Ship's History: 1956-1958
Any contributions are greatly appreciated. Please keep them G-rated.
In June 1958, Stephen Potter was again placed out of commission, in reserve, and berthed at Mare Island, California. She remained there until 1 December 1972 when she was struck from the Navy list. Stephen Potter received 10 battle stars for World War II service.
From Jack Wolf:
Then there was our yard overhaul in Philadelphia. That experience I'll never forget; it was like living in a kettle drum with all the banging going on. Fortunately, they moved us off the ship and billeted us in quieter quarters.
From John Q:
Don't know where the officers went, but the rest of the crew went to a barracks barge which held the entire crews from four cans, or maybe from six cans. And was it cold in there! The only warm place was the day room, where one could observe young sailors wearing Mickey Mouse ears, watching the Mickey Mouse Club and drooling over Annette Funicello. It brought back memories of boot camp at Bainbridge, and the daily admonition, "You're a man now, and in a man's Navy...act like it."
Our bunks were six high, and very close together; I slept between two fat guys and had to get out and then back in again in order to change position. It was, however, a thrill to see the old battleship Olympia, which sailed with the Great White Fleet. They wouldn't let anybody aboard, which was a disappointment.
From Wally Cox:
Philly Yards was where that picture was taken of me and Ron Detert comparing chests. About got killed in a gang fight there. Those boys from Philly were a bad lot; they beat up one of our young snipes one night. One guy, a fleet boxer, got a bunch of us to go over and even up the score. We were quickly outflanked and barely escaped with our lives. They were much more experienced at street-fighting than we were.
From Bob Youngblood:
Anybody remember Black Friday, just before we sailed for WesPac? I was standing fire axe watch, two on and two off, all night, in and out of Mount 55, while we made turns for eight knots (I heard) with borrowed snipes from the rest of the nest to keep our anchor-rode strain for the rest of the nest in tolerance. Some brave guy volunteered to get into a swamped whaleboat to bail it out, but then the painter parted. Three good guys from another ship in the division got into a "healthy" whaleboat to rescue him; they were found frozen on the far side of Narragansett Bay the next morning.
From George Core:
Sea detail and GQ were both set. All the damage-control teams were suited up. We were in a nest of four ships; Potter, Picking, Irwin, and Preston. Both anchors couldn't have been dropped because one of the anchor chains was fastened to the buoy. We dropped the other anchor and we were still moving. I don't think anyone from the Potter died. Charles Ewing GM3 got his wrist broken while trying to hold a fender between ships.
From Jerry Bessler:
Who remembers the storm in March of 56? Got 24 inches of snow overnight. Four destroyers were beached. Six sailors lost their lives, including two from our division. Four drowned, two electrocuted all as a result of the storm. Happened on a Friday after most of the crew was ashore for weekend liberty. Spent the entire night at GQ. Kept a few knots on the screws just to stay in place. This was at Newport, Rhode Island.
From Wally Cox:
Caught us in port; I remember it well! Four ships were moored together, and we were getting bounced up and down on each other. Finally told to break out of the nest. Steamed ahead with both anchors out to keep off the beach. I had a striker who came into CIC after GQ was sounded. I told him to do something, but he said he needed to go below. I said," You just got here." He agreed but he had just messed himself watching a guy die in the water. The guy was a big dude and so heavy that they couldn't pull him out. The water was so cold he died right off the fantail. I had heard his screams when I came topside to set the watch, but looked back aft and saw that there were a lot of guys working the problem, so I went on forward to light off the gear. We lost guys because we were trying to get them back aboard from liberty and launches were getting lost in the storm. Not one of the better memories.
From Ron Detert:
I wish I had stayed aboard that night! I had a bad time getting back to the ship. When I got down to the Fleet Landing, I had to wait and wait some more. Things looked a little different; you could hardly see when the launch pulled in. Now, this was a "big one"; must have been a launch from a bigger ship, not a little whale boat. Anyway, they packed us in like sardines. I thought," Man, if we go over, it would be one big scramble for the canvas flap opening in the big black canvas that covered the whole launch." But that was not the worst of it all! The big problem for me anyway was that there were sailors from different ships on this same launch, and the POTTER was the last drop-off. I did think at one time that we were not going to make it; we took one big roll that I didn't think we would recover from. I swear, at one time I thought we were riding on the canvas side of the launch. Anyway, we made it; I still thank God for that! Later, I had to type up all the damage reports for COMDESDIV, COMDESATFLT, BUPERS, the base commander, etc., etc., and then some...must have taken at least a month. Like other things in the military, some reports had to be redone and/or resubmitted. Nowadays, I wouldn't give up that experience for anything - just one of the many happenings that earned us that "Right of Passage". I'm proud I was with you old salts.
