Reviewing a Lifetime
(A Psychotherapist's Nightmare)
by John D. Sedory

Copyright©2013,2014 by Daniel B. Sedory, Editor. All Rights Reserved.

Chapter 17
I'm in the U.S. Navy


Boot Camp

    A little over two years back I had joined the Civilian Conversation Corps in the hope I'd be sent to some distant state. The same hope existed now that I was to be assigned a training center somewhere in the country. Anticipation of that long journey across the country soon faded, however; for my orders read that I report to the induction center in Chicago, where upon arriving, I learned my boot camp duty was going to be located at the Naval Training Center, Great Lakes, Illinois. The travel time was probably about an hour and a half (due to stops along the way), and the distance from home about fifty or sixty miles. Not much of an exciting train ride, was it?

    My first view of that magnificent training center from the slowing train's window had me wondering if there would be any end to the rows of barracks and more barracks. I learned that not only did the training center cover miles alongside Lake Michigan, but it extended way out to the west...where it turned out my camp was located. It was nearly the most distant camp from the main center near to the railroad station and Lake Michigan.

    After introductions, paperwork and assignments were completed, I learned that Johnny Cherway and I were billeted in the same barracks. That helped to ease some of the homesickness which had temporarily set in, caused by the immensity of the training center, the hundreds and hundreds of trainees, the uncertainty of the future, etc.

    Once inside the barracks, the first line of business was to teach us how to correctly apply navy jargon. Beds were sacks; walls, bulkheads; floors, decks; and the room a compartment. And some compartment it was! Huge in size with double height bunks, gleaming-clean decks, polished stanchions on which to hang our gear, and spotless bulkheads. Soon I would learn how these things stayed the way they did—a never-ending application of "elbow grease."

    Chief Petty Officer P.P. Brotherton was our company commander. A stern-faced individual who looked as though he'd just stepped out of a boxing ring, pugilistic features and all. He possessed the gruff voice essential to command and to receive respect—and obedience. Though lean and tall, there was no lack of sinew in his muscled body. We later learned he offered anyone who disagreed with his modus operandi an opportunity to "straighten the matter out in the ring." I don't recall any takers. Here was a "tough cookie" who'd not be giving out any entertainment or humor. This was going to be a "rough row to hoe!"

    It stands to reason that sailors who have yet to become "salty" need handling with something less than kid gloves. Yet I always thought it possible to be stern and still also have a heart. Many of us in that company didn't know if CPO Brotherton had ever had an examination to determine if he had one.


    Examples of punishable infractions: If caught out of step in a drill, whispering, talking, chewing gum, smiling, dragging behind in drills, etc., all these meant the possibility of having to run around a drill field with a rifle extended straight over the head lap after lap. If you've never tried that sport for fun, the arms become so heavy it seems impossible to continue any longer and near collapse sets in. Even simple breathing is labored and difficult. One who has been subjected to this punishment finds he has a different view about the infraction which got him into that predicament. He wants never again to be found doing anything wrong!

    I personally witnessed the collapse of one of the guys, and I knew how he must have felt, since I'd also been privileged to experience the rifle above the head bit—only once as I recall, and that was enough. But my friend Johnny Cherway was always at odds with the CPO. He just laughed when penalized for an infraction, and it did two things to our CPO. He at first was angered, but then it became noticeable he admired Johnny for his ability to play the game without wincing or complaining. This lasted the full time we were in boots.

    Another form of punishment was early a.m. duties, usually something which required getting out of the sack in the middle of the night, just about the time one would have fallen into deep sleep. This same exercise often happened to everyone in the barracks, a way of trying to toughen us up, I guess. I never was too crazy about the procedure!

    If it seems I'm saying our CPO was dishing out inhumane treatment and that others were much more liberal in training their men, I'm giving a false impression. If I'd been assigned to any other company, I'd probably have witnessed very similar treatment. Our CPO and all the others were training us most likely in the manner prescribed![1]

    One day we were taken to the gymnasium without prior instruction as to what we were to do there. Soon the CPO gathered volunteers to place mats in certain formations. This was to be a tumbling exercise, something I never mastered even in high school. My legs refused to cooperate with my body and brain in successfully completing a turn in the air, landing on my feet.

    So knowing I wasn't able to accomplish such acrobatics, I got behind a wall of guys who'd lined up alongside the mats in an attempt to hide. The CPO walked to the back of the pack and said, "You, come over here with me!" Yes, he'd chosen me of all people to do something I knew I'd not like. And he proceeded to give me (and others watching) instructions as to how to achieve the flip in the air. "I'll hold my arm right here. Go down to that end of the mat and begin running, and when you reach my arm, throw your body over it and flip your legs over so you'll land on your feet" he ordered. "Yas suh, boss," I whispered to myself, knowing I was about to achieve nothing more than causing riotous laughter from my peers.

    I followed instructions to the letter, right up until I got to the CPO's arm where I was supposed to flip over. Instead, I landed head first into the mat while running at high speed. It was a beautiful dive, but there was no water in which to cushion the landing! I was out like a light momentarily, regaining my composure shortly afterward. My neck hurt, and so did my back, and a headache was well under way. I thought I might hear a word or two of sympathy from the chief, but he went on as though nothing had happened, merely commenting that I'd not followed instructions fully. Deep inside I thought he probably felt badly about what happened, but he just had to maintain his "tough guy" role.

    As a youngster and into adulthood I'd always been prone toward bronchial and asthmatic tendencies, especially in the colder months of the year. And here I was in the near-North Great Lakes in the coldest part of the year! I didn't handle it too well.

    Being awakened from sound sleep on a cold winter night to quickly dress for some drill or other, I found myself going from warm to chilled, and back to warm again. The drastic changes from perspiration to rapid cooling began to take its toll. It must have been three times I ended up in sick bay, once for a few days. That time I really had high fever and chills and needed special treatment. Coughing, wheezing, sore throats and heavy breathing remained with me most of my stay while in "Boots." I often wondered if I was going to make it through without suffering the humility of a "medical discharge." By the grace of God I made it!

    Around graduation time we were beginning to receive recognition from our CPO and other sailors of rank as worthy of being called "sailors." That really felt good after those nearly 2½ months of hard work and intestinal fortitude. It even got better at graduation time when we no longer had to salute ordinary petty officers!

    Before I forget, in my memorabilia I have a patch with one stripe on it. It was one I'd earned while in Boots, but I don't recall if I was some sort of small time leader in our barracks or if it was something more like a merit badge of some sort. Guess I'd rather believe the former than the latter (and it might just have been that way).


    In the chapter dealing with my experiences while working at the Western Electric Company, I wrote of a girl I'd met who was the sister of a fellow employee in the quartz crystal department. Her name was Emily Wnuk. We'd dated once, and I spent an evening at her house at that party I spoke of. She visited me at boot camp right after I'd completed a few weeks or a month at camp. It was some sort of time period required before we could have guests.

