Way Wrong Way Conway
Compiled and edited by Marjorie and Bill Williams
Many of these Conway veterans "Sea Stories" have
been told and retold for over fifty years. Marjorie Williams has
been working on the text for several reunions.
Conway Veterans Association, Publication number
one, December 31, 1994, Revised September 1995
New recruits in the Navy, it is well known, go
through an initial period (or initiation) that is known as "Boot
Camp". During this time all recruits are indoctrinated in Navy
policy - shined shoes, bunks that you can bounce a quarter on,
standing at attention, etc. Also during this period the fat are
made lean, the skinny add weight and the muscles unknown are
called to the recruits attention forcibly.
In 1940, in their infinite wisdom, the Navy
shipped a bunch of recruits to the Bath shipyard to be assigned
to the ship USS Conway. On arriving it was found that the ship
was being built. It became the duty of those recruits and a few
seasoned - or should I say salted - personnel to report each day
to the yard to their ship. Now whether this was to guard the
ship, check and see that the enemy had not stolen her or just
because the Navy could not think of what to do with these men is
not known to this mere mortal.
However, in due time the ship was finished. It
became the duty of this skeleton crew to take the ship to the
Boston Navy Yard to join the rest of the crew. When everyone was
gathered aboard, the Conway set out for the pacific war.
While the ship is steaming for the pacific
theater of war, let's get acquainted with the USS Conway. This
ship is what is called a "Fletcher" class destroyer, also known
as a "tin can". Destroyers are, more or less, movable guns of
the fleet. They surround the slower, bigger ships and
(hopefully) detect, chase and destroy submarines and other small
ships. This class carries torpedoes and has 5 inch guns as well
as the well-known barrel known as depth charges. In case you are
as uninformed as I was, the torpedo does not go out under the
waterline of this ship but shoots over the edge of the deck
gradually settling to the surface of the water, skimming along
until it hits the object at the waterline. (At least that’s the
The Conway carried a full compliment of 300 men.
It was 368 feet long, about a city block. At the widest section,
it was about 40 foot. Imagine, if you will, a hotel a block
long, coming to a point at both ends with a middle area of about
40 foot wide. This peculiar thing balanced on a rounded keel, or
bottom, and extended 5 stories into the air, with two more decks
in a smaller area just forward of the center.
In this floating hotel many of the men aboard
the Conway as she (ships are always she) heads for the war will
spend the next four years. Sleeping, eating, fighting, resting
and whatever recreation they are able to provide.
Now as to correct terminology. On a ship there
is no floor, it's called a deck. There is no right and left,
it's starboard and port. There is no front and back, there is a
foc'sle and a poop deck or fore and aft. The Navy is awash with
tradition and I'm sure many of the terms inflicted on the new
landlubbers are carried over from the past - when they might
have meant something - for the sole purpose of ensuring that the
new recruits are thoroughly aware that they don't know what they
The close proximity and utter dependence on each
person's performance of their duties ideally knits a close bond.
I say ideally because unfortunately some ships were not close
knit but became factions. Officers against the crew, deck gang
pitted against the "black" gang or engineers and so on. The
Conway was either fortunate or had skillful officers at first
because the men became so amalgamated the ship became known as a
The floating people menagerie that we refer to
as the Conway crew contained various ethnic backgrounds and
races. These are some of the World War II escapades I've heard
about. Care to add one?
The boss of the ship is always called the
captain. The whole crew always looks up to the Captain, as he is
always right, Right?
In one of the early torpedo training exercises
the ship was chasing a target. The Captain was calling orders to
the quartermaster. Come left. Come right. Circle left - He was
also telling the torpedo crew what to do with the tubes. He
reached the point! FIRE ONE! There was a moment of silence, then
the torpedo officer said, "Captain, I can't". "Why not, the
Captain snarled?" The reply, "Well, if I do I'll shoot through
your gig". The Captain roared, "Well it's my damned gig, FIRE!"
(Fortunately, for the gig, no ammunition was being used).
At another time, some of the officers were
feeling pretty elevated and complacent. Our wily Captain didn't
say anything. BUT…At a time when the ship was anchored off some
peaceful isle he called the officers together and indicated that
they were to stay together and take no part in a drill he was
having. He then called the rest of the crew together and ordered
them to weigh anchor and move to such and such a position. The
crew carried out this order with no detailed instructions. Then
the Captain called the officers and said "Now move it back".