From George Silvani:
I have been following the e-mails being passed around by the Potter Ancient Mariners, particularly those about a heavy weather hit in 1953 or early 54.
My memory is a bit fuzzy on the precise time that the Potter was the only tin can to be hit by two to Hurricanes in the same season, probably 1955. First we were up in the Northern end of Chesapeake Bay for gunnery exercises. when we battened down for the first hurricane. A few weeks later we were moored in a nest along side the tender Yellowstone. Skipping a lot of preliminary heavy weather stories, Capt. Eddy Left the nest in the forward direction. A dangerous maneuver whose successful completion avoided heavy serious damage to the Potter and other tin cans. Dragging anchor while trying to get a grip on the bottom of Narraganset Bay, we pulled up an antique sailing ship anchor, which I understand is now on display in a maritime museum. The next item brought up to the surface was the phone cable connecting Newport with the continental US.
The hurricane passed quickly and weekend liberty started only about four hour late. Are there any old salts who remember any of this?
Also From George Silvani:
Your memory is much better than mine. I now recall , as you say, there were two hurricanes to pass over the bay. However, I can't remember which one the Potter experienced. I still marvel at that maneuver Capt. Eddy made to leave the nest along side the AD Yellowstone. As the wind and waves became stronger and higher it was obvious that nest had to be broken up to prevent the ships already taking some top side damage from getting more serious damage.
The seas made the ships roll while the wind pressure pushed them together. The normal way of leaving a nest it to back out. Backing down pushes the stern out from the ship along side. Going forward sucks it in. Going forward is a no no even under normal conditions. Capt. Eddy studying the swing of the nest for a while, warned the engine room to stand by for a big forward bell, and line handlers to let go all lines. The Potter took a roll into the ship along side, and bounced outboard about 10 feet. He immediately let go all lines and ordered all engines ahead standard. I passed the word for all hands to clear the starboard side, as I certain we were going to leave a good part of it behind. The ship took of like a greyhound. The space between ships closed as we accelerated. The only contact was when the our propeller guard took a little paint of the bow of the other tin can. Then we were clear.
I've never been in a situation where I had to go ahead to leave a nest was necessary. And If I had to, I felt that Capt. Eddy taught me how to do it.
From Jack Wolf:
The night of the storm on March 16, 1956, was hair raising. An attempt was made to hoist the Captain's gig out of the water but it was futile, the wind and sea were too uncooperative. It was thought that the safest place for the gig to ride out the storm was between the fantails of two ships in the nest. However, somehow the gig rode up on the stern line when the ships' sterns yawed inward towards one another. Some time later as the ships parted the slack was pulled taught flipping the gig. With all the commotion that took place that night the gig incident must have appeared rather minor in the scheme of things.
From Bob Hiden:
There are reminisces of the March Newport gale-blizzard on the Potter website. I came aboard a few weeks earlier at the Phila Naval Yard and remember the storm vividly. I was stuck on board with Harry Donohue, the Ops Officer who was CDO during the whole mess. He may have been the senior officer in the nest. In any event I think it was the Preston who sent a gig in and the crew was found dead when the boat washed up, I think, near Quonset Point. The Potter steamed to the buoy for much of the time and I believe the gyro had been lit off.. Another Destroyer was ordered underway(not from our nest) under command of a LTJG and she went up on the rocks trying to exit Newport Harbor.
The water fight at Gatun Lake started out innocently enough as a fresh water wash-down. Before long, innocent bystanders were "accidentally" sprayed just enough to get their attention. Predictably, the wash-down soon deteriorated into an intership melee.