    Wouldn't you know it? My folks and some of my siblings arrived at camp that same day. It was rather awkward, to say the least. But I did introduce them to each other and tried to make the best of it. As a matter of fact, I was embarrassed that Emily had come because of the fact she'd brought along some of the medals Roman Catholics carry on their person, and she expected me to show them to my family—who taught me that Lutherans and Catholics are very different in theology. Mom was distressed at what she saw, but since Emily left first that day, I had a chance to explain later to Mom. I told her I felt really bad for Emily, because she meant well and had probably spent quite a bit of money buying them for me. I ended up by saying I'd hold on to them for someone who could use or wanted them after I'd get on a ship, or they could take them home. I don't [recall now] which way it turned out.

Postcard from Great Lakes to Streator

    I always thought I got out of boots toward the end of March of 1943. But in looking through records recently, I found a date of something like March sixth as graduation day. And then there was the time spent at OGU (Outgoing Unit) over at the main gate (the part where I mentioned coming into the rail station when first arriving at Great Lakes). Inoculations and awaiting relegation to duty there may have taken a week or so.


The author sent this postcard of himself from Great Lakes, IL, in March, 1943, to his Grandmother Vagasky at 816 Jackson St. in Streator, Illinois, stating:
"I'm leaving for home Sat. morning. Don't know if I'll get a chance to see you or not. Hope So! Johnny Sedory"

It was postmarked on Sunday (March 21st), but we know he'd already left on the 20th since he tells us he'd been at home about a week before his birthday on the 29th (see next section).

Train Trip to Miami

    As it turned out, Johnny Cherway's duty was to be that of a gunner on a merchant marine vessel [perhaps in the US Navy Armed Guard], and mine was attendance at SCTC, Submarine Chaser Training Center, Miami, Florida. Destroyer Escorts [the author being assigned to one later on] in reality were "submarine chasers," ships specially built and equipped for destroying submarines before they could destroy cargo or war ships. The DE's performed a duty called "screening," screening that area to the front and sides of the vessels in convoy.

    My birthday was March 29th. Some time before that date I'd spent about a week at home on leave—technically called "[Authorized] delay en route to next duty [station]." The time was well spent visiting my family, friends, and what members of the old gang were still not in the service. Some of that time had to have been spent in trying to comfort Mom, since she would now have two sons, who, she was sure, would meet with some sort of life-threatening or life-ending tragedy before the war was over.

    Reporting to the designated train station, it was another farewell anxiety I had to face in leaving Mom and the family. Naturally, I wanted to get on with my training, but I still felt bad about having to leave everyone behind.

    That part of the ordeal over, I found myself and rail cars full of other military personnel headed for "destination unknown." There were no sleeper accommodations, just regular "sit and bear it" seats, boxed meals, poor washroom facilities ill equipped to handle so many, and other inconveniences. But in spite of all those negatives, the excitement of going somewhere unknown was stimulating to the mind.

    Porters, conductors and others were questioned about where we might be going, but either they didn't know, or they wouldn't tell. After a full day, we realized this was not going to be a short ride. What confused us was the fact the train first headed southeast, then southwest, finally heading and staying on the southeast heading.

    Into the trip about two days or so, we were told we'd soon be crossing the great Suwannee River. I leaned over toward the window in eager anticipation to view this great river about which I'd heard sung so many times, "Way down upon the Swannee (spelled differently in the song) River...!" When the river was reached the conductor yelled out, "We're now crossing the Suwannee River."

    Straining my eyes for a sight of that elegant body of water, all I could see was a dry river bed, no water whatsoever! "This is the Suwannee River, that great river of which I've heard so much all these years? How could it be?" I groaned within. Whatever remaining trust was left in my mind about folklore and songs dealing with it had now been seriously damaged!

    Most of us on board the train knew the Suwannee ran through Southern Georgia and Northern Florida, so we felt clued-in as to a possible destination. "After all, navy personnel won't find much ocean in central Georgia," we reasoned, "so as long as we maintain a southern heading, we must be going to Florida."

    Subsequently we were advised we'd be making a stop in [Tampa][2] where we'd have time for nearby shopping, eating out, using the station's washroom facilities, etc. In the same revelation we were also cautioned that the stop was to be exact in time spent in the station, and anyone not back on time would miss the train and have to suffer the consequences. Knowing there was no way I'd intended to be one of those latecomers, I limited my distance from the train to that of the location of the station's washroom facilities—well in sight of our train!

    Most of my life I've been one who'd rather be much too early for anything than even a little late. Dad was that way, too. Mom, on the other hand, was more like my wife, where "There's plenty of time!" Murphy's law applied, and a certain number of guys did miss the train, some possibly intentionally. I'd have hated filling their shoes when the time of reckoning came.

    Central Florida didn't offer much in scenery, at least in my opinion, as the train continued in a southward direction. Eventually our long, tiring ride terminated in Miami. Everyone must have heard stories and read about that great city, and here we were right there! How impressive!

Submarine Chaser Training School

    Mustering took place as names were called in the formation of this or that group, no one knowing exactly who'd be going where. Buses lined up to receive the large numbers of men who had now been "sorted," whisking us away to what turned out to be numerous hotels located on Biscayne Boulevard. The hotels had been rented by the navy to house short-termers who would be taking crash courses for miscellaneous types of duty.

    At first we were given several days of classroom instruction in what our duty was to be—trainees on submarine chasers or Destroyer Escorts. This was followed by several days at sea on the DE-[13][3] (forgot the name of it) learning what DE's were all about, their capabilities, and the countless and diversified types of jobs one could pursue on board. Most of us were seamen, outside of several who had already served on other classes of vessels.

    The days at sea, by the way, were limited to one day at a time—out to sea early and back by nightfall. Regardless of where we went or for how long a period of time, we all learned there was one thing certain. Assignment to one of those babies meant you'd have to learn how to live with inhaled diesel fuel smoke. Combine that with a rough sea, and all the ingredients necessary for a visit to the railing to unload a meal existed. I never went that far, but I did in most of my 2½ years on our DE feel slightly queasy from those fumes!

    "On-board" duty on the DE-[13] completed, we spent maybe another week in classroom settings learning not only about the configuration of a DE, but we also learned about the armament on such a ship. I distinctly recall hearing, "That shell or round you'll be pulling out of the breach or magazine will be a hangfire or a misfire[4]. That means you want to get it out and over the side as quickly as possible, as it could go off at any moment!"

    Why do I remember that statement so well? As a seaman, my first assignment was to be the '1st loader' on a 3-inch/50 gun. Since this is to be followed up more closely later, I don't want to go into detail. But later I was made the gunner on a 20MM cannon, and rounds that didn't fire became my responsibility—to get out of the breach and out over the side! How could I forget what that instructor had told us at that class in Miami?

Overhead view of the USS Brennan (DE-13) in the Atlantic, off Florida. [Cropped/edited U.S. Navy Photo, 2 NOV 1944, Naval Air Station, Fort Lauderdale, FL]

[The major weapons of a Destroyer Escort apart from its two depth charge tracks at the stern (left side of picture above), were its eight Mark 6 Depth Charge Projectors or K-Guns (to throw depth charges out and away from either side of the ship), three 3-inch/50 calibre guns, two 40mm Bofors AA Guns in a "Twin Mount" (see Figure 1 of link), nine 20mm Mark 4 Oerlikon Anti-Aircraft cannons (4 on either side and 1 forward center) and the 7.2-inch missile/motor, Mark 10 Hedgehog Projector.   NOTE: The USS Crouter had a 1.1-inch/75 Calibre Quad Machine Gun/Cannon instead of the Bofors.]