They could not. The parting shot of the Captain "And don't you
ever forget it."
Another Captain was apparently trying to pattern
himself after a well-known figure in literature. He paced the
deck in a red Chinese dressing gown, rolling two ball bearings
between his fingers. Like all men, he had his idiosyncrasies. He
liked to invent things and the crew would make them up for him.
One Captain did not like Vienna sausages. Not
content with just not eating them, he banned them from the ship.
BUT - an old mate liked them so he smuggled some aboard and was
almost caught eating them. Did you ever try to get the smell of
Vienna sausages off your breath?
As all parents are aware, it is hard to keep
boys from their pets. In a manner unknown to this talebearer a
monkey became part of the crew of the Conway. This monkey, as
customary, was adept at climbing and causing trouble - much to
the dismay of his caretaker, a pharmacist's mate.
Monkey was not awed by rank. Since the Conway
was a flagship it often carried the destroyer division
commander. "30 knot" Burke was a resident in his sea cabin one
day innocently preparing for the day. He had removed his bridge
and was brushing his teeth when a hairy little brown fist
grabbed the bridge and ran. Soon the ship was treated to the
site of the commander careening full-tilt after the mascot
screaming at the top of his lungs "I'll make monkey-pie out of
you." The story had a happy ending. Monkey ran into his pal, the
pharmacist. The Commander got his bridge back and a couple of
days later it even became funny.
Monkey took on Captains too. One day, the ship
was being repainted. It had been sanded and was now in the
process of having the rust resistant zinc oxide base coat
applied. The Captain dressed smartly to go ashore and was
proceeding down the deck. Monkey, from a perch above, tipped a
can of the green paint and made a bulls-eye. Green paint covered
the previously immaculate Captain to his shoes and the feet
inside. After the air had cleared this left the poor
pharmacist's mate cleaning the Captain's feet and probably some
other unnamed regions.
This same Captain had a habit of sleeping with
an automatic rifle, whether as protection from the crew or very
large mosquitoes, I do not know. One night, while the Captain
peacefully slumbered, monkey slipped through the door and - you
guessed it - he fired one short burst. While the crew stood
around wondering "what the h…is going on in there?" the Captain
turned on the light to fight his attacker. After discovering the
culprit, he opened the door to call for help - with the door
opened, the light automatically went off for security - and the
monkey escaped. Toll…. One holy blanket. One holy shower wall.
One Captain - whole.
Monkey being the cosseted fellow he was, had his
own little orange life vest. This proved very wise one day when
he made a misstep. "Monkey overboard" the lookout called. No one
knew what would happen - will we leave him or will we stop. Good
news, the Captain stopped the ship and had a boat lowered. The
monkey was retrieved.
The same generosity of spirit did not apply to
two crew members who later were leaning on the lifelines and
fell overboard. The ship did not stop but the next ship in
formation fished them out of the water. A message flashed to the
rescue ship "Tell those men they're on report."
The boredom on a small ship and the stress (in
wartime) of being constantly under fire or expecting to be under
fire was alleviated somewhat by the practical jokes and ribald
camaraderie, but there were limits. Unclothed tattoos meant
another trip to the needle as the Captain ordered new clothes
added. The type of language heard on the street and even in
schools today was not allowed for those rugged seamen. From the
stories I've heard the men appreciated those checks.
One of the problems of living quarters was to
get enough fresh air. One pair of enterprising seamen waited
until their crew mates were asleep and fastened a pair of work
jeans over the intake. They each took a leg thus directing any
fresh air to them.
The engine room crew used to make spaghetti
(good stuff, I'm told) with some of their steam. Hot as it
apparently was down there, they probably could have just set it
out in the room and cooked it. They shared their treat with the
night quartermasters. One night the Captain came by and found
out about all this. Captain's verdict - this practice could only
continue if he got a share.
One of the many duties the crew took upon
themselves was the training of young officers. This apparently
involved every man available. An officer working out one of his
first siting locations used the wrong chart. When asked, he gave
the coordinates that would place the ship just off the coast of
Alaska. Shortly thereafter, an enterprising seaman came on deck
garbed in full cold weather gear to stand watch. Suddenly he
yelled, "Iceberg dead ahead!" The unlucky officer jumped up and
yelled back "Where?"
