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BUCKET & SWAB ARTICLES

SEA TALES & STORIES

Carroll Dickerson, SK2 May 1958 - April 1960

WHAT IS IN A NAME?

We received the following letter from Carroll Lee Dickerson of Lebanon, Indiana in February 1996. I enjoyed reading the current issue of the Bucket & Swab as it had some articles which were getting close to my duty years of May 5, 1958 through April 14, 1960. Of course, this was during peace time, but there were many good and trying times.

To relate my most famous story, please note that my full name is Carroll Lee Dickerson. I boarded the Lowry when she was in dry dock at Portsmouth. Arriving at about 3 in the morning, I was a complete stranger and rookie the next morning. Very few came around to introduce themselves, but they were happy that another paint chipper had arrived. I was chipping when, about two days later, I got a call to report to the office. I was reassigned to the Supply Division, which of course, did not set well with the crew.

At the time I boarded the ship, our Captain was Commander Dickerson, the Exec was Lt. Commander Carroll and the Supply Officer was Ensign Lee. As you can see, I was labeled right away and it took some time to get back into the good graces of the crew, but I did and went on to have a great tour of duty. I might also add that my street number at home in Lebanon at the time was 707 and, of course, the Lowry's number was 770.

I also noted in the issue that the Laffey (DD724) was our sister ship from 52 through 54. We were still together during my tour (58-60). We plane guarded for the USS Saratoga and had one Med. Cruise during that period. The Lowry was scheduled for dry dock upon returning from the Mediterranean in April of 1960. I was mustered out in May and lost track after that.

May 1997 B&S

                                   

Paul F. May, LTJG, USN

                                                     

August 1952 - January 1955

A PREVIOUSLY UNTOLD STORY

It was August, 1954. Those of you who were on board the LOWRY when it was returning from duty in the Far East may remember our unscheduled stop alongside a tender in Palma de Mallorca to repair our main propulsion unit. It had given up the ghost in the Indian Ocean as we headed from Singapore to the equator to initiate our polliwogs; but, alas, that was not to be.

Back to the story . . . Captain J.F.B. Johnston had left the ship for afew hours of R&R. He was returning that night after visiting the sights in Palma, and his gig was rammed by a concrete-hulled Mallorcan fishing boat. This had apparently been the result of the running lights on the gig not being in proper working order. The squadron Commander riding in the USS LAFFEY (DD724) convened a board of inquiry that interfered with Captain Johnston's plans on the beach the next day.

Now the previously-untold story begins. Captain Johnston called me to his stateroom after morning show, explained what had happened on the way back to the ship, and asked me to do a favor for him. He had arranged to meet a young American expatriate for a day of sightseeing. Would I do him the favor of meeting her in a certain part, extend his regrets, and offer to assist her in any way that she required. It sounded like something that I could do, and it also got me away from the ship while the board of inquiry was in session. I put on my best liberty civvies, and then took the next liberty boat to the beach. I found the woman where Captain Johnston said she was to meet him. One look and I knew that it was good duty! She was a very attractive young divorcee with a son who was to celebrate his seventh birthday the next day. Her plan for the day was to buy him a birthday present and to take it home. I asked her what she had in mind for a present, and she replied that she wanted to go to the native market to buy him a burro. When I commented that seven was a little old for a stuffed animal, she replied, "No, I mean a real one! I asked her if she had experience buying livestock, and she admitted that she didn't, but that wasn't going to stop this woman.

     

We headed a couple of blocks over to the native market where she spied a local with a burro. She decided that it would be "perfect" for her son. Try to imagine in your mind's eye an animal so skinny and swaybacked that it would make the glue factory's reject list. That didn't deter her. She finally haggled with the owner long enough that the price was reduced to $15 in 1954 U.S. dollars. Now that we had the burro, I again asked what I thought was a reasonable question, "Where do we rent a truck to get it to your home?" The response was "We don't need a truck. We'll walk it home; it's only 20 kilometers (about 12.4 miles). But first, we'll stop at a friend'shouse in town and pick up some water and food to take with us. The friend's house turned out to be a typical Spanish home with clay tile on the all of the floors. When we got there, we took the burro through the front door, across the living room, into the kitchen, then out the back door into the central patio where we left it while the friend stocked us with bread, cheese and wine. We then hung the food in bags across the burro's back like saddlebags and headed up the road. The time was about 1600. It turned out that her villa was way up in the mountains. The road leading to it was very winding and almost wide enough for two small cars to pass. Our problem was that every time the burro heard a vehicle coming, it would stop dead in its tracks until the vehicle passed. I had visions of becoming a splotch on a Spanish road for the rest of eternity. Lucky for us, most of the vehicles were motor scooters that maneuvered easily around us. Finally dusk settled in and I knew we would be in big trouble without some means of warning oncoming traffic of our presence.     We decided to stop at a farmhouse to ask to buy some candles and matches, since we didn't think to borrow a flashlight from the lady's friend in town. We knocked on the door. It was promptly opened by an old farm woman who looked at us in disbelief, backed up a step, made a sign of the cross, and shrieked "Jesus y Maria!" Imagine if you will, a man, awoman, and a burro showing up in the pitch black of a Mallorcan mountain night at the door of this simple woman's farmhouse. When she was herself again, we explained in our poor Spanish and highly literate sign language what we needed. She gave us the candles and matches, but refused payment.       After we left and were back on the road, the standard operating procedure was: Burro stops; light candle; place it on the burro's rump until danger passes; blow out candle and proceed. Several hours later, we arrived at her lovely villa and were greeted by hercook/housekeeper/nanny. By this time it was about midnight. Friends were coming over for brunch the next morning so I would have a ride back to Palma. When I arrived at the ship, I made my mission report to Captain Johnston.

