"NOW HEAR THIS"

Title: The Story of Mice & Men

Published: January 1996

By: Ralph Scheib

 

In September of 1944 upon leaving the Philadelphia Navy Yard, I, as being a 2nd class gunners mate in turret 5, was transferred to turret 3.  Many gunners mates were killed by the bombing up forward – all of the turret 3 crew.  A new crew had to be trained in the maintenance and firing of the turret.

 

The turret had been in a field next to the Savannah for months while the ship was being repaired.  Shortly after the repairs to the ship were made the turret was hoisted and put in place aboard the ship.  Soon thereafter we got underway for the shakedown cruise.

 

In the turrets there is an area directly below where the guns elevate called the pits.  In this area the turret crews had a small cabinet in which we kept our “joe pot” and wind-up record player.  We would get together there daily, shoot the breeze and have our coffee and play the 78 RPM records.

 

Shortly after being out at sea, while down in this area, we saw small shadows darting about.  Soon, we saw they were mice.  These mice were confined to the turret as the closed hatches prevented them from leaving.

 

We had no mouse traps but catching then was no problem.  They were desperate for food and got very brave in getting some.  ALL we had to do was sit very quiet with the aroma of coffee in the air.  We would put a piece of bread smeared with peanut butter down and hold a screw-driver with the handle up.  When the mouse came to take the bread he got a bop on the head ending his hunger.  Also, some actually jumped into coffee cups that had left over coffee in them and were caught and thrown in a bucket of water.

 

This hunting was a great pastime and lasted about a week.  About 15 mice were caught and no more were seen.

 

During the shake-down cruise all turret guns were fired at maximum elevation, all 15 guns at one time to see how the ship handled the stress.

 

After this firing, upon checking the “rack” the turret rotated on, it was discovered that there were many metal slivers on the grease of turret 3 meaning the turret was uneven and binding as it rotated.

 

This was reported to Gunnery Officer Scott.

 

Upon returning to Philadelphia Yard I had orders awaiting me to report to gunnery school in Anacosta, Washington, DC.

 

I never found out the outcome of the flaws in turret 3.

 

It was a very sad day for me leaving the Savannah after four years of duty aboard her.

 

Ralph Scheib