Brief Hiatus
May 5th to May 31st, 1943

May 5, 1943, Wednesday, at sea in company with Whitney and Fletcher enroute Nouméa. After watch I slept on my bunk in the cool autumn weather until ten. I wasn’t called for anything.

Doc Ramsey gave another lecture beginning, “Now that you sexual sinners have ignored my advice.”

At 1730 a dispatch from Halsey sent us off in excess of 20 knots, leaving Fletcher to escort Whitney and to the rear base at Nouméa.

May 6, 1943, Thursday, steaming singly on base course 348° True, speed 20 knots. I had the midwatch and after dawn alert slept until noon. We are getting back to tropical heat from the fall weather of the Southern Hemisphere.

I took the 12 to 1600 watch and, with the watches dogged, also the 20 to 2400. After midnight I wrote letters and, astonished to note it was 0330, caught up on sleep and correspondence.

May 7,1943, steaming singly toward Bulari Passage. On watch 08 to 1200. This morning’s radio news had the battle for Tunis almost over—and they didn’t use virtual or I’d have broken something. With that news the enemy must know they have lost the initiative. We cannot lose unless we work at it, and we have that capacity.

We layed to briefly in Dumbea Bay, and then preceded USS Patuxent to sea as escort.

May 8, 1943, Saturday, steaming company with USS Patuxent (AO 44), OTC is ComDesRon 21 in Nicholas. I had the forenoon watch to 12, then the whole afternoon was taken in drills. We have to tune up after our “vacation”: gunnery, damage control and ship handling.

But my mind and all the rest of me are in Sydney. I got in some reading after five, then on watch eight to midnight.

May 9, 1943, Sunday, steaming on base course 342° True, with Patuxent, OTC is ComDesRon 21 in Nicholas. Had the forenoon watch, and at 1130 we entered Segond Channel to Espiritu Santo Harbor. 1300 moored starboard side to Tappahannock to fuel ship.

1500 Moored starboard side to Jenkins in Berth Dog 11.

May 10, 1943, Monday. Moored as before in Berth Dog 11 in nest with Jenkins.

Worked all day in the plant on machinery and clean up. I assigned cleaning station, a method I liked, for myself. A person can embellish a cleaning station or not, but the credit is his own.

In the evening I wrote letters and did some reading. Getting restless I went to the fireroom for some coffee. Walter Raul had the in-port midwatch; he was the only man I had ever known who had served on the Ford-built Eagleboats of World War One, perhaps the last one in existence. I stayed awhile to swap sea stories.

May 11, 1943, Tuesday. At anchor in Berth Dog 11, Segond Channel.

After about two hours sleep, I took the 04 to 0800 watch. At 0530 the ship got underway on orders of ComThirdFleet in company with vessels of Task Force 18: Honolulu (CTF 18) Helena, Nashville, St. Louis, ComDesRon 21 in this vessel, ComDesDiv 41 in O’Bannon, Jenkins, Chevalier, Taylor, Strong and Fletcher enroute to New Georgia to support mining operations of TG 36.5 and to bombard enemy installations.

May 12, 1943, steaming with vessels of Task Force 18 on base course 320° True, speed 20 knots. We had an emergency alert, which turned out to be a false radar contact.

Back up the “Slot” now, and everyone is nervous after having rediscovered what is best in life. The question, which is real? The contrast is such that the coexistence of both worlds seems too extreme.

The “airedales” say that the enemy have installed new shore batteries on New Georgia. If they have and we don’t take them out in the first salvos it will become like a surface action.

All hands to battle stations at 2200; we began our close approach in narrow waters near to midnight.

May 13, 1943, steaming on base course 225° True, speed 20 knots in company with Task Force 18 entering Kula Gulf to bombard enemy installations on Sasamboki Island.

We fired for ten minutes beginning at 0100 after having hit them with 720 rounds of 5-inch projectiles.

We got a hangfire on No. 3 gun, and had to retire from the formation to let it cook off—the heat of the gun will eventually explode a hangfire. A round that doesn’t fire by the established method of percussion fuse may be re-attempted perhaps once by the gun captain. But if the projectile is jammed in the bore, the powder behind it will eventually explode due to the hear of the gun’s metal; that explosive force will open the gun at its weakest point, wherever that happens to be. The crew abandons the gun by doctrine. The explosion expected will cause a flash and a fire, a very undesirable condition in the presence of enemy air, shore batteries and perhaps surface warships or submarines.

