|U.S.S. Allen M. Sumner DD-692|
Each member of the crew from the Captain to the Mess Cook had a specific job to do. We performed as a team and each member of the team was vital to the fulfillment of the missions assigned to us. What follows are brief descriptions of the different jobs we had and what we did to keep the Sumner ready for any emergency.
Boiler Technician - Ed Izzi (BT2 66-69)
Barely Trainables (BT's) kept the ship going. When everyone went on liberty...we refueled...every 600 hours of steaming we did Firesides (this is cleaning the black soot from the tube outer surfaces...scraping and using a steam lance with steam pressure...then shocking the tubes with colder water. Took 2 days to do it right) and after 1800 hours of steaming we did Watersides (this is cleaning the internal surfaces of the tubes with an airbrush. We had over 1000 one inch tubes and a few hundred two inch tubes and a few downcommers. Doing this was tough - working conditions, breathing in all kinds of dust and particles). Most of the crew were clean, we as Boiler Techs.. were grimy..dirty and always oil stained. We worked in 100°F heat often...took salt tablets and...breathed in asbestos. We steamed the ship when...conditions were calm or rough. A typhoon near Okinawa...made us sick...24/7. We were the last to go on Liberty and the last back...we were Brothers all the way. I remember in 69...the English Channel...following a carrier...so they could make a Speed Run...two mess deck personal tried to empty trash cans and fell overboard...the carrier slowed down and we (I was top watch in the Forward Fire Room) picked them up in 11 minutes...great job by the bridge. We laid smoke screens while the HMAS Hobart fired on the VC.. We did a lot we were never sited for. I deal with Combat Systems on destroyers now...32 years...my life...and often I want to stand and tell these Captains and Combat Systems officers "Pay attention to your engineering, you wont do your job if they fail." Love the Boiler Tech Trade.. we stuck together...fought together and were AMS Brothers all the way. A note: I had a Uncle, brother-in-law and me all AMS sailors.
Deck Force - Bo'suns Locker - Dan
Coli (SN 66-69)
The Bo'suns Locker was the ship's seagoing utility shed. It was located in the forward section of the ship under the forecastle. The hatchway leading down into the Bo'suns Locker was just forward of the first gun mount (51 Mount). Tools of every description were stored there including hammers, scrappers for chipping paint, and marlin line for upkeep of the lifelines as well as dogging wrenches for the hatches and wooden, cone shaped "Fids" for separating heavy lines in addition to screwdrivers and pliers, bolt cutters and shears for cutting sheet metal and penetrating oil for their protection from the corrosive effects of the salt air. Protective gloves, life vests, rain gear and heavy coats for standing bridge watch and after lookout in the cold weather were stored in lower areas called voids below decks. Other areas below decks were a good place to store 10 gallon cans of haze grey paint with read lead and green chromate for priming bare metal before painting and black water line paint which doubled as a protective covering for the "webbing" for the lifelines. Non-skid material to make a rough surface on the painted decks was also stored below. Every once in a while a ten gallon can of paint or non-skid would pop it's top and the enclosed space would be engulfed with fumes that made it very hazardous when cleaning up the mess. Canvas awnings for shade during the hot weather months were stored there as well as the standard brooms, mops and water buckets for swabbing the decks. Other accessories included Navy issue brass polish and kitchen cleanser which when mixed together made a good way to strip and polish the corrosion of the brass fittings on the lifelines. We found that it was best to buy our own civilian "Brasso" and add it to the mix. Bundles of rags would be put in the forward lamp room which was in the very bow of the ship. The Bo'suns Locker was First Division territory but whoever ran it had to be diligent enough to remember that the entire ship relied on it for many if it's daily essentials. It was a good idea to see to it that any extra supplies that you could not find a space for in the Bo'suns Locker were distributed to the rest of the ship according to need and proximity to the deck force. Gunner's Mates first, because they were the closest to us, the "Snipes" down below in the engine rooms second and then everybody else according to need. The "Snipes" in the engine rooms were always grateful for anything they could get. The especially liked getting liquid soap and cleanser and occasionally I could give them two or three large bundles of rags. The Deck Force was not the cleanest job on the ship but it was always the "Snipes" that had the dirtiest jobs. Any replenishment would not have been complete without a substantial shipment of something that would have been a major morale buster if we didn't have it, Toilet Paper. In port it was always a good idea to make