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Navy Inquiry into Morale Problems
Aboard USS Whitehurst DE 634

 Contributors:  Al Crawford, QM1 at the time and LTJG. Rudy Phillips

QMCM Al Crawford 2002

Ens. Rudy Phillips Korea 1951


Al Crawford volunteered within days of the Pearl Harbor attack.  He finished WWII as a Quartermaster First Class.  He was recalled when the Korean conflict broke out in the summer of 1950.  He is a Plank Owner of the Recommissioning Crew of Whitehurst.

Account of Al Crawford:

     The USS Whitehurst (DE-634) had morale problems from the time the ship was taken out of mothballs in Green Cove Springs, Florida.  It's hard to remember all the details, as things started out slowly, and came from the top leaders on the ship.  The Commanding Officer was Malcolm Glenmore Evans, and the Executive Officer was  Arthur E. Hammerlund.  The crew had much disagreement as to which officer was the  bad guy. Some faulted the CO while others the XO.  The XO who dealt with the crew through the Department Heads and Division Officers, in true Navy fashion, always issued orders as if they originated with him.  Never bad-mouthing or faulting the CO.  Thus the crew was never sure just who was the driving force behind our days of discontent.  I often wonder, did the officers know?   Regardless we were being subjected to many conditions and restrictions on our personal liberties that often made  life aboard the 634 unbearable.  It's a stretch on my memory to recall some of the little things that became irksome that happened over fifty years ago.  But what is fresh in my mind is the major bone of contention that caused the Navy to order an investigation while we were in Pearl Harbor.
    I report the following to show the state of mind of the majority of the crew at this time.  The ship was in dry-dock to have the entire hull below the waterline painted.   The job was an all hands evolution, meaning everyone E-6 and below worked.  Scaffolding had been erected to give the workers access to the entire area to be painted.  I can't recall how many days this job took, but we were nearing completion, and the CO wanted the job done this particular day.  As we worked into the afternoon, word was passed that liberty was withheld until the hull painting was complete.  This pissed us off because we could see that with all our effort, we could not get it done.  As it started to get dark, the CO ordered that lights be rigged so work could continue into the evening hours.  Well I don't know who instigated the idea, but word was passed from man to man on the scaffold, that when the lights went out, you better haul ass out of there.  Now all the ship's officers were standing around the dry-dock watching the painting of the port side, when wouldn't you know, the lights went out. It was pitch black down in the dry dock, nothing could be seen.  The CO shouted to restore the lights.  Time passed, and the lights came on.  There were no sailors anywhere to be seen on the scaffolds.  All were standing in the bottom of the dry dock. What was seen, was painted in large letters , red lead atop Navy gray, in the center portion of the ship's hull; "F--- You."  Orders were given to paint over the offending words, and the job continued.  The CO knew how we felt, and I don't think we had liberty that evening!  
     The weather in Hawaii, and where we were in Pearl Harbor,  and with liberty in Honolulu was just wonderful.  I still have a clipping from the Honolulu Advertiser from  December 1950 that found it news to report that the temperature overnight registered at 72 degrees, a low for the year.                     
The SOPA (senior officer present afloat) had issued a directive that the liberty uniform was optional.  Men could go ashore in dress blues, or dress whites.  No short sleeve white shirts in those days, we only had the white jumper.  Now when SOPA said liberty uniform was optional, that meant that the individual commanding officers could decree what the uniform was to be,  blues , whites, or optional, and this would be announced in the plan-of-the day.
     Well, herein lies the seeds that fermented and grew until it broke our back.  The liberty uniform for the Whitehurst crew was to be "dress blues" and never were we permitted to wear dress whites.  ALL the other ships in Pearl gave the crew the option of what to wear.  Why is this important?
Well if you made liberty after 1800 blues were just fine, as when the sun set the blues could be comfortable.  But, if on a Saturday or Sunday you left the ship at 1200 or during the afternoon, blues were unbearable.  I can remember standing at the bus stop with other 634 men in our blues, and sweating our ass off.  All around us were crews from other ships, cool and crisp in their whites.  We were frequently asked why we were wearing blues.
We could give no good reason, after all the SOPA said the liberty uniform was optional.  It damn well was not optional to the crew of the Whitehurst.
    And now the bubble breaks.  A member of the Black Gang, one Robert Samuelson wrote a letter to Walter Winchell who in 1951 was a well known and respected newscaster.  He was fair and forthright in his radio reports, and had a very large following.   Samuelson detailed many of the things that were going on aboard the Whitehurst that were causing problems, and stressed the liberty uniform issue.  I have no way of knowing what course of action was taken by Winchell, but I do know the end results well.
      One day just prior to the noon meal, a Navy Captain, a Lieutenant and a Yeoman First Class got out of their car, and walked up the gangway.  They were unannounced, and totally unexpected.  The captain introduced the group to the OOD, and their presence aboard was entered in the log.  The captain having told the OOD of the reason for his visit, was then escorted to the wardroom.  The captain ordered all officers to depart, which halted their noon meal,  and to stay clear until further notice.  An announcement was made over the 1MC that an informal inquiry was being held in the wardroom concerning allegations of certain policies that were causing morale problems aboard the ship.  Any man who wished to be heard, should line up outside the wardroom door.
     Well stand aside, because the rush began.  I can't tell you how many men lined up but the line was out the hatch and down the starboard side.  With the men talking and comparing what they would say, so as to cover all bases.  They heard from the crew for quite some time, with the Yeoman taking notes  and when done, had a meeting with CO Malcolm G. Evans, and I'm not sure what other officers may have set in.  But our problems were pretty much solved.
     After the inquiry party had departed, the CO met with his officers.  Following the meeting there was a 1MC announcement that all hands were to assemble on the fantail.  In my minds eye, I can still see that assemblage.  The only words I can recall that the CO said were these:  "From now on we will wash our dirty linen aboard ship."  Hell man, we tried and tried to get relief through our division officers.  The CO and XO had to know they had a disgruntled crew, and they did nothing to relieve the pressure.  Well thanks to a snipe named Samuelson we were vindicated. And the liberty uniform was then and there made optional.
    The inquiry, and the critique of our CO seemed to have a lasting effect.  Things aboard the Whitehurst went much smoother.  When a complaint was taken by a division officer up the chain, it was given proper consideration as to merit, and not rejected out of hand.  As an example:
    Crew members may remember our lengthily tie up to pier 4 in Pusan.
On a daily basis, after each meal the mess cooks dumped any remaining food into GI cans and placed them on the pier.  Koreans came and took food which was all mixed up out of the cans to eat.  I told my division officer, that we should set up a table on the pier and have the mess cooks take excess food down and serve it to the Koreans, and if the CO did not approve my idea there might be another investigation.  It was done.  The carpenter took some 2 x 4s and plywood and made a table.  I watched this operation, and at first the Koreans came with tin cups and small containers.  Then the containers started to get larger, and larger.  They were looking for food to take home to their families.  This giving of food certainly made me feel good, and I'm sure many of  our crew.   QM1 Al Crawford