This gem comes fro Wally Cox:
For those who made the passage, you will recall that the locks of the Panama Canal were a preview of Hell. I doubt Hell could be much more miserable with respect to heat. The fun part of course, was the water fight with the other destroyer (can't remember who it was) with the fire hoses after we anchored in Gatun Lake. My fondest memory; however, is about Lt. Wolf. He was the O and I Division officer at the time. Replaced Lt. Feld, I think. He came up to me and said, "You know, Cox, I have the watch back here on the fantail to supervise this frivolity, and darn it, I can't go in swimming. But you know if I got thrown in by some fun-loving guys, I would just have to swim to get out." I lined up a couple of guys whose names I can't remember, gave them the skinny on the deal and assured them we wouldn't get in trouble. We got hold of Lt. Wolf and heaved him off the fantail. Well, as luck would have it, he hit the water like a jellyfish, i.e. arms and legs downward in extension, and he made the loudest darned belly flop I have ever heard! For a few seconds I thought we were going to have to go in after him. He just floated there and I thought he was dead. Finally he started moving and made it back aboard. He gave me a very dirty look like I had done it on purpose and went forward with a very, very red belly.
From LTJC Wolf:
I enjoyed reading your version of the "swim call" story. You certainly have a knack of spinning a yarn. Allow me to embellish on it a bit. Everyone wanted to take part in the fresh water wash down, including me. On my way to the fantail a group of chiefs huddling in the midship passageway warned me what would happen if I stepped out on the weather deck. Since I was game for anything I charged ahead. Here's where your story kicks in. As the Captain went ashore for a briefing he gave strict orders that swim call was forbidden because of alligator sightings. As I passed you a few jovial words were spoken and the next thing I knew it was "allioops" and I found myself spread-eagle in the water with my breath knocked out of me. With that, about two dozen able bodied seamen dove in to save me. Well, that ended the restriction on swim call. Upon swimming to the accommodation ladder the quarterdeck OOD, for whatever reason, failed to see the humor in the impromptu swim. He proceeded to write me up thinking that I was the ringleader. It was either that or write us all up and that would have involved a lot of paperwork. Soon after Captain Almgren returned to the ship I was called to his cabin. He proceeded to tell me that my actions weren't too bright and that it was the next thing to inciting a riot. However, he did admit that it was a novel idea. He kept me in his cabin while we chatted and had coffee. Because of the formal nature of the complaint when an appropriate time elapsed he dismissed me saying, "if you don't mention our discussion to anyone neither will I". Captain Almgren was a real leader. In fact, I believe he was a leader amongst leaders.
By the way my predecessor aboard the Potter was Fred Gaebler. I happened to run into him in Chicago back in the early sixties. The only other paths I crossed were those of Lt. Jack Accetta, Gunnery Officer and Chief Jerry Bessler, then a 1st class radiomen. The last time I saw Jack was in Philadelphia about thirty-five years back. On the other hand, Jerry and I, although we haven't met since our Potter days began communicating with one another about five years ago when Jerry tracked me down. After Jerry retired from the navy he became a teacher and since has retired from teaching. After his second retirement he moved to Little Rock, AK. Today he lives in Payson, AZ about 60 miles north of Phoenix. I'm sending him a copy of this E-mail for his amusement.
I really can't top Wally's "swim call" story. Therefore, we probably should let it stand-alone. However, to set the mood for our abbreviated stay in Panama City I'd like to contribute this story. In making preparations for getting underway from Panama City the special sea detail watch was set several hours before sunrise. Those of us on the bridge could see the last of the stragglers cross the brow just prior to it being taken on board. About that time reveille was piped over the PA system. But instead of the traditional reveille those sober enough heard a loud rendition of "Sick, Sober and Sorry". Never in my life have I ever seen such a sorrowful bunch of sailors.
It¹s funny how transiting the canal stirred up innovativeness. Like when a group of junior officers sat on the 01 level in the shade of mount #52 cutting shorts from khaki trousers. The more skilled tailors hemmed the legs; others took a shortcut by a quick clip of the scissors. It wasn't long before Irish pennants formed and dangled down to their boot tops. To make things worse those who fashioned short shorts had their skivvies fall below the hemline. This behavior prompted an academy type officer to submit a repair request for the captain’s signature. It read:
1. Condition requiring work: Drum majors on this ship lack
batons. Boots and shorts are in satisfactory condition. Shortage of
hats causes an embarrassment.