The USS Finnegan (DE-307) near Mare Island Navy Yard, 1 SEP 1944 (resized/cropped version of U.S. Navy Photo #CP-DE-307 19-N-131514; NARA).

[Editor's Note: In this view of the USS Finnegan (DE-307), one can see the different elevations of the three starboard 20mm cannons aft of the smoke stack, the 20mm cannon in front of the Bridge with the starboard 20mm cannon directly below it (for more details, see the original photo here).]

    The hotels we lived in, once fancy places for the wealthy, had been converted to what looked more like the average military barracks. Walls were stripped of any and all embellishments, and double height bunks filled the rooms. Some walls were knocked out to make it even more like a barracks. In the short time I was there, we lived in three different hotels on Biscayne Boulevard, our training ship and school being located right down the boulevard.

    What might have been normally a three month training stint had been compacted into no more than four or five weeks (maybe less), and it was time to move on again.

    All the while we had been training, the guys in our group who moved about from hotel to hotel had already been predestined to be a major portion of the nucleus for a DE crew. The more experienced or "salty" sailors were to come from other ships and duties. They would become our petty officers, chiefs and commissioned officers who would make "salts" of us as well in time. There were a few of those noncoms who had gone through the training with us, however.

Learning how to Swim?

    Before going on to the next train ride to another "destination unknown," there was an episode which took place in that training period I want to recount.

    Sailors should know how to swim, right? I didn't. I'd never got the hang of it in high school, and I hadn't been allowed by Mom (or Dad) to try it out as a kid. When I got into water over my shoulders, I was a prime candidate for resuscitation. Sure, as kids we went to city pools and floundered around and put our heads under water and things like that. But for actually getting in over my head and "swimming," I hadn't ever been able to do that. But this was a time when I wished I had!

    Our nucleus was taken to Coral Gables, a place of renown for aquatic beauty. I'd heard of it in past years, never dreaming I'd be "swimming" there. The first item on the agenda was diving. As I got to the place where the guys gathered for this test (or whatever it was), I was horrified to look down at the water which appeared to be fifty feet below. It was not to be done from a diving board but from a jutted-out portion on a hill.

    When my turn came, I tried telling the instructor I couldn't possibly attempt such a fete, as I didn't know how to swim. He wasn't much help, as he just assured me the sides of the pool (or whatever it was) weren't that far from where I'd come up after the dive. "And besides, there'll be someone down in the water to help if you need it," he said.

    Having had an idea how to perform a dive from watching people doing them for years as a kid, and having just seen others doing it, I must have figured, "What could go wrong? I don't seem to have much choice anyway, so here goes nothing!"

    Descending downward rapidly, I was trying to suck up all the oxygen I could before entering the water. So I took on the typical diving position with hands extended, back straight, and head tucked between my arms. But I did forget one thing. Maybe I just didn't know any better, as I think about it. I hit the water pretty well and went to the bottom of the pool (it was pretty deep). Little did I know one was supposed to curve the hands upward in a cupped fashion to assist in rising to the surface again. The sudden stop at the bottom of the pool, though not pleasant, wasn't my biggest problem. I couldn't get to the surface quickly enough and thought I'd drown before I did. Swallowing part of the content of the pool wasn't too great, either. This happened just before I found myself above the surface where I could now breathe. I began sucking in too soon! I guess I must have "dog-paddled" to get to the side.

    Well, that wasn't bad enough, that ordeal I'd just undergone. Now came the actual swimming test. This was in a large pool, large in length and width. Everyone was told to start at one end and to swim to the opposite side. Again, I protested that I couldn't swim, getting approximately the same response as when trying to get out of diving.

    Yes, there were guys out there all over the pool, and starting at the shallow end, I figured "I'll go as far as I can (dog-paddling, no doubt) and just tell the helper nearest to me that I can't go any farther." At approximately one third the distance across the pool, I reached for the bottom to take a rest. No bottom! No guard—except the one who shouted to me, "Just keep swimming!"

    If there had been water swallowed in that dive, it wasn't anything compared with what I was drinking in now. The harder I tried to keep paddling away, the more I seemed to be fighting my way under water. Maybe it was the remaining distance to the other end of the pool which frightened me; but whatever it was, one of the guards must have seen my crisis, as he came over and took hold of me.

    One last thought about our stay in the Miami hotels. There was a sailor, just as green as we were, whose surname was Williams. He captured my attention by his outgoing personality, the Southern accent and the gold teeth which shone from his smiling face. He bunked near to me in the hotels, and I considered him to be a good friend. Later on in the book I'll tell—with painful recollection—what the fate of Williams was some time later.

Train Trip to Boston

    Finally on our way northward on a train once again, there was plenty of time to reflect on the events of the past weeks and months. Some of the "salts" had thought we'd be going to someplace like Norfolk, Virginia. Others thought it'd be the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Other guesses were also thrown in. All wrong! It was just a short layover in Norfolk, enough that I could someday say I'd been there, and that's about it.

    Continuing to head northward, the train probably stopped in New York City and some other major cities, though I don't remember them. I do know some more of the guessing which had taken place about where we were headed also proved wrong. And as it was, the only coastal cities up the coast to the north had to include Boston, the city at which we finally ended our trip.

    Buses were lined up to take us to our ship which was located at the Charlestown [Boston] Navy Yard. Many fishy-smelling rivers and bridges were crossed before we reached the navy yard, and it made such an impression on me; I still can recall how much I disliked that odor. I'd always been one who possessed a queasy stomach.

    A petty officer led us down a long pier on which were tied many vessels under construction, one of which would turn out to be ours. The highlight of that walk down the pier had to be the women construction workers[5] who whistled as we walked by. That was a switch from having guys whistle at girls!

    When the petty officer stopped, he quieted the guys and said calmly "It's this one," pointing to what looked like a mass of metal in total disarray. It was something which had not yet taken its final shape or form. My mind ran wild with thoughts such as "This is it? It looks nothing like the DE-[13] we trained on in Miami. What kind of a joke is this?"

    Following the petty officer up the gang plank, we could hear hammers banging into metal, grinding noises, rivet guns and drilling sounds all over. Torches of welding equipment flashed everywhere, and cranes moved about as though they were tinker toys. A most uncomfortable feeling swelled up within and I wondered what I was doing there.

    We were fed first, so that meant there was some form of readiness on board. As a matter of fact, below decks it appeared that the living quarters were intact. Billeting followed, and I was pleased to find I'd been assigned to the aft part of the ship, my bunk being the last row located at the bulkhead separating that compartment and the laundry room and aft steering. Aft steering was an auxiliary unit which could be used in case of damage to the main steering control on the bridge. We had footlockers under the bottom bunk where we were to keep our gear, "a pretty handy setup," I felt.

    After that we were introduced to the ship's commissioned and petty officers. But since the full crew had not yet been formed, there would be others coming from the remaining nuclei which had not yet arrived. A tour followed the introductions, leaving me finally feeling I was now a part of a viable crew and ship. It was something I needed to help build confidence, thinking "Maybe this conglomeration of metal and unfinished parts can become a real DE after all!"

