USS Whitehurst Logo by: Pat Stephens, Webmaster, DESA
 

USS Whitehurst DE-634 -- Old Waterbucket

Just a few of my memories of Whitehurst:  I went aboard the Whitehurst shortly after it arrived in Pearl Harbor, after being hit in The Battle of Okinawa.  A fellow Minnesotan and I had just completed Radar School at Camp Catalan on Oahu.  Norm Becken and I.  strange as it may seem, were both the sons of Minnesota weekly newspaper publishers.  We went to boot camp in Farragut, Idaho, and then went to Radar School together.

The Whitehurst was tied up at a dock next to a destroyer that had taken a suicide plane in the fantail and was shortened to about the same length as we were.

Working parties were all we knew, from sun-up to sun down and even in the night we were working to repair the ship.  Night time duty would be a fire watch watching some civilian welding so he didn't set fire to the ship.  Usually those watches were really boring but you had to stay awake or you would be in deep trouble.

I remember a 2nd Class signalman, whose last name was Billings who at first I figured was a 1st Class horse's ass.  He was usually in charge of daytime working parties, and when we were chipping paint in the magazines, he would be sitting right by top of the ladder to the magazine reading a comic book, and if you came up to get some fresh air or a drink of water he would give you a dirty look and tell you to get down in the hole.  Later on we became good friends and made liberties together quite often.

I had the top rack in the C division living quarters, and remember one night when one of the civilian welders was welding something right above me, and that fiber glass insulation came down on my back, (I should have gotten a Purple Heart for that, ha ha) but the burns were not severe so the Pharmacist Mate (forgotten his name) smeared some stuff on the burns and said I could keep on working.

In the process of repairing the ship, we got all the latest Radar gear.  The surface search was the SL model. It had a range of about 25 miles.  The air search had a range of about 75 miles, but on a clear night in good conditions, it sometimes had a range of up to 150 miles, although it wasn't very accurate at that range.

The fire control radar (I was assigned that duty at GQ) was on the flying bridge in a little enclosure that was really small, its antenna was on top of that shack, and it had a shoulder harness in which a fire control man was strapped into like the 20mm machine guns only he had an antenna with a sight like the 20 mm guns that he aimed at the incoming planes or ships and that relayed information to me.  And I was controlling the gadget that sent the range and speed information to the 3 inch guns.  It was really pretty crude.

[About 1990, I was able to come back from Pearl Harbor on the USS Cushing, which my son was aboard.  This was called a "Tiger Cruise" by the Navy and they brought about 60 dependents of the men on board the ship from Pearl to San Diego.  I was amazed at the things they could do with the equipment they have now compared with what we had during WWII.  I spent most of that time in the CIC on the way back.  My son was a LTJG and the Gunnery Officer of that ship.  It was really a ball for me.  The only part that was hard for me was to be in the Ward Room.
I told the Captain that I wasn't used to ward room services.

When I reported onboard Whitehurst, most of the crew were on leave at the time and we were all new crew members.  Some of the originals came back.  There was a Chief Boats named Handler I believe.  There was a signalman striker named Lozier, quite a few of the officers returned. The skipper was Jack Horton, I think.  We called him "The Texan".  He was a Lt. Commander, the Ex Lt. Nance.  They both stayed with the ship until we got to the Philippines, where we were to furnish power to the city of Manila.  In one account I read, we did accomplish that.  I don't remember that we ever did.  If I remember right, it didn't work.*  But who am I to question an officer's account of this.  We spent quite a bit of time there and there were lots of liberties, and the last one is the most memorable. It was the night before we were to leave for Guam.  A Sonar Operator, whose last name was Rae, Swede Becken, and I went ashore and managed to get pretty well loaded.
On the way back, Swede passed out Rae and I were carrying him back to the ship, which was tied out on the breakwater in the harbor.  As we were crossing Razall Bridge, an officer driving a jeep, offered to take our buddy to a hospital, as he was bleeding from when we had dropped him on his head.  We couldn't let that happen as he would miss the ship when it left for Guam.  So we talked the officer into giving us a ride to the breakwater and we managed to get him aboard.  We then woke up the pharmacist, who was also slightly loaded, and he gave Swede a shot to kill the pain and put three stitches in his forehead.

