My introduction to
By Grant Carson CAPT, USN (Ret)
Midshipmen and officers keep on file a preference card at the Naval Personnel Command, back then the Bureau of Naval Personnel. The preference card allows one to specify, in order, whether sea duty, shore duty or overseas duty, the ocean and the type of command. Since I was about to be commissioned at Auburn University, 1957, was engaged to a young lady there and had spent my last training cruise on a heavy cruiser which I liked, I gave preferences for sea duty, Atlantic, heavy cruiser. Well, I got my first choice, sea duty, but on an LSD with a home port of San Diego.
I dutifully wrote a letter to the Executive Officer, saying how happy I was to be assigned to his ship (no shame!), and asking what my duties might be.
When I walked down the pier to the ship for the first time, there was an APD (if you remember, a DE converted to UDT transport, now SEALs) that was hard to ignore because there was a big gash to the keel amidships. Later I learned that the main body of amphibious ships was in columns, the APD went between the columns prosecuting a submarine contact, and the main body made an emergency turn because of the same contact. Oops! The screening ships and the main body were on different radio frequencies. At the time I didn’t know what happened, but the gashed APD seemed to be ominous.
I reported and found I was to be Combat Information Center Officer, Administrative Assistant to the Executive Officer, Information and Education Officer, and Protestant Lay Leader, many collateral duties being given to the junior ensign.
On the first day on the job as Administrative Assistant, a job not described in the Ship’s Organization and Regulations Manual, I discovered why the job had been created. The in box was huge. The out box was empty. After investigating the in box for two days, and trying to respond to things that seemed to me dire, I discovered an unopened letter from an Ensign Carson, saying how happy he was to be assigned to Whetstone, and asking what his duties might be.
In those days, all classified communications were off-line and encrypted. The ship received a message consisting of five-letter groups to be decoded by typing the nonsensical
groups into a machine that translated them. My first watch as Communications Watch Officer, I had to abandon the wardroom TV, which was reporting the launch of Sputnik, to decode a high precedence message. Having not done that before, I figured out how to do it in about an hour. The message said that the Soviet Union had launched a satellite.
When the Squadron Chaplain visited, I objected to Protestant Lay Leader. I told him I wasn’t very religious. He told me to shut up and do my duty, since I was the only Protestant in the wardroom. If you were aboard then, do you remember the Floating Society of Christian Endeavor? They were an evangelical group, dedicated to converting you young studs seeking what young studs were seeking into seeking something else. The Floating Society of Christian Endeavor wasn’t dumb. They brought with them, in the LCVP when we were moored to a buoy, which was most times, very attractive young ladies. I was the guy who on Sunday evening, trying to fulfill my duties as Protestant Lay Leader, rousted you out of your bunks, “Reveille, reveille, church services!”
The biggest mistake I made on Whetstone was early in my tour when I had a dispute with a CWO-4 and told him to back off because I was senior to him. It took me three months to recover from that. The warrant officers vowed to raise Ensign Carson up right. I stood stand-by in-port OOD watches for warrant officers by the dozen.
I could tell you much more, like when the Disbursing Officer, pressed into service as a wave guide, had to get the attention of the lead LVT by pelting it with stale donuts. I served in several ships since Whetstone, but my memories of Whetstone are etched, because she was my first ship.
Finally, let me say something serious. In those days amphibious ships didn’t get the top commissioned officers, some superb, but not the majority. The top ones went to battleships, cruisers and destroyers. From my experience then, and later experience as commanding officer of an LSD, the amphibious force survived and thrived on good crews, first-class and chief petty officers and warrant officers. They held the ship together and made it go where it was supposed to go at the time it was supposed to be there, doing whatever it was supposed to do.
Grant Carson CAPT, USN (Ret)
Yosemite Sam© Warner Brothers
Site Creation By: Delta Modul Div. of
Tested Browsers, recommended order for best results.
Non-Tested Browsers, not recommended for use at this time.
Get Internet Explorer 6 http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/
Copyright © 1999-2005 U.S.S. Whetstone Association and System Delta27. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part
in any form or medium without express written permission of The U.S.S. Whetstone Association or System Delta27 is prohibited.