christopher Columbus (Camden, ME: International Marine Publishing Co., 1987), Dr. Robert H. Fuson, Professor Emeritus of Geography of South Florida University, closed his list of proposed landfall theories with mine, not Dr. Mitchell’s, which was not known at the time.
“The Legacy of Crossroads”
(See C. Cook, pp. 28-32, Fall 1988 Naval History)
Senior Chief Gunner's Mate John B. Poland, U. S. Navy (Retired)—I served in the USS Saidor (CVE-117) at Bikini Atoll in July 1946, a short time after Test Baker, Operation Crossroads. The Saidor, one of the support vessels, was attached to Joint Task Force One and provided much of the pictorial coverage of the operation. We carried a large contingent of photographic specialists, cameras of all types, and a squadron of modified Grumman F-6F Hellcat photo reconnaissance aircraft.
Approximately five days after the detonation of Test Baker’s underwater burst, the Saidor returned to the lagoon and moored in her assigned anchorage. When the tide shifted, the Saidor was engulfed by a large patch of radioactive water; contaminated sea water circulated throughout the ship in the fire and Hushing lines, the cooling system, and the ship’s evaporators.
Radiological safety personnel arrived with Geiger counters and began checking the various compartments; radiation indeed was emitting from the pipes carrying salt water through the ship. As a precautionary measure, crew members whose bunks were within 24 inches of a fire main were advised to relocate to less dangerous sites. Most of those affected voluntarily found a place on the hangar deck level or in some other space away from the contaminated pipes. When the ship got under way and cleared the lagoon, the fire mains were thoroughly flushed out and the crewmen were permitted to return to their assigned bunks.
In the fall of 1946, after the Saidor returned to Naval Air Station North Island. San Diego, the radiation again manifested itself. This required a “decontamination cruise.” The Saidor steamed away; once out in the ocean, the crew flushed the salt water lines again.
The Saidor was decommissioned at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in September 1947.
“Pearl Harbor: A Bibliography of the Controversy”
(See S. L. Falk, pp. 55-56, Spring 1988; J.W. Klar, p. 8, Summer 1988; K. Tolley, pp. 2-6. Winter 1989 Naval History)
Stanley L. Falk, author and former chief historian of the U. S. Air Force—After I completed my article on Pearl Harbor, a new book was published that deserves mention. Written by Gordon W. Prange. with Donald M. Goldstein, and Katherine V. Dillon, December 7, 1941: The Day the Japanese Attacked Pearl Harbor (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1987) is the final volume in the Pearl Harbor trilogy by the late Dr. Prange and his indefatigable associates. An hour-by-hour account drawn primarily from interviews and ships’ logs, December 7, 1941 is a dramatic, personalized narrative of that tragic and momentous day.
(See G. Lappan, pp. 26-30, Winter 1989; S. G. Morrison, pp. 8-11, Spring 1989 Naval History)
Captain Robert C. Peniston, U. S. Navy (Retired)—Commander Lappan has more courage than I do and comes across loud and clear as one who loved his old ship, the Chicago (CG-11). His comments square with my observations of a “dead” ship, a ship deprived of her name because it is now borne by a submarine.
Perhaps I am most sensitive when it comes to inactive ships because I witnessed the start of the New Jersey's (BB- 62) first mothballing in late 1947, the Putnam's (DD-757) in 1949, and presided over the demise of the New Jersey in December 1969. He is right: chains do indeed signal the finality of it all. Sensing this, I would not permit the chains to be brought aboard the New Jersey. They were soon placed there after the decommissioning, but I never saw them. The New Jersey defied the odds when she shed hers for the third time in 1981.
Reading of Commander Lappan’s visit called to mind an event of 29 August 1980 when I went to witness the demise of an old and dear friend, another cruiser, that was the last of the World War II- vintage heavy cruisers in service. The USS Albany (CG-10), the last of the true guided-missile cruisers, save one, was moored at the Destroyer-Submarine Piers, U. S. Naval Station Norfolk, awaiting the last rites—decommissioning.
To the untrained eye there was little hint of the fate about to befall her. But for those of us who had the privilege of serving on board during her illustrious 34- year career, she was but a shell awaiting the final order that would relegate her to the inactive fleet and the inevitable final voyage to the breakers. Until that order was given she was a regal lady and a symbol of the power of the Navy.
