Pacific Reserve Fleet, Stockton, CA

By: Old Blue Jacket

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

Duty Driver incident . . . .
On 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 . . . .
At 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 . . . .
On 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 . . . .
The 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.

Rating Specialty: Ship Serviceman (Barber)

Please Sign My Guest Book