contact with the Bo'sun Locker Seaman on the other ships and if you had any extra cleanser or anything else you could spare, it was a good idea to trade it for as much toilet paper as you could get. I'm proud to say that during the Med cruise of 1969 we may have gotten low on toilet paper but we did not run out of it. There were time, however, that we did run low on paint. Requisition forms?, "we don't need no stinking requisition forms". Just break out those 10 gallon cans of haze grey paint or red lead and come back with 500 rolls of the old Navy issue two ply which is exactly what I did when with just two weeks left on the Med cruise I traded 150 gallons of haze grey paint to get those 500 rolls. Otherwise it would have been a long trip back. Who would object to that? I never heard any complaints, but if we had run out of toilet paper I would have heard it plenty. There was only one way in and out of the Bo'suns Locker and there was a caged area on the port side as you entered the hatch. It had a wooden desk inside and more than one sailor studying for advancement who needed a quiet place to study after hours was welcome to make use of it. The Bo'suns Locker was also a place where a clash of personalities could be resolved. Two young men who didn't like each other could get it out of their systems in a private setting. They didn't have to like each other afterward but any excess of aggression was best put behind then when they were through and the Bo'suns Locker was the best place to leave it. It was second only to the berthing compartment as the center pf shipboard life of the 1st Division on the Sumner.
Disbursing Clerk - Don Gillis (DK3 70-71)
The Disbursing Clerk (DK) did paperwork relating to pay and allowances and helped the crew to understand pay and allowances. On ships like the Sumner, there was usually only one DK or one and a "striker". The DK would get your orders and payrecord from the Ships Office after you reported to the ship He would do your travel claim. When it came time to get paid, he would be sitting next to the Disbursing Officer and probably check your pay receipt before handing it to the DO to pay. If you had a question about sending money home (an allotment) or whether you qualify for a dependants allowance (E-4 over 4 or above) he would tell you. The Disbursing Clerk rating evolved from a Storekeeper specialty and earlier DKs were SKDs or SK(D)s, i.e. Storekeeper, Disbursing. The DK worked for the Disbursing Officer who was usually the Supply Officer as well on a destroyer. DKs were part of the Supply Department, with the cooks, stewards, ships servicemen and storekeepers.
Electricians Mate - Bob
Kelly (EM3 68-71)
Our job was to keep the electrical circuits on the ship up and in good shape. We did shipboard repairs on all motors,lighting, and we also stood underway watches in the engine room on the main switchboard. In port we stood sound and security watches, and we were the duty electricians. One of the jobs I remember we had to do when we pulled into a foreign port, was rig the "Med lights". They were the lights that went up and over the mast , and down both sides of the ship. With pulling the shore power cable and rigging the Med lights we didn't get off the ship for a couple of hours after every one else. Then all the things have to be taken down and put away before getting underway. So I guess we all had our nuisance jobs we remember. On some occasions we would help the IC electricians with their work.
Technician - Hank Lunki
I was part of a small crew that maintained the two DASH remote-controlled drone helicopters. Dick Burton and I maintained the avionics which allowed the DASH officer to fly the things. A drone carried one torpedo. When sonar located a target, the drone was launched and tracked by radar until it was superimposed over the sonar contact. Then the torpedo was released and its guidance system located the sonar contact. It worked pretty well most of the time. Drone up-time was a problem with some ships but we were always ready to launch when ordered. Of course, there was the time when a drone lost its brains while being flown to a target and was never seen again. And another time when a drone tipped over while lifting off and threw lead shrapnel everywhere when it's blades hit the ship. Dick Burton was assisting the officer behind the control console on the flight deck and they both dropped to their knees behind the shield. Nobody was injured but it was exciting.
Executive Officer - Bill Moye (LCDR 66-68)
The executive officer is called the "business manager" of the ship. He is responsible to the captain for the readiness, seaworthiness and cleanliness of the ship, and for the welfare and training of the crew. The XO is second in command and must be ready to take over in the absence of the CO. Whereas all ship dealings with the external world are the direct responsibility of the CO, the XO is responsible to the captain for all internal matters. Aboard destroyers the Exec often serves as Evaluator in the Combat Information Center when battle stations are manned and may also be the Navigator.
