Northern Solomons - Bougainville - Bismarck Archipelago
Marianas - Western Caroline Islands - two Jima - Okinawa
Jan. 07, 2003
I sincerely trust you all had a great Christmas, and, the Good Lord willing, we can all look forward to a healthy and prosperous New Year! I'll do my best to keep these letters coming and try to include plenty of memories plus any interesting items that I can come up with.
I'm sorry to start-off the New Year with the news of the loss of a good shipmate - Clarence "Bill" Enos; he passed away peacefully on November 14 at his daughter's home in Ft. Scott, Kansas. Bill had a very bad heart and lived longer than any of us had expected.
The Cape Cod mini-reunion turned out exactly as described - mini! As a result of illnesses and related problems, several shipmates were unable to attend, and, only Bill DeMarco and John Crowther and their wives were there. Bill reported that the wives did a lot of shopping while he and John reminisced about their FULLAM days. Hopefully, things will turn out much better next year.
Recently, I received a letter from Mike Tarr the son of one of our shipmates, Mack Tarr. I checked one of the old rosters that I have and noted that Mack was an Electrician 3/c. If any of you remember Mack and have a personal memory of him, please write Mike and let him know; Mike's address is 2740 Dogwood Loop Dr., Sevierville, TN 37876. It's nice to hear from sons or daughters of our departed shipmates inquiring any personal recollections of their fathers.
Bob Ross, volunteer historian of DesRon 45, sent me an E-mail from a Roger Dana who is a member of NAFTS or National Association of Fleet Tug Sailor. The E-mail was as follows:
"I remember the FULLAM. I was a crew member of the USS CHOWANOC (ATF l00) in August, 1958, when we towed the USS FULLAM from Eniwetok Lagoon, Marshall Islands, to Pearl Harbor. The FULLAM was in the Reserve Fleet and had been used as a target for two underwater nuclear explosions during Operation Hardtack 2. She was moored near ground zero and was equipped with a washdown system powered by a large portable pump mounted on her deck. I saw her take terrible blows during those two tests and did not think she would survive.
I also recall that she began to go bow-down on the way to Pearl, and, our Damage Control/Salvage Gang had to go aboard her and patch a leak before resuming the tow. Some one in Atomic Sailors told me that read in some documents that the FULLAM was scheduled to be scrapped but was sunk instead because of the possibility of being radioactive."
As most of you already know, the FULLAM was sunk by gunfire and bombs southeast of Norfolk in July, 1962, for the reason of its being extremely radioactive.
The other day I was going through some old items that I have had around for years and came across all of the letters, cards and telegrams that my mother saved from the time I entered Boot Camp until my discharge. I'm getting them ready to pass on to one of my children. Anyway, I found one card mailed from Cheyenne, WY, dated December 4, 1944, that I wrote from the train returning to San Francisco after the 2l-day leave we all received. Here is what I wrote so long, long ago:
"We're about an hour out of Cheyenne after a 40-minute stop and right on time. I and some of the other FULLAM crew went uptown which is just outside the depot and got some good hot chow - breaded pork cutlets, french fries, peas, salad, tomato juice, coffee, etc. We had to throw it down but believe me, it really tasted good after sandwiches all day. We've just about killed the fudge and all of the boys have a Legionnaire Club cigarette package. I gave another sailor a deck of cards and there's been a big poker game in the washroom all day."
I correct myself - the card was mailed from Ogden, UT, rather than Cheyenne. I cannot remember anyone from the ship who was with me on that train so if you can, help me out. My memory is a complete blank on this event.
In my last letter I included the letter from Arch Kellems about his experiences during the sinking of the O'BRIEN; here follows the letter from Rich Fernandez giving his experiences of the sinking:
"I would like to put my two cents in about the sinking of the O'BRIEN.
It was during the mid-watch that we heard of the problems of the fire and engine rooms - they were having severe problems with leakage of sea water into the ship. When I was relieved of the watch, I went down below to get some things from my locker and at the same time to alert those who were awake the seriousness of the condition of the ship. No one seemed concerned. At dawn all were topside, life boats were in the water along with the rafts.
I was still on the bridge and was given a message to send to the LANG. I sent it by semaphore as we had no power. It was the last message sent by the O'BRIEN (to this day I wish I had saved that message) and I could see the crew leaving the ship. I thought at the time I couldn't wait to finish it. However, they gave me a quick 'Roger' and I happily went down the ladder to get on my raft only to find it already lowered and all aboard in the water but they neglected to release the line. I had to cut the line and swim to it. Upon arriving at the tanker (CIMMARON) it had rope ladders over the side. I was probably the weakest guy in the Navy - I thought I would never reach the top. A couple of the guys got swept to the rear and got caught in the slow moving screws but managed to get clear".
Later when all were aboard the tanker, the fantail and the bow of the O'BRIEN came together and sank slowly under the sea. We had been island hopping from the Coral Sea and the next island would have been Samoa. We and the WASP had been torpedoed in the Coral Sea not far from Guadalcanal.
We were part of two fast Task Forces in the Coral Sea including two carriers, battleships, cruisers, and, of course, destroyers. We were part of the screen around the WASP and I don't recall the name of the other carrier. The carriers were providing air cover over Tulagi and Guadalcanal while the big ships were to handle any Jap ships that may come down the Slot.
The days were beautiful and we were at sea close to a month providing plane guard duties for the carriers.
On September 15, 1942, at about 3:00 PM we saw smoke arising from the WASP. We thought it was a flight deck accident. We were about six miles from her when word came over the intercom that she had taken a torpedo. Next we were at GQ.
About a half hour later the Executive Officer spotted the torpedo coming at us from the port side. The Captain ordered a turn to port and the torpedo passed down our port side missing the depth charges. Then another torpedo that hit us just below our bow. I remember grabbing the rail around the pilot house and hopeing that I wouldn't be blown overboard. Also a rain of torpedo oil (I guess) and sea water came down on us. A few in gun turret #1 were injured - broken arms, etc. Of course, we were very lucky.
A good friend, Walter Jarosz, received the Silver Star for diving below the O'BRIEN and reporting the damage to the keel."
Thanks a million, Rich, for your memories. In my next letter I'll include Garrett Lynch's experiences of the sinking.
Recently, I was watching the evening news and one of the stories was the departure of the HARRY S. TRUMAN battle force from Norfolk to the current war zone. The surprise was when they showed the USS BRISCOE (DD977) and interviewed several of her crew even some on the bridge; the BRISCOE was part of the screen for the force. You may recall that this was the destroyer we visited during our reunion in Norfolk in 1998. I did not recognize anyone from our visit but I imagine there have been many changes in the personnel.
Fullam William Freeland Fullam, born 20 October 1855 in Pittsford, N.Y., was a member of the Naval Academy class of 1877. His commands through his long and distinguished naval career ranged from the sailing ship Chesapeake in 1904 to the battleship Mississippi in 1909. During World War I, Rear Admiral Fullam commanded the Reserve Force, Pacific Fleet, and Patrol Force, Pacific Fleet, and was senior officer in command of the Pacific Fleet during the absence of the Fleet's Commander-in-Chief in South Atlantic waters. The merit of his service in such responsible positions was recognized with the award of the Navy Cross. Chief among his assignments ashore was the superintendency of the Naval Academy in 1914 and 1915. Rear Admiral Fullam retired 8 October 1919, and died 23 September 1926 at Washington, D.C.
Note: The rest of this is in the FULLAM HISTORY PAGE.
In closing, I would once again ask for any memories of the ship you could pass along to me for this letter. How about something that might have happened during all those hours of GQ?
Have a great 2003!
Your old shipmate,