Pacific Reserve Fleet, Rough & Ready Island, Stockton, CA (viewed from the west)
[Photo is copyright protected & provided courtesy of The Bank Of Stockton Archives]


Pacific Reserve Fleet
Stockton, CA

June 1962- June 1963

USS Griffin, barracks ship . . . .
My first orders out of boot camp, was to the Pacific Reserve Fleet (mothball fleet) on Rough and Ready Island at Stockton, CA. I was a little disappointed that I didn't receive orders to a sea going greyhound, but what the hey, I was a real sailor now. We resided in a decommissioned WWII vintage Submarine Tender (USS Griffin AS-13), which was stuck in coffee grounds and mud, and pretty much welded to the pier. This ship was so old that some of the heads (up forward) still had the old continuous running water stainless steel troughs under the toilet seats, instead of the more modern flush water closets. You never took the first (farthest down hill) stall (or the second stall, if you could help it), which was still downhill from the other one or two. If you did, you left yourself wide open for someone setting a wad of toilet paper on fire and letting it float down the trough, right under your butt! If you have never literally felt a fire under your butt, well let's just say it's a little startling!

Paint, paint, paint . . . .
Since I didn't get a school coming out of boot camp, I spent about half this tour on the deck force spray painting moth ball ships. We would paint them all out in the traditional haze gray and deck gray (from the waterline up), and then spray a preservative oil over our nice cut-in paint job! While painting these ships, we would paint the inboard side as fast as we could (since the old crusty boatswain supervising us, just stayed stuck in his chair on the pier). By the way, this crusty old boatswain (BM2) was the sole survivor of a tin can during WWII - he was blown off the fantail when it was sunk by a Japanese submarine. Then, before we tackled the outboard side, we would break the seal (after someone showed us how to disconnect the alarm first) and enter the ship. All the stuff was still sealed inside the ship, including all the ship's logs. We found the deck log and medical logs especially interesting to read, as many of these ships (old Kaiser built tin cans) were in a lot of action in WWII. Also, on occasion, while painting, we would accidentally fall off the boatswain chair or raft into the water to cool off - until they threaten to give us Tetanus shots if we continued.


Me, sitting in the supply office.
Top - Taken in First Division Office (1962)
Bottom - Taken in the Supply Office (1963), After Striking For Barber


Foggy morning quarters . . . .
e held our morning quarters out on the pier, weather permitting. In the winter sometimes, the fog would roll in (fast and thick) before they could secure us from quarters. Sometimes this fog would get so thick that you couldn't see the guy next to you. It could be real fun, at times, trying to find the brow in our quest to get back on the ship!


Looking from the east at the mothball ships moored to the continuous
6500 ft long concrete pier along the Stockton Channel.
[Photo is copyright protected & provided courtesy of The Bank Of Stockton Archives]


The Bos'n's hat . . . .
remember making only $72 every two weeks and I usually spent that on the first weekend. Of course, if you were on board on the weekend (regardless if it was your normal duty weekend), we were put on wash crews and spent one or both days washing down the ships. Once, during one of these evolutions on a very warm summer day, two of us wash teams (with fire hoses) were chasing each other and wetting each other down (it was a very hot day). Well, the Chief Bos'n CWO4 Carl was the CDO and decided to check on us and we ended up catching him in a cross fire. Not only did we drench him, we also blew his hat over the side. My $72 didn't go very far the next pay day as we had to buy him a new hat.


A view along the Stockton Channel showing Stephens Brothers Shipyards in the foreground, with Colberg Boat Works just beyond. They built minesweepers for the Korean War.


Liberty card box . . . .
hen returning from liberty, early in the morning, you definitely wanted to see the liberty card collection box at the head of the brow. If you didn't, it meant that you were late because the box was removed immediately upon expiration of liberty at 7am sharp. If you missed the box, the division Chief would lose (or misplace) your liberty card for about two weeks. For some reason, he just couldn't find it. Fortunately, it never happened to me - being late that is, but my liberty card did become lost or misplaced a couple times for other minor discretions.