USS Crouter (DE-11)

    All this had its beginning when on January 16, 1943, the ship [USS Crouter (DE-11)] was launched at the Charlestown Navy Yard by Mrs. Crouter, the widow of Commander Mark Hanna Crouter [whom the ship was named after] who had been killed while on the USS San Francisco (CA-38) at Guadalcanal in November, 1942. I believe she was also present when on May 25, 1943, the ship was placed into commission. I can recall being at the commissioning, and I felt compassion for Mrs. Crouter at that time.

    In the days which followed, we seamen were assigned to tasks of cleaning up after the work crews, swabbing decks where clear enough to do so, painting, taking on board ship's stores and ammunition. Though we were under the jurisdiction of a chief boatswain's mate and a coxswain, any of the other petty officers could have given us orders which we were to follow. This happened more than once in those "get-ready" days.

    Liberties were given sparingly in those days of construction, and they were welcomed when they came. There was a lot of Boston out there to explore by sailors known for two things: drinking and women. As I think of it, when we were in the rail station in Norfolk, we were told this was one town in which sailors were not welcomed. How this came about, I'm not certain, but it had to have something to do with the reputation of sailors toward the women of that city, I'd guess. But Boston was supposed to be the exact opposite in treatment of sailors. So the time for investigation into that premise and into Boston itself was near at hand.

    On board ship a skinny redheaded kid who lived his life in a suburb of Boston became one of my bunkmates—he occupied the bottom of the three-tier bunks, while I had the center one. His Boston accent was hilarious, and he had freckles all over his body and face, and his hair was very red and wavy. Since he was nearly two years younger than I, I felt he needed protection from the older guys who'd be teasing him; and I took it upon myself to act as his bodyguard, so to speak.

    However, while on liberties, Richard Curran (Red), didn't usually accompany me, as he could take a thirty mile ride on a train to his home in Wakefield. I did find two other guys with whom I became close, John Mroz and Joe Karbowniczek. It could have been that they, both being Polish, thought of me (a Slovak) as nearly one of their fellow countrymen. It was with these two I went on most of the liberties. John was from Jackson, Michigan, while Joe was from somewhere in Ohio.

On Drinking, Women and Sin

    I've previously explained that though I had the fear of the Lord in my heart, I still sought the fleshly things of life. So since John and Joe weren't averse to seeking out such things, it seemed natural for me to follow after them in the pursuit of fulfillment of those desires. This, I knew, was in direct disobedience to God's commands.

    John and Joe were Roman Catholics. Their "Christianity" often appeared to me to give them an edge in wrongdoing. They merely were required to confess their sins of the past to a priest in a confessional booth, thus being freed of guilt and sin in order to repeat the process all over again. When I tried to do the things they did, I did confess sins to God and felt forgiven. But I prayed not to be tempted beyond what I was able to withstand—falling short all too often. Let me assure those of you who might be shocked by reading this, I did not actually ever consummate sexual sin either while in the navy or while courting my wife some time later! The reason this was and is so does not result from my goodness!

    It should be said right here that I am not God, and I don't know what went on in the hearts of my friends. Maybe they weren't any different from me, except they had the physical appearance to attract women, while I did not. And when thinking of them, I realize I don't really know if Joe was as much a womanizer as was John. I'm not their judge, and perhaps I shouldn't have gone as far as categorizing them. After all, I only know what was told me as being done.

    This is as good a place as any to get into the subject of sexual sin. God doesn't say only sins actually committed are sins in His sight, but even those of fantasy, dwelling on the temptations, become equally sinful. The "doing" and the "thinking" are the same to Him. However, "doing" causes much more severe consequences for both if these two one day marry—the doer/thinker. If one or the other mate reveals his or her past which discloses such "doing," the one who is or has been only a "thinker" may not be able to cope with what has been learned. Forgiving and forgetting are entirely different ball games! It's possible the one will spend the rest of his or her life dwelling on what had taken place. There just is no free ride in such sin. If you're into it, stop it right now! Anyone, and especially young people, who have not yet reached the marital stage, think about the pain and misery your moments of "pleasure" (really sin) can one day cause you and your future mate!

    In today's world kids of elementary school age are said to be involved in sex as a way of life (not all, but a good portion according to statistics), "being one of the in-bunch." This same mentality exists to a much higher degree among adults who no longer are ashamed of what they do, or when/where they do what they do. Marriage has become "old fashioned" and inappropriate, if not inconvenient and too committed. For two such people who might eventually marry, perhaps they can accept each other's pasts. If there happens to be one of them who hasn't been a doer, it can be a most difficult and trying marriage.

    If one takes the time to analyze what this is all about, it merely comes down to what God says in His Word. Mankind's sinful nature leads him into desires for things he is forbidden to have. Look at the Garden of Eden! And that was only fruit from a forbidden tree! Lust for another person by one who is married is just that, wanting someone or something forbidden. After all, despite what some may tell you, the act is not so very different regardless of who or what the other person appears to be. And it's never terminated in a clear conscience! The memory of what has been done remains the rest of one's days whether returning to the partner or not.

    To expand on the point of "not being very different," I'll tell you something one of my former employers told me. Though it might seem rather X-rated, it brings the point home.

    This guy was constantly on the lookout for other women. He had a wonderful wife and family and position in life. Yet he never ceased to indulge in sexual sin, going so far as to intimidate those of his victims by saying if his wife ever found out about it, he'd know that woman had told her, and he'd make it prove costly to that woman. He specifically told me on one occasion of a woman he enticed into sexual sin by telling her he was something most men were not. She felt she had to find out what that was all about, so she agreed to meet him at a specified motel somewhere. It'd be safe to assume she'd been around before.

    My boss then told me, "When the act was over, she said to me, 'You're no different from anyone else!'" That, folks, is what it amounts to—bluntly put!

    In past chapters I told of the infirmities God saw fit to place within my body in handling liquor or cigarettes. At the time I considered these as "thorns in the flesh." Also added to those two was my physical (this is embarrassing) inability to deal with females without first "spending" myself without actual contact of any sort. In reality, I now see these "infirmities" as a blessing from God. He knew me before I was conceived, and He knew how disobedient I'd be. Therefore, because of His love for me, He gave me these things to keep me in line. I thank Him for this! If only we could all take whatever happens to us (those who have made Him their Lord and Savior) as something God either causes or allows, it would be so much easier to confront life with less sadness, fear and mental suffering. I'm still human, weak, and battling! It's always easier to tell another what to do than to do it yourself.

    In time I learned that alcohol gave me "guts" I never had without it. It gave me the ability to approach women and engage in conversation which normally I would be unable to do. It became a "crutch." All the while engaged in such activity, I never lost the memory of what happened to me in that New Year's Eve binge with the gang back home. Whiskey and I did not agree!

    To try overcoming the whiskey problem, I'd drink the mildest kind I could find, learning as I went along that some didn't smell like that horrible stuff. The deadening effect worked equally as well, and that's what I thought I needed to be able to cope with women.

    Always having thought of myself as unattractive, whenever John, Joe and I went on liberties, if less than three girls were located who were willing to date, I'd always just step aside. If there were three, I'd make no aggressive move to try getting one over the other...if, indeed, the "loser" was willing to go along with me. Never assertive, and having infirmities, these kept me from having as much to battle within myself as I could have had.

