Monthly Archives: October 2014

Damage Control

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Hatch markings

“First, what is Damage Control? Damage Control consists of the methods used to preserve stability, watertight integrity, buoyancy and maneuverability, to control list and trim, to effect rapid repairs to material and damage, to provide protection from fire and chemical agents and facilitate care of the wounded. Watertight integrity, one of more important factors in Damage Control, must be preserved. One man’s carelessness may cause a disastrous result to a ship. It remains a fact that an open or improperly dogged door or hatch compromises the watertight integrity of the ship and endangers your live and the lives of your shipmates. So, please think twice before requesting permission once.”

Tarheel, October 3, 1942

BB55 crew member Lou Popovich was in the R Division (Hull) post-war and explains damage control on the Battleship. Lou’s duties included maintaining and operating the #2 pump room, taking soundings throughout the ship, and conducting pressure tests of compartments to insure watertight integrity.

“As a cook I was in a repair party and that is damage control. All throughout the ship you have damage control stations. In case of a bomb or you get hit with a torpedo our job is to go and put the fire out and shore up that excess damage. Like when we got torpedoed…right away you have to go and close the previous compartment down to that and flood the other compartment so that it would level off.”

Herbert Sisco, Ship’s Cook 2/c

Hatches cartoon

“The torpedo hit was something else. I was on watch in #1 pump room, in a cot reading when all of a sudden I was tossed out on the grating. The lights went out and I could hear water running. I reached for a battle lamp, that expired but I turned to my flashlight. The pump room was filled with smoke. I immediately called Damage Control for permission to go to my regular repair station and get a rescue breather and light. Permission was granted. As I went for the apparatus I noticed there was about 6 or 8 inches of water around the barbette. I returned to the pump room and asked for relief as my battle station was elsewhere. No relief was forthcoming so I took orders from Damage Control to counter flood.”

John C. Hively, Carpenter’s Mate 1/c

The Big Guns

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“[The bombardment of] Iwo Jima is where I found out that you were not supposed to open a door on the firing side the same time a 16-inch gun was fired. The door opened outward and I was about half way out and was knocked back in by the door being slammed shut by the force of the firing. I wasn’t hurt, just shook up. Watching a bombardment is something that you will never forget. I can still remember the noise that the shells made going through the air. You could actually see them.”

John Bartholomew, Radioman 3/c

16 salvo night

“Never having been on a battleship and never seeing 16-inch guns fired I was interested when we went to the gunnery range to fire our 16-inch guns. I stood behind the #2 mount to watch. They fired a salvo and I did not have a hair on my face or arms. I wound up in sick bay for burns and a reprimand. After that I never watched the guns firing without using flash cream and long sleeves.”

Charles Hotaling, Seaman 2/c

Inside the big gun barrel

“I was assigned to Turret I as a work station and general quarters station. Several times I was asked to put on a monkey suit (coveralls). I was a Gunner’s Mate striker. The first step was to get two lines from the chamber all the way through the (16-inch gun) barrel. This was done with the gas ejector. We would then use a hammock for me to lie on. We would secure a line to each corner and tie a rag around my head and I entered the chamber feet first. Someone would pass me a large rag and about a pound or more of grease. When I said ready men on deck would start pulling me through and I used my hands to spread the grease round and round the barrel. I was glad when my feet came out the other end.”

Paul Phillips, Seaman 1/c


“Our battleship and some destroyers were sent in late in the afternoon to start bombardment about dark. The planes had been bombarding for two days. We were sent in to bombard all night, to hold the Japanese down and to keep them from getting any sleep or rest or putting up any fortification. The troops were going to land the next morning after we put an all-night bombardment on the islands (Roi and Namur, January 1944). We fired at different intervals every 10 or 15 minutes so that the Japanese would not know when the next salvo (round of fire) was coming.”

Henry Greenway, Boatswain’s Mate 2/c

“When we bombarded different islands, prior to occupation, we have four or five first line battleships right in a row. They would be going by…and they would fire a starboard. Take 20 minutes or so and the next one would pick it up and then the next one and the next one. They would turn and come back and fire port side bombarding the islands. That was quite an impressive sight.”

Henry Okuski, Boilerman 1/c

Training Aid poster

“I was assigned to #4 fireroom but was off duty and we decided to go topside to watch the activity. The forward turrets were scheduled to be fired so everyone on deck was moved aft. J.T. Red Miller and I were watching the 16-inch shells hurtling toward the island which was quite an amazing sight. The Japanese were firing back from caves in Mt. Suribachi. Red and I watched what appeared to be a 5-inch shell coming directly at our ship. It splashed just 25 or 30 yards short of the ship. I headed for the ladder to get below at flank speed. When I got to my bunk Red was waiting for me and asked, “what took you so long?” That was our first and last time to watch the big guns in action.”

