MY NAVY MEMORIES
Charles Angevine, S1/c, USNR
Two weeks after I graduated from high school, on 30 June 1943 I enlisted in the Navy. Although I joined the Navy in Rutland, VT, I had to go to Springfield, Mass., to be sworn in. The group I was in rode the Rutland Railroad to Springfield and I think we were on a local train. It seemed we stopped at every farm along the way to pick up the milk. I can’t remember how long it took to make the trip, but it seemed endless. When we finally got to Springfield we were put up at the Hotel Charles, a run down place that overlooked the railroad yards. I believe we were sworn in the next day and then sent along to NTS Sampson for six weeks of boot training. We were kept so busy during that time that there was hardly time to think about the fact that we were away from home for the first time and headed for who knows where.
One guy in my class at Sampson, and if I remember correctly he also was from Vermont, didn’t take a shower for about two weeks. Finally he got so ripe that some of the bigger fellows took him into the shower and scrubbed him down with laundry soap and scrub brushes, At Sampson we were lined up alongside the swimming pool. We were told that we would have to jump in and swim across the pool. Although I couldn’t swim a lick I got in line as told. At the last minute the instructor told those who couldn’t swim to sit down. WHEW, close call. Our reward for being honest was that we went to swimming lessons every night for the rest of the time we were there. The water in the pool was so strong with chlorine it was almost enough to make you gag. And if you got any up your nose or in your mouth it was fierce. All their good intentions didn’t help any, because I never did learn to swim. Once I got aboard the Tatnall and saw how rough the ocean can be I figured that Johnny Weismeuller himself wouldn’t last five minutes. So I just made sure I kept my life jacket nearby for the rest of my shipboard days.
Upon graduation from boot camp I was given two weeks leave at home, after which I reported to the USS Tatnall, APD 19, at Charleston, SC. This ship was a WW I four pipe destroyer which had been converted to carry troops. While on board the duty consisted mainly of day time training cruises out in the Atlantic. We did cruise up to Norfolk, VA, in September 1943.
On September 10, 1943, while we were in Norfolk I was transferred to the USS Abbot, DD 629. When I reported aboard the Abbot, the USS Erben was tied up alongside. As it happens that is the ship that my boyhood friend John Quinn was stationed aboard. I gave a yell over and didn’t John step out of the torpedo gang workshop and we had a short reunion. As it turned out our ships were in the same squadron and we followed each other around the Pacific, getting together from time to time. My first real sea voyage was the trip from Norfolk, VA, to Panama. And like any good recruit I was sick all way. It’s a wonder I didn’t get blown overboard because I must have lost some weight not eating for a week. Once we hit the calm water around Panama I was okay and never had that trouble again.
Little did I know at the time that the Abbot would be my home until March 1946, or that I would see so much of the Pacific and the Southwest Pacific from her decks. The Abbot was overcrowded and there weren’t bunks enough to go around. So for about 3 months I slept on deck, wherever I could find a shady spot. The alternate was to “hot bunk” anywhere you could find a bunk. Hot bunking was to find the bunk of someone who was on watch and sleep in it until he came off watch. You would then be awakened and you would have to repeat the process all over again.
On October 18, 1943, the Abbot was on training exercises off the island of Oahu when we collided with the USS Cowpens, CVL 25. Believe me it was a frightening experience for us novice sailors.
Quoting from the ship’s official history:
“On October 17th, the Abbot got underway in company with a carrier group to conduct training operations. At 0210, on the morning of the 18th, the Abbot was directed to leave screening station and take plane guard station for night flight operations. And at 0224, we collided with the Cowpens.
Approximately thirty feet of our bow was twisted to a 70 degree right angle. Repair parties immediately went into action as well as all hands who could be of assistance. Bulkheads were shored to prevent further damage, water was pumped into the sea from the lower compartments, and through tireless effort, the forward part of the ship was secured to the maximum of watertight integrity.
“Unfortunately, three of our shipmates were killed, others injured. The Cowpens suffered only minor injuries. Thankful that our casualties were not more and with heavy hearts, we commenced the slow journey back to Pearl.
While on the Abbot I was promoted to seaman first class and spent most of my time in the first division. This division was responsible for maintaining the ship and it’s top side equipment. One of my many duties was operating the number 2 whaleboat. My battle station was in the upper ammunition handling room of the number three 5-inch 38 gun. During the time I was on the Abbot we took part in six operations from the Marshall Islands to the Philippines, and bombardment of the Japanese home islands.
Christmas Day 1943 should always live in the memory of all who were on board the Abbot. On that day most of us crossed the equator for the first time. The Navy has an elaborate ritual for those who are crossing for the first time. Many forms of punishment are administered to the "pollywogs" (first time crossers) by the "shellbacks" (previous crossers). Eventually everyone is a shellback and the next time across you get a turn at any newer shipmates.
