Uncle Frank

My Uncle Frank hand wrote this story 5 years before he died.

Frank's Story
My Time of Service U.S. Navy

Uncle Frank in his Naval UniformOctober 20, 1941, I enlisted in the U.S. Navy Reserve as a Printer 3rd Class. The pay being $75.00 per month compared to $30.00 I would have received as a draftee in the Army as my classification was 1A pending physical examination.

I was placed in an inactive status and returned home to await further orders which were not long in coming. I was ordered to report to the Recruiting Office, Oklahoma City then given travel orders and railroad ticket to San Diego, California where I was to report to the Destroyer Base.

Dad, Mother and Brother J.T. were at the depot when I boarded the Rock Island for points west that was the last time I saw my Dad, the date was 6 November 1941, the next day Brother Richard married Beatrice Anita Roberts, so wasn’t able to celebrate their wedding.

Arrived San Diego on a Saturday along with 5 others from Okla. City Recruiting Station. Another Printer was in the group, his name was Bronson. He was from Muskogee or some place in that area, we became pretty good friends. Since we were Reservists, we didn’t have to go to boot camp; something we didn’t mind to miss although all enlistee and reservists after 6 November 1941 did go to boot camp.

We were met at the train and escorted to the Destroyer Base which was also Replacement Depot for the area, since we were Reservists (referred to as Feather Merchants), the regular Navy men didn’t care much for us as they felt we had not earned our rates. There were some seamen who were on their 2nd enlistment who still didn’t have a rate of behavior sometime governed this.

We were unable to draw our Uniforms and small stores as supply was closed until Monday. The only place we could go without Uniformed escort was from the barracks to the mess hall directly across the street as we only had civilian clothes to wear.

I was in the lobby of the Mess Hall building when an elderly man in Uniform came down the stairs and asked me what I was doing there? I explained that I had just arrived and couldn’t get outfitted until Monday. He said that was alright. I later learned he was the Commander of the Base and a strict regulation man.

Pearl HarborI was doing my laundry 7, December 1941 when word was passed to lay down (report) to the long dock. By the time I got my clothes into the dryer and headed for the dock, I met a bunch of men coming back and they said the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor, which went over my head as I didn’t know then what or where it was. I soon learned.

I saw my first ship here. It was a Destroyer Tender or Repair Ship, the U.S.S. Fulton. It was the first ship I went aboard and that was to visit the print shop. While in San Diego, I met Jim Tucker, another Printer from Okla. City. Never ran into him again anywhere.

About mid December we boarded the troop ship to be transported to Pearl Harbor, a voyage of 5 days duration. I had a severe cough (probably from smoking) at night and one night at midnight some guy unknown to me woke me and insisted I go to sick bay as he wasn’t going to listen to me choke to death. We woke a hospital corpsman, and he said he knew all about me, and they were going to test me for T.B. the next morning. This satisfied the guy, and we all went back to bed and to sleep. I never saw sick bay again or had the T.B. test. My cough disappeared after we were at sea 3 days. I did have T.B. 23 years later. Ha!

We arrived Pearl Harbor 24 Dec. 1941. The harbor was still a mess, devastation was everywhere, the hangars on Ford Island, the Navy Air Station were being repaired as was Hickam Field, the Airforce Installation at Pearl Harbor. The surface of the water was still covered with oil from the sunken ships. Total wreckage on Battleship Row, the Japs had done their work well.

U.S.S. ArgonneI went aboard the U.S.S. Argonne temporarily and was assigned to duty aboard the U.S.S. Medusa (ARI) the day after Christmas 1941. Arriving aboard and being assigned to the Print Shop, which was about 10 ft. square, had a 10x15 and an 8x12 Job Press, a bench cutter and 2 stands of handset type, an imposition stone and 2 strikers (apprentices) plus a 1st class and 2nd class Petty officer, Shaw and Frederick Schmidt. One of the strikers was Red Lawson, the other I don’t recall.

When I arrived the shop was really crowded. Soon after the 2 strikers returned to the deck force. Red Lawson later became a Bosun Mate.

The Print shops were taken off combat ships and a fleet print shop was opened at Pearl Harbor as a shore duty station. Shaw had advanced to Chief Petty Officer and was transferred there. He later came out to the ship and wanted me to take shore duty there, too, as they wanted a bookbinder, but the Medusa was due to go south, and I wanted to go with it.

Another Printer was assigned to the ship, so I decided to transfer to the gunners gang and change my rate to Gunners Mate. The Division Officer was the same for both rates, so it was fairly easy although I did take the test for G.M. 3c in order to change rates.

Took and Passed written exam for 2nd class, took oral exam for 1st class as Carl Axe, who took the exam at the same time had failed the written test twice. The Warrant Gunner gave us an oral exam so Axe could get an advancement.

