"NOW HEAR THIS"
Subject: OJT (On the Job Training)
Written: 20 October 1996
By: Forest R Sheldon
Dear Bob & Former Shipmates: (1940-1942)
“Now Hear This” has always made interesting reading for me. Shamefully, I must admit that I never gave adequate thought or paid proper respect to all who volunteered to make it the “news” that it is and has always been. Its news is about former shipmates – good, not so good, and with a lot of “in betweens.” Let’s face it mates “there are no saints among sailors.” During red-hot wars like WWII most of us were respected – but – as soon as we helped get an “Unconditional Surrender” we were returned to being sailors again – so what.
Over the years I’ve read a good bit about the Savannah shipmates I served with. I was a part of the draft that went on board in November 1940. She was anchored in Long Beach, Cal – the harbor, of course.
From that day on I began to see some of the world – and it wasn’t all through a port hole. OH-YES, there was plenty of ojt. Nuff said!
While at Vallejo, Cal at Christmas we saw the USS Fulton launched (18 months ahead of schedule and well under budget).
Our trips to Wake & Midway Islands to drop off Marines. It means more to me today than it did then. Who (or how many) could forget Samoa, New Zealand or Tahiti. Back at “Pearl” for camouflage and passage thru “the big ditch.” Up the east coast to Boston, etc., where we saw HMS Rhodney whose sailors wanted to hog the credit for sinking the Bismarck (German).
Then came more of ojt and convoy duty in the North Atlantic. That was no piece of cake or a bowl of cherries. FDR was up around Argentina to meet with Churchill? It took the “krauts” some time to get a hand on that one.
How about our trip south along the eastern coast of South America to Argentina after WWII became a real nightmare. For the Savannah though, it was like a paid vacation.
Next came Boston Navy Yard where we were readied for the unknown tomorrow. As we left the yard we had a bunch of new men and “boots” too. More ojt – for what? We learned about that later. There were drills, drills, and more drills – and a few thrills?
How about when we ran aground? Because God seems to have been on (at) the Savannah’s side we hit the mud flats when the tide was beginning to flood. We all “rocked the boat” loose on her own power.
. . . Savannah’s crew trained, and trained, and then trained some more in Chesapeake Bay – and for what? Lots and lots of us had no inkling at all.
Ships went about their business. Some got “lost” and later found themselves in a “bunch,” well beyond land. Later there were several bunches which sort of made up a convoy. Personally, I don’t think many really knew. The range in numbers was extremely variable. At this point who cares? There was almost no communication.
How many remember the old WWI destroyer with her stacks (4) cut down to a minimum. She was a messenger between ships. More than a few times she seemed to be gobbled up by the sea. Believe it or not (by Ripley) we all reached our destinations – I think – the West Coast of Africa. The convoy split – some went to Casablanca and the rest to (Rabat) (Madea). A ruse for French and/or German busy bodies, spies and old wives tales.
If my memory is correct, we started shelling the beach and launching troops and equipment at night. Someone started shelling form the beach and we had to react or lose what we’d gained. It was Halloween Night!! What a mess.
We expended tons of ammo during the attack. We lost a plane but pilot and crew survived OK, just soggy. After things settled down we headed for USA on Nov. 11. Thanksgiving was at sea.
After tying to the dock I was transferred to new construction – DD573 Harrison, Orange, Texas. There could be more. AMEN.
Forest R. Sheldon