Fire Control Technician - Frank Presfield (FTG3 66-69)
Ron Babuka and I had asked Frank about Fire Control and this is his response: Im going to try and answer your inquiry about fire control as simply as possible. Some of the crew just kind of figured we pointed those 5" 38s and let the bullets fly. Of course that wasnt the case. Sumner was a hybrid weapons system at the time of her launching taking the best of her predecessors and adding heavier armament. So many factors have to be taken into account to make a single projectile hit a target. Simplicity says if you keep throwing something at something long enough something will stick or hit. That is not the case with weapons systems. Ideally, if you can hit the target everytime that has the effect of minimizing costs in terms of munitions, fuel, etc. not the least of which keeping the crew out of harms way for shorter periods of time. Each type of situation asks fire control and CIC to formulate a different task. Naval gunfire support or target acquisition of the stationary type is probably the simplest. You enter ships speed, course, distance and figure the type of target (buildings, piers, staging areas, troop concentrations, etc) and get some help from time to time from air recon, maps, intelligence. Put the pieces together and fire for effect. Now that sounds pretty simple. But it goes beyond that. Keeping the muzzles of those guns trained at the same point while the ship is moving, pitching, rolling, turning and the such. Ah, thats the secret. Lets go back to the "Battle of Ormoc Bay". What if the target is moving and he wants to "hit you". At Ormoc Bay she had it all. Trying to hit moving targets, shore targets, air targets and all of them trying to hit her while she is maneuvering. I truly doubt without the excellence of the whole crew acting as one and the fire control system working on all cylinders, she could have survived that incredible night. Capt. Baty told me just after I had gotten squared away in 66. FTs dont mess cook. This is a "Gun Platform" and theyre too important to the mission. Sounds trite, but I really believe he felt that way. Let me relate a simple story from the "Beau Charger" mission. No one really knew this mission would be as long as it turned out to be. But, it was one of the type that physically wears a crew down. 24 hours non-stop GQ and firing all the time. I was ready for some sack time and the director officer let me get relieved to go sack out for a couple hours. Next thing I knew this flashlight was in my face. Wasnt a messenger, it was the "Gun Boss", Lt. Thompson. He said the mounts were jerking back and forth and I needed to get it stopped or we wouldnt hit the side of a barn with a bass fiddle. I went into the barbette and pulled an amplifier out (vacuum tube type) and sat with it on my lap for most of the rest of the mission keeping it in balance with a screwdriver. It worked and the mission was completed. But, oh my, that next day. We had fired everything we had so we had the largest and toughest single at sea rearming detail of the Vietnam deployment. Surely, I could go on and on for several pages and not even scratch the surface.
Fitter Pipes (later called a Ship Fitter Pipes)
- Jim Walker (FP3 53-55)
Anyone that served aboard ship and went to the head should be grateful for the pipe fitter, especially when we missed the supply ship and had to eat beans for days.
A pipe fitter must be part mathematician, construction worker, maintenance worker, welder, and magician. Most people upon seeing piping takes those bends and welds for granted. They usually don’t realize the precision it takes to allow the liquid or air to travel through the pipes- up, down, and around to its final destination.
During my years on the AMS, being a pipe fitter was quite different than the years spent aboard other types of ships (tenders) and in civilian life for 35 years after the Navy. On the AMS, we served mostly as maintenance workers rather than the precision it took on a tender.
On the AMS, a pipe fitter was responsible for repairing all piping, including repair of the heads (hey, those valves don’t work and you’re in deep!). It was our job to make any repairs to the miles of pipe that runs throughout the ship. During rough seas, it was up to the pipe fitter to keep the chain locker pumped out. We stood sounding watches, which consisted of taking soundings (checking for water) in the chain locker, bilge’s, and aft steering, which needed to be clear of water. We made sure all compartments were maintained as airtight compartments.
During Battle stations, we were part of Damage Control serving as firemen, using fire hoses to extinguish any fires and keep the ship afloat.
The guys I served with on the AMS worked as a team. My most vivid memory of that teamwork was when the cook would bring to the pipe shop a loaf of freshly baked bread. We would then, as a team, sneak up to the galley and "secure" a few potatoes, a can of milk, a couple of eggs, and a little flour. Upon our return to the shop, this team would set out making our favorite potato pancakes using a rasp to shred the potatoes. We’d add the milk, eggs, and flour and cook them. They went great with our coffee; we brewed in our coffeepot we had made from a 5" shell casing, using a steam line to boil it. To this day, I can taste those potato pancakes, bread, and coffee, but to date, I’ve never been able to duplicate it. Yes, being a pipe fitter required precision and teamwork; without it, that meal wouldn’t have been the same.