A small problem with getting up at reveille . . . .
I also had a problem, as many young sailors had, of not rising out of my bunk at first call. Our Boatswain Mate First Class put an end to that habit right off. He would come through our berthing compartment a few minutes after reveille and wake everyone the first time. He would return once again, about ten minutes later, and if you weren't out of your bunk, he would cut the bunk lashings. Then, he would keep you busy working until late in the evening before turning you loose. You would then have to spend the rest of your evening hours relashing your bunk, so you would have something to sleep in that night. I know, it happened to me - and if you haven't ever had to relash your bunk,you're fortunate as it it's not an easy task. I never slept in again and to this day, I get right up whenever I'm awakened by someone and/or an alarm.

USS Earle DD-635 and USS Thompson DD-627
[Photo is copyright protected & provided courtesy of The Bank Of Stockton Archives]

Duty Driver incident . . . .
n another occasion, while performing duty in the capacity of duty driver late one night, I was a little bored and was attempting to run down jack rabbits with the duty pick-up. The base had lots of old warehouses and the base was infested with these wild rabbits. Well, as I was going around one of these warehouses, in hot pursuit of a rabbit, the Command Duty Officer was coming around in the opposite direction. I damn near hit him head on! Well, needless to say, I was relieved of my duty driver duties and delegated to pier sentry duties for a couple months.

When I stood pier sentry watches, I had a small transistor radio that I hid in my jacket and ran the ear phone wires up inside my shirt. This way, I could flip the ear phone out of my ear and down the inside of my shirt whenever the duty Chief or CDO came around checking. I never did get caught listening to the radio, which was a no-no because you were supposed to be listening for alarms on the mothball ships.

On the towing crew . . . .
t times, the Navy would sell a mothball ship for scrap or to a foreign country. On two of these occasions, I volunteered as one of the crew members to ride the ship from Stockton to Seattle, WA. They would have a 10-12 man skeleton crew onboard while it was being towed by a sea going tug. The first trip (an LSM, I believe - but I don't remember the name or number) I volunteered for was my first official time at sea in the U. S. Navy. So, being a "boot", I was the entertainment for several old salts, like; "go fetch 5-fathoms of waterline", or "go down to shaft alley and bring back the golden rivet". I also was tasked to stand a 4-hr mail buoy watch. I really kept a sharp lookout for that mail buoy too! They also tried their best to get me seasick, but that didn't work as I don't get seasick - I'm too clumsy, I guess.

USS Atlas ARL-7 and USS Amycus ARL-2 - Both are converted LSTs
[Photo is copyright protected & provided courtesy of The Bank Of Stockton Archives]