One of the things new officers were eager to do
was steer the ship. First, you must know that this could be done
from two places, the bridge and from below - what we call the
blind bridge that received orders by intercom. With willing
connivance from the officer of the deck at a time when all was
calm, permission would be granted for the new officer to try
steering. The quartermaster would turn over the wheel at the
same time punching the signal to disconnect the bridge and turn
steering over to the blind bridge. The officer of the deck would
call out the instructions - just opposite the true course. "Turn
left 10 degrees." The young officer would turn the wheel madly
and the ship would go the opposite way. "No. No." The deck
officer would cry, "the other way." "I'm trying, it won't go"
the hapless youngster would reply. Panicking, he would tell the
quartermaster "You take it." Taking the wheel back and
disconnecting the blind bridge, the quartermaster would
innocently say, "well look, it works all right for me."
Training for crews being shipped out to the
pacific theater on new ships was minimal. One such crew brought
their new ship to the correct port only to steam around and
around in circles. The Conway Captain finally sent a message and
asked if there was a problem. The reply "We don't know how to
stop." A boat was put in the water and a crew of instructors was
sent to the hapless ship.
Another time, a ship was badly damaged in
battle. She was taken in tow and many hours were spent getting
her in shape to be towed to port for repairs. On the way, an
overzealous U.S. ship spotted them as the enemy and sank the
damaged ship. The crew on the rescue ship was so angry they gave
chase - firing to sink - until cooler heads prevailed.
In another incident, while steaming in
formation, a careless ship shot off a piece of another. Fire was
returned and the offender suffered the same fate.
Members of the Conway, along with the rest of
the ships, became adept in the art of scrounging. For instance,
if the Captain or another officer remarked a coil of rope would
look good in the Boson's locker - it would magically appear
there. The same occurred with fruit, cigars or other items.
They were also somewhat particular. In
Australia, when supplies were being loaded, a certain amount of
mutton was loaded with each ration of beef. When loading the
frozen meat, a line formed on the ship from one end to the
other. While the beef was lowered to the refrigerator, the
mutton continued to the other end of the ship where it sank
quietly into the water. By the time it thawed and rose to the
surface, the Conway was long gone.
TALES TOLD AT THE 1993 CONWAY REUNION IN
Charlie Coale, 1959 - 61
My good friend Harry Cuplin was the
communications officer on the Conway during the time I was
there. Harry loved to play golf. Harry went down to Little Creek
and if you've ever seen the golf course on Little Creek it's got
a lot of roadways running back and forth through it. Harry was
on the fourth tee with two or three of his golfing buddies and
he had a number three wood. He hit the ball and it went "swish."
Unfortunately, there was a car coming up through one of the
driveways and must have been one of the Marine Corps flag
officers. Now there is not anything worse than a Lt. j.g.
hitting a Major General in a Marine Corps car. This is the
truth. The ball went right down the fairway and right over the
road and smashed the windshield right like that (snap) and one
of the golfing buddies said to Harry "Harry, what are you going
to do about that?" Harry replied "Guess I'll change my swing."
Stanley Kloby, Gunners Mate 3/c, Oct. 42 to
Dec 44, Plank Owner.
This deals with the missing bread. There was
only one way in or out of the galley and that was padlocked when
the cook and baker left. Each night they cooked the bread and
locked up three pans of it. Each morning they began missing
three loaves. The cook and the baker were the only ones with a
key so they started arguing over the loss of the bread. The cook
said he didn't take it. "I can get bread whenever I want." The
baker said, "well we've got the only keys and each night we
leave the door padlocked. Where is it going?" They decided "O.K.
we'll fix them" the baker would stay in the galley and the cook
will lock up as usual.
We had a man on our ship by the name of Birddog.
His real name was Boston. He had the 12 o'clock watch. He and
his two buddies came down to the number two gun about 12:30 when
all was quiet. The cook and the baker had not thought of an
overhead escape hatch of only about 18 inches in width. The
baker was sitting in the corner when "eek, eek" the hatch wheel
starts turning. As he looks up, the hatch opens and he sees the
sky above. He then sees Birddog being lowered headfirst while
his two buddies held his legs saying "alright Birddog, grab the
bread and pass it up." While he's swinging his arms to grab the
bread the baker grabs him. "Yahh" Birddog lets out a murderous
yell. He has no idea what's holding him. The two buddies let go
of his legs and he crashes to the deck. The two buddies run back
to Gun number two leaving Birddog and the baker to fight it out.