Gunner's Mate - Gary Carnot (GMG3 66-70)
The job of Gunners Mate (GM) is an important function on a ship of war. In coordination with the Fire Control Technicians (FTs), a GM is responsible for the actual firing of the armament of a ship. In the case of the Sumner, we had three main batteries. The were 5"/38gun mounts. The forward mount located on the main deck was Mt. 51, the Forward mount on the 02 level was Mt. 52, and the mount located aft on the main desk was Mt. 53. In addition to keeping the mounts in good working order, we were responsible for their cosmetic appearance as well. The GMs also were responsible for the magazines, where the ammunition is actually stored, and the upper and lower handling rooms where ordnance was transferred just prior to combat operations. All signal flare lockers and hedgehog mounts were also maintained by our guys, with the assistance of the Signalmen and the Sonar Techs. Temperatures had to be taken daily in all spaces containing any type of ammunition or ordnance. Small arms carried onboard during the 60s consisted mainly of .45 caliber pistols, Browning Automatic rifles, M-1 Garands, M-14 rifles, and M-1 Carbines. M-16 rifles replaced the M-1 Garand towards the late 1960s. Sumner also had two .50 Caliber Machine Guns that could be mounted on the Focsle or the wings of the bridge, in case we needed to repel borders. During replenishing operations, it was a GM that would fire the line-throwing gun that would enable lines, cables and hoses to be ran between the ships taking part in refueling, rearming, or the taking on of stores. A miss the first time would be a very annoying thing to the Captain who would stand on the bridge and eyeball that first shot . All in all the job of the GM was interesting and at times could be fun. Small arms training for the crew enabled us to fire all of the weapons from the weapons locker, something the entire crew did not usually get to do. Of course, we also had to go below afterwards and clean all of those weapons! During Operation Sea Dragon off the coast of Vietnam in 1967, the GMs had plenty to do, and the time of day or night was not a factor with regard to how well we performed our duties. I was, and still am proud to have been associated with the 2nd Division of the USS Allen M. Sumner DD-692.
Interior Communications Electrician - Paul
Delasco (IC2 61-64)
The IC Electrician rate was a break-off of the Electrician (EM) rate in the late 1940's. In the late 1970's, as ships became more computerized, the IC rate was absorbed into one of the new technical rates. The IC & plotting room was located just aft of the mess deck on the Sumner. We shared the space with the Fire Control Technicians (FT). When I reported aboard in August of 61, the Sumner was in Charleston, S.C. going through FRAM (Fleet Rehabilitation And Modernization). The ship consisted of the main deck and below. It took another five months of work in the yards before Sumner was ready to get under way. We worked for Dave Smith IC2. He was a quiet, very patient man with us new kids. It was our job to take care of all the communication and electrical indicating gear within the ship. The most important piece of gear was the ships gyro compass. The Sumner had a Sperry navigation and fire control compass with compass repeaters on the bridge, main control, secondary con and after steering. The IC gang also took care of the engine order and engine revolution telegraph, the rudder angle indicator and ship's speed indicator. Also the fire detector and fire indicator alarms. I spent most of my time working on the sound powered telephones. the sailors were always breaking the tinsel cord wires that connected the earpieces to the transmitter on the headsets. Other gear we took care of was the 1MC public address system or "bitch box" as it was called. Also, the 21MC station to station communication units which were located in the pilot house, captain's cabin, main control, ward room and IC room. We had three jobs I did not like; replacing the wind speed and direction transmitters, replacing salinity sensors, and setting the super heater alarms. There were two wind speed transmitters which looked like model airplanes without wings and were located up on the ends of the yardarm. These units sent wind information the pilot house and fire control computer. The salinity indicators were located in the engine rooms. There were five sensors on various parts of the evaporators for the different stages of desalination. (Making fresh water). On occasion we would have to replace one of the sensors. The heat was so bad you had to do the job in less than five minutes. Every time the ship got underway we had to set the superheater alarms. They were located behind the boilers, another hot job. The best part of the IC rate was showing the movies. We took care of the 16mm movie projectors, and had to get the movies from the base movie exchange or trade with other ships underway. If you got good movies you were a "hero", if you got bad movies you were a "zero". At sea, movies were about the only form of entertainment on a tin can. This gave IC men a certain amount of prestige. In November of '63 I made second class petty officer. My two main motives were money and not having to stand in the chow line. Dave Smith was in charge so I would not have that responsibility. Wrong! Two weeks later Smitty was transferred to shore duty at Great Lakes and I was in charge. My shipmate Ed Sparks made second class shortly after, so we split the responsibility for the next 3 months until we were discharged in early April of '64. Looking back now, the IC rate was one of the best rates in the Engineering Department!