We left the formation on orders to await the cook-off explosion. The task force sped southward. O’Bannon was heard to ask permission to stay behind and cover us; the permission was denied.

I got a call from Sharkshit Scott to check out the fire and flushing system valves. I sent a fireman to check them out—there were only two involved, which were marked for “open-in-action.” Unaccountably he decided that they both should be closed. He closed them and returned to the floor plates and signaled O.K.

While waiting for the gun to cook off, Scotty and his repair party were lying prone on deck with fire hoses in hand. When she blew, he rushed aft with the hoses and found he had no water pressure. We got that signal in a hurry, and two men were up on the valves at the count of ten.

The fire was put out quickly and we took off at full speed to rejoin the task force.

At 0240 we secured from battle stations; I had the regular watch until 0430.

After the watch, like some others I went aft to look at No. 3 gun. The mount had been blown apart like a peeled banana, the pedestal was bent over the training gear but the training gear looked undamaged. A rumor started that we had a Stateside repair requirement, for where could we find a 5-inch gunmount and gun in the South Pacific?

I slept the morning; then went on watch 12 to 1600.

Air raid and battle stations began at 1230 to 1400. No planes got close to the formation.

After watch at 1630, I hit the sack and stayed until 2330.

May 14, 1943, Friday, steaming on base course 140° True, in company with vessels of Task Force 18. On watch 00 to 0400; slept in the morning.

Nashville had an identical gun casualty, a hang fire today. This one killed some people. At 0900 Nashville held services for their dead, and the whole task force joined in half-masting colors. 0914 Services were signaled as having been completed; colors to the peak.

0920 Nashville, Nicholas and Chevalier detached from the force to proceed to Santos. 0945 We went to full power with four boilers.

1236 Entered Segond Channel at Santos.

We went alongside Tappahannock to fuel ship, then moored alongside Dixie at 1600. I got mail; some books and letters.

May 15, 1943, Saturday, moored starboard side to Dixie with Chevalier in the nest to port in Segond Channel. All day yesterday there was a submerged celebration—that we now had damage entitling us to a Stateside navy yard job. Our No. 3 gun being blown apart, it was impossible to repair here. But there happened to be a 2,100-ton destroyer present in the area that couldn’t function as a fighting ship, but could function as a spare parts reservoir: USS Hutchins. I had talked briefly to a couple of her engineering petty officers the month before across the lifeline in a destroyer nest.

My opinion was subjective, but I wondered how Hutchins had navigated all the way to Nouméa. Her engineering petty officers had about the same time-in-service as our firemen. The training background was so barren that equipment was called “that thing.” When I asked a question about one item it was necessary to go below and point it out to the petty officer in charge.

I like to think, as I thought then, a perfect example of promotion-to-fill-a-vacancy-on-board.

The gun mount replacement afforded engineering some catch up time in machinery overhaul. We tried to crowd it all into the time given us by the gun casualty.

May 16, 1943, Sunday, moored to Dixie, Espiritu Santo, N.H. with Chevalier to port. Opened No. 2 boiler and worked on cleaning it all morning.

A recreation party for my section was authorized for the afternoon. I got two beer tickets, and couldn’t buy or borrow one more.

There were a lot of sailors from the Bath-built ships ashore, and we got up a “jousting” contest: small guys on the big guys’ shoulders. The pair still standing wins . . . It was a tactical teacher, for charge-full-speed worked for awhile. The contests ended when we ran out of beer.

The O’Bannon’s Itzin seemed to have unlimited beer tickets, and he was generous with two more. After the rationed tickets were used up, the spares took on black-market prices. But Itzin didn’t charge more than twenty-cents to me.

Back to the ship at 1730. I ate and hit the sack early for I had some new books. Then at 2100, after I had fallen asleep, the general alarm sounded.

We scrambled toward battle stations, but the 21MC announced, “all hands to quarters!”

