Happy Holidays from the “Good Ship” NORTH CAROLINA
In late January 1944, BB55 anchored at Funafuti in the Ellice Islands. Task Force 37 was dissolved and Task Force 58 was born. On January 23rd the Battleship was underway with Task Group 58.5 under command of Admiral Wills Lee.
“Our particular task force went to Roi and Namur which is the northwestern end of the Kwajalein lagoon. It is a beautiful lagoon, hundred miles long. The Japanese had installations at both ends but at Roi and Namur they had one island that consisted of nothing but an air strip. The other was where they had revetments with stores, torpedo warheads, bombs and so on and also their living quarters. John Kirkpatrick [Air Defense Officer] and I finally persuaded Captain Thomas to request from the carrier that they take photographs of these islands after the first strike from as low an altitude as possible.
They sent a fighter out taking oblique pictures, circling the islands at high speed. They came back with these things, took them back to the carrier, and they were developed. Then they flew them over and dropped them on the NORTH CAROLINA. We didn’t have accurate charts of any of the islands. We had maps that were drawn up by school children and things like that. We had nothing modern and we didn’t know what we were doing.
With these blowups that we had taken on the morning of the first strike we could see everything perfectly on the island…revetments, hangers, fuel supply, and personnel quarters. We took these pictures and sat down and numbered the targets. Then we put them on a board and gave one to each of the [fire control] director operators and the other two we took to Sky Control. We were able to designate the targets by numbering and assign a target to Sky I or Sky III or whatever it happened to be. They could look at this board with the picture on it and look over to the island and see exactly which end of the island it was and actually see the targets.
It worked absolutely perfectly. It was the first time it had been used. Our skipper was a little reluctant to ask this favor of the carrier but we finally talked him into it. It was a fantastic thing for us. At that point we had Marines ashore.”
- Lt Commander Richard Walker
“The plan was to bombard every two hours all night long…to keep the Japanese awake and hoping they would be less able to resist our landings. I didn’t get much sleep that night.”
- C.J. Baker, Firecontolman 3/c
“I went topside to watch our 5-inch guns fire at the island. We were about six miles off the beach. I could plainly see the water tank, radio tower, hangers and other buildings. The three battleships were all firing 5-inch rounds. It was quite impressive. We set an oil dump afire twice. We fired at pillboxes all along the beach. Many hits were made on the runways. I had the mid watch so I didn’t hit the sack until 0030.”
- Charles Paty, Radioman 2/c
“We were to spend the night just lobbing shells in on these two islands to keep the Japanese from getting a good night’s sleep before we hit them in the morning. We did an awful lot of good because we blew up a lot of ammunition dumps and kept the Japanese off balance for the night.
We got in there about dark and saw a small ship anchored to a pier in the lagoon. We opened up on her…and she sank. I found out later that the next day they went onboard that ship and found Japanese charts of depths and channels of every lagoon in the Pacific which saved us months and months of surveying and hydrographic work.”
- Commander Joe Stryker
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
“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
“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