Aaron Ward (DM 34) - Naval Cruise Book

 - Class of 1945

Page 10 of 48


Aaron Ward (DM 34) - Naval Cruise Book online yearbook collection, 1945 Edition, Page 10
Page 10

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-mh --W. -... in .. . 1, .sf-p v . Gunnery Officer, we proceeded to establish a gunnery record that still stands as an all-time high in shake- down training. Our 5" 40, 20 gun crews proved outstand-ing and ready for that tussle with the laps that was drawing closer. ln the engineering department, under the guidance of Lt. Young, and his capable assistants, Lt. Cj.g.J Clark and Ens. Paine, the "black gang" showed their shipmates that they too had mastered their jobs and were prepared to give the ship steam in her throbbing veins and arteries. Mr. Beismeyer and Mr. Cathcart, in the meanwhile, strove to teach the fundamentals of Damage Control and t-he art of seamanship t-o men, the majority of whom, were experiencing their first tour of sea duty. Under these two officers, Shelley, CBM, Oden and jones, BM's lfc, applying many years' naval experience, sought to mold the green seamen into useful sailors. And thruout this entire period, our patron saint 'of f-ood, Chief Bagan, kept the ship amply sup-plied with nourishing victuals that had been planted in the early 30's and harvested in the middle 40's. Nonetheless, the milk we drank was "the laotile fluid of the bovine species" and for this latter treat we were thankful. We missed Ma's cooking, but proceeded to add to our waistline. 1 0 With the shakedown under our belt, we set our course for San Pedro, and back to the Navy Yard for 10, 20, 30, 40 days. The local pawnbrokers were enjoying a thriving business, for liberty in this area was an expensive pastime. Yet our sojourn here was highlighted with many great events. Many romances flourished and several of our more eager set plunged recklessly into marriage. While the majority of us took advantage of the recreational facilities in Southern California, the yard f-orce converted ClC into "a ohamber of horrors", installing innumerable radio gear and loudspeakers. Mr. Woodside, our Comm. Officer, bore the brunt of this upheaval. 1 i Finally, on February 9, 1945, the Aaron Ward stood out of San Pedro 1-larbor and pointed her trim nose towards Pearl Harbor. For six long days she steamed independently, ever alert for her first enemy, the submarine. That lonely cruise is very vivid in our minds, for it marked the ship's graduation to a position of responsi'bili'ty as well as the "first trip" for almost seventy-five pe-r cent of our crew. Other than the us-ual submarine scare that sent us to General Ouarters several times, our 2100-mile journey was uneventful. And as we arrived in Pearl Harbor, all of us doffed our heavy clothing and settled down to a two week stay in the tropics. At Pearl we hungrily jumped at the opportunity to try our luck at some competitive softball. Lt. Halsted, our genial athletic officer, operated a very successful and popular "league competition" that comprised representatives from every division aboard ship. Each day we praye-d for clear skies so 'that yesterdays defeat might be "avenged". Hot, fiery games resulted and at the end of our stay, the 2nd Division emerged champions. Their undefeated record was tops in the field, and due greatly to the outstanding hitting and pitching prowess of Fisher who revealed "big-league" ability. We all had fun, and were willing to concede the pennant to this gang "aft of Frame ll0". - 'On March 3, we received our orders and proceeded to rendezvous with the U.S.S. Maryland, an old but very potent battlewagon. With her and several other escorts we steamed endlessly, and on March 19 arrived at one of our Cthenl most advance bases, Ulithi. Here we saw the staggering sight of the U. S. Pacific Fleet at anchor. For miles around there was a seemingly inexhaustiblie line of carrie-rs, battleships. cruisers, destroyers, and numerous auxiliaries. The size of this armada gave us both a feeling of inferiority and security. Yet we were part of it and destined to play a majior role in the drama coming up. Here, too, we received our first "air alert". We manned our guns and waited, only to receive the news that the approaching raid had been repulsed some 10 miles out. Now we knew the thrill of flying to our battle stations and taking our "ready positions". l I Several days later-still no mail-we sent Blunk, our white Cthen a little beardedj hope, with orders to "bring home the bacon, or else". A few hours before getting underway, our mailman, a smile lig-hting up his youthful face, returned with tho-se never-to-be-forgotten three bags of mail. Now they could bring on the laps! Needless to mention, Blunk was the man of the hour, and a few minutes later explaining to the OOD why he had failed to relieve the watch on time. The impermanence of glory! Underway at last, and when morning dawned grey and d-amp, we saw ourselves in the van, preceding a swarm of minesweepers. lt was then the realization came to us that we were part of an outfit bound for some unknown japanese Island, close to the mainland, to engage in sweeping operations prior to an invasion by our troops. Later, that day, our captain, Commander Sanders, announced our destination-Okinawa, a powerful island fortress held by thousands of japanese troops, and harboring a score of strong airfie-lds. The uncertainty that had filled our minds cleared somewhat after this announcement, but the prospect of encoun'tering heavy opposition left our enthusiasm slightly dampened. We gulped several times, and then settled dow-n to the job of brushing up on the P's and O's of fighting. 1 -Igl-

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