Title: Ah! Seaduty!

Published: November 1993

By: Joe Koch


The north Atlantic in the winter time?  Who can forget?


We were in an undeclared war with the Axis Nations doing convoy escort duty.  Doing escort duty for cargo ships carrying material to England.  German subs had already sunk one of our destroyers, damaged a couple of others and sunk the Robin Moor, a cargo ship flying the US flag.


Reveille was often the sound of depth charges reverberating thru the hold of the Savannah.   We would sometimes spend hours at GQ, then scurry to eat, go on condition watches, then morning GQ, ½ hour before sunrise, and secure ½ hour after sunrise.  Then ½ hour before sunset it was GQ again, securing ½ hour after sunset.  If you had the 8 to 12 post, or the mid 12:00 to 4 am, you were dead the next day.  Mistakes and accidents were way up throughout the operating fleet.  The hierarchy had to do something so they secured evening GQ which solved the problem, and that’s the way it was till the end of WWII.


"All Hands on Deck"

USS Savannah (CL-42) c. 1942

Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum

Courtesy of Pat O'Neil

The other enemy was the sea and the weather, sometimes in combination.


I suffered through two typhoons in the Pacific, but nothing compared with the storms off the north Atlantic.  Some ships lost planes off their catapults, some had blown their bloomers  on their turrets, flooding the magazines.  I used to watch in fascination the working of the expansion joints as the ship bent and worked in the heavy seas.  It was the only time in my career at sea that I observed the screws of a battleship come out of the water and flail the air.


To combat the cold we were issued a cold weather outfit, consisting of a padded jacket, overalls, helmet, face mask, gloves and boots.  All this extra material created huge storage problems in the berthing spaces.  There was always gear adrift which caused an increase in gear in the “Lucky Bag.”  Extra duty got it out.


It was great to get back, anchor in Casco Bay, Maine, and hit the beach.


Joe Koch