And… that's the story of the missing bread.
Bob Scanlon, Plank Owner, until he left the
ship in Nov 44 in Japan
Nobody will ever know how much it cost the Navy
to have quartermasters wake up Ensigns. It's disastrous. First
we'd steal them blind, get up on deck and distribute their food,
then wake them up when it was all gone. One night we had stolen
a whole chocolate cake. You can't just steal a piece of cake,
someone would know it was missing. We had the cake up on deck
and sonar got a ping that sounded like a submarine. He called
Captain Prime and the Captain came running. The Captain got mad
because "He can't tell a whale from a wake" slams his hand down
in the dark and "splat" lands it right in the cake. "Well," he
swore "what's this?' I said, "it's chocolate cake. Will you have
a piece?" He says "I have a whole handful" and swings his hand
around sending cake all over the place. Well, I'll tell you… we
got up early the next morning and cleaned up before he saw the
mess. But, we went back to business as usual.
One night, we stole a big ham. Silver platter,
the whole bitch had to be eaten. Like the cake, you can't steal
a piece, they would know. So, we took the whole ham. The Ensign
came up, a hungry guy, and asked "where's the ham." Well... I'm
standing out on the bridge with a guy named Iner and the ham
goes over the side, platter and all.
Otice Vail 58 - 62
I came back off the beach one night, was pretty
well loaded and brought a pint with me. I had it taped to my
leg. I made it back with an old buddy of mine. We were going
down to the fire room to drink it. I looked over to my left as
we went to the fire control room and saw a brand new can of 190
proof alcohol. I reached out, took it, handed it to him and told
him to take it down. We got there and were trying to think where
we could hide it because we knew very well that they were going
to be looking for it. We put it in the uptake in the stack's
blower ducts. You all know there is a double stack. We set it up
there. Every time we wanted to throw a party we'd crawl up
through the uptake and pour out a quart (a quart would make a
good gallon). We never did get caught. About 30 years later,
they got in contact with me about these reunions and they sent
me a computer list that included Captain George R Brian. I
contacted him and said "Captain there's something that's been on
my chest for 30 years. Do you remember the 5 gallon can of 190
proof alcohol?" He said, "Yeah, I knew you got it. We just could
never prove it."
Told a story about Frank Corell who was a Plank
Owner and on the ship until 45. He left and went to the USS
Gregory after the war. He told her that on the Gregory, he had
an appendicitis attack and they took it out with a rusty paring
knife and a spoon. He let her tell that story for 25 years.
Roy Moberg Rode the Conway back to the states
in 44 and got off in Frisco
This is a story about Bob Scanlon. It was Bob's
job when we were gong to fire the main batteries to go first to
the Commodore and give him some cotton then to the Captain and
finally the rest of us. Captain Besson took big gobs of it.
Stuck it in his ears leaving long pieces hanging out. Bob would
get around behind him and taking long strips of cotton would saw
back and forth level with the Captains ears. He never did know
why everyone was laughing.
Another story was about Ensign Melanthey.
Captain Besson at one time said that all the officers during
special sea detail had to have a title so he passed out all
kinds of titles. He didn't have enough to go around so Melanthey
didn't get one. About a week later, the Captain told Melanthey
"I've got one for you." Melanthey said "aye, aye, sir and what
is it?" The Captain said you are administrative officer of the
deck. "Aye, aye Captain and what are my duties?" The Captain
said, "if I ask you the course and speed of the wind, ship's
heading, ship's speed or anything like that, I want you to have
it on the tip of your tongue." A few days later, we went to
Manila Harbor and were taking a fix on a water tower when the
engine died leaving us adrift. The Captain turned to Melanthey
and asked, "how fast are we going?" Melanthey flapped his hands
like he was shooing chickens and said, "Captain, we're just
John Wrocklage "Rocky" Oct 42 to Sept 44
During the time in the South Pacific Rock was
the movie operator. As those of you on the ship in the South
Pacific know, we usually had the movie on the fo'c'sle. On one
particular night we had a storm in Purvis Harbor which is
located in Tulagi across the way from Guadalcanal. Because it
was so stormy that night we decided to have the movie down in
the mess hall as was occasionally the case. I had a great big
monster of a machine that stood about 2 1/2 ft high. It would
only run one reel of film at a time and the reel must be
changed. On that night, we had seen about two reels and all of a
sudden - BAM - the ship went this way and my machine went that
way, the reel of film went still another. Wondering what
happened, we went on deck and what do we see but the bow of the
Cleveland (a light Cruiser). We had, unknowingly, dragged
anchor. The Cruiser had come into harbor, didn't see us, and
collided in the dark. Well, all the guys let out a big roar. You
should have heard them. We all thought we were going back to the
states right away for repairs. We only had a little dent and
they fixed it up right away.