During this stirring ceremony, too lightly attended for so prestigious a ship, the Commander-in-Chief of the U. S. Atlantic Fleet spoke of the power of this great ship and of his chagrin at her loss, without replacement.
Her commanding officer had a more difficult task; he had to decommission a ship that had just completed four years as the flagship of the U. S. Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean. During this period she had won almost every award for excellence that the Navy bestows. In 1979 she had won the coveted Battenberg Cup given to the best ship in the fleet. Admiral Louis Mountbatten, Royal Navy, after whose father the cup is named, made the presentation. It was one of his last official acts before his grisly death at the hands of assassins.
As good captains are wont to do, the last commanding officer of the Albany paid tribute to the crew, because without them the ship was nothing. It was obvious that the crew took great pride in their ship. They looked as sharp as the ship, lending credence to the axiom that sharplooking ships are indeed those that operate smoothly and efficiently. As the national ensign, the union jack, the commission pennant, and the newly awarded Navy Unit Commendation pennant were hauled down, the watch secured and the ship demanned, there were lumps in many throats and many moist eyes. I confess to both because I had the honor to serve as then 19th commanding officer of 25 during the ship’s service on the active rolls.
As I was leaving the pier after the ceremony, I looked back on “my” Albany. I said a silent “well done” to this gallant lady, which in helping to maintain the peace, had never fired a shot in anger. I could not help but wonder if those ships following her would be as fortunate.
Currently, the ex-Albany is secured by chains in an inactive ship facility in the Norfolk area. I do not wish to see her, because I want her etched in my memory as the fighting ship she was 20 August 1971, when I was relieved as her captain.
Now she has no name. It has been given to the SSN-753. This caused a final pang. Mind you, I have no quarrel with the construction of her new namesake and hope to attend the commissioning of the vessel along with former captains of the CA-123 and the CG-10. But I am certain the mist will form and the lump will reappear when the order goes forth to place the new Albany in commission. This will mark the final farewell to an old, dear friend.
“The Decks He Walked”
(See J. W. Cheevcrs; pp. 38-45, Fall 1988 Naval History)
Dr. Stephen Greenberg, Adjunct Assistant Professor of History, Fordham University—I read with interest the article by James Cheevers accompanying William Gilkerson’s paintings on the life of John Paul Jones. The paintings beautifully evoke an era when this country was first struggling to make its naval presence felt. However, I must take issue with the claim that the French salute of Jones's Ranger in 1778 was the first time that a foreign power had recognized the American flag. That honor belongs to the Continental Navy brigantine Andrea Doria, entering the harbor of St. Eustatius, a Dutch colony in the West Indies, on 16 November 1776. As the ship entered the harbor, the governor of the colony, Johannes deGraaf, ordered a salute to be fired by the guns of Fort Orange.
The mission of the Andrea Doria was to deliver a copy of the Declaration of Independence to deGraaf, and also to procure badly needed military supplies for the Continental Army. The entire episode is detailed in the late Barbara Tuchman’s book. The First Salute (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1988), but it has long been a recognized part of our history: as Ms. Tuchman points out, President Franklin Roosevelt presented an engraved plaque to the island in 1939 commemorating the event.
“The Sinking of the UC-97”
(See Captain J. E. Wise, pp. 12-17, Winter 1989 Naval History)
Stephen H. Jacobus—I believe there may be an error concerning which U-boat is on display at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. Captain Wise states the U-boat exhibited there is the World War II U-515. But in the April 1983 issue of Shipmate Captain E. Harvey Headland, U. S. Navy (Retired), says in his article, “Capture of the U-505 ...” that the boat in the museum is the U-505, which was placed there in 1954.
In one source of U-boat statistics, I found that the 791 U-boats had been sunk in World War II and only two—the U-505 and the U-570—were captured out of an operational force of 842 submarines. Captain Headland mentions that the Royal Navy was responsible for the capture of the U-110, and the U. S. Navy was responsible for the capture of the U- 505.
So from my three sources I have found that four U-boats were captured and one, the U-515, sister ship to U-505, was purportedly sunk two months prior to the June 1944 capture of the U-505. I am curious about the correct history. After reading all the accounts about Pearl Harbor, I still don’t know what the hell happened that day either. And I was there!
Editor’s Note: Captain Wise's manuscript correctly identified the U-505 as the submarine on display in Chicago. A typographical gremlin misidentified the boat as the U-515.