One day there was to be recreation on one of the islands near where we were moored. Using the #2 motor whaleboat I carried guys over to the island as did the Coxswain who ran the Captain’s gig. Both boats were the same except the gig had a cover over the front to keep the Captain dry. We both made numerous trips to the landing spot on the island. This spot had some tricky currents and it was a job to get between the coral and to put the bow of the boat on the beach. On the second or third trip the Coxswain let his boat get away from him and the coral punched a hole in the side. Guess who had boat duty for the rest of the day and never scraped his boat. Made me feel good to do better than a rated man.
My battle station on the Abbot put me in charge of the upper handling room of five inch gun #3. In this position I was in charge of 3 or 4 other guys and our job was to get the projectiles and powder cases from our area up into the gun turret. The brass powders cases were sent up manually thru a scupper in the floor of the turret. The projectiles, which weighed about 55 pounds each were carried up in a two sided hoist. There was a door at the bottom which would be open when that part of the hoist was at the bottom. This made it possible to position the projectile in the hoist for it’s trip up. Once the door was closed the hoist would raise automatically, while the other side would come down. Some of the projectiles had a small tab on the nose, which had to be put into a slot on the inside of the hoist. This action would allow the timer mechanism within the projectile to be rotated and set while it was ascending. Once fired, the timer would cause the projectile to explode after the specified time after leaving the gun barrel. Hopefully right over the target.
My job was loading the projectiles into the hoist. One day in the heat of a rapid firing I didn’t get the tab into the slot correctly. I reached back into the hoist and somehow it started up trapping my hand between the base of the projectile and a stationary part of the hoist. Somehow, I managed to free my hand and the projectile safely. Upon going to sick bay, PM 3/C Bill Hersey examined my wounds and found that I had several deep cuts on my hand and other scrapes and bruises. After he got the wounds cleaned up I straightened out my hand and remember looking in and seeing the bones and joints. Luckily I suffered no lasting effects and my hand returned to its original flexibility okay.
At some point, and I believe it was in Honolulu, Dinty Moore brought a puppy aboard ship in his coat pocket. She was officially christened “Abigail Abbot.” Captain Ingling didn’t care for dogs, so the puppy was kept out of sight until after we sailed. At that point the Captain couldn’t bear to throw her over the side. She grew up well, got her sea legs and knew everyone aboard the Abbot, but was quick to bark when any stranger set foot aboard. After many months of sea duty, she had an indiscretion ashore one day and not too long after presented Dinty with a litter of pups. As she was delivering, Dinty was heard to encourage her, “Atta girl Abbey, you can do it.”
We spent the month of February 1945 off the coast of Luzon supporting the landings at Lingayen gulf and Corregidor. During that time supplies got very short and most of the storerooms were nearly empty. The bakers made many loaves of raisin bread in an attempt to convince us that the flour was not buggy. We knew better however.
On March 11, 1946 I was mustered out of the Navy at the Fargo Building in Boston. From Boston it was back to Vermont to get re-acquainted with my family and friends, and to get on with my life. Like many other veterans, I joined the “52-20” club. This was the name given to unemployment in those days because you could collect $20 a week for 52 weeks. In my case I only drew for about 15 weeks and then found myself working for the State of Vermont as a mechanic in a gravel quarry. After a few weeks of that I got a better job with the U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey as a rod man. When cold weather arrived and the map makers headed south I was invited to go along with them. However I had other plans and turned down their offer.
During her service time during WW II, the Abbot earned eight battle stars on the Asiatic Pacific medal and 2 stars on the Philippine Liberation medal. She was put out of commission in May 1946, recommissioned in February 1951 and decommissioned for the final time in March 1965. She was dropped from the Navy list in 1971 and sold for scrap in August 1975.
CHARLES N. ANGEVINE
former S1/C, USNR
MY RICH UNCLE IN WASHINGTON AND WHAT HE DID FOR ME
During my time in the U.S. Navy, I served aboard two different ships, earned 4 campaign medals and a total of 8 battle stars on 2 of the medals. I was discharged on 11 March 1946, a total time in service of 2 years, 8 months and 11 days.
Since then my rich uncle (named SAM) in Washington, DC, has taken good care of me. He has provided me the following benefits over the years:
- Paid for one year of Aircraft and Aircraft Engine Mechanic schooling.
- Paid for my private pilot and my commercial pilot license.
- Guaranteed my first home loan at 4% interest.
- Paid for removing my remaining teeth and the replacement dentures.
- Paid for my 5 heart bypasses.
- Provides my medical care at the VA medical center
- Provides my prescription drugs at reduced rates.
- And finally, eventually will provide my burial in a National Cemetery.
All in all I feel that I have been well reimbursed for the time I spent in the service. Others who were in the service may not feel this way, but I wanted to have my thoughts on record.
Also see Charlie Angevine’s memories of the Cowpens collision.