August 1997 B & S

                             

LTJG Baden C. Duggins

                                                       

(2nd Korea) 1953 - 1956

SELECTED ENGINEERING "EVENTS" OCCURRING 1953-56

In my previous note for The Bucket and Swab (May, 1996) I described the functions of the Engineering Department, and spoke of some of the sailors in that group during 1953-56. This time I want to remember some of the engineering events that occurred during that period.

One of the repeating aggravations for the engineering officer was explaining to higher authority an idiosyncracy of the steam system that I will call the "superheat dilemma." All those involved in deciding how fast the Lowry should be moving at any given time at sea, including task group commanders, OOD's, etc., knew that destroyers of this 692 Class could make 32 knots and that they could be stopped. Unfortunately, most did not know that accelerating from zero to maximum speed could not be done in a few minutes. The "why's" had to be explained to those concerned over and over again.

To drive the ship at maximum speed, the turbines required steam at 600 psi superheated to 850 degrees F. The boilers were designed with separately fired superheaters which meant that superheat was an option. With no superheat, maximum speed was about 22 knots. With superheaters fired, you could not slow the ship to less than about eight knots because the steam flow was required to prevent overheating the superheater tubes. The final complicating factor was that the superheaters could not be "lighted-off" at speeds greater than 12 knots. So, if the decision was to use the superheaters, you had to light the burners before exceeding 12 knots and then be patient for about a half hour while that part of the boilers was warmed up according to specifications. Then you were in the condition for maximum speed BUT could not slow below eight knots without another half hour of cool down for the superheaters. If you don't understand all this, don't worry! I never thought the carrier admirals understood it either.

An annual requirement of engineering was successfully completing a full power trial. This was a demonstration that the many elements of the plant were in sound condition and could operate at full throttle for four hours. This was an exciting event. An essentially glassy sea was required to avoid dangerous pounding from waves. The engineering space noise reached deafening levels. The ship's deck assumed a bow to stern tilt of about twenty degrees - as you would expect from a real speedboat! Propellers churned foam high above the fantail.

     

One of our full power trials was abruptly terminated because of a frightening problem that I will never forget. We had been having trouble getting sufficient feedwater inflow into boiler #1 to match steam outflow at high speeds. As I moved about the engineering spaces during the power trial, I stopped at this boiler's control station to observe the boiler water level. I was stunned to see an empty sight glass! I quickly asked the operator for an explanation, and he said that the level had gradually drifted out of sight in a downward direction in spite of everything he could do -- He didn't know what the level was!

Realizing that we might be sitting on a bomb, I raced to the telephone and directed that speed be cut in half. After a few agonizing minutes, the water level (and safety) reappeared. Needless to say, that was the end of that trial.

Another severe scare occurred while the ship was in a tranquil in-port period in the far east. In this situation, the engineering task was to keep a generator going, which required one boiler on-line at the standard 600 psi pressure. The watch in the boiler room consisted of two persons -- a boiler tender and a messenger. The problem involved the feedwater pump -- a reciprocating pump with big pistons, maybe eight inches in diameter, on each end of a shaft of about two inches diameter. Steam pushed the piston on one end up and down; the piston on the other end pushed feedwater into the boiler. The event was precipitated when the boiler tender adjusted the shaft seal on the water end. On the next stroke, the seal failed, allowing 600 psi superheated water to be sprayed into the boiler room. This immediately filled the space with very hot vapor (as from a tea kettle) causing a steamy impenetrable fog in the space. The lives of the two occupants were in severe danger! They were spared because of quick thinking by the machinist mate in the engine room who cut off the feedwater supply to the leaking pump.

The last event I will describe was funny! Engineering personnel were often accused of cutting off electric power to various pieces of equipment as though this were some sort of a game. Investigation always found a different cause. Once while the ship was in a storm at the hurricane anchorage in upper Chesapeake Bay, the engineering officer was hurriedly summoned to find the cause of lost electric power to the anchor windlass. When I got near this huge gearmotor, you couldn't miss the loud hum it was emitting clearly indicating that power was present. Further, you also could easily smell the overheating insulation in the motor windings. The explanation was the storm whose wind had twisted the ship thereby wrapping the anchor chain about the bow. Nothing would have moved that chain. The windlass was in a dead stall!