Machinist Mate - Irvin R. Williams (MM2 52-55)
The Machinist Mates main job is to maintain and operate the ships main engines and the ships generators for electric power. It is the Machinist Mates job to keep all of the engine room space clean and safe at all times. If a piece of machinery breaks down it is the Machinist Mate job to repair it. They will have a lot of spare parts on board for small repairs. They also have to take care of the refrigeration units onboard to keep the crews food supply from spoiling. There are Machinist Mates in two different divisions on board ship. The M division is the main propulsion division and then there is the A gang. They are the ones that take care of the refrigeration (or ice machines) as they are called on board. While under way, at sea, the M division (MM) will stand watch at the main engines and all support machines such as, main feed pumps, booster feed pumps - they were used to pump the condensed steam back to the ships boilers to be reheated to steam again. There are also other machines to watch such as the main generators, bilge pumps, propeller shaft bearings and anything else to do with the main engines and power train. The normal watch was for (4) four hours. One watch must be on duty at all times so you were relieved after four hours by someone else. While the ship was at anchor there were also Machinist Mates on watch to keep the main generator operating and supplying power to the ship. Also, some times while tied up at a dock there were Machinist Mates on watch in the engine room. There were always some Machinist Mates on duty in port or at sea. The main title would be steam engineering as that is their main purpose - to operate steam driven engines and pumps.
Machinist Mate - Chuck
Kaake (MM2 66-68)
Machinists Mates are assigned to all types of steam driven surface ships. Most Machinists Mates are assigned to "M" division where they operate and maintain ship propulsion equipment and associated equipment. The nature of the Machinists Mates duties depends largely on the type of ship to which he is assigned. Machinists Mates assigned to the "M" division operate and maintain the ships main engines and associated equipment such as: pumps, desalinization plants, compressors, valves, lubricating oil purifiers, heat exchangers, gear sets, shafts and shaft bearings. Machinists Mates who are assigned duties other than in enginerooms maintain and repair machinery such as: steering engines, anchor windlasses, cranes, winches, elevators, laundry equipment, galley equipment, and air conditioning and refrigeration equipment. Machinists Mates also perform duties in the generation, stowage, and transfer of the following gases: oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and acetylene.
Radarman - Jim
Georgantas (RD3 66-69)
The duties of a radarman varied. In addition to the usual cleaning spaces and various upkeep duties in our work area, we kept track of all the other ships we encountered on the radar. We plotted their course and speed, kept track of who was where, what they were doing. In Vietnam we plotted course for the gun line, tracked Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) for incoming missiles. We kept track of all the ships on the Video Presentation Board in the Combat Information Center (CIC). We spent hours watching the radar screen looking for "targets". We were responsible for keeping the bridge informed on all the activities of other ships and aircraft around us. I think the hardest time we had was when we went to Portsmouth, England for the NATO review. There was hundreds of all types of water craft. The only disadvantage to being a radarman for me was the fact that during all sea details I was inside and didn't get to see anything as we pulled into or out of all the different ports we visited.