2. Repairs requested: Manufacture and furnish hats.
3. Repair parts required: Batons and hats or renew officers.
4. Nameplate data: junior officers (Reserve - non-academy)
If this insult wasn’t enough Captain Almgren signed the request adding, approved only if spangles are sewn on shorts and spurs affixed to boots. All qualified drum majors should have no hair on legs or arms that might be unsightly on parade.
From Glen Knisley:
Deposition taken from Glen Knisely in the case of Wolf vs. Cox:
I was a ship fitter in R-Div.(FP3) at the time. I still shiver when I visualize you landing on your back, in the lake. I was a witness. We entered the locks at 1200 hrs. on Wednesday 03 April, dropped the hook shortly after entering the lake. I think your reverse belly flopper was that same day. In my "56" calendar I have listed that we also went swimming in the lake on the 4th. Hope this gives you time to prepare for a much better dive in '02. Sorry I won't be able to witness this one.
From John Q:
I was the starboard lookout when we went through the canal. Got second-degree sunburn on my face and arms. Couldn't figure out why I was on the sunny side of the ship if we were going from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Finally looked at a chart and realized that the Pacific end of the canal is actually east of the Atlantic end. Duuuuh!
And all the off-duty guys were partying with a troop of girl sea scouts who were along for the ride. Of course, I wasn't jealous or anything like that.
From Wally Cox:
Those were the days. I also got burned so bad going through the canal. I think I used every bottle of Noxzema on the ship. I fell asleep on the 01 deck bathing on my stomach. Looked like I had been at Ground Zero at Nagasaki.
From John Q:
We made a steady recording of fathometer readings all the way from Panama to Long Beach, recording the lat & long on the paper roll every couple of hours. A few weeks later, the first atomic sub (Nautilus??) made the trip submerged. Maybe no big deal now, but it sure was then.
From Wally Cox:
I remember when the Nautilus came out. We did a dark-ship rendezvous (I think the whole squadron was involved). Purpose was to indoctrinate the destroyer skippers in what they would be up against. When our captain Almgren came back, I asked "How fast will she go, Captain?" He smiled and said, "Cox, you know better than that. But I will tell you this: when she kicks it up, she makes noise. And if she makes noise, I can find her."
At some point in the latter part of 1956,the Potter was refueling from the BonHomme Richard. Owing to a sudden loss of lube oil pressure in the port shaft, we sideswiped the carrier three times in quick succession.
From George Core:
I was the sea detail helmsman at the time of the collision. We were alongside with no problems. Seas were a little choppy and it wasn't too hard to maintain course. Almgren was the skipper at the time he was on the bridge at the time. But did not have the con. As I remember a LTJG was the OD and had the con. Can't remember his name this old timers memory kicks in all the time. All of a sudden the ship started to lose speed the fore and aft refuel cables were hooked up we had been receiving fuel it of course started to pull us into the carrier port side too. I had full right rudder and hollered that the ship was not responding to the helm that's when Almgren took over the con I was about to transfer to the after helm he then ordered for emergency breakaway by that time the damage had been done. I know I was one scared sailor thinking it was my fault and shaking like a dog trying to pass a peach seed. It wasn't till we got clear that we found out we had lost lube oil pressure and the starboard shaft had been locked down. Boy does this bring back the memories.
From John Q:
All us deck apes ran over to the starboard side and aft in a hurry. Somebody remained standing on the torpedo tubes, unaware that a humungous pelican hook went flying about a foot over his head. One guy fell down a hatch and broke his leg. The carrier sent over a chopper which hovered over then fantail while they hoisted him up. (No FRAM jobs in those days) Think Edwards was the captain then.
For whatever reason, there was also an admiral aboard, just visiting. The scuttlebutt that reached the after crew's quarters was that the captain and the admiral froze, and the ship's newest ensign, Dominick Vicedomine, took command. This, like most rumors, turned out to be totally false.