In the year 1942, the Medusa was out of the harbor 1 day for gunnery practice. On 7 Dec, 1941, the crew was credited with shooting down 2 Jap planes and got an assist in putting a 2 man submarine out of service by firing a 3” shell through the conning tower.

On the 17 Feb 1943, I received a telegram from the Red Cross, advising that Dad had passed away 10 Feb. We three older boys were all overseas. J.T. in Europe, Richard and I in Hawaii. None of us were allowed to come home. Fred was the only son at home with Mom and the girls, and he joined the Navy that summer.

In March 1943, we left Pearl Harbor and headed south. We traveled with one Destroyer as our escort. We had no problems although we had a scare of two. We went to Boughanville in the Solomon Islands also New Guinea where we ran aground and had to move all dry stores (food & supplies) aft and wait for high tide before we were afloat. It was here at New Guinea that I saw black natives with Orange colored hair.

We went to Efate in the New Hobreclese Islands then went to Espirito Santos to help repair a ship that had been damaged in a typhoon. I learned then what power was in a Storm at sea. We returned to Efate. While there, I bought a stalk of bananas from a native boy for $1.00. Asked him what he would do with his money. He said, buy U.S. War Bond.

It was during that period I spent my only time in sick bay having been on a beach party and having a few beers, I burned my finger on a cigarette, got infection and was in bed 4 days. Otherwise enjoyed good health. I felt salt air was good for a person.

Franklin D. RooseveltI was away from the ship on temporary duty on a repair mission at the President Franklin D. Roosevelt died. When we returned to the ship, we went to Sydney, Australia for 10 days in June 1944. Was there on Brother Fred’s birthday, the 9th of June, met a guy named Whitey who later was in the hospital in Jacksonville, Fla with Fred. One of the strange happenings in life.

Leaving Sydney, we went north to Manus in the Marianas Islands where I left the Medusa in September on my way to stateside for my one & only leave. Arrived home Ok.C 7, Nov. 1944, three years and a day after I had left for service. Had 30 days leave which was gone much too quickly. My buddy Bob Mac Tarpley from Okolona, Arkansas came back home at the same time.

We returned to Treasure Island and San Francisco. Bob Mac got shore duty Cleveland, Ohio at the recruiting office, and I was sent to Pt. Montara Anti Aircraft Training Center, south of San Francisco. While there, met Melvin Caulkins from Iowa. His wife Elvira lived with his Uncle Fred in Martinez. Also his Uncle Floyd & family lived in the rural area there. I spent Christmas 1944 with them, made me feel right at home. Even had a present for me on the tree.

Our duty at Point Montara came to a screeching halt in March 1945, back to Treasure Island and was assigned to 3rd Fleet Pacific Forces. Was sent to the Caroline Islands where I boarded the fleet oiler or tanker U.S.S. Neshanic. Was aboard for a month, then was transferred at sea to the Battleship U.S.S. Washington which I was on for a week then was transferred by destroyer to the U.S.S. So. Dakota 23 April 1945. Offshore from Okinawa, we went north and had a night bombardment of Honshu Island, Japan firing 8” and 16” guns. When the Japanese sued for peace, we made port at Yokosuka Harbor. I made 1 liberty in Tokyo, not much to see.

U.S.S. MissouriThe Surrender ceremonies were held on the U.S.S. Missouri, about a quarter miles from where we were. Their crew was at quarters in their dress whites while we were lounging around in dungarees.

When the ceremonies were over, Admiral Wm. “Bull” Halsey came back aboard as the So. Dakota was his Flagship, gave us a pep talk then saying he would see us in Pearl Harbor, he took a plane and was off to the wild blue yonder.

Leaving Tokyo, the ship proceeded to Okinawa where we took aboard 2500 Army Personnel for transport back to the states. Our ships compliment was about the same number, so we used the bunks at night and they used them in the daytime.

When we arrived at Pearl Harbor, I was transferred to the U.S.S. Texas for transportation to Long Beach, California. I wasn’t pleased about this as I wanted to go to San Francisco where the South Dakota was going and my friends Melvin and Elvira were there to meet me.

We were in Long Beach 2 days without liberty, went aboard a 16 car train on the Santa Fe, came through Arizona, New Mexico the corner of S.E. Colorado to Newton, Kansas then south to Norman, Ok. Sent Mom a telegram from Ponca City, she met the train in Okla. City where we had a short stop before going on South Base at Norman where the separation center was established and there I received my discharge 22 Nov. 1945, 4 yrs & 2 days after I enlisted. Now that it is over, I can say I enjoyed it.

Frank Novak
19 May 1988