Dean Price (RD2 66-69)
When I first came aboard as a RDSN my job included maintaining our designated spaces, i.e., 01 level (Mount 52 and HedgeHog deck) not the HedgeHog racks or the gun mount, Aft Crews Showers, Berthing compartment and Combat Information Center. Those were our duties as sailors and shipmates. As Radarmen we were responsible for monitoring Surface Search Radar, Air Search Radar, Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) monitoring, real time situational awareness through displays and plotting tables. We also were responsible for maintaining both Navy and Joint Operations Manuals as well as navigational chart updates. When we were at anchor we also tracked weather and reported conditions to the OOD. On sea detail we plotted our position with Radar Navigation and recommended course and speed to the bridge. In man overboard situations like the one with Gary Carnot we marked the spot where the man went overboard and reported range and bearing to the bridge. As I progressed in rate my duties changed from cleaning and painting on the 01 deck to being responsible for cleaning the aft crews showers to cleaning CIC. We also had various duties at special details, Sea Detail, Underway Replenishment (UNREP), and Condition II Watch. I was also responsible for maintaining currency on classified publications (COMTAC Custodian) and navigational charts. I really enjoyed the time I spent on the aft fueling rig during underway re-fueling and replenishing. I was a line handler for a time and eventually worked on the rig. I wanted to stay on the rig but was told that as an RD2 I was needed in CIC during special details.
Radioman - Mark Henry (RM2 69-72)
PRIORITY 181529Z MAR 99 UNCLAS - EFTO
On board SUMNER in the late sixties and early seventies, there were 10-12 Radiomen. At sea, depending on how many men we had, we would work an 8 or 12 hour shift. In port, if we were short handed we would work port and starboard shifts 24 on and 24 off so we could get liberty and "see the world". We had several methods of communicating with the rest of the world. CW (continuous wave or Morse code) was one of them, we used teletype machines, and of course voice radio. I believe our voice call sign then was ROADBLOCK and our CW call sign was NHSO. To me the work of the Radioman was very interesting. You usually knew what was going on and where you were going. You got to see all of the transmissions (except the ones that came in or went out in code and read Captain's eyes only). I got to see most of those too though, because I worked in the little code room we had in the main "Radio Shack". One of my jobs was to encode and decode those messages for the "Old Man". We had two other radio spaces too. Radio one and Radio two, where spare transmission equipment with both high and low frequency transmitters were kept in case Radio Central became a battle casualty. There were several advantages to being a Radioman. Our space was generally air conditioned, to keep the equipment cool, but we got to enjoy it too. Except in unusual circumstances, we got out of scrapping, painting, refueling and the transfer of ammunition and stores. We didn't stand bridge watches at sea or quarterdeck watches in port. Although, during refueling I was generally the Captain's sound powered phone talker. I would relay messages from the captain of SUMNER to the oiler using the sound powered phones. I remember seeing a sign on one of the oilers which said "Pig Tail, Probe, NATO, Rob, bring her along side and we'll finish the job." I think the name of the ship was the USS Mississinewa (AO-59) but, I am not sure. I saw that sign a lot though. Our training started in Great Lakes after boot camp where you were taught basic electricity and electronics at Radio "A" school. Upon graduation from there, you went to Bainbridge, Maryland where you were taught Morse Code/CW. I can still hear the dits and dahs of the CW key. Later, if you wanted to earn some "pro pay", you might attend a more advanced school. I was accepted at Teletype Repair school in Norfolk, VA. I was the only teletype repairman on board the SUMNER at that time and with my assigned duties and the extra work of teletype repair I was very busy. But, with the "pro pay", I think it stood for professional pay, I made a few extra bucks. They came in handy when we got ashore. We had six or seven teletype printers on board the SUMNER. And they chatted night and day. We would read the traffic on the teletype paper and see if it applied to our squadron or ship's movement. I remember at first trying to make heads or tails out of words like COMCRUDESLANT, COMCRUDESRON, COMCRUDESFLOT, DESRON 14, and many others. You had to initial all the messages, file them all, and route the ones that applied to SUMNER to the appropriate Officer for action. Each Radioman on SUMNER had his own special way of initialing the messages. This way you could tell right away who took the message off the machine and filed them. Every once in a while, you would miss a message that was for SUMNER and the Captain would demand to know why he hadn't been informed. We would go back through the messages of that day and it was either with great relief or pure dread when the offending message was found and it either didn't have your initials on it or it did. If it did, you would be having a chat with the Chief or the Operation Officer. Fortunately, those missed messages were rare and never once were they of the sort that caused SUMNER to miss any crucial assignments or ship movements. When it was really busy and there was a lot of traffic coming in and out of the radio shack, there would be yellow teletype tapes with little holes punched in them draped all over the radio shack on bent paperclips waiting for their chance to be sent. All messages were sent out in order of importance. As I recall, there were Flash messages, Operational Immediate, and Routine. Flash was the most important and they went out pronto. Followed by Operational