From Wally Cox:
Remember very well, I think a guy on the carrier was killed by a whipping steel cable. What a mess, fuel oil all over the decks, tore a bit off the port side forward where lines were attached, and we took on water. Our mast tore a hole in the carrier's island. I was taking some sun on the 01 deck by the ECM shack. I noticed we were falling back shortly after we hooked up, and as soon as I noticed, there was this kid, looking terrified, standing there with his sound-powered phones on, holding the frayed cord in his hand. (He had been on the bridge) I said, "Reb, what happened" He replied that all he heard was, "Emergency breakaway, emergency breakaway", and he left. I also knew the machinist's mate who shut down the screw. He said that when he lost lube oil pressure, it was either shut it down or lock it up due to heat, and he was trained to shut it down.
Big inspection, I recall, and nothing ever came of it.
From Bob Moff:
I was on the forward refueling station when she headed for that carrier. On the phones, I was sure telling that carrier to shut it off, then the fuel line parted.
From Ron Detert:
We started to get sucked into the carrier, cause we were too close. The XO had the conn, and he ordered right standard rudder. The captain hollered, Belay that!! Right ten degrees rudder" That slowly pulled us out. I was right there on the bridge cause I was the captain's phone talker, which was my special sea detail station.
From Bob Hiden:
The following are some excerpts from the Deck Log and the Engineering Logs covering the collision with the BON HOMME RICHARD on October 17, 1956, along with some recollections. I kept copies of the logs, as well as some of the messages that went back and forth before the inquiry in Yokosuka later in October. The clock in the after engine room was 2 minutes and 50 seconds slower than the bridge clock and the forward engine room clock was 1 minute and 57 seconds slower than the bridge.
08-12 Steaming as before. 0745 c/c to 268T 0750 Mustered the crew at quarters: Absentees: none. 0807 c/s to 20 knots. 0812 c/s to 16 knots. 0823 c/s to 14 knots. 0830 Proceeding to take station broad on the port bow of the guide, distant 3000 yards. 0840 On station. Set courts 268T, speed 14 knots. 0908 Proceeding to take lifeguard station 1000 yards astern the BON HOMME RICHARD. 0915 On station. c/s to 14 knots, set course 268T. Stationed lifeguard detail. 0919 Secured lifeguard detail. Stationed fueling detail. 0940 Proceeding from lifeguard station 1000 yards astern the guide to take station alongside to starboard for refueling. c/s to 18 knots. Replenishment course 268T, replenishment speed 14 knots. 0947 Alongside the USS BON HOMME RICHARD to starboard. c/s to 14 knots. 0948 First line over aft. 0949 First line over forward. Line parted. 0950 Second line over forward. 0955 Hose over aft. 0957 Commenced pumping aft. 0958 Hose over forward. Steering courses between 264T to 266T to maintain station 80 to 100 feet off the carrier. Indicating 147 to 149 RPMs to keep fueling trunks lined up. 0959 Began slipping astern rapidly and steered in towards the carrier. c/c to 271T. All ahead full. 1000 Lost control. Falling more rapidly astern. Captain ordered Emergency breakaway. Forward engine room reported loss of brake oil suction to No. 2 main engine: Port shaft locked after hose and span wire parted. Made contact with the starboard side of the USS BON HOMME RICHARD abeam of her after elevator and crane tub at this ships frame 48. Forward span wire and hose parted. All engines stop. Set Condition ABLE throughout the ship. Damage as a result of the contact: Bitt ripped up from deck at frame 48 making a 14 inch by 18 inch hole in main deck port side; Lifelines and stanchions from frame 42 to frame 54 portside main deck torn off; no. 2 life raft demolished; two stanchions supporting 01 deck at frame 54 portside main deck ripped out; portside 01 deck frame 50-frame 54, three (3) feet of deck torn up; 01 level portside stanchions and lifeline frame 50 to frame 72 ripped out; two supporting stanchions for 02 and 01 level portside at frames 60 and 64 ripped off; portside 01 level frame 94 trainers seat broken off Mount 42; trainers foot pedal broken, trainers sight steered off. Radar antenna wave guide twisted, ready service racks on mount snapped off, six cable stuffing tubes to training gear snapped but wire unbroken, wire to starboard firing motor crushed, train switch grounded, trainer seat support bent; 01 deck centerline frame 110 torpedo mount had two dogs on rear door, left barrel bent. All damage to mount 42 and torpedo mount a result of forward span wire parting and lashing around. H/H mount port side 01 deck frame 56 to 58-ready service locker and sun shield outboard partially bent by parting span wire and hose. No damage to H/H launcher. No personnel casualties reported as a result of the contact with the USS BON HOMME RICHARD. 1001 Starboard back one-third as stern passed clear of USS BON HOMME RICHARD. 1002 Alternating by backing and going ahead one-third on starboard screw to maintain heading of base course. 1003 Gained steering control. 1024 Mustered the crew on stations: no absentees. 1037 Starboard ahead full. 1046 Starboard ahead flank. 1046 No leaking hull ruptures reported by Damage Control Central. Set Condition BAKER throughout the ship. 1145 Made daily inspection of magazines and smokeless power samples; conditions normal. 1204 Starboard ahead two-thirds. Commenced unlocking the port shaft. 1205 Unlocked the port shaft. 1217 Port ahead two-thirds. 1218 Port ahead standard. 1223 Port ahead two-thirds. 1231 Port ahead standard. 1233 Starboard ahead full. 1243 Port ahead full. 1249 All ahead flank. 1255 All ahead full. 1257 All ahead standard.