Minor Shakedown

    Back to our ship, the construction completed and tests needed, we were to enter the open seas outside the Boston Harbor for that purpose. Everything was in readiness, anticipation running high from every quarter. Seamen manned the lines tying the ship to the dock. Others stood by the bumpers, those masses of interwoven rope (later made of other materials as well) which kept the hull from scraping the dock and damaging the hull. This latter being a subject of future discussion later on (about our ship's reputation in that regard). Officers serving as "test pilots" (that may be an incorrect designation) came aboard to assist in determining what changes or repairs might be needed to the ship.

    Channels which seemed to me to be rather long were finally navigated, and we were on our way to the open sea. This now reminded me of the DE-[13] in Miami.

    The testing was actually a minor "shakedown" of the ship to determine what was in need of change or addition. We spent several days at sea, whether returning daily or staying out overnight, I'm not sure. But in time the testing was over, and we found our way back to the Charlestown Navy Yard for those minor necessities of repair or change.

Dorothy was very sick

    This was approximately the point in time when I received a telegram from Mom and Dad stating they wanted me to come home immediately, as my kid sister Dorothy had been very ill and was calling for me. I contacted the ship's executive officer who told me he'd grant the leave if I could show I had proof of transportation (tickets) to Chicago and back. But in keeping with my usual status, I was broke financially. Someone advised that I seek out the International Red Cross for assistance. And that's where I went.

    Most people have high regard for that organization and support them, as even I do on occasion. But if you could have been present when I was making my request for a loan to meet my emergency need, you'd have other thoughts about them. They said, "We just don't go around giving money away to people! How can you prove you'll pay it back? Why don't you try...?"
    No, I wasn't trying to float a loan to finance the World Bank, but you'd have thought so had you been there.
    In my earlier and much revised versions of this portion of text, I noted that I at first had written that the Red Cross did give me the funds. Then as I got to thinking about it more, I decided that didn't happen. Mom and Dad had to scrounge up the money from somewhere (I believe), wiring it via Western Union. In case I'm wrong, I do know the money was sent to me, possibly to repay the Red Cross after the trip was made.

    The long train ride was tiring, even exhausting. The thoughts of what I might find when arriving home, together with what might be happening with my ship, had to be the cause.

    I'd always been Dorothy's favorite brother (I was often told), and it may be that this came about as a result of the many trinkets I bought for her. Well, here I was with borrowed money to get me home and back to my ship, and yet I knew I couldn't go home without picking something up for her. So I splurged in moderation.

    The trip ended, and I found my way home as quickly as I knew how. It was the idea of not knowing what had transpired and what I might find when I got there which made the entry into the house difficult.

    Once inside, greetings over, the story began to unfold. Dorothy had suffered high fevers from an infection in glands about the neck and under the ears. The infection swelled, causing her great pain. So Mom and Dad took her to a local physician (think he was also a surgeon) who decided he'd lance the infection to relieve the pain and swelling, also removing much accumulated pus. In the process of accomplishing those goals, he inadvertently severed some nerve or nerves to the brain; and this, along with the high fevers, resulted in brain damage which would cause a certain amount of disability called "retardation." This, however, was not known until sometime later when Dorothy entered grammar school.

    It was while under those high fevers that Dorothy had called for me, sort of in delirium, and that's what resulted in my emergency leave.

    Delightfully, however, I didn't notice that much difference in Dorothy's mental acumen when visiting with her. The fever down, the swelling almost gone, she seemed to me to be her usual self. Of course, in time this would not be the case.

    Here was a kid who when yet unable to read had mastered the art of naming and giving the year of manufacture of automobiles, and who had the unique ability to know what chain store or restaurant or other food-oriented establishment we'd just passed while driving by. Yet, in time to come she would not only not be advanced, she'd go through her entire life being called "mentally handicapped."

    In years which followed, Dorothy maintained her gift of knowing birth dates of many from our family, relatives and friends. She still knew all about eating places and stores of all sorts. But it became obvious she was un-trainable in certain areas, one being in anything mathematical or dealing with figures. She also feared stepping down stairways or off curbs, as well. But all in all, she was a blessing to our family and to many others in her lifetime. More about her later on.


This picture was taken during the author's trip to see Dorothy in 1943. They're standing next to the family automobile; there is a chicken coop and what appears to be piles of junk in the background. Dorothy was wearing a shawl around her head, because she had a swollen neck due to the infection; which her brother Ed said had lasted for a year.

    My trip back wasn't nearly as traumatic as the one going home. I felt a certain amount of security in Dorothy's apparent recovery, and it made the ride back one more of concern for the status of my ship than anything else. And even that turned out to be a plus, for the ship was still receiving repairs when I returned.

Sad Day in Bermuda

    One day out of the clear blue, we headed out to sea without returning to Boston. As with all the ship's activities, we didn't know then, either, where we were headed. Certain petty officers associated with navigational or radio work probably knew what was going on, I'd guess. And in time, while underway, the skipper got on the intercom and announced "We're on our way to Bermuda for our shakedown cruise."

    Bermuda had to be a place almost everyone had heard of sometime in their past, and it offered stimulation to liberty thoughts which we might enjoy there. The island isn't terribly far from the East Coast of the U.S., so it didn't take very long to reach our destination.

[Editor's Note: The shortest flight distance from Boston to Bermuda is 775 (673 nautical) miles. The Bermudas are located between 32.25° to 32.39° North and 64.89° to 64.65° West, or roughly 900 miles directly east of Parris Island, South Carolina. But because the coastline in this area generally angles 45° (northeast) when heading north, the closest landmass to the Bermudas is Cape Hatteras, North Carolina at about 650 miles west northwest.]

    While heading for Bermuda, we practiced countless maneuvers, including flank speed trials (that's top speed when "pushing it"), sharp turns and other such contrivances. Everything was going well underway there and while there—except for one thing!

    Prior to leaving for Bermuda, I'd been offered the Boat Hook duty. This would have meant some prestige in that it'd give access to getting ashore as often as the whale boat went there. In considering the offer, I came to the conclusion it was risky for one who wasn't exactly a Johnny Weissmuller (world renowned swimmer) or even a decent "dog paddler," and I declined the offer. Later I learned Williams (remember him from our hotel in Miami?) had been offered and accepted the duty. I didn't like the idea, because compared with him I was an Olympics Gold Medal Champion in swimming capabilities. But it was his decision, and I had no say in the matter.

    A boathook's duty was to stand on the bow of the whaleboat (which was always covered with a tarpaulin). He had a long wooden handle with a hook on the end which was used to pull the boat to a pier or alongside a ship. In departing from a ship, he used it to push the boat away. His post was on the bow, holding on in rough seas for all he was worth—though on longer rides, he was invited under the canopy.

    Little thought was given to the boat hook duty and who was assigned to it—until one day in our couple of week's stay there (or three perhaps) general quarters was called. Every man on board had specified places at which to muster for a head count, this being different from a normal GQ call. When all the counts were taken, it was determined that Williams was not present.