From the Conway, I went on the Norton Sound as a
movie operator. Then I had two projectors and was getting
Bill Williams QM3/c - From commissioning
until about January 46
Once we got an officer, about 20 years old at
the maximum. He was fresh out of college and we were all older.
Well, he had no knowledge, whatsoever, of the ship. We were
going alongside a tanker for refueling. On the bridge there were
two controls for the aft depth charges. One was painted red, the
other green. Coming in, they were secured so they could not
accidentally operate the equipment. This officer came up on the
bridge and said that he hadn't been assigned any detail and
asked the other Quartermaster, my buddy Sawyer, what he should
do. Well, this was too much for Sawyer so he told the youngster
he was supposed to work the brakes. When he asked where they
were, Sawyer said those two levers there. He gets the levers and
says, "Well, how will I know when to put them on." Sawyer said,
"The Captain's on the other side. He'll signal me and I'll tell
you port or starboard." Every once in a while he'd yell port or
starboard and the officer worked the brakes. Normally, the
Captain went down through the stairway through the pilothouse so
he wouldn't have seen any of this. This day he came around the
back of the bridge and here is this guy working the handles. The
Captain said, "What are you doing?" The guy said, "I'm working
the brakes sir." The Captain kind of looked around and said,
"Thank you very much, I couldn't have gotten alongside without
The young officer went down to the wardroom and
told the other officers that the Captain had commended him. In
the meantime the Captain was looking at us and crooking his
finger (to come).
Stanley Kloby - once again
This guy, Bill Williams, now let me tell you
something. I slept in the last bunk in the highest spot. There
was a fan on the bulkhead, so naturally, the fan was for
everybody. The fan was blowing down the isle and the temperature
-- well, if you've ever slept in a microwave, that was us. I
used to crawl up in my bunk to sleep and I would reach up with
my foot and gently turn the fan to blow on me. So right away the
breeze went whoosh. The guys would yell, "Kloby, you SOB, put
the fan back." They fixed me one night by taking the guard off
the fan. I came in, crawled into my bunk and looked around to
see if everybody was asleep. I didn't know it but they all had
one eye opened and as I reached up with my foot to turn the fan,
there was a "brrrrrt" sound and three toes went flying. Purple
Heart I figured. Well actually I just burnt out the fan and kept
all my toes.
Dick Maginn SM2/C Mar 43 - Jan 46. Boarded in
Havana Harbor, left in San Diego.
You asked for the Banana Courts-Martial. That
term is not really correct. Before a courts-martial there is a
Captain's mass. That is really what happened. We secured the
Island of Corregidor and had gone to Manila. I had liberty in
Purvis Bay. The Japanese were still there sniping and so on and
so forth, but we had liberty nonetheless. At that time the
skipper was C.L. Besson. Mr. Ball, the Boson's Mate, came up to
me and said there was to be a Captain's Mass The skipper was
there, the boatswain mate, executive officer, one of the
communications officers and some others.
Captain Besson started reading off the charges I
was to answer to. First of all was the charge of bartering with
the natives. He asked how I pled and I replied, "Not guilty."
