"NOW HEAR THIS"
Subject: Navy Day, Operation Magic Carpet, & Mothballs
Published: June 1997
By: Tom Travers
I was 17 when over my mother’s objection my dad signed enlistment papers for me. I had a keen desire to be in the Navy. Waiting for the draft meant no choice and likely the Army. In my mind the dirty branch of service. It was January ’45. At Sampson, NY I failed the Eddy Test (for the 2nd time). Immediate sea duty, the “Dirty D.” USS Decator DD341. . . an old ‘four stacker’. Seven of us USNR’s joined a crew of mainly USN ‘regulars.’ Quite an experience for this kid swabby. Quarters were tight, more like a submarine. We weren’t allowed at Mess until the ‘regulars’ were done. It was a great learning experience.
Navy Day Souvenir Card, 1945
Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum
As Captain of the head I made Seaman 1st. . . unlikely as it seemed. DD341 was assigned to Atlantic anit-sub warfare, Casco Bay to Gitmo. In an ‘action’ our port screw was badly damaged by a shallow discharge of one of our cans. Limping into a San Juan RP dry-dock late at night the whole crew looked forward to liberty there. While most of us slept through, repairs were made and back to duty we went the next day. Later we acted as destroyer escort during the “shake down” of the USS BOXER. Another memorable event. . . 20+ foot squalls dousing our fires as we tossed like a cork for a day. . . ‘C’ rations etc. DD341 was decommissioned at Lido Beach, New York.
Then I was assigned to the Savannah. What a beautiful sight, a BIG ship. War was guieting as I took over as MaM3c, Navy Mail Clerk. Crewmembers NMC Ed Tague and Howard Miller (now deceased) had all their ‘points’ and happily turned over the Post Office. My assistant John O’Neill and I had bunks in the PO and were assigned Ship’s Company privilege. J Vitnek’s chow as special. . . the crew was special. Great duty!!
In October ’45 CL42 cruised to Savannah, Georgia for Navy Day. It was to be its final visit. We were joyously welcomed. For the occasion we provided a “First Day Cover." (10/20/45) Avid stamp collectors requested them from all over. Still have one or two. . . any crew member collectors?
Next it was time for us to be the lead ship (Flag) (Ernest King Jr. was aboard) of “Operation Magic Carpet.” CO was Bryan Harper, Exec Ernest Davis, both USN. The ship’s conversion was dynamic, our Seahawks were removed. A ‘sandwich’ deck was installed in the hanger. . . four-tier bunks provided sleeping for 1500 men. We made two trips to LeHavre. Speed as the pace-setter was at least 28 knots. The old gray lady had plenty to give. The base camps at LeHarvre were code named after cigarette brands. . . Chesterfield, Lucky Strike, Camel, etc.
Going ashore for the mail is memorable. A German POW trustee acted as chauffeur on a jeep assigned to me for trips to the shore post office. Those were the only times that I wore my issue 45. LeHavre was a sorry sight. A well bombed port. . . a land sight of war’s ravaging. Stateside return post was NYC.
Mothballs awaited at Philadelphia Navy Yard. My points were insufficient and like others more time needed to be served. My assistant John O’Neill and I were sent to Boston 16th Flt where we finished up and were discharged. Incidentally he was a young turk like me. I wonder how he is? Where he is?
Bob, my brief stint and experiences in the Navy and aboard CL42 pale to what I’ve read of others in “Now Hear This”. I have great admiration and respect for all those who served aboard before me in times fraught with much more danger. May God bless them all living and deceased. I must be among the youngest on your list (won’t be 70 ‘til this May 27th). God and my Guardian Angel watching over me kept me from harm’s way. May you and your associates good work continue to flourish. Thanks again.