Wilbur E. “Gene” McIntyre, Fireman 2/c

Crime and Punishment

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Brig October 1941

Each morning the Executive Officer gave the Commanding Officer a list of enlisted personnel reported for offenses the previous day. The captain could dismiss the case with a warning or administer a sentence. (In the days of sailing ships this justice was held at the foot of the ship’s mainmast which is why it’s called captain’s mast.)

“The Captain had a variety of punishments to choose from such as extra duty, withholding liberty, leave and/or pay, reduce your rank, place you in the brig, or in the brig with bread and water, or even kick you out of the navy. On a ship, the captain is the ultimate law and there is no appeal. His decision is final.”

Paul A. Wieser

Examples of offenses during wartime on the Battleship that were punished by a sentence to the brig:

Leaving battle station without permission – 3 days bread and water

Fighting – 5 days bread and water

Neglect of duty – 5 days bread and water

Unauthorized absence from quarters for captain’s inspection – 5 days bread and water

Disobedience of orders of Police Petty Officer and using profane language – 5 days bread and water

Refusal to obey orders – 5 days bread and water

AWOL 4 days and breaking arrest – 15 days bread and water

In December 1943, men were sentenced to 5, 9, 15, 20, and 30 days in brig

The Ship’s police, the Master-at-Arms force, was in charge of the brig. They insured that all prisoners behaved themselves, kept their cells neat and clean, and escorted those who were not on bread and water rations to the Mess Decks for meals. The Ship’s Marine Detachment stood guard for four hour watches.

“The brig was not used very much. If we were at sea why confine a man to the brig? There was no place for him to go. If we were in port a prisoner could be sent to a lock-up ashore. Any sailor in his right mind would not want to be confined to a naval lock-up that was run by marines. They did not treat a poor swabie very gently.”

Charlie Foster, Patternmaker

Court Martial swearing in
Court Martial swearing in

“When I moved up to Executive Officer from Navigator on February 19, 1943 I became very interested in the Ship’s brig. I found that a lot of deadbeats were being sent there where they could lie around and read comic books while their other shipmates were doing their work for them. I soon tried to take measures whereby the brig would be most unpopular. I started the rule that no man in the brig could be off his feet from 0830 until 1700 with two rest periods and a half hour for noon meal or bread if they were on a restrained diet. If they tried to lie down the Marine guards were instructed to order them up and to pound on the soles of their shoes if they didn’t obey.

It wasn’t before long before the Chaplain made a call on me and told me that some of the men in the brig had complained to him about my order and called it “cruel and inhumane treatment.” I told the Chaplain to trot back down to the brig and tell them that they were being required to do exactly what every shop girl in Macy’s Basement did every day and if they didn’t like the hours and requirements, to keep out of my hotel. From then on it was Stryker’s hotel. I never had any more complaints and the occupancy rate at the hotel was greatly reduced.”

Commander Joe Stryker, Executive Officer

Another use for the brig!

“Finally, we were allowed beer on board to be doled out at the rate of two cans per man on liberty. Prior to that, it had been hard even on shore stations to get beer. We were in Noumea when beer was authorized and pressure was put on me to get some of it. I called Chief Dillingham and Chief Minvielle, my two top crew representatives, and told them I wasn’t getting the beer because I didn’t think there was a place on the Ship where it would be safe from pilferage at unauthorized times. They thought it over and came up with this: “We don’t use the brig much anymore, so why not lock it up there? We’ll pass the word that the first SOB that draws brig time will cause all the beer to be thrown over the side.” They added that they would see that culprits could be taken care of other than being taken to the Captain’s Mast where the punishment might be brig time. [And not one Captain ever questioned me on the lack of need to hold mast.] Again, I bought their suggestion and we had a few black eyes once in a while, but no lodgers at the “Stryker Hotel” [the brig] for months to come.”

Commander Joe Stryker, Executive Officer

The Skipper and the Sheriff
The Skipper and the Sheriff

“I have this date conducted an inspection of the ship’s brig. Because of the work in progress in the voids, the musty odor, the fumes and the low oxygen content of the air, I am of the opinion that confinements in the brig at the present time of any man might produce serious injury to his health. It is recommended that the use of the brig aboard this ship be discontinued….”

Memo from the Medical Officer to the Commanding Officer, February 1947