Rudy Phillips was a WWII veteran who served a total of three and a half years in "both oceans". As Sonarman 1st Class he spent eighteen months in Coco Solo Panama Canal Zone, instructing in anti-submarine warfare. In 1949 he graduated from Kent State University and received his commission as Ensign USN.
At the outset of the Korean war he was ordered to the USS Whitehurst which was being Recommissioned. His recall to active duty was to be "six months to a year". He served as ASW officer of the Whitehurst from 5 September 1950 until September 1951 when he was released from active duty.

Account of Rudy Phillips: 

 Crawford wasn't sure where the original orders were coming from.  I can assure you that Captain Evans was issuing all of the orders and the Executive Officer Hammarlund was carrying them out.  All of the other officers onboard the Whitehurst knew this to be a fact.  In a recent telephone conversation with a fellow Whitehurst Officer,  I was told that Lt. Hammarlund was so shook up by Malcom G. Evans that he developed severe stomach problems.  As I've said before, regular Navy officers were constantly afraid of a bad fitness report and they took a lot of gaff in silence.

One young Ensign was so dissatisfied that he volunteered for the Navy's Underwater Demolition Team.  He was accepted and subsequently died in a training accident.

A Gunners mate who had a wife, three children and a small business,  asked for a "Hardship Discharge" because his wife simply couldn't keep the  business going.   It was in danger of  bankruptcy.  Captain Evans wouldn't even consider the request.  The man was desperately sought help from a Chaplain who investigated the situation and found that because of the man's family status, he should not have been recalled.  His release was granted.

On the personal side I'd just like to say that the officers used to  meet in the wardroom every now and then to play poker.  Each officer kept a little note pad to keep track of winnings and losses and at the beginning of the next month we would square up accounts.  We used chips in place of cash and a white chip would stand for a nickel, a  blue chip a dime, and a red one a quarter.  If the bet was a quarter the captain would throw in  nickel chip and take out a red chip in change.  No one would say a damned word because "HE" held our fitness reports over our heads.. One fellow officer and I refused to go up to the wardroom to play cards.
It turned out that I got a bad fitness report and was turned down on July 16th 1951for a promotion.   After I was released from the Whitehurst  and approximately 3 or 4 years later, I received a letter from the 4th Naval District in Philadelphia  advising me that they were going to remove me from Naval status because I had not done anything to up grade my bad fitness report that Malcom Evans had turned in on me.  I wrote them and asked for a hearing to plead my case and was granted same.  I went to Philadelphia and showed them the Battle Problem that we performed at Pearl Harbor  where in the ASW crew received 3 excellents as well telling them about how bad conditions were on board the ship.  They reached the decision that  my case was right and that I had been wrongly treated and the Naval Bureau of Personnel sent me a  letter confirming my promotion to Ltjg and they back dated to the day I should have received it.  {July 16th 1951}.

I had volunteered for duty with a "six months to one year" limit.   Captain Evans held me until the latest possible date and then made me miss the ship from Pusan to Sasebo by keeping me aboard until it left.   The yeoman at the departure center made arrangements for me to catch an out going flight.  As I walked out to the jeep who should I run into but Evans and the XO.  The Captain said.  "Enjoy your night in Pusan."   When I said "I'm flying out and will have liberty in Tokyo tonight", he was speechless.

Needless to say I never had any use for Malcom Evans.      Rudy

Note:  Before his death James H. Richards told me about the crew's serious dissatisfaction with the chow at this time, saying that it was greatly improved after the inquiry.  If you'd like to write about that piece of the story I'll be happy to publish it under your name.  Thanks   max crow  E-Mail Site Author

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