    We were anchored about three miles out in the bay (I think there were shallow waters close to the shoreline). The whale boat had made a trip into Bermuda, and Williams was on duty. He had stayed on the bow in spite of rough waters. Whether this was his choice or poor judgment on the part of the ranking person (maybe the coxswain), I don't know. But when they'd reached shore, Williams was not found on the bow. Why they called a GQ for a head count when they knew very well Williams left for the island, I don't know. Maybe it was a procedural thing.

    It was concluded that evidently in the rough waters, Williams had fallen off the whaleboat and hit his head on the side as he fell. It was said no sound or cry for help had been heard.

    All that remained now was to wait for his body to float ashore. And this did happen three days later. His body must have been taken ashore at Bermuda and prepared for return to the U.S., because it was never brought back to the ship.

    Williams had bunked in our compartment. So when one day a crew of officers came down to take an inventory of his gear and personal items, these were packed into duffle bags as those of us present watched sullenly, some with tears in their eyes (I was one of these). He would be listed as losing his life in the service of his country.[6]

    It took a long time to ease the pain of what had happened. I often thought that if I'd taken the duty of boathook in Williams' place, perhaps I'd have been able to alert the crew to my dislodging. Poor Williams couldn't swim a stroke; I could at least dog paddle. The picture of Williams' face remains in my mind's eye to this day.

    Because of the tremendous impact of the Williams tragedy, the liberties we spent on shore there in Bermuda lost much of their meaning. I do recall that when this tragedy occurred, we'd already had one or two trips ashore. And after that, I had no real interest in going ashore again.

    Of what I do remember in being on shore there, the streets were narrow, and there were almost no motorized vehicles (couple motorbikes, one or two cars). It was a definitely British setting, and prices for anything were sky high. After all, it was and still is a resort island where vacationers and visitors are expected to spend, spend, spend. The many shops carried souvenirs which were attractive and desirable, but they, too, were out of reach financially. A nice place to visit, and good that I can say I was there; but considering what happened there, I'd much rather have been able to say Williams spent the next 2½ years on board the Crouter.

[Author Thought they] Found Surfaced Enemy Sub

    Everyone who served on the Crouter received a copy of the ship's [History][7], one which [should have] covered everything [important] from the time of its launching to its decommissioning. I have found in the years since that there seems to be some errors in dates and events, though I never kept any kind of log to prove it. And many things which took place in those 2½ years plus aren't even covered. One such incident follows.

    On our way back to the States we came upon a surprised sub which had just surfaced near to our position. Upon spotting us, it quickly dived to avoid being fired upon or rammed. That sub was so close there was no way we could have missed ramming it—had the skipper tried. To this day I feel he was plain "chicken," and I wasn't alone in that opinion at the time. We did drop depth charges where the submarine submerged, but that resulted in fruitlessness.[8]

    Upon returning to the Charlestown Navy Yard we did have a reinforced bow welded onto the existing one to give more ramming power. It was thicker, sharper and of heavier metal construction, supposedly being able to cut a sub in two if rammed. I had to wonder if the skipper would have used it had it already been in place when confronting that sub on the way back from Bermuda.

    The shakedown cruise revealed the necessity for certain alterations, conversions and adjustments to the ship. That shakedown, by the way, was said to have created a record in that day by taking a total of only twenty-three days.

Some Date

    John, Joe and I had gone on a few liberties together after our return from Bermuda, and on one particular occasion we met three girls. As was always the case, I'd already been numbed enough by drinks to be able to talk to women when we met. One of the more attractive and outgoing of the three somehow took to me in the course of the evening, and we ultimately left the others. She had an automobile, so that was convenient, at least, so I thought then.

    Driving for some time while we talked, she finally parked somewhere. It was very dark wherever it was. Remember now, this was still the backward guy who never made any moves on females. She began to take over and became the aggressor, so much so that (as was my modus operandi) I spent myself, thus being unable to give what by now I realized she was after. This was the first such occurrence of female contact of the three in my entire lifetime. I was shocked to think a woman would do that, and I could tell by her tone of voice she was dismayed she'd chosen me for that evening's fun and games. She either drove me back to the ship or to a means of transportation. Can anyone have been that naive? I believe I was—but if that wasn't how it really was, the outcome was still the same.

    This kind of revelation is as shocking to me as it may be to you who wonder why anyone in their right mind would include such "stuff." The idea to include all such material in this book came as the result of a man's statement made when he learned I was writing this book. He said, "I don't know anyone who will 'tell it as it really was!'" In other words, "How can you say you're writing a book of your life when you know you aren't going to include 'all of it'"?

    I lost many nights of sleep where I lay in bed thinking of whether being that honest was called for in telling of one's life. The conclusive decision: "How can I write a book about my life and leave out those portions which won't set well with others—especially family and Christian friends?"

    Haven't you heard dozens upon dozens of testimonies in church settings where the speaker is a "down and outer" who tells it all, and then he concludes with how God changed him and those old things are now passed away?" I have, and admittedly, I always thought of the junky disclosures revealed as being totally unnecessary. Yet here I am doing the same thing. Forgive me if I've offended anyone! I, too, am trying to show God can really change sinners, especially those who should have known better, and still fell. Yet He accepted this repentant one back into the fold. He can and will do the same for you, if my story parallels things about your life! And mine isn't fully revealed yet at this point.


    On our very last liberty before leaving for some battle zone, John, Joe and I again met three girls. This time we were all down to our lowest total assets, so we were seeking low cost enjoyment. We sort of hinted to the girls what our finances were like, and they immediately advised us they'd handle whatever costs were involved which we couldn't cover. Hearing that, we reasoned, "They must be telling us they are interested in dating us in spite of our disclosure we were all but broke. Oh, boy, who could refuse an offer such as that?"

    The plan had been to take them out to dinner somewhere. But they insisted they had to go home first (maybe to get more money, or maybe to tell their folks they were going to be out for the entire evening). They lived in Dorchester, a suburb of Boston some thirty miles away. Knowing there was no way on earth we could get "such a deal" elsewhere, we eagerly agreed to go along.

    There was some kind of surface train powered by electric lines from above, sort of a version of Chicago's Elevated System, but not elevated. We had a great time discussing our navy life and our possible future lives. The ride ended quickly, since "time flies quickly when having fun!"

    Up to this time no one had made any designations as to which girl was with which guy. All three were attractive, but one was even more than that, "beautiful" is the only way to describe her properly.

    We met the family, had a snack along with conversation, and we were ready to leave the house. This was the critical point in the story.

    I knew there was no way I could come out of that house arm in arm with Ruth Ashcroft, the beautiful one; so I determined I'd lag behind and let the other guys and girls decide how the choosing would be done. The house to which we were invited was Ruth's, the other two girls being girlfriends of hers.

    John and Joe had it all figured out how they'd make their choices as we left the house, and they took battle positions. At the last moment (I was lagging behind, as I said before) Ruth went back into the house for something, and the others had already gone out of the house. So there I was with only one girl left, and I could scarcely believe my eyes when on her way out Ruth took my arm! My heart did flip-flops, and I was to say the least a nervous wreck. This just didn't seem right; yet I loved it!

    Outside of having met my own wife a couple years later (a bit more), this had to be the greatest feeling of affection I've felt in my life. Ruth was pleasant, unpretentious, caring, sweet—and all the other superlatives one might conjure up in his mind. I must have been floating, because I don't recall feeling my feet hitting terra firma.

