Video: The Doc Savage Years
Commander Lowell Crosby “Doc” Savage, Abbot’s skipper from November 1952 to April 1954, carried a small home movie camera during the 1950s. Thanks to his daughter, Sue Dikeman, we have converted the silent film to Internet video.
Based on visual evidence, the film seems to have three distinct time frames: November 1952, late 1953, and late 1959 or early 1960.
In the first scenes, Commander Savage takes command of Abbot during a tour of the Mediterranean with the Sixth Fleet. The scene can be dated by the presence of the Commencement Bay-class aircraft carrier Salerno Bay, which was attached to the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean during October and November 1952 — Commander Savage took command of Abbot in November — and was decommissioned in February 1954. The bow of Abbot is clearly visible.
Next is Puerto Rico, where Abbot stopped in early or mid 1953 — but this part of the film seems to have been shot shortly afterward. The hotel is the Caribe Hilton in San Juan. The newest automobile appears to be a 1954 Buick Century in front of the main entrance; this model was sold beginning in mid-1953. Most of the other cars are 1951 to 1953 models. Most likely Commander Savage spent a few days vacationing here while Abbot was elsewhere.
The remaining film seems to have been shot during antisubmarine warfare training in the Caribbean in late 1959 or early 1960, possibly during an annual January exercise. One of the ships seen, Valley Forge, was the centerpiece of Caribbean antisubmarine warfare in the second half of the 1950s. Another ship in the film, the Sumner-class destroyer Compton, is known to have been active in the Caribbean area between April 1958 and August 1960.
Savage wears captain’s eagles on his collar, indicating that this scene took place while he commanded Destroyer Division 122, between October 1959 and July 1960. Sikorsky HSS-1 Seabat antisubmarine helicopters are seen flying above Valley Forge and a submarine is surfacing.
In the final scenes, the crew of the destroyer Davis man the rails, the officers are dressed in their white uniforms, the fleet is sailing in a tight diamond formation and the air arm flies in formation overhead. It is almost surely a carefully orchestrated photo opportunity for navy photographers.
This silent film is part of a much longer 25-minute movie that Commander Savage compiled beginning with his stint as executive officer aboard the survey ship Maury from September 1951 to November 1952.
- The crew is mustered on deck for a formal ceremony; this is probably the change-of-command in November 1952 when Commander Rue O’Neill Jr. handed Abbot to Commander Savage at Trieste or Naples. The Commencement Bay-class aircraft carrier Salerno Bay is moored next door.
- Same location as above. Three nested Fletcher-class destroyers: Benham, Abbot and another with a 600-series hull number. The camera continues to pan around the harbor.
- San Juan, Puerto Rico. This is probably late 1953, after Abbot was on Caribbean maneuvers and had stopped in Puerto Rico. The hotel is the Caribe Hilton.
- Antisubmarine maneuvers in unknown waters — probably late 1959 or or early 1960. Note the submarine surfacing, possibly Albacore.
- Panning around a destroyer.
- Another view of the submarine.
- Signaling the submarine.
- Doc Savage and the submarine (see photo at right). Savage is wearing the insignia of a captain; he was promoted in 1958 or 1959.
- Helicopter operations with the Essex-class aircraft carrier Valley Forge, which was designated an “antisubmarine warfare support carrier” in early 1954.
- Three escorts for Valley Forge: An unknown destroyer; the Sumner-class destroyer Compton; and the Forrest Sherman-class destroyer Davis.
- A brief view of the Sumner-class destroyer Purdy.
- Signaling the escorts.
- Purdy and another destroyer.
- Antisubmarine helicopter operations. Probably a Sikorsky HSS-1 Seabat.
- Overflight by four unknown aircraft (left), three Grumman AF2 Guardians (center) and four Grumman S2F Trackers (right); all were anti-submarine aircraft.
- Another view of the three escort destroyers and the helicopters.
- Overflight by a Sikorsky HSS-1 Seabat antisubmarine helicopter; note the distinctive orange nose. The film ends with a brief glimpse of the accompanying destroyers.