R. B. Hiden, Jr., Ens, USNR
08-12 Steaming as before: 0930 Set fueling detail. 0955 Loss of lube oil #2 main engine. 0956 Locked port shaft. 1005 Secured super heaters #2 & 4 boilers. Investigation revealed leaky valve to storage tank. Pumping oil to main sump. 1001 Collided with USS BON HOMME RICHARD (CVA31), all spaces reported no damage except FFR reported port hatch sprung. Made routine inspections conditions as noted.
H. A. Wolf, MM1
Main Engine Operating Record:
0800-1200 Underway as before, except 0908 lit off #2 L.O. purifier, 0956 locked port shaft, due to loss of L.O. pressure. 0957 secured #4 L.O. pump. Lost of L.O. due to no L.O. in main sump.
All Conditions Normal
A. Grathwohl, MM3
Repairs took place later in the morning and during the afternoon and by evening the port shaft and engine were back on the line, despite a second casualty in the mid-afternoon requiring again locking the port shaft.
There were a number of communications following the collision, including some which were very welcome and appreciated in personal terms. For example, in response to Captain Edwards’ first report “I have lost port engine due to lube oil casualty. Ships force working like beavers. No personnel casualties. WT integrity intact,” Comdesron 23 came back “Don’t worry about it. Keep your head up”. Captain Reidy of the Picking flashed “Msg. CO and OOD. Sorry to see your bad luck but would not worry about it”, and the skipper of the BON HOMME RICHARD flashed “I know you couldn’t avoid it and it could happen to anybody”. And upon receiving advice that the engineering casualties had been repaired in fairly short order, Comdesron 23 came back “That was excellent work restoring engineering casualties. Well done to your black gang and others who worked like little beavers to restore the Potter’s reputation of always ready to answer all bells.”
On October 18 the weather deteriorated, and before refueling was attempted on the 18th the Task Group Destroyer Screen Commander sent: “This is probably the worst weather conditions destroyers have encountered for topping off, however it is apt to be common under wartime situations. Every skipper present is an excellent seaman. Use that seaman’s eye and destroyermen’s judgment to take it easy, make it accurate, and expeditious.”
The Potter refueled from the Bon Homme Richard during the 1600-1800 watch on the 18th. Captain Edwards nearly always let the OOD then on watch to keep the conn during refueling. Guess who had the deck on the 1600-1800 bridge watch? If Captain Edwards was aware of my knocking knees, he didn’t bat an eye. I doubt if anyone else was relaxed with me having the conn for round 2 with the BHR, but the Captain’s outlook meant everything to me at the time and has ever since.
There were a number of communications over the next few days relating to repairs and the investigation to be conducted when the Task Group reached Yokosuka. On the 20th, Comcrudespac sent the following to Comdesflotwestpac (Admiral Speck who was on board the Potter), Comdesron 23 and Captain Edwards: “For your information, consider operational readiness of Stephen Potter may be impaired. Without additional details of damage and status of temporary repairs, consider reported rupture main deck could cause progressive failure with the possible loss of bow in heavy seas.” Captain Edwards’ terse response said it all and reflected his pride in what the crew had accomplished in repairing topside damage in heavy sea conditions: “Believe operational readiness Stephen Potter unimpaired. Main deck rupture result distortion of bitts port side during emergency breakaway. Repairs effected by ships force. Stephen Potter has operated in heavy weather in wake of Typhoon Jean for 48 hours since damage. No apparent adverse affects. Ready to answer all bells.” Comdesron 23 was quick to support the Potter to Comcrudespac and Comdesflotwestpac, while icing Admiral Speck in the process: “Fully concur in Stephen Potter’s response. Comdesflotwestpac was embarked in Stephen Potter.” Nothing further was heard on the subject.