    In Boston we had a great dinner. When the tab came, we guys were short (as we suspected we'd be), and the girls immediately stepped in and filled in the deficit. Actually, they paid for more of the tab than we had.

    When we returned to Ruth's home via that same electric train, we talked and kidded and had fun with her family. Later on the family went to bed leaving us alone with our dates. It was in that short period of time I realized I had fallen head over heels in love. What's even more miraculous is the fact Ruth indicated she, too, had fallen for me!

    This was our last liberty; we'd be headed out for places unknown the next morning. I hated to leave Ruth. And she told me she wanted to know how she could write to me. I gave her our Fleet Post Office address, telling her if it changed I'd write giving it to her. A short discussion followed concerning what the future might hold for us, and the possibility of a marriage down the road was part of it. I was oblivious to what the other guys had been talking about or doing, as all I could see or think of was Ruth. One would have thought we'd known each other for years and years the way we acted.

    This had been the absolutely "cleanest" date I'd ever experienced, but it had also been the very best. Maybe in God's wisdom He knew it'd be best we not be able to become too close in future dates, and He saw to it I didn't meet her earlier. As it was we'd be leaving the next a.m. for war duty somewhere.

    The post-shakedown repairs had been completed, and all was ready. We got underway that next a.m. as earlier advised we would be. Our course out of the Charlestown Navy Yard and the Boston surroundings took us due south paralleling the East Coast of the U.S. In time we were alerted to the fact we were headed for the Panama Canal and eventual assignment to the Pacific Fleet.

The Panama Canal

    In grammar school, kids eventually get around to studying about the Panama Canal, one of the greatest of all engineering fetes. The canal is fifty miles long. The first of three locks is the Gatun Locks, just past the entry to the canal. I'll try to explain, as much as I'm able, how this entire system is built.

    The Atlantic Ocean becomes the Caribbean Sea, names which are interchangeable in that area near the canal zone. For years I'd always thought of the canal as situated in an east/west position. Not so! It runs northwest to southeast. When thinking of the Atlantic being to the east and the Pacific being to the west, separated by a narrow strip of land called Panama, one would easily reach the conclusion I had. But here's how it really is situated.

    Having gone through the canal and the locks, I struggled with how one ocean could have been higher than another—you know, atmospheric pressure and all water finding its own level as a result. In reading about the Panama Canal I learned that basically the two oceans are not different in elevation. It is true that the Pacific has a tide of twelve to thirteen feet daily, while the Atlantic's is only two feet; and I don't totally understand that. It may have something to do with the atmospheric pressure in relation to elevation of the land masses which brings this phenomena, I'm not sure. But that's the way it is.

    The entry into the canal (going toward the Pacific) is made at Limon Bay[9]. At that point a pilot comes aboard to handle complete navigation of the canal.

    The first lock reached is the Gatun (mentioned before). And here is where much of the confusion of why one should need to be raised and lowered at locks to go from one ocean to another is diffused.

    At Gatun there existed high land masses with bodies of water and rivers which were landlocked. To cut through to build the canal would have been a near impossibility. The Chagres River flowed into the Atlantic Ocean, so it was dammed to form Lake Gatun. That dam is said to be one of the largest in the world. It is here the first lock is found when going from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The vessels traversing the canal are raised eighty-five feet to the level of Gatun Lake. There are three pairs of concrete chambers ("pairs" because ships travel in both directions) used to reach the eighty-five foot level, each raising the vessels portions of that height.

    When entering the locks from the Atlantic, the ship is down low in the locks. But once inside, the gates are closed and flooding begins. This brings the ship to the top of that level. The next two procedures are identical, resulting in the vessel reaching the level of Lake Gatun.

    From there the Pedro Miguel locks lower the vessel 31 feet into Lake Miraflores, leading to the final locks, the Miraflores (same name as the lake). Two chambers there lower the vessel the final distance to sea level of the Pacific—and that can be different levels depending on the tide condition (the Pacific's being twelve feet at different times of the day).

    It should be mentioned that the width of the locks from one ocean to the other were not (even then) wide enough to accommodate super carriers, and maybe some of today's super tankers. That means another approximately 3,500 miles of travel to get around South America to reach the Pacific at its southern tip.

    At the mouth of the Pacific, once through the locks, lies Panama (the country itself). Balboa City and Panama City are at the mouth. We stayed there for two days to receive orders, take on supplies and fuel. That meant half of the crew would get liberty one day and the other half the next.

    On my turn for liberty, I did go out with John and Joe again (I don't know how that worked out, since our names began with S, M, and K, alphabetically being a normal division at the letters L/M). We searched for something of interest as we walked about the city (Panama City or Balboa? I've forgotten!), noticing women lined the front of their shacks offering themselves for sale. One who had been sitting on a rocking chair, lifted her dress (no underclothing) to encourage a transaction. She was an older woman, maybe in her forties or so, not very attractive at all, and on the plump side. John and Joe either dared me to "visit" with her, or they called me chicken if I wouldn't. Whatever it was, this became my second indiscretionary "thought" at sin. I went in and paid the fee. I noticed there was a door leading to the room, where a man had come in to put a basin of water, exiting, but leaving the door ajar. That, together with the fact I'd already undergone the usual "infirmity," led to my paying the price asked without accomplishing what I thought I'd gone in to do. Oh, the foolishness of such sinful lust!

    Drunkenness, or at least light-headedness resulting from imbibing, accompanied all my (all three) indiscretions of sinful thought to do what later turned out to be impossible to do. Drinking alcoholic beverages, therefore, for me has been out of the question. It is wrong to overindulge in anything, but alcohol can be the most devilish potion available to one who can't control his emotions after its indulgence.

    In thinking back on those sordid events in my life, and especially the one at Balboa, I don't know how I could have conceived to do what I sought to do knowing I'd just met one of the most wonderful girls I'd ever known, Ruth Ashcroft. As much as it shames me even now, I'm re-emphasizing that this is being revealed in the hope someone not yet fallen into such sin will benefit from my miserable performance. Think of what Solomon said after having had everything he wanted. "All is vanity!" This isn't the exact quotation, but it points to the fact that here was a man who explored sexual desires as often as he wished, yet he came to the conclusion it was all vanity. This should also be a lesson to one who only thinks these thoughts, rather than doing them. It's still sin, and "vanity."

Drunken Sailors

    That same (and only) liberty found me joining myself with a bunch of guys who had also caroused and spent all their money and who were now looking for ways to continue the binge they were on. Someone determined we'd use a plan whereby we'd go into liquor stores as though intending to buy something. Then the one with the bottle or bottles would point to the next guy (there were sailors, marines and soldiers in the group) saying "He's going to pay." This would be passed on until the last guy in the store would make a run for it. And it worked real well!

    This procedure went well for quite some time. We passed the bottles from one to another, partaking far more than anyone's capacity called for. Maybe the songs which rang through speaker systems in the area helped us to our binge or spree. The one was "Drinking rum and coca-cola...."

