Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sea Stories

Well, not exactly sea stories, but a few things about Dad, boats and the US Navy.

Growing up in Dayton doesn’t usually bring boating into a boy’s life, but Dad and some of his friends did use canoes on the nearby Mad River and rowboats fishing in lakes and water-filled gravel-pits.  Dad was fond of boating and, although he didn’t own a boat until after he retired, we often went boating with his friends.

After Dad got out of high school and began working at Delco Moraine the draft was still in effect.  He knew that he would soon have to make a decision about joining or waiting for his draft notice.

One day several of his friends approached him.  They had talked to an Army recruiter who’d promised them that if they all joined up at the same time they could go to boot camp together.  They all thought this would be a grand plan.  Dad did too, with one exception – he wanted to go into the Navy.

The others didn’t really care what branch they joined, so the next day they talked to a Navy recruiter and found that the Navy offered the same scheme.  A few weeks later the gang was off to the Great Lakes Naval Training Station near Chicago.

USS Lansdowne in Tokyo Bay for Treaty signing

After completing training everyone went off to their respective assignments.  Dad was sent to the Charleston Navy Yard, where he served as a Machinist Mate in the engine rooms and the damage control sections helping to prepare surplus WWII Destroyers for transfer to the Turkish Navy.  Among the ships Dad worked on were the USS Lardner - DD-487, the USS Lansdowne - DD-486, the USS McCalla - DD-488 & the USS Buchanan - DD-484.  Dad went on many day cruises out to sea a number of times, helping to train the Turkish sailors.  He once told me that they never got out of sight of the shore, which was a bit of a disappointment for him.

Dad had an adventure in boot camp that I wrote about before.  He also told me about an incident that he experienced in Charleston.  They were being taught to extinguish onboard fires.  The instructors lit a large amount of fuel.  Dad and two other sailors were to attack the flames with a large hose, probably a 2-1/2” line, and a high volume nozzle.  Dad was second in line. 

Something like this, but with less protective gear and a larger hose.
As they got close to the fire, suddenly the first sailor, the one holding the nozzle, panicked.  He let go of the nozzle and ran.  Dad had three or four feet of hose twisting and whipping around and, since the water curtain was no longer always between him and the fire, it suddenly got very hot.

Dad was tempted to “follow the leader” – drop the hose and run.  But he realized that if he did so the third sailor and others nearby might be hurt.  So he inched his grip forward on the hose until he got control of it.  He and the other sailor successfully extinguished the fire.

Sometime after Mom and Dad had gotten married, but before I was born, the Navy offered Dad a slot at Officer’s Candidate School.  Accepting would mean an additional four years in the Navy.  Dad considered it, but he really didn’t want a career in the Navy, he had a good job waiting for him in Dayton with Delco Moraine and they had me on the way, so he turned it down.

A few months later, not long after I was born, Dad was honorably discharged and they went to Dayton.  A few weeks after arriving home, the Korean War broke out.  Dad said, “I didn’t even have time to unpack my seabag.  Then I figured I might as well not unpack as I was sure I’d be called back up.”

He wasn't though.

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