What happened was I was down on the fantail of the ship while we
were anchored in Subic Bay and as the bunboat, as we referred to
them, came up there was a person standing there with a large
stem of bananas. They would swap goods for soap or cigarettes or
other things and thinking that some of the fellows on the bridge
would enjoy some fresh fruit, I made the exchange, grabbed some
bananas and went up to the bridge. When I got to the ladder
going up to the back of the bridge, Captain Besson was standing
on one side and the Executive Officer on the other. I told them
good morning and started up the ladder. Captain Besson said, "Maginn,
where did you get the bananas?" I relied, "I got them from the
natives." He said "Oh!" I said, "anything else sir?" He said,
"No." I then went up and shared the bananas. In each of the
ports we visited, it was up to the port director to send
messages out to the ships informing them what could or could not
be done in that port. One of the things they were careful of was
not to get something from the natives that would hurt a bunch of
people. We had been in Subic Bay several times and the port
officer there never issued a message that we could not barter
with the natives. I was one of the signalmen and knew what was
in that file, I explained that to the Captain. He turned to the
communications officer and said, "Is that correct?" The reply
was, "well yes sir, if Maginn says it is correct, it probably is
because he knows the file pretty well."
The next charge was going ashore after being on
report, going AWOL. "How do you plead?" "Not guilty." To be
officially informed that you cannot go off the ship they post a
roster down in the passageway of all people who are on report.
My friend,. Yeoman Santos, had not gotten around to posting the
report with my name on it. Therefore, I put on my whites and
went ashore. We went over in an LCT and put the gangplank down.
I walked off and met up with Captain Besson. He looks at me and
said, "Maginn, get back on the LCT." I let the rest of the
people go off the liberty boat and went back to the ship. I
walked up to Captain Besson and, "Sir may I ask a question?" and
he says "No Maginn, I don't want to talk to you," so I walked
away. When I explained this to the Captain he turned to the
officer in charge of yeoman Santos and asked, "Is that right?"
The officer replied that they had not actually gotten around to
posting the roster with my name on it.
The next charge was going ashore with a beard
after orders were issued to remove it. "How do you plead?" "Not
guilty" When we left the states in 1944 after repairs and
modifications done at Western Engineering down at Alameda, all
of the crewmembers grew beards. Out in Subic Bay, one day, the
word was passed that the beards must be shaved off, or something
to that effect. For some reason, I didn't get the word so I
didn't shave. When I explained to the Captain, he turned to the
communications officer and asked him. The communications officer
replied that I might not have gotten the word. "I'm not real
Captain Besson was rather perplexed. "Well
Maginn, I guess we really don't have evidence to support any of
these charges." He said. However, he then reached inside where
his bunk was and pulled out a book. "I am going to read to you
what it says in the manual relative to the behavior of a petty
officer." I had about 15 minutes of serious reading laid on me.
And that's the end of the almost banana
TALES TOLD AT THE 1994 NORFOLK REUNION
Torrey A. Sylvester, - Gunnery Officer,
The Conway was really my first job. It is
interesting to see the three groups of, you might say, families,
the 40's - WWII, the 50's - Korea and the 60's - pre Viet Nam
and Viet Nam.
Charlie Coale, now you have to realize how thin
he was on the Conway. He wasn't as big around as my arm and that
isn't very big. Now I'm not going to tell you he was so thin,
I'm not going to tell stories on Charlie, I wouldn't do that but
I am going to tell stories on Roger Burson. He was our Exec, and
Otice Vail was the oil king in those days. Roger was the man
always smoking a pipe - I'm sure you've all seen him here. Roger
was in after officer's country where the Exec. lived in those
days. We were fueling along the pier and all of a sudden there
was this odor. Well now, you all know what NSFO smells like, its
pretty strong and there was some oil creeping in down on the
deck. I don't know where Otice was but he finally came through
the passageway and Roger Burson was just as cool as the other
side of the pillow. He says, "Otice, can I light my pipe or will
that blow up?" Otice says, "Go ahead Exec." And he just lit his
pipe and Otice cleaned up the fuel. The only thing Otice did
right in Boot Camp was he put his 13 button blues on backwards.
Gerald Kanter - 1945 until 1946 at
I was on four different vessels in Hong Kong
Harbor in two weeks. I came in there on a cargo ship from
Okinawa as a replacement, I guess. When you are 17 or 18 years
old, who the hell knows. But I left the cargo ship and they put
me on the New Yorker, which was a rest vessel, no screws or
anything. So I stayed on a rest ship, then a seaplane tender.
