Monthly Archives: May 2014

Crew Memories

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Crew Memories of military service from some of the men who are no longer with us this Memorial Day

“When I was in high school, I thought the greatest thing in the world was to be a soldier. At that time, back in the late 1930s, the government had a program called CMTC, Citizens Military Training Corps. As a high school student, you would go for a month to be trained by the Army. I went to what is now known as Fort Dix, but was then called Camp Dix. I went there for a month. I said to myself, ‘You know what you can do with this Army. I ain’t going out there to lie in that wet grass and march all day in that sand and get sand in my shoes.” When the jobs didn’t work out, I decided to enlist in the Navy rather than risk being drafted into the Army. Things were heating up in Europe and who knew what Hitler would do. You heard the news over the radio, saw it in newsreels at the movies, and read it in the paper.”

-Paul A. Wieser (died 2006)

Paul Wieser 1941 The late Paul Anthony Wieser
Paul A. Wieser

“Well, I looked to military life for a long time before I was old enough to enlist. I tried to lie and enlist. I didn’t make it. They caught me. They could look at me and tell that I was too young. Then along comes the draft of 1941. I was just seventeen and they wouldn’t take me without a guardian’s signature. Finally, I talked my mother into signing the papers to let me go. I told her that I didn’t want any part of the Army. If the draft got me, I wanted to get what I wanted and not what they wanted me to have. I wanted to come into the Navy.…”

-Theron T. Nichols (died 2010)

“I enlisted in the winter of 1941, in January. I had always been interested in the Navy as a boy, and you could feel the trouble over in Europe that we were going to get involved sooner or later. I enlisted with my parents’ consent.”

- Larry Resen (died 2006)

“I was born and raised in a little town in Wisconsin named Kimberly. It was a home base for a paper mill and paper-related products…. I went to the paper mill several times. I would see these slots where people kept their time cards. People who were there for eight- hour shifts, day in and day out, seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. I said that is no life for me. I said, ‘There must be a better way’…In November 1936, I enlisted in the U.S. Navy.”

-John P. Van Sambeek (died 2006)

“Well, I lived on a farm in New York State. I went to a one-room country schoolhouse when we first started. Six grades in one room. Later on after a certain age, they bused us to another town seven miles away. That was the high school. After high school, I couldn’t live with my Dad. One day he said, ‘Men join the Navy.’ So I got tired of pulling that cross cut saw and I joined the Navy. This was April of 1941 right after my eighteenth birthday.”

- Henry Okuski (died 2009)

“I’m from Brooklyn. I had just graduated from high school in January of 1941. I was walking downtown on Fulton Street. I saw the sign ‘Join the Navy and see the world.’ This was in the beginning of March before my eighteenth birthday. I went upstairs and talked to the person in charge. He said, ‘How are your eyes? Can you read this?’ I said, ‘Fine.’ He said, ‘Why don’t you go in and see the doctor?’ I went in and saw the doctor. Everything was fine except he said. ‘I see you bite your nails. We can’t take you in because you bit your nails. Here is a pair of gloves. Put them on and come back next week. If your nails are not bitten, we will take you in.’ I guess it (the concern) was nervousness, I don’t know. I went back the following week and they took me in and that is when I enlisted.”

-Edwin L. Calder (died 2006)

I was born in Little Rock, Arkansas in December 1922. I first enlisted in the Navy on the 6th of June 1939. I guess the main reason was because I was a young kid who wanted to get out of Arkansas and see the world.

-Charlie Rosell (died 2009)

Many of your friends have already answered your country’s call to service. More will be going. Choose a service that will give you action, thrills, adventure, travel. A service where you will live a rugged, healthy & outdoor life. Many men who have delayed too long in volunteering for the Navy now regret it. Don’t wait until it’s too late. You can choose the Navy right up to the actual moment of your induction.

- Navy Recruiting Bureau, July 1942

Recruiting graphic

WWII Draft Lists – 10 million men were inducted into military service between 1940 and 1946

October 1940:  all men aged 21-36

July 1941:  men who had turned age 21

February 1942:  men aged 20-45

April 1942:  men aged 45-65

June 1942:  men aged 18-20

December 1942 men who had turned 18


Chief Petty Officers

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Chief Petty Officers mess in December 1945

The chiefs are the highest-ranking enlisted men and experts in their respective fields. Highly respected for their knowledge and experience, they taught both enlisted men and young officers. They also served as a link between officers and crew. Chiefs had their own quarters separate from the crew (2nd deck) and their mess more closely resembled the officers’ wardroom with tablecloths, chairs, and china. There were 69 chiefs on the Battleship NORTH CAROLINA.

