Monthly Archives: June 2013

Battle Reflections

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kamikaze near miss from Showboat

“I never did get scared at the time because we were all well trained. We knew our jobs and we did them. It was just automatic. You didn’t question. You didn’t have time to get scared. You were doing a job. After it was over and you could think about it a little bit, you could say, ‘Man, what could have happened?’ At the time you were actually engaged in action, you didn’t think about things like that. You just did what you were to do…. I knew I had good shipmates. They were trained and they knew what to do and they did it.”

Donald Rogers, Boatswain’s Mate 2/c

“The fact is that you are concentrating, and the adrenaline is running like mad at that moment when you are in combat. It’s exciting, and you just have to be so alert.”

LT(jg) Ralph Sheffer, Fighter Director Officer

Eastern Solomons

“It got very personal. There was no question in my mind who they were aiming at. Every bomb or torpedo was aimed at my precious butt. I am sure every other man aboard ship felt the same way.”

Donald Wickham, Musician 2/c

“If any one wasn’t scared, they’re crazy!”

Louis Favereaux, Electrician’s Mate 3/c

“The way you kept track of exactly where the enemy aircraft were, if you didn’t know, was that first of all the 5-inch battery would open up and you’d hear all that racket and feel the ship shaking as those guns were going off. We had twenty of them, ten on each side. They would open up at a range of approximately 14,000 yards. As the aircraft drew in closer, the next battery that would open would be the 40mm guns, which made a distinctive noise that was decidedly different from the 5-inch guns. Finally, when the range was very close, the 20mm guns would open up and even if you know nothing else, you could tell from that sound essentially how close the enemy aircraft were and when to begin praying.”

Lieutenant Ben Blee, Combat Intelligence Officer

shooting down an enemy plane

“One thing I could always remember, we were way down below and the sound effects to us were a little different. I could always tell when the Japanese planes were coming. First of all you heard the 5-inch guns go boom, boom, boom, boom. After a while, you hear the 40mms cut in. Then you hear the 20mm’s trill, trill, trill and they are going to be right overhead. All of a sudden it is quiet. Then about ten or fifteen minutes later all of it will start again. That is the way the battle went.”

Jerry Gonzales, Machinist’s Mate 1/c

“Not so obvious were there effects on the inner man. When NORTH CAROLINA was at last on her way back to Pearl Harbor for repairs she carried as passengers 250 survivors from ships that had been crashed by kamikazes. In outward appearance all seemed normal. Then at sunset out came the clang! Clang! Clang! Of the general alarm calling our crew to battle stations for the usual evening stand-to. The reactions of the passengers were dumfounding. They fell apart. Some dived under tables, other screamed incoherently or dashed about aimlessly. All were casualties of war no less than those who had stopped a bullet.”

Commander Kemp Tolley, Navigator



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3 friends in Hawaii

“After the Philippines operations concluded for us in early 1945, we proceeded to the Pacific Fleet’s new advanced base in Ulithi Lagoon to prepare for our next operations and to enjoy a bit of R and R on the isle of Mog Mog. The native grass huts and buildings were standing; the natives had been evacuated to nearby islands. The SeaBees had constructed picnic and BBQ facilities and ball fields. We were authorized to send over liberty parties with athletic equipment and two cans of beer per man for an afternoon of sunning, swimming, playing ball, eating and drinking. My first experience with liberty parties as an ensign was to be in charge of 50 sailors with all their gear and beer and get them to the beach, a 45 minute boat ride, supervise their recreation…and get them back to the ship on schedule. I was outnumbered 50 to one.”

Capt. Tracy Wilder, USN (Ret)

Studio shot

“I remember when I went ashore on that island. The boat would dock at an old rickety pier and you walked through a jungle path to get to the recreation area. The warm beer was delicious.”

Ron Johnson

Diamond Head

“We anchored back in Ulithi to refuel and replenish stores. While in Ulithi we would have recreation at our favorite resort, Mog Mog. The island was very small with the highest point above sea level of about six feet. The island was covered with coconut palm trees…and divided so that about three-quarters were for the enlisted personnel and the remainder for the officer’s club. We could strip down to our skivvies and swim in the surf…or just lounge around and relax, which most of us did. Time on the island was about four hours.”

Bill Fleishman

theatre in Hawaii

In Hawaii, “Liberty was from 09:00 to 18:00, daylight liberty unless you had someone there you knew. Honolulu had lots to offer GIs in the way of USO clubs and places to go there was never a charge. I loved to dance and you could dance at the YMCA and the Breakers. Also there was a theater. It reminded me of home as the ceiling was like a sky with stars twinkling and clouds drifting by. There was Waikiki Beach. I loved to swim and had never seen a beach like this with its clear water and surf. I soon was snorkeling and riding the surf. It was really a paradise. The Royal Hawaiian was a special place. It was reserved for the submarine sailors when they returned from tours. We had lots of pictures taken in Honolulu. They had hula girls you could have your picture taken with.”

Bill Taylor

Officers on liberty

“Everyone looked forward to liberty, a time to get away from the ship. In places like NY City, San Diego, Norfolk, San Francisco and other large ports we could stay out until 7am the next morning. Once we were in the South Pacific, the only real liberty town was Honolulu. In order to stay overnight you had to put in for a special request that had to include where you were staying and the division officer had to approve it. There was a house we called “The Happy Hotel” that consisted of a bunch of cots in this guy’s basement. It was a pretty nice place. It had a large front porch where we could sit out at night and get harassed by passersby. He charged about $3 which was a lot of money back then. There was also the standard red light district: ‘three minutes for three bucks.’”

Paul Wieser

Studio photo with hula girl

“Most of our liberty was in Honolulu and it consisted of sightseeing and drinking. We tried to date some of the local girls but they didn’t seem too interested in sailors. They liked our money but didn’t want to go dancing with us.”

Jim Masie

Camp Andrews Hawaii

“Camp Andrews was a rest and relaxation camp established for US Navy enlisted at Oahu. Life at camp was very relaxed. We slept, ate, played games and drank beer. There was no reveille on your three days there or bed check. We slept in tents. All we had to do was cross the road and we were on our own little beach.”

Charles Paty Jr.

Barber Shop

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Each guy carried a round disk to the barber shop which meant he was authorized by the division to get a haircut. When he came back he was told to hand it to somebody else the division petty officer thought needed a haircut. In the 5th Division we had three of those disks with 5th Division on them. This assigned number of disks prevented a single division from loading up the barber line.

Going into port meant that captain’s inspection would be coming up so you had to have your crew rotated through the barber shop in order to pass inspection or your petty officer would get into trouble. To protect the money end, you had to go to the ship’s store and buy a chit for the 10 or 20 cents that it cost. The barber did not handle money. At night he could operate – set up a little barber shop some place because guys were willing to pay extra to get their hair cut the way they wanted it. In the barber shop you did not have much say about the kind of a haircut you were going to get or what barber you were going to get either. If you did know the barber who was cutting your hair, you could slip him a buck and get a nice one.

Paul Wieser, Boatswain’s Mate 1/c

Barber Ragogina and Yeoman McCarthy

Haircuts were free, however, if you didn’t want to get scalped and didn’t trust that the barber was in a good mood, a tip sometimes assured a decent haircut. There was a guy who complained about his haircut after he had given the barber a buck, so the barber placed the dollar bill on his head and shaved around it.

Jerry Johnson, Radarman 3/c

Barber Louis Maddamma cutting Ray Miller's hair

We are dealing with many individuals who cut hair and each could exercise ways of tipping although that was strictly illegal. Anything could be legal as long as you didn’t get caught. I had a favorite barber. Yes, I did him favors and he did me favors. I liked Lucky Tiger (hair tonic). It was not for common use as the barber bought it on his own. Dettmann, my barber, always took special care that I look the part of an inspection-detailed yeoman and I always tipped him half a buck.

Gordon Knapp, Yeoman 1/c

John Dettman, Vincent Ragogini (Rags), Louis Maddamma (in chair), and Ray Miller in the Barber Shop

“Tags will be distributed to each division. The Division Police Petty Officer will give out these tags to men of his division. The tag will authorize men to be in the Barber Shop line and to get a haircut. When finished the man will turn the tag over to the next man in his division. No man will be given a haircut without one of these tags.”

Supply Department Order, December 1944