The Author - A Great Lakes Boot Camp Recruit
past July 2001 marked the 50th anniversary date of the
re-commissioning of the USS Daly DD519, a veteran destroyer of the WWII
and Korean War eras. It was also the 48th anniversary of the
The significance for
me is that the Daly was my first ship assignment out of the Great Lakes
Naval Training Center after having enlisted early in 1951. I wanted to be
a destroyer sailor from the start. It was my first choice.
The experience began
after arriving in Charleston, South Carolina after a full day and
sleepless overnight train trip out of Chicago, Illinois. There were
several hundred tired recruits on that train, eager with anticipation for
a go at Navy life. From the train station we were bused to the Charleston
Naval Base and fed at the main chow hall, we were then assigned bunks
aboard the Arcadia which we learned would be our “Mothership” until our
assigned ship was fit for occupation. From the main deck of the Arcadia we
could see all types of vessels including destroyers in varies stages of
repair and restoration. It was a busy and motivating sight.
April 1951; The Mothball Reserve Fleet in
The Arcadia was a
rude awaking as to the “comforts” which awaited us for our future
assignment aboard a “Tin Can”. We were issued a mattress and bunk
assignments 3 decks below the main deck, in a large compartment, which in
all probability was laid out to be a troop carrier as well as a repair
ship. There were dozens of bunks constructed of metal frames stacked 5
high. Few guys selected the top bunk, as it was necessary to climb over
the other 4 to reach the top position. There were no ladders to the top.
In spite of all the
noise and confusion of having to live out of a sea bag, we were all
exhausted and with little effort took advantage of the first sack time
since our journey from boot camp. Morning reveille and muster abruptly
interrupted this sack time. After breakfast we were assembled and assigned
work schedules. Some of the men were to work in the scullery, others in
the kitchen and the rest of us thinking we were the lucky ones, were
marched to the dock area where row upon row of ships were docked
surrounded by all sorts of machines and equipment. It was a bustling and
noisy arena where navy personnel plus all types of contractors and yardmen
were already busy.
Dockside in the Charleston Navy Shipyard
That morning as we
stood assembled in front of a gray hulk of steel that was only a
resemblance of the ship she was going to be the reality of navy life
became apparent. We were quickly divided into groups, then assigned to
petty officers and leading seamen who would be our mentors for the next
several weeks. Amid rubber air hoses, miles of electrical cable, sparks
from welding and cutting torches, we made our way aboard what would
eventually be home for 4 years.
Our basic job was to clean and chip away the
protective coating that covered the main deck and any steel plating that
existed. Our tools were hand scrapers, whirling sanders, and deck crawlers
that were air power supplied by large gasoline generators on the dock.
They were noisy chattering tools that required great physical energy to
hold while kneeling on the steel deck in 90 to 95 degree temperatures. It
was exhausting, back breaking work with little protection from the dust
say for a handkerchief over the nose and mouth with plastic goggles that
were constantly clouded with sweat. One afternoon of handling the crawler
was probably the most difficult job I ever had to do, it was exhausting.
June 1951; A
tangled mess of air hoses, electrical cable and workmen.
beastly work routine continued until it seemed everyone had a turn at that
noisy crawler and the deck was clear. The sanding and priming came next as
the deck and the hull of the ship became a patchwork of barn red, red lead
primer. After the major work was completed, like cutting, welding and
other structural refinements, the ship’s color gradually evolved. From red
lead to drab gray, and deck gray, the transition of readiness began to
After several weeks
of deck work some of us we were again divided into specialized groups and
new work assignments. How I became affiliated with gunners mates is
another story, but that was my next assignment; Mount 054, located on the
02 deck aft. It was another arduous job but someone had to do it.
The gun was a 5”38,
encased in an Electro-hydraulic powered steel turret that could readily
swing about to either side of the ship and with the barrel fully elevated
could fire a 54 pound projectile skyward a maximum of nine miles. Our
Fletcher class destroyer had 5 such guns, 2 forward and 3 aft, plus quad
40 mm’s, 20mm’s, 10 torpedoes and 2 dozen depth charges, that could be
dropped port, starboard and aft. It was a floating arsenal.
inch 38 Gun Mounts, forward of the bridge
responsibility was to have the gun in working order as well its appearance
inside and out. This included an ammunition hoist area below the turret
and the adjoining magazine, which was another deck below the main deck. It
was a big challenge for a novice recruit. I obviously learned fast. I
started out with a helper but as the day for departure for shakedown
approached we learned that many of the “helpers” were reservist who were
being transferred or released. I soon found myself as sole heir to a
5-inch gun. I was appointed as gun captain.
While I worked on
the gunnery maintenance overhaul procedures, yard electricians installed
miles of new wiring to each mount to update the link to the fire control
computers, which had to be completed and tested before the ship left the
dock. A few bugs remained that would be worked out at sea trials, however
the guns were operational but would not be test fired until a final
shakedown cruise which was still in the planning stages.
re-commissioning ceremony on July 3, 1951, the ship was finally ready for
her first sea trial. Our first day underway leaving the yard and heading
down the Cooper River to the open sea was quite exciting. It was my first
time at sea on a destroyer; it was an unforgettable experience. I knew
then, that I was going to make a good sailor.
July 3, 1951; Re-commissioning Ceremony
on the Daly
August 1951; The Daly Underway from
Charleston, SC, on shakedown cruise
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