“I had a bunch of chief petty officers that knew everything that was going on anywhere on the ship, and they helped me solve my problems more than anybody else.  I think for that reason that when they knew that they had originated some of these things, they took great pride in being able to do it better than anybody else could.  So, I got a lot of work done from people who didn’t have the stripes or the pay that they should have had for doing the work; but they wanted to do it, because they wanted to keep the ship top flight in every way.” – Commander Joe Stryker, Executive Officer  ”These guys really run the ship.  When there was a problem-anyone not knowing what to do, including the officers, the word was “get the chief.”  He would surely know how to handle the situation. The majority of the chiefs were really good.

- Paul Wieser, Boatswain’s Mate 1/c

“The chiefs and officers made out the best. They had their own cooks. Their food was better prepared in small quantities. Enlisted men lived in their world and the officers and chiefs in their world.

Leo Drake
-Leo Drake, Firecontrolman 1/c

“As disbursing officer of the ship it was a distinct pleasure to pay the chiefs at breakfast in their mess. This meant that I got one good breakfast a month!”

-Edwin Little, Ensign, U.S. Navy

“My most vivid reminder of chiefs is Sidney Bruce Kelley. His battle station was rangefinder operator in Sky 1. What impressed me and many others was the caliber of the petty officers in the F Division. They all were most intelligent and capable and Kelley was the sharpest, maybe matched by Sid Gross. Kelley not only the equipment aboard, he was also adept at seamanship, able to handle things like sextants, etc. He was always fine tuning the equipment so that when we would go into combat it would function properly. Kelley was responsible for the topside anti-aircraft installations which always performed excellently thanks to his stewardship. During the war there was a very strong demand for seasoned crew members and since the NORTH CAROLINA was new and had an active service record she became a prime source of crew members for the new ships coming into service. In the midst of the war Kelley was commissioned as an ensign and served with distinction as director officer aboard a destroyer.”

-Larry Resen, Firecontrolman 1/c

“John Court was a slick-arm CRT who made chief on the NORTH CAROLINA. He was an engineer in a commercial radio station in the Los Angeles area. He was a master at electronic with a wealth of practical knowledge. He was a great guy.”

-Robert Hunt, Radioman 3/c

Marines Part I

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USMC gunners

Aboard the NORTH CAROLINA, a detachment of 84-86 U.S. Marines formed the 7th Division in the Gunnery Department.

91.26.1 Burton Clark

Burton Clark reported aboard as a Private First Class on 4/9/1941 (plank owner) and was detached as a Platoon Sergeant on 9/23/1944. Listen to him recall his time aboard the NORTH CAROLINA in this video oral history.

“The Marine Detachment was in the Gunnery Department. The Marines stood lookout watch and in battle manned 20mm and (provided officers in two) 40mm mounts. (They also manned a 5-inch mount early in the ship’s career.) The Marines also furnished twenty-four hour orderly services to the captain and the executive officer. In port the Marines were responsible for the security of the ship. The Marines helped with provisioning the ship and taking on ammunition. All Marines were trained in ship to shore operations, so in addition to helping with the security of the ship in port, we were prepared to be a landing force when necessary. This was necessary near the end of the war when all Marines in our battle group transferred at sea to attack transports and went into Yokosuka, Japan. This preceded the signing of the peace treaty by several days. The Marine officers stood top gunnery watches, officer of the deck and junior officer of the deck watches, and regularly assisted in summary and general courts martials acting either as the prosecuting or defending officer.”

- Captain William Romm, USMC

“I am expecting to have a few adventures in the time to come.”

PFC Jim Ramentol, March 1941
He served on BB55 to February 1944

“We had quite a group of Marines. We (the signalmen) were very friendly with them. They used to spend hours on the practice machine. It is a (5-inch) loading machine that they practiced on. They were right below the signal bridge. We used to watch them for hours practicing down there. I think one time that Tokyo Rose said that we had a new weapon, a 5-inch machine gun. That is how fast the Marine mount was firing those guns during an air raid.”

- Jackson Belford, Signalman 3/c

“We could get out some fast loads, but the Marine had two of the (5-inch) mounts. The Marine always had more rounds than we did. We didn’t have a gun crew to match the Marines. They drilled every day on the loading drill so naturally they got it down to a fine art. They were in top shape, the Marines were. We had the best.”

- Michael Horton, Seaman 1/c

“One of my guys was in the brig during an air attack and was shaking the bars demanding the Marine to let him out. He got on the Marine’s nerves so bad that he pulled out his .45 caliber and pointed it at him and said when I let you out, you’ll get out.”

Paul Wieser, Boatswain’s Mate 1/c