There I stayed for about three or four days. My service jacket
followed me to all these places. I think I could go back to Hong
Kong today as a tour guide or something, since I crossed the
harbor so much. They put me on the AR3 If you remember, there
was a repair ship in the harbor there. The AR3 was the oldest
ship the Navy had in commission during WWII.
It was a coal fired ship from WWI, or whatever.
I came aboard, the Chaplain comes to me and says, "You're the
new bugler." I can't read a note of music and I can't sing. I
was frightened out of my mind and said, "What am I supposed to
do?" He says, "I don't read music and I don't know. Here's the
bugler's manual and here's the bugle." There was no PA system on
that ship and the bugle passed everything. It was the command
ship for the South China forces and Admiral Buckmaster was
aboard. They took me to after steering (about 8 decks below) and
I picked up a few bugle calls. After four or five days they
said, "You're going to stand watch." I get on the Quarterdeck
and the Admiral is coming up the deck and everyone is ready for
me to, I guess, blow attention. Instead, I'm blowing first call,
like at the racetrack. If you don't think a seaman 2nd class
didn't get everyone's attention, your wrong. Fifteen minutes
later, I'm in the Execs cabin. He said, "What in the name of God
were you doing anyway?" I said, "They said I was a bugler and
gave me a manual. I can't read a note of music." Four days later
I'm transferred to the USS Conway, DD507. Now let me tell you
something. That was home for 9 months. It was the greatest nine
months of my life. I became a man overnight on the Conway.
Dale Grimes, - retired AW Chief
After I was on the Conway I transferred over to
the Shenandoah and went into the Naval Air Reserves. I retired
two years ago with a total of 38 1/2 years counting the time I
had on the Conway and the time in the reserves.
One of the things I remember about the Conway
was that I was on mess cooking and had the glorious duty of
carrying the garbage out to the fantail. If you recall, they had
a garbage chute and you carried the can out there, dumped the
garbage down the chute and it went off the fantail. They have a
swab, for you women, that's a mop on a line, (which is a rope).
You take the swab and throw it over the side, get it nice and
wet then scrub the garbage can. I said, "There is a better way."
I took the swab off the line and tied it to the handle of the
garbage can. "Now" I said," all I'm going to do is dump it over
the side and the ship will wash the can." Well… I made one of
the biggest anchors that the Conway ever had and when it was all
over I ended up with just a handle. I went on down to the mess
deck and said the thing had slipped. Didn't show the handle. The
chief said, "dumb kids."
When I made chief, I was kind of pleased about
it and was bragging to my grandson, "You know I made Chief in
the Navy." He shook his head, "Grandpa, when I grow up I'm going
to be a real chief. I'm going to be a Fire Chief."
Roger T. Burson - 1960-1962
When I was on the Conway, Torrey was a great
physical fitness type. He used to get out on the starboard side
and do his pushups and pull-ups. We had a chief commissary man
who was, well, let me call him a little round man. His name was
Stubbs. He would watch Torrey day after day doing his exercises
and one day he said, "You know Mr. Sylvester, I bet you can't do
half as many pull-ups as I can" and bet 5 bucks. He walked over
and struggled over to get to the hole where he was going to do
the push-ups and managed to get his chin up one time. He said,
"Now, do half as many."
I'm up on the sorting elevator and Bill King was
down below on the deckhouse. Now, I'm above him by about 25 feet
off the deck. King is swabbing out the 5 inch (gun). That’s like
cleaning it out. I'm looking down talking to King and he's
swabbing. When he finishes he locks his hands over the barrel
and yells through the barrel to the trainer inside the gun -
"Take it away!" Instead of the trainer putting the gun in local
and cranking it around, he throws it in automatic. Now, when you
throw a gun in automatic it takes off. I'm looking down talking
to King and all of a sudden he looks like he's on an elevator
with the gun swinging around and almost threw him in the ocean.
So after he monkeys back down the barrel of the gun, he's
jumping in one side of the gun housing with the trainer running
out of the other. King wanted to kill him.
John Wrocklage is in the after steering room and
is doping off. Everybody is tired and all of a sudden a voice on
the phone startles him. The voice says, "Describe what the after
steering room looks like." John's response was, "If you'd come
back here once in awhile you'd know what the hell it looks
like." And the voice says, "You're speaking to the Captain of
the ship. Report to the bridge first thing in the morning."