Immediate and then Routine. Some Radiomen had ham radio licenses and we would set up telephone calls from the ship to shore during Christmas for the guys. We would contact a ham radio operator on shore and ask him to patch us through to whatever town and phone number we needed. Than we would let the guys talk on the radio aboard the ship and his loved ones back home could hear him through their phone. All it cost was the collect call from wherever the ham was in the states to the sailor's home. We all appreciated what the hams did for us. They were great. I hope we remembered to thank them enough. I remember we made calls from the Med. and off the coast of Cuba. We got to "talk" via CW or teletype to all of the other Radiomen on the other ships and to Radiomen stationed on shore, so we had the skinny as to what was going on in the fleet. You also got to keep track of and talk to the friends you had made who were stationed at other radio sites. I believe one of the radio sites we talked to in the Med. a lot was NGR in Greece. We spent much of our time tuning the big transmitters and receivers looking for just the right frequency depending on the weather and time of day to make contact with the correct ship or shore station. We also performed much PMS on the equipment and antennas trying to keep them all in working order. I hope this gives you a little idea of what it was like in Radio Central aboard the SUMNER. I have tried to be as accurate as I can remember, but I am sure I made a couple of mistakes. However, it has been over 25 years since I got out so what can I tell you.BT
IN VIA ORESTES TOR:1529Z/18 MAR 99
Signalman - Vins Holbrook (SM2c 43-45)
It was with some sadness that I read in "Thru the Porthole" that the rate classification of signalman was to be discontinued. Sadness, but not surprise, there has been a steady advance of electronic/communications technology that has required ever-changing human responses and the consignment of the signalman to the scrap-heap of the technologically unemployed is just another part of the process. The role of signalman has been on the decline for many years, really, ever since the introduction of the old TBS short-range voice radio during WWII when, on emergency occasions and during actual combat, individual ship commanders and task group leaders could converse with each other directly. Actually, visual communication devices and techniques were only of real importance to the more routine matters of conducting the navy and the war. Those matters where enemy interception of signal content was not critical. The really important stuff, routes, destinations, strategies, defenses and the like required the more secretive confidentiality of coded radio, something that the enemy could not easily see and read. A significant change in the visual signal process occurred with the Allen M. Sumner class destroyers early in 1944 when the NAN technology was introduced. I don't remember what the acronym NAN actually stood for but it was quite a simple innovation and involved clamping a heavily smoked glass cover over the face of the regular 12" signal lights, closing off the visible light range of the spectrum and allowing only infra-red waves to show through. With special binoculars the infra-red was visible to the receiver and messages could be safely sent throughout the night. While this change probably had no great effect on the war, it certainly impacted the life of the signalman! Until this new equipment was installed the signalman had nothing much to do during the long hours of the night watches. We sat on the flag-bag, drank coffee and talked. Once every hour we had to make entries into the weather log but other than that there wasn't too much to do. Then, with the introduction of the NAN gear, all of the here-to-fore routine communications restricted to daylight hours, fuel reports, bulletins from BUPERS and whatever, could all be handled 24 hours a day. The night watches became a nightmare of signals. No more sitting on the flag-bag or nodding off to sleep. We very quickly came to prefer day watches to night! As well, there also developed a network of rumor and lore concerning the equipment. Those special binoculars we had to use in order to receive all of this traffic became critical objects of concern. They contained a small disk of material that was activated by the infra-red beams to make them visible, a kind of green flash. The story quickly spread that the disk was made of radium and by using the binoculars one might become sterile or go blind, or worse! Nothing official came down the pipe relating to their use or dangers and of course in those days we had never heard of radioactivity, so we really were confused and a bit fearful. When I was a signalman striker aboard the Henley, DD391, the Chief Signalman, "Dutch" Werdin, used to brag about the time he sent a fuel report 50 miles across the Canal Zone from Panama City to Colon by bouncing a light-beam from a 24" arc light off of the bottom of a cloud formation. As a naive young sailor, I thought that would be the greatest thing in the world for a signalman to do. When the Sumner made her first voyage through the Canal in 1944 I thought maybe my dream would come true, but, no such luck! I never got the chance. It was interesting to note that the NAVADMIN bulletin stated that "signal competencies will become part of the QM rating". While I never served on anything larger than a destroyer, the two ratings were typically combined on smaller vessels such as destroyers. Our watch assignments on the Sumner, as well as on the Henley, were indistinguishable. There were some task assignments in the chart room, having to do with navigation, that only the higher rating QM's did, but other than that we all did pretty much the same things. Of course, a certain level of proficiency in the various signal devices and techniques was required for promotion in the ratings but the QM's seemed to be as proficient as the SM's.