    By the time our wild party had reached its peak (there must have been about forty of us), the last place at which we had pulled our skullduggery found us exiting the building and right into the arms of swarms of MP's and SP's (military police and shore patrols—navy, on the latter) and local gendarmes. They transported us in jeeps and other vehicles to the local police station, putting us into one large, dirty and smelly holding cell. Evidently the liquor store owners who were fleeced had alerted the police to the scam.

    It must have been several hours and into the middle of the night when those of us from our ship were told representatives from the ship (officers) had come to bail us out. The only way I can justify this action by the ship's officers is the fact some of the men held critical duties and were sorely needed on board, and the fact we were scheduled to leave early that a.m. Maybe so.

    While walking from the vehicles which brought us back to the ship, it was obvious some of the guys were rather "woozy" and disoriented. This proved to be so when two or three of them missed the gangplank while attempting to board the ship, falling into the murky, dirty, smelly water which separated the ship and the dock. How they were recovered, I don't know, as I headed right for the sack. This was told to me later that a.m. by others. Surely I didn't envy them for the fact the dunking probably speeded up their sobriety.

    When we, the culprits, were finally addressed by the executive officer, I thought for sure "Here comes a court martial!" I'm glad I was wrong, for all we got was a tongue-lashing, not even a "Captain's Mast" (a lesser punishment which did go into one's records).


Chapter 16


Chapter 18


1[Return to Text]  This was not only true then, but hadn't changed much when this book's editor went through 'boot camp' at Great Lakes in 1972. Whenever in uniform, we always had to carry with us two copies of what were called (infraction) 'chits' (think ticket), and the list wasn't much different. After avoiding them all, one day during an inspection, while being cited for my gear locker being in disarray, I was momentarily in disbelief (it had been locked and I certainly had not left it like that!), then I realized it must have been the duty of our CPO to make sure everyone was 'written-up' at least once; he either got the combination, or got in some other way. As it turned out, I was in good enough shape by then to actually enjoy most of the physical exercises dished-out to us.

2[Return to Text]  The author originally typed "Atlanta" here. But Atlanta is very far north of the Suwannee River! So, we simply picked 'Tampa' as making more sense, since he follows this with: "Heading south through central Florida"; otherwise, the author's chronology must be mistaken here, since they'd have to of arrived in Atlanta long before crossing the Suwannee River. Of course, our author does mention things out of chronological order elsewhere, so perhaps he was actually writing about what happened earlier in Atlanta, but forgot to tell us.

3[Return to Text]  Apparently the author forgot the hull number as well, because the "DE-1" as he'd originally typed here, had already been transferred to the British Navy in January, 1943; months before the author arrived in Miami. We believe this was the USS Brennan (DE-13), since it "arrived in Miami, Florida on 4 March [1943], to serve as a training ship for student officers and prospective crews of destroyer escorts." The USS Andres (DE-45) was also used "as a school ship at the Submarine Chaser Training School (SCTS), Miami, Florida," but it didn't arrive there until June 10th; after the author had already departed.

4[Return to Text]  A hangfire is when the round in any gun, cannon, rifle, pistol, etc. has an unexpected delay between the time the trigger mechanism is activated and when it actually fires; for small arms (pistols, rifles), it may still discharge from 10 to 15 seconds after a misfire, though it's often only 1 to 3 seconds later. Now you see the danger: People have been shot by hangfired weapons because the shooter moved the weapon! Unless you're already in a life threatening situation (combat, police action, home invasion, etc.), keep that gun pointed downrange, away from everyone, for at least 2 full minutes if not longer! A misfire is whenever a gun fails to fire a round; usually applied 'after the fact' to rounds/incidents when the gun/ammo never fires. While still 'loaded' and only a short time has passed, your 'misfire' could become a 'hangfire!' For very large (12 to 16-inch) guns which used powder bags behind the projectile, it could take 30 seconds to a minute, or even longer, for a 'crumpled' or 'inserted backwards' bag to finally ignite! What causes small arms or any shell-type ammo to 'misfire'? Generally if the ammunition is stored under improper conditions (outside acceptable temperature range, too much moisture or too long before use), that could do so. Any inconsistencies in the primer or powder, may also result in a hangfire or misfire. For large guns, the powder may 'smolder' for up to 30 minutes before igniting!

5[Return to Text]  During WWII, women performed many jobs generally reserved only for men. They worked in ship yards, war plants and ferried planes from aircraft factories to air bases all over the USA as WASPs.

6[Return to Text]  There is a "Role of Honor" here for those who died while serving on Destroyer Escorts, and Fred Williams (Seaman, 1st Class) is listed there as having died on the 4th of July, 1943 (the only casualty reported for the USS Crouter).

NOTE: The Crouter's War Diary states concerning this tragedy: "Sunday 4 JULY 1943... 2345 [that's 11:45 PM] man reported overboard from motor whaleboat. Nearby ships in harbor aiding in search with use of whaleboats and searchlights." This implies Williams had made it to shore, and after a return trip late at night is when they noticed he was missing. The report for Monday 5 JULY 1943 continues at 0000 to 0400: "Continuing search for man lost overboard from ship's boat near anchorage." And from 0400 to 0800: "...still using searchlights to search for man overboard.  0545 secured searching party and boat.  0558 underway for operating area." There is no further mention of the missing man in the War Diary. In the ship's quarterly Muster Roll for 14 SEP 1943, Williams is listed as having "Died, 7-4-43, NOB, Bermuda. Drowning, buried July 10, 1943."

7[Return to Text]  What the author and crew received was a copy of the ship's History (Appendix H); which contains highlights from the ship's War Diary; not a detailed account of "everything" that happened onboard. In December, 2012, the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) declassified and made public the WWII War Diaries of units of the US Navy; both bases and ships. We have quoted from the USS Crouter's War Diary in some of our footnotes.

8[Return to Text]  The Crouter's War Diary states that around 2:16 PM (1416) on 10 JUL 1943, the ship got underway to return to Boston and by 7:10 PM (1910) on July 13th, they were moored to a pier at the Boston Navy Yard with no mention whatsoever of having encountered any submarine on the surface or otherwise. [Lt. John E. Johansen, the Crouter's CO at the time, went on to command the DE-220, commissioned 15 JAN 1944, which sunk the Japanese sub RO-501 on 13 May 1944 in the Atlantic.]
NOTE: Crouter was also in the company of the USS Hopping (DE-155); both DEs screening for the tanker USS Maumee (AO-2), and neither the Hopping's nor the Maumee's War Diaries mention a submarine. The Crouter was sailing by itself for the last day of its voyage back to Boston, since the other two ships were headed for Norfolk, VA. Though it's very strange that no mention of this incident exists in the ship's War Diary, we are still searching for any eyewitness accounts which might corroborate the author's story. In Chapter 18, the author wrote of this incident as "the one I spoke of while on our shakedown cruise to or from Bermuda," which implies he was no longer certain of when it happened. In light of that comment, we proceeded to search the Crouter's War Diary for a possible reference to a sub on the voyage to Bermuda, but found nothing in those pages either. Note: Whenever munitions were expended, a record had to be kept of what they were used for; any ship asking for more depth charges would require giving a reason, and a record of it somewhere.

9[Return to Text]  Limon Bay (Bahía Limón in the original Spanish), Panama.


Chapter 16


Chapter 18