Rumblings from the Unsung Guys Who Served in the 'Blackgang'

It's no fun being on watch below decks, whether during battle stations or steaming as before‑‑either in the engine room or the fireroom. Elmer "Swede" Molund, then a WT2/c, whose station was in the forward fireroom, remembers: "it was heat, sweat, and it took teamwork to get through it." When GQ sounded, he headed below decks to his station, joining his gang that included Les Morgan, Rhys "Dusty" Rhodes, L. T. Richey, Richard Leaders, Andy Keranen, Tom Eastwood and Leonard Noblett. "Pulling us together was Chie Benjamin Simmons," Swede relates.

When there was a letup in watch duties, somebody might break out the dice, "and the chief liked to take his turn with the cubes." Because Molund looked like a "good little Lutheran kid (he was 18 when the Potter went to sea)," Chief Simmons entrusted him to hold his money. Molund remembers Simmons gave him strict orders: "If I come back and ask you far it‑‑don't let me have it!"

In years after the war when Molund and Pauline visited the Simmons at their home in Norfolk, the Swede realized Ben had sent home enough from his "winnins"' to live a comfortable life. For that, Simmons' wife, Millie, expressed her gratitude to the 'good little Lutheran boy' from Tacoma.

"While we guys in the blackgang did not get to enjoy all (any?) of the amenities of life," Molund confesses that they manged to cop a few of them along the way. Whenever goodies such as marmalade, and canned pears or peaches were seen presumably headed for the officers' quarters, the "snipes" managed to pilfer a case or two, and down the hatch they would go, never to be seen above deck again.

The fireroom crew could smell the aroma of newly baked bread wafting from the galley, he says, "and it was no trick to beg a loaf of hot bread four the bakers. It sure tasted great with our illicit marmalade." Once, Molund adds, a search to find the elusive contraband was conducted, but the searching officer came up empty handed. All the while the goodies were securely wired under the floor plates, the Swede now admits.

Taken from "USS Stephen Potter - The Story of DD538" compiled and edited by Lt. Wilson F. (Bill) Minor USNR (Ret).