Sonarman - Frank
Nekrasz (SO1 50-54)
The Sonarman operates and maintains sonar equipment which is used to detect submerged submarines and other objects in the ocean. Sonar is an acronym for SOund NAvigation and Ranging. A basic Sonar system consists of a transmitter, receiver, display and antenna. The antenna is called a transducer which consists of a series of electro-mechanical elements which convert electrical energy into mechanical (sound) energy and vice versa. The heart of the element is a ceramic cylinder that is connected to a metal front face via a rod. This "piston sub-assembly" is allowed to move within it's housing because of a vulcanized rubber interface between the metal front face and housing. A ceramic crystal has the property to vibrate when it is subjected to a magnetic field. Thus, when the sonar transmitter generates electrical energy to cause the ceramic to vibrate it causes the piston sub-assembly to move in and out within the housing. The movement of the front face in contact with the ocean causes a mechanical sound wave to be generated in the water. When this sound hits an object (submarine) in the water a part of the sound wave is reflected back to the transducer. This reflected "echo" hits the face of the sub-assembly which causes the ceramic to vibrate and produce an electrical signal which is fed to the receiver. The receiver processes this signal which is displayed on a TV-like display and audibly for the Sonarman to analyze and classify the returned each as belonging to a submarine, whale, wake made by another ship or some other object in the water. Current sonars through the use of computers, which are part of the sonar equipment, have stored data to aid the Sonarman in identifying the source of the returned echo. The previous generations of sonars consisted of vacuum tube circuitry which required the Sonarman to troubleshoot failed equipment and repair it. Present day sonars are equipped with fault finding computers built into them which prompt the Sonarman where the micro-circuitry is at fault and suggests which pre-assembled plug-in circuit board should be replaced. It is easy to compare the sophistication and capabilities of our modern day sonar to WWII sonars with the Wright Brothers plane and flight at Kitty Hawk to today's Stealth Fighter.
Storekeeper - Fred
Willshaw (SK1 67-69)
The Storekeepers worked in the Supply Division and aboard Sumner there were many functions to be performed. We were responsible for ordering, receiving and accounting for thousands of different parts and items that kept the Sumner at sea. They ranged from the simple roll of masking tape to a new CRT unit for the Sonar. We were the people who did all the paperwork for the food you ate, the ammunition you fired, and the fuel that kept us going. The Supply Office was paperwork central where it appeared we never accomplished anything, but being an agency of the Government nothing happens without the appropriate paper trail. Monthly reports were prepared that went to many levels above us such as COMCRUDESLANT. Items that were ordered were of two types - those that went directly to the people needing the item and second, those that were stored for future use in "Store Rooms" located throughout the ship. These items had to be stored so that they could be retrieved for use as quickly as possible. Records were maintained of every item indicating where they were, how many we had, how many we should have and if on order, to whom we had ordered, how many and for how much money. The money part comes from the ship having to operate within a budget known as an Operating Target. We kept the records of Equipage Items such as binoculars which other Division Officers had to sign for. When not doing any of these duties we helped out anywhere we could, loading ammunition, baking bread, paying the crew, working the ship's radio station, etc. Probably the most important function was assisting other Divisions in finding the proper codes, descriptions and procedures used by the Supply System to get the items they needed.
Yeoman/Personnelman - Gary M. Whitehead
It's the Yeoman's responsibility to make sure all the administrative functions are done properly. We worked directly for the Executive Officer and the Commanding Officer. Each Department had a Yeoman assigned for that specific department, i.e. Weapons; Operations; Engineering. The Yeoman take care all of incoming and outgoing correspondence; work with the officer service records. We were usually the Captain's phone talker during General Quarters. The Personnelman handle the enlisted service records. The first person a new shipmate would meet would be the PN as it's our responsibility to check the new shipmate onboard. We would do all the leave papers; transfers; discharges; and transfers to the Fleet Reserve for those lifer's. Both the YN's and PN's would work on the family grams that were sent back to the dependent's back home. It was a tough job but someone had to do it.