May 1996 B & S

                                 

LTJG Baden C. Duggins

                                                     

(2nd Korea) 1953 - 1956

THREE YEARS ON THE USS LOWRY DD-770

LOWRY was undergoing a yard overhaul at Philadelphia in the summer of '53 when I reported aboard. I had the good fortune to be selected for an NROTC college scholarship earlier, so I had a new engineering degree stashed somewhere. Needless to say, I was soon introduced to Thomas F. Long, the ship's Engineering Officer, and my first line supervisor to be. This note is about the Engineering Department functions, its people (the "black gang") and events during my time aboard.

A warship is a seaborne weapons "platform" capable of traveling throughout the world to carry out national policy actions. The ship moves because the propellers turn, and the weapons function, in part, because electricity and other necessary utilities are available. Engineering people are the utilities department of a ship. Most of them have never been on the bridge or in the Combat Information Center (CIC). They serve by making the ship "move and breathe." In your home, your appreciation of the need for electricity is higher when the lights fail. Likewise, on the ship, your awareness of the black gang is greater when the ship won't move on command or when the lights go out.

LOWRY was driven by steam. There were two firerooms -- eachcontaining two boilers and associated pumps, blowers, etc. Fuel for the boilers was navy special fuel oil which was very black and sticky. Two enginerooms each contained one main engine (steam turbine), and large, precision machined gear set (called a reduction gear) which coupled high engine RPM to much lower propeller RPM. Each engineroom also contained a main condenser, a large electrical generator, evaporators which turned sea water into fresh water, and some more pumps. All in all, it was a pretty complex "set of wheels!" Operating at full power, this plant would drive the ship at about 32 knots.

About a third of the ship's crew belonged to the two divisions which were the black gang. Those who operated and maintained the boilers and engines were the Main Propulsion Division (M Div.) with ratings of boilertender (BT), machinist mate (MM), and fireman (FN). Repair Division (R Div.) was oriented toward emergency repair of battle damage. They also maintained and repaired things like the fresh air blowers which provided ventilation, the "reefers" or refrigerators which preserved food, pipes of all kinds, interior communications equipment, the gyrocompass, steering machinery, and the ship's boat.

Optimum continuous performance of the ship's machinery can only happen if intelligent and dedicated operators are available. Looking back from the perspective of a long career in engineering, I realize we were remarkably well staffed with this kind of people.It is often said that the backbone of the Navy is the chief petty officer. In Chiefs Breckenridge, Walsh, Courain, Lewis, Lanham, and Inman engineering had more than its share of this kind of talent. Some other senior petty officers I clearly recall after 40 years include Blackstock, ME1 - an exemplary career sailor; the Fasulo brothers -Frank, MM1, and Chet EM1 - these guys could fix anything; Freeman, MM2 - knew where you could trade a twenty pound canister of coffee for a new watertight door!

When I think of leadership ability, none of our petty officers equalled J.J. Yarrish, MM1. Yarrish didn't assign work; he led a work team. One of the backbreaking maintenance tasks we faced repeatedly was fixing steam leaks at junctions in large piping by unbolting the flange and changing gaskets. The nuts on the bolts were always frozen because of high operating temperature and the corrosive environment. Standard procedure was to use a huge wrench and beat the handle with a sledge hammer to loosen the nuts; this could take hours by the time you worked your way around maybe fifteen nuts. When Yarrish's team did this, you would always find them sweating and cussing, telling jokes, enjoying each other, and getting the job done! Yarrish took his turn on the hammer along with the others.

The engineering department simply could not have functioned without the key role of C.V. Gantz, YN3, the department yeoman. He had an office with floor space of about one square yard. Gantz knew everything about administration, so everyone turned to him for help when the endless navy forms needed to be filled out. He always did his job in good spirit. He left the ship before I did, and I almost cried at his departure!

I also fondly remember Bob Copenhaver who followed Tom Long in the department head job and whom I relieved when his tour aboard was finished. Bob spent lots of time in the engineering spaces talking with those standing watch about their jobs or anything else they wanted to talk about. He was genuinely liked. He would help with the task at hand when appropriate. For example, during our Japan time, we received some fuel oil that was contaminated with water. The result was the ship went dead in the water while underway in a moderately heavy sea. We were being tossed around like a cork. Bob was in the fireroom, sliding around in the oil spilled on the floor plates, and trying to help the watch crew get the boilers going again. Needless to say, recovery from this mess was accomplished, but it was pretty frantic around there for quite a while.   Well, that's a short view of engineering and the black gang. These fine men did their jobs well and made their individual contributions to the good performance of the ship. However, it is clearly recognized that overall success depended on each organization unit, Operations, Deck, etc., doing its part. The whole is no better than its weakest part. During this period, LOWRY proudly wore the Navy "E" for excellence -- an indication that the weakest was hard to find!

Articles Continued