Both stations, to me, were forward to starboard. I merely slowed down. When I arrived at the formation of men on the starboard quarterdeck, the Chief Engineer was there pacing, hands on hips, the liquor odor was strong at ten paces. He frothed in anger, for his breathing could be heard: “Where’s the film? Who got it? You’ll all be here at attention until the film is found—all night, you understand?” He addressed each man in turn, nose in the face and shouting: “Who got the film?”

When he got to me I stated as calmly as I could that my sleep had been interrupted over a film that to me was too trashy to look at, and that I couldn’t imagine the low taste of a man who would steal it. I knew that I was throwing oil on the fire by impugning his taste as well as his behavior. His face worked as he tried new expressions of ferocity, and he kept shouting, “Attention!”

It had been the practice to start the film on the fantail, the officers seated at the front in wardroom chairs carried there for the purpose. It had become also one of the assigned duties of each division in turn to supply non-rated men to carry the wardroom chairs to the movie site. About two out of five movies were rained out, because in the tropics rain is very frequent. If the rain persisted it would be announced that the movie would continue in the wardroom.

Of course a movie in the wardroom excluded all but officers. The sailors grumbled a lot about that.

But this evening some frustrated movie fan grabbed a 16mm reel in the dark and took off with it. The result, shades of Captain Bligh—all hands to quarters for collective punishment!

We were at quarters for about two hours. Immediately upon dismissal, Ira Allen, Jab Bauer and I went below and filled out a special request form, a frequent and available form of protest: “request transfer to any ship or station.”

May 17, 1943, Monday, moored alongside Dixie. Worked all day on No. 2 boiler.

At four, Jab, Ira and I were summoned to the tiny machine ship portside aft in the living compartment.

The chief engineer dogged the door closed, then he went into a red-faced tirade. “You will stand at attention until I am finished . . . I am a lieutenant USN, not, you will note, USNR, so I am not fooled by you and I’m no softie. You can learn how tough I can be, you will! The three of you are dirty, sniveling rats, yes, rats!

“You!” He began with Jab. “I got you that rate and I’ll take it back anytime I want to . . . And you,” to Ira, “the same! You’ve asked for trouble and I’m the man to give it to you . . . And you!” He stepped up nose-to-nose in my face shouting: “You’re . . . stupid.”

I had the sudden and delightful inspiration that he was confirming his belief in my reputation by denying it.

I had to take a deep breath to speak. “I want to say something, too,” I said. “I think you have given us grounds for redress-of-wrong, and I intend to look into it.”

“WHO do you think you are?”

I didn’t answer. His expression was changing. He paced before us a couple of times, then he stopped before Jab: “I apologize to you!” He sidestepped to Ira: “I apologize to you!” Then to me: “I apologize to you!”

He undogged the door and left us.

The apology only slightly diminished what had gone before, the imperious assumption of power needed a dose of what had calmed some British sovereigns. I expected and adverse reaction, for on another occasion I had offended that man and got a quarterly mark deduction of 0.6, my first time below 4.0.

I went to the trouble to point out to the senior chief petty officer that carrying chairs to the movies was a personal service to an officer, not a legal order or obligation of a man-o’-war’s-man.

The next time the film got rained out it was continued in the crew’s messhall.

May 18, 1943, Tuesday, moored alongside Dixie. All day inside the boilers. I hit the sack after eating and showering.

Chief Wallin was transferred to new construction today. I saw him off on the quarterdeck, another of the senior guys of Bath days. His leaving makes a vacancy for Dersham, and I think he is moving forward today.

May 19, 1943, Wednesday. A ditto of Tuesday. In the boilers until five, chow, then to the pad to sleep and rest up.

May 20, 1943, Thursday, moored alongside Dixie. I feel very refreshed. I got up at 0400 to write letters and fill out the machinery history record on the overhaul work. I did some anticipating, too; for when the work is done I’ll be too tired to draw the cards and write them up,

The film tonight was Casablanca and worthwhile. I remembered Casablanca, the city, very well from our 1938 visits. The film was all interior shots, so no thrill of recognition.

May 21, 1943, Friday, moored alongside Dixie. Worked all day in the boilers. We had a payday. We depend on pay though a visiting disbursing officer—our records are kept on board; he just brings the cash. I got a few bucks, like four.