Another towing crew story . . . .
n the second trip I volunteered for, in September of 1962, we were onboard an old WWII Destroyer Escort (USS Holt DE-706) which was to be overhauled in Seattle and then loaned to the Republic of Korea. During this towing, we got into a storm off the coast of Washington. I remember having the tow watch (2000 to 2400) on the bridge - my job was to keep watch on the status of the tow line from the sea going tug Tatnuck ATA-195. This had been, up till this point, a pretty boring watch routine. On this night the wind was blowing so hard that we were almost parallel with the tug and the towline was almost directly perpendicular to us. Early into the watch, after visually locating the tow line, I heard "Twwaaaannngg"! The tow line had just parted and all hell broke loose! We had no ship's power, so we were at the mercy of the sea - and we took some tremendous rolls. I immediately reported to the officer-in-charge that the tow line had parted. We spent the next couple hours or so trying to get another line over to the tug. The line would either fail to reach us or it would part. A smaller Coast Guard Patrol Boat (an 82' boat) took over from the tug and tried getting a tow line over to us, also with no success. My hat is off to the crew of that Patrol Boat, they stuck with us throughout the night. I say in this story that we rolled around a lot, that Patrol Boat would completely disappear at times because the waves were so high - they rolled around like a cork in a bathtub. One of these lines, after parting, just barely missed us and destroyed a metal gun tub shield behind us - I think this where the Officer-In-Charge decided to send us inside as it was getting too dangerous outside. It was difficult walking around or even standing up at times, due to the ship rolls and bucking around. In addition, we were soaking wet due to the waves washing over the decks (and us). We had to continually keep tightening the main mast guy-wires, due to its extreme whipping back and forth - we were afraid that it may snap. The next morning, the Coast Guard Cutter Wachusett WPG-44 finally got a good line over to us just before we were about to run aground on Vancouver Island. Once that was accomplished, the Cutter towed us into calmer waters in the Strait Of Juan De Fuca where we then tied back onto the tug Tatnuck and continued our journey to Seattle. Once, we were in calmer waters, we surveyed any damage to the ship - especially from one collision with the tug. I remember that we had put 25, 100lb blocks of ice in the reefer, to keep our meat and perishables cold, prior to our departure. Well, when we opened that reefer door, and looked in, it looked like oatmeal mush! Being young, and somewhat foolish at the time, I really didn't think much about how perilous the situation really was. I just remember that just about all the old salts were scared sh..less! Also, the headlines in the Seattle Post Intelligencer read "Coast Guard Rescues Navy"! That was tough to live down. But from that experience, to this day I have the utmost respect for the Coast Guard. Through out my career, when telling this story, I would relate the fact that (while I was on the bridge, just after the tow line parted) I saw a roll approaching 60-degrees - it was past 50 and heading to 60, on the gauge, before losing my balance. A lot of guys would say "no way that ship could stay afloat taking a roll that big!" Well, all I can say is that I specifically remember that gauge's reading heading past 50-degrees and it was still moving! I lost my balance and fell against the bulkhead so I never saw the final reading. This wasn't the only roll like this, we also took several more just like that. I may have embellished this story somewhat, or it may have become a more exaggerated in my mind over the years. I just recently received an email from the Ops Officer (Dick G. Taylor, LCDR, USCG Ret.) of the Coast Guard Cutter Wachusett (WPG-44) with his observations the next day. This was the cutter that saved our butt that day. He also included the official report from Bos'n C.L. Carl, the officer in charge of the tow crew. The official report is somewhat different than my recollection, but I swear we took on water through a hole in the hull - I remember closing several watertight hatches. I thought the portable diesel generator quit soon after the line parted, but the official report states that it stopped running much later. I also thought the tow line snapped just as I relieved the watch, but the official report states the line parted around 2100. Also, there was no mention of a parted line crumpling that gun tub shield. Oh well, I guess that's what old age does to ya - maybe I should have started the story with "This is no bullsh**!"

You can read the
Official Report Here


USS Edmonds DE-406 and USS Osmus DE-701
[Photo is copyright protected & provided courtesy of The Bank Of Stockton Archives]

USS Oliver Mitchel DE-417 (outboard), and USS Owen DD-536 (inboard)
[Photo is copyright protected & provided courtesy of The Bank Of Stockton Archives]

More Mothball Ships Along The Stockton Channel
[Photo is copyright protected & provided courtesy of The Bank Of Stockton Archives]


Want to strike for barber? . . . .
One day I was compartment cleaning and someone stuck their head in the door and said "does anyone in here want to strike for barber?" I was the first one to the door! I was fed up with painting. In fact, I still hate to paint anything to this day.

I then spent the remainder of my tour learning to become a barber. I was taught by an excellent barber, so I learned well. He had a tendency to imbibe a little too heavy on occasion and forget where he parked his car. The next day, we all had to help him find his car. I ran into this gentleman again while I was on the L. Mendel Rivers in Charleston, SC. He was a SHCM then, which surprised me as I never thought he would ever get past SH2 - since he was busted so many times at Captain's Masts.

Met my wife . . . .
he best thing that happened to me, while stationed here, was that I met my wife - my true love, companion, and best friend for the past 40 years.


Ranks Attained:

Rank: Seaman

Rating Specialty: Ship Serviceman (Barber)

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[To Some Of These Ships & Other Related Web Sites]

USS Holt DE-706
USS Holt Specs
USS Earle DD-635
USS Thompson DD-627
Pacific Reserve Fleet
USS Owen DD-536
USS Oliver Mitchell DE-417
USS Edmonds DE-406 (Navsource.Org)
USS Edmonds DE-406 (Destroyers Online)
USS Edmonds DE-406 (DE USA)
USS Osmus DE-701 (DE USA)
USS Osmus DE-701 (Navsource.Org))
USS Amycus ARL-2 (Ibiblio.Org)
USS Amycus ARL-2 (Navsource.Org)
USS Griffin AS-13
USS Atlas ARL-7

Stockton Historical Maritime Museum