The formal investigation, convened as a one-man inquiry, was on
board the Picking in Yokosuka on October 24. Designated as
“interested parties” were Captain Edwards, Bob Rappaport, the
engineering officer, Chief Machinist Corrigan, petty officers Wolf
and Grathwohl, and myself as OOD. The inquiry was conducted by
Captain Reidy of the Picking. I don’t recall the inquiry as lasting
beyond several hours or as being difficult. Everyone’s stories were
straightforward and factual, and Captain Reidy was in a fact-finding
mode and not prosecutorial in his questioning. The cause of the loss
of lube oil pressure was the improper seating of the purifier
discharge valve to a storage tank while purifying oil sump to sump.
Examination of the purifier valve showed marks indicating that a
guide or foreign particle had held it partially open. At the
suggestion of the CTG prior to the inquiry, the official casualty
reports of the Potter and the Bon Homme Richard had not gone higher
than their respective westpac commands. Towards the end of the
inquiry, Captain Reidy dismissed me as an “interested party.” I
never heard officially what happened to the others.
All in all it was a memorable experience but certainly one that no one would ever wish to duplicate. It is incredible that no one fell or slipped overboard, or was killed when the parted span cables and hoses were whipping around. I was not aware that a crew member had fallen down a hatch and had broken his leg until I saw it on our website. All of the recollections there were good and brought back memories. Jack Wolf was “in charge of” Admiral Speck while he was embarked on the Potter and they were together in the wardroom at the time of the collision. Jack says the Admiral was being complimentary about the approach and the fueling, and Jack was showing pride in his cabin mate who was the OOD, when there was a big crash. They ran on deck and in the process the Admiral evidently caught his hand in a watertight door, which mysteriously closed. (Jack – the statute of limitations has run.)
I had never heard the Vicedomine rumor, but nothing would surprise me in the rumor department. Vice was the JOOD and had taken the report from the engine room that we had lost “brake oil suction to No. 2 main engine” and the port shaft had been locked. By that time we had been slipping rapidly astern. The fueling cables and hoses acted as spring lines pulling us into the BHR (we were only 80 feet or so off the BHR while refueling), and we had lost control. As an engineering matter, promptly locking the port shaft in the circumstances of a lube oil failure was a practical necessity and in accordance with the BuShips Manual and Casualty Control Manual. All things considered, it’s hard to view the collision as anything more than an unfortunate incident of bad luck and, to the credit of Captain Reidy, Comdesron 23 and the admirals in authority, that’s how it was dealt with.
From John Q:
I have often been tempted to believe that the Navy has invented some particularly fiendish ways to get even with sonarmen. One of these is a device called a bathythermograph, or BT for short. The BT looks somewhat like a rocket, but is actually a recording thermometer.
While the BT is being lowered to a depth of three hundred feet, the depth and water temperature are recorded on a smoked glass slide which can be read later on a graph. When a boxful of slides has been accumulated, it is sent to somebody in the Pentagon or somewhere, who probably laughs and throws the box of slides into the trash.
BT drops are routinely done every four hours while the ship is at sea, regardless of weather conditions. (I once lost a BT during a typhoon; it was found on the fantail the next day.) Usually, two sonarmen will be sent to make a BT drop; one day , I was sent alone, and during general quarters, at that.
When the BT was down somewhere near 300 feet, mount 55 suddenly swung around and stopped with the end of the barrel pointing directly over my head, then BLAMM, BLAMM, blamm about five times.....I was deaf as a rock for three days.
Unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident; many ping-jockeys can tell the same story. The Navy's second torture device is known as the FXR gear, (pronounced "foxer"). This consists of a series of parallel bars, which are bolted together in pairs a fraction of an inch apart. When towed behind the ship, the bars vibrate and set up an outlandish racket which allegedly lures acoustic torpedoes away from the noise of the ship's screws. This device was not a bad idea for its time. The only difficulty was in retrieving the foxer gear ,using a hand-cranked winch.