No games of chance while working twelve hours a day in the boilers. If told to “haul ass” (old joke), I wouldn’t be able to lift it.

May 22, 1943, Saturday. Moored alongside Dixie.

Red Alert at 0245 to 0330, the bogey intrusion was different, having come in the middle of darkness. Maybe it was because of the interception improvements at Cactus. For the enemy to fly all the way to Santos was one thing, but they had to detour around Guadalcanal radar at some increase in distance.

The time at battle stations made me wakeful, so I stayed up and read until time to hit the floorplates and work.

In boilers all day, cleaning and preventive maintenance on the valves. Went to the sack right after evening chow.

There a distinct lack of imagination in the new Commissary Stew, no difference in quantity but the quality of preparation has gone way down.

May 23, 1943, Sunday. Moored alongside Dixie.

I was up at 0600 to scrub clothes I had been too tired to keep up with the past few days. I had accumulated a locker full of dungarees and skivvies.

Worked in the plant all day, then early to bed again after chow, to read and rest.

May 24, 1943, moored alongside Dixie. Air raid came at 030.

“Washing-machine Charlie” dropped two bombs; they must have been pretty small to have carried them so far. They fell a mile off our port bow.

Worked in the plant all day, then to bed.

May 25, 1943, moored alongside Dixie. Worked all day in the boilers. It takes a lot of man-hours to clean both fire- and watersides of the boilers, and then do the preventive maintenance on the auxiliary machinery that has been due for months.

The new gun taken from USS Hutchins has been installed. Only some wiring and hydraulic piping to finish it up.

Scotty was fined by a summary court martial for his long absence in Sydney, but it was a maximum fine. Since he was acting appointment he could have gone back to first class.

A yeoman told me this afternoon that a letter had been sent requesting my promotion “in excess of allowance.” I heard nothing direct.

May 26, 1943, Wednesday, moored alongside Dixie. Worked with a junior officer all day bringing the machinery history up to date. I appreciated the help.

I am reading Saroyan’s Human Comedy.

The film tonight was Yank at Eton. I sat through it.

May 27, 1943, Thursday, moored alongside Dixie. Woke up late at 0800. How come I wasn’t missed? Why didn’t all the alarm bells go off?

Worked in the plant all day. My one-hundred-dollar bridge fell out today, having lasted a day over three weeks—and I’m glad. Saves the expense of having it removed when I get back Stateside.

Read and wrote letters until 2 a.m.

May 28, 1943, Friday, moored to Dixie. Up late again at 0800. This ship is softening.

Worked all morning. Thinking about it and asking some questions, I started digging in the Medical Department manuals to learn if there had been a change in the service-requirements for prosthesis. No one on board knew. I got authorization for a boat and a visit to the hospital ship Relief to see if they would make me a bridge. I worked my way up to a senior dental officer but was told to come back, and without a promise.

Worked in the plant until 1800.

May 29, 1943, Saturday, moored alongside Dixie.

Up at 0330, on assignment to USS Fletcher on some engineering tests. Fletcher put to sea; we had full-power trials and took key readings for developed horsepower. We did some routine reading on equipment efficiency. The Fletcher gang are very competent.

Upon returning to Nicholas we got underway to sea on anti-submarine patrol before the entrance to Segond Channel.

May 30, 1943, Sunday, patrolling approaches to Segond Channel and conducting sound searches. We returned to our anchorage at 0900.

I had the auxiliary watch to 1200.

I got ashore at 1400 with two beer tickets. I drank the beer slowly and watched the ball games. The ball diamonds have been surfaced pretty well now, and a game is not stumbling around in soft dirt and jungle roots.

May 31,1943, anchored as before.

I was up at 0400 to write letters.

Underway at 0700 for battle practice at sea. I had the forenoon watch underway. We returned to the anchorage at 1400.

We are so near to being caught up with delayed maintenance, I fear we’ll get a below-deck inspection accompanied by a peacetime requirement of polished floor plates. I am satisfied that the turbine glands don’t leak steam, that the emergency feed pump moans but doesn’t groan, that the Leslie regulators swing but ten p.s.i. Most happy condition is the safety valves: DD 449 is the only destroyer in view without a feather of steam at the atmosphere exhaust.