Monthly Archives: June 2014

Captains

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Captain Fahrion with medicine ball
Captain Fahrion with Medicine Ball

“All of these guys were selected (to make admiral) long before they ever got command (of the NORTH CAROLINA). They would never have gotten the command in the first place. It was too prestigious a job. But they had to wait their turn and they had to have a certain amount of sea duty and this was it.”

Commander Kemp Tolley, Navigator

“My commanding officers were, without exception, fine, excellent men. I only got to know them for about six months, because at that time, they were always detached. Every one of them went ahead and had distinguished careers during World War II as flag officers (admirals). All commanded the respect of the crew. I was always very happy to be with any of them.

However, the captain never knew what was going on. I never allowed the captains to know too much. When I got a new captain on that ship, I would go up and talk to him in his cabin, and with a twinkle in my eye, I would say, ‘Now captain, we’ve got a pretty good ship going. If you will kind of let us alone and let us run this ship the way we have been, I will guarantee in six months that I will graduate you number one in your class for flag rank. Any change you want to make, you tell me and I’ll make it; but we don’t need too many.”

Commander Joe Stryker, Executive Officer

Oscar C. Badger – “He was the enlisted man’s captain, he really was. He made a lot of innovations like soup for the mid watch. He was a destroyer squadron leader when he came aboard the NORTH CAROLINA. He was a tough disciplinarian but he was really good. We really enjoyed him. Sorry to see him leave when we were going to the Pacific. We thought he was going with us but he left in Norfolk.”

Harold Smith, Firecontrolman 1/c

“We had a succession of very capable commanding officers and executive officers. I believe we were fortunate is nothing only having but not having had too long as a captain, Admiral Badger. He was a very good captain. I felt his failure was not being properly appreciative of his subordinates. While captain of our ship he spent a great deal of time studying the strategy and tactics of the war which I’m sure were a great benefit to our purposes after he achieved flag rank. That was in the early part of the war when the captain was in pretty close contact with the officers and the crew. But then the captains that followed him were rather isolated.”

Commander John Kirkpatrick

“I noted with satisfaction and pride the splendid spirit shown by all hands in accomplishing the very hard work which was necessary to get the ship ready for sea on time. Well done! I am also pleased with the progress made in our training during the first two days at sea, especially the feat of the A.A. battery in shooting down both drones with so little opportunity for preparation. However, we have many new officers and men on board and much intensive drill at battle stations will be necessary in order to insure our readiness for action at an early date. The Japanese are good fighters. We must be better. Let’s go!”

Address to the crew by G.H. Fort, Captain, USN, and commanding officer of BB55 from June to December 1942. Fort was presented the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service against enemy Japanese forces in the Battle of Solomon Islands, August 24, 1942.

“Although the ship was a poor environment for sports, Captain “Spike” Fahrion, who was a big, muscular bruiser of a man, was determined to do what he could to stay in shape. Around mid-afternoon on days when there was not much risk of surprise attack, the captain would send his marine orderly down into officers’ country to round up four or five vigorous young men to serve as the old man’s medicine ball playmates. Often as not, most of us were exhausted from long hours on watch or at our battle stations so we were not exactly thrilled with the prospect. But, when the captain summoned, you came. Within minutes, attired in shorts, t-shirts and canvas shoes, we joined him on the open deck, starboard side of his in-port cabin, on the 01 level.

Our routine was to form a circle of eight or ten feet in diameter, and for half an hour or so we would simply take turns heaving the medicine ball to each other…. That huge, leather bound globe must have weighed 25 or 30 pounds while the captain probably weighed around 200. With his strength, aided by an occasional loud grunt, he could toss that thing around almost as easily as the rest of us could handle a basketball. I then weighed no more than 135, and I’ll never forget the first time he sent the ball thudding into my gut. I hadn’t braced myself for the impact and it knocked me flat on the deck, much to the amusement of everyone else. After that, I never thought it was much fun.”

Captain Ben Blee, USN (Ret)

USS NORTH CAROLINA’s Captains

Their time in command of NORTH CAROLINA

Olaf M.Hustvedt
April 9, 1941 – October 23, 1941

Oscar C. Badger
October 23,1941 – June 1, 1942

George H. Fort
June 1, 1942 – December 5, 1942

Wilder D. Baker
December 5, 1942 – May 27, 1943

Frank P. Thomas
May 27, 1943 – October 6, 1944

Frank G.Fahrion
October 6, 1944 – January 26, 1945

Oswald S. Colclough
January 26, 1945 – June 15, 1945

Byron H. Hanlon
June 15, 1945 – February 1, 1946

Timothy J. O’Brien
February 1, 1946 – June 27, 1947

Aviation

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V Division 1941
Aviation – V Division

Lester Tucker, Aviation Ordnanceman and served on BB55 from 5/22/1941 to 8/12/1943

“One of the more colorful characters on board was our senior aviator Lt. “Dipsy” Dowdle. Dipsy was a frustrated fighter pilot and a salty flier. When we stopped at Pearl Harbor on our way to the Pacific in October 1944, the captain received a complaint from the beach and an order from the air base commander to ground Dipsy while in Hawaii because he kept buzzing the airfield and challenged the fighter pilots to a dog fight! His battle station was at the catapult in case the Kingfishers had to be launched.

During one Japanese air attack a Japanese torpedo bomber launched his weapon, which missed, and flew low over the fantail. As he flew over he thumbed his nose at Dipsy who was standing on the deck. Dipsy was incensed and requested a Thompson sub-machine gun from our armory to take to his battle station thereafter. No one is going to thumb his nose at me again, he declared. That fact the gun’s range was only 25 yards did not phase him a bit.

Captain Tracy Wilder, USN (Ret.)

“JJ Dowdle was a real character. Lt. Paul Wogan was a really good guy and relieved Dowdle about Christmas time 1944, soon thereafter Ensign Renzas relieved Werder. We quickly learned that Renzas was unsafe to fly since he lost an airplane on his first flight from the ship. He only flew in port and never while underway. I didn’t complain because it gave me an opportunity to fly more. Paul Wogan soon had problems with an ulcer and was relieved by Lt. Ralph Jacobs following the Okinawa operation.”

Commander Al Oliver, USN (Ret.)

“With the customary clatter and confusion of a group getting settled, the V Division landed on the fantail of the Southern Belle, Thursday, and took over. With an able division commander the division, about 19 strong, is off to a vigorous, if late, start to make the rest of the divisions take notice. So watch your propwatch, we’re underway. You’ll be hearing from us but soon-the Vigorous Vs.”

Tarheel, August 23, 1941

“Usually the Aviation Radioman was the rear seat man and that was his battle station. Certain of the V Division members who drew flight pay had to fly a minimum of four hours each month to keep their flight pay. The mandatory hours were rescinded either in July or August of 1942; thereafter the rear seat man who was both radioman and gunner on the .30 caliber machine gun in the rear seat flew with the plane to which he was assigned.”

Robert Cashman, Aviation Machinist’s Mate