On one occasion, "Leif" Ericson and I were sent aft to crank the fxr back aboard. We were convinced that the tow cable had suddenly stretched to a length of at least several hundred miles when the ship suddenly sat down on her haunches and started making turns for about thirty six knots. That evening saw two very tired sonarmen ,both of whom had very low opinions of the people on the bridge.
From Jack Wolf:
Since I was about to be discharged and my relief was on board when "The Deep Six" was filmed, I acted as liaison with the film crew. Alan Ladd offered to show his appreciation to us by hosting a party for the entire crew. Personally, I felt it was rewarding in itself to have the opportunity to pull liberty in San Francisco. I felt the crowning achievement was steaming under the Golden Gate Bridge: I don't think there was a dry-eyed sailor in the crew.
From Bob Youngblood:
The cast was impressive; it included William Bendix, William Holden, Alan Ladd, Ephraim Zimbalist Jr., Keenan Wynn, Jimmy Whitmore, Ross Bagdasarian (aka "come on 'a my house" and the Chipmunks) and other notables. How come it wasn't that good a flick?
From Barbara (Vicedomine) Gorman:
One of my father's favorite stories was of the filming of "The Deep Six." He had been on quarterdeck watch and it was almost time for him to be relieved when they started to film a scene where Alan Ladd walked on board and my father saluted him. The director insisted that my dad stay there, so when Alan Ladd walked back OFF, the same person was there and it would look like it was just a few moments later and appear consistent. Of course it took about six hours to film the short conversation that Mr. Ladd's character had while on board. By then, the tide had gone out and my dad was pretty wiped. My dad would always laugh at how they cared who's saluting but didn't seem to worry that it was high tide one minute and low tide the next. Naturally, they cut the latter part of the scene anyway. That one salute remains the extent of Vice's film career.
From Dave "Pogo" Czulewicz:
When it was announced that we were going to be assigned to Burke's "Little Beaver" squadron, they began to look for a drawing of the Little Beaver. I had forgotten completely about the Red Ryder comic strip and assumed that the beaver in question was the big-toothed rodent predominant in the rivers of North America. I made the drawing (in the "PHOTOS" section). Of course, it was turned down, and I was apprised of the nature of the Little Beaver they were looking for. The drawing was eventually obtained from a Japanese artist and mounted on the stack. Sid Wentz, the gunnery officer, asked to see me after quarters one day. He immediately started out by telling me to go to the paint locker and get the materials required to do the lettering on the stack. He had seen my sketch and knew I was somewhat of an artist. At that time, the entire sonar gang was restricted to the ship for some offense which I cannot remember. I got really huffy and started refusing to do the lettering. When Mr.Wentz threatened to make it an order, I replied that nothing in my service jacket indicated that I was an artist and that, though he could order me to do the lettering, he couldn't order me to draw a straight line. We argued for some time and I aired my complaints about the restriction. Finally he gave up and started to walk away swearing. At that point I called to him and volunteered to do the lettering. This had to be 1956. I don't believe Mr.Wentz made the 1957 cruise.
From Jack Wolf:
Now for the rest of the story...
Although Pogo's emblem of the little beaver biting into a submarine never officially became the ship's emblem it was mysteriously resurrected from the cutting room floor. In a gesture of comradeship Pogo arranged to have shoulder patches made in Japan and gave them to members of the "sonar gang". Years later his emblem became misconstrued as the official ship's emblem. Jerry Bessler tells the story that he purchased a print of the Potter that depicted Pogo's artwork as the official ship's emblem.
For those of us who served on the Potter in the mid-fifties when the Potter was part of DesRon 23 we thought the "The Little Beavers" emblem was the ship's emblem when in fact it was the squadron's emblem. The official ship's emblem pictured a dragon throwing hedgehogs while sitting astride the ship's bow. Several years later the emblem evolved into the version with a dragon throwing hedgehogs while sitting side saddle on the ship's bow. All four emblems can be seen in Photo Gallery#11.
For more information on Destroyer Squadron 23, please click on
the link below: