“In May 1938, I finished high school. My chance of going to college was out because my dad died three years earlier and my mother could not afford to send me. I wanted to go into the Navy, but I first tried earning money for college but to no avail so early April 1939, I went to the Navy recruiting office and signed up.
In mid-January 1941, I was transferred to the crew of the North Carolina. Every morning, Monday through Friday, Ensign Watts assembled us on the USS Seattle dock and marched us over to the USS North Carolina for a report detail in preparing the officers’ rooms, the wardroom, pantry and officers’ galley. [In January 1941] a senior officer came to the wardroom and asked us how we were doing. We said “wet.” We asked him to have the shipyard workers get our compartment ready so we could move in because coming over to the ship from the USS Seattle in the rain we were wet all day. He said, “that’s not good. I will take care of that now and you men can move in today.” We were the first crew on the USS North Carolina.”
Roosevelt Flenard, Mess Attendant 1/c
“They tried to make an electrician out of me when I reported aboard the North Carolina but I’d been in the firerooms for a couple of years by then so didn’t want the change. It didn’t matter what I wanted so I went to the Electrical Division. The ship was just being built so I was told to go sweep up a compartment with a huge switchboard in it. I was just sweeping along minding my own business and saw an electrical armored cable running under the switchboard. I picked it up and lift it so I could sweep under there and I hit two huge switches with the cable. There was a huge white flash and big flash of smoke and I was knocked cold and tossed across the room. They found me and brought me around with no ill effects except a burned hand. I had shorted out half the Navy Yard and the ship too. I asked to be put back in the fireroom and was in #3 the next morning. I’ve hated electricity ever since.”
Joseph “Smitty” Smits, WaterTender 1/c
“I was transferred to what they called a pre-commissioning detail. The Seattle was a receiving ship at that time. We were messed, ate on the Seattle. Most of our time was spent on the North Carolina going through the engineering spaces and drawing out all the different lines, the main steam line, the exhaust lines, fire and flushing lines, a few little striping lines and make drawings of them. Kids like us who were 18 or 19 years old couldn’t understand. We could go up to the log room and get all these prints. All of a sudden on September 15, 1942, when we got that torpedo and we couldn’t see our hand in front of our face and had to light off another boiler, we knew where every line and every valve was. It was training. We had an old chief warrant on there. Chief Warrant Doyle. We use to call him every name in the book. He made us do this. Until that one day, we thanked that man profusely after that.”
Charlie Rosell, WaterTender 1/c