Years later we were attending a Newspaper Convention, and I met Swede and his wife there. (He was also a newspaper owner) and I asked his wife if he had ever told her how he had gotten the scar on his forehead, and he hadn't so I had to tell her.

On Guam life was really boooooooooooring.  We used to swim off the ship and looked forward to liberty at the Sea Bees' Beer Garden.  We also had a twelve foot dingy that we kept tied to the ship. I used to row ashore to get the ship's mail in the dingy, mostly to kill time during the day and avoid working parties.  (I was also the ships mailman by that time too.)  I had gotten the ship's mail man job while we were in Manila, as there wasn't much for a radar operator to do while we were
attempting to furnish power.  And that job was much better than just the run of the mill working parties.  Besides that, I got to go ashore every day, and I would take a carton of cigarettes, which I had bought for 50 cents and sold them on the black market for 10-12 dollars, depending on the kind. Chesterfields brought less than Camels or Luckies.

Ens. Robert O'Neal was our Radar Officer and really a good guy.  He had screwed up in some way and was restricted to the ship.  One night he asked me what I was doing, since he knew I didn't go to movies very often.  I told him, "not much. Probably reading in the Radar Shack."  He asked me to row him ashore after the movies started on the bow.  After the movies started and it was dark, I rowed him over to the wooded area below the road that went to the hospital and dropped him off.  He had a date with a nurse who picked him up there.  I was to pick him up again at 1:00 a.m.  That was fine but neither of us  had reckoned with the tide, which had gone out.  By the time he arrived at the pickup point about an hour late, the tide was low and we had to practically carry the boat back to deep water.  It was almost daylight by the time we got back to the ship, wet and scratched up from our efforts.  We never tried that again.

I noticed someone mentioned Jocko the monkey.  I think it was Rae who came back from a liberty in Manila with her.  He had gotten her from someone who said that her mother had been killed and he had found her in the wild.  For a long time we kept her hidden from the officers then later on it became general knowledge that she was aboard. When she first came onboard we had to feed her with a baby bottle, that we bought ashore.  She stood many radar watches with me, getting transferred to the next man's shirt when the watch changed.

I noticed a story someone had told about a guy who went nuts after a drinking bout on Guam.  I have forgotten who had the gangway watch that night, but I remember the Officer of the Deck to go down in the living quarters and subdue him.  The petty officer removed the 45 he was wearing and handed it to a bystander to hold.  The OD said, "Put the gun back on."  The petty officer said, "Sir he is a gunner's mate.  He knows how to use that gun and I don't.  We will handle him without the gun."

And he and I and a couple of other guys took the offender below and got him down between a locker and the bottom bunk and the Doc gave him a shot to put him to sleep for the night.

I have forgotten exactly when it was but we had been on Guam for quite some time.  We took a group of military dependents to Saipan, where their husbands were stationed on what was going to be a permanent base.  From there we went down to the island of Yap.  Yap had never been invaded during the war.  Every time any ships passed by they lobbed a few shells over just to keep the Japs on their toes.  Yap was bypassed.  But now there were a few Army guys stationed there and we brought their mail over to them.  It was a fun trip.  I remember the harbor entrance was very narrow. I have forgotten who was Captain at the time but I think it was a Lt. Commander who was brought onboard to take us back to the states.

Anyway, as we were entering the harbor there was a wind coming from the side that started blowing us into coral that we could see coming very close.  By some quick maneuvers we managed to miss the rocks.

We were allowed to go ashore and do some exploring while we were there.  We went into a barracks that had been lived in by the Japanese airman.  In one of the compartments we found a sea bag that was locked.  One of the guys in my group slit it and got some good souvenirs.  This had been an air base and I took the instructions off the side of an anti-aircraft gun.

It wasn't long after this that we got our orders to proceed to "Uncle Sugar".  Signalman 2/c Billings, Radioman Phifer, and I spent many nights preparing our homeward bound pennant.  There was a sewing machine in after steering where we worked and the pennant was a beauty.  However as we left Apra Harbor and Guam for good, we hit a really rough storm and the homeward bound pennant parted before we could get it down.  By the time we hit Pearl Harbor, it was repaired and it flew proudly as we entered and left Pearl.

We were bring the ship home with a very short crew, probably about 125 so we had extra bunk space. At Pearl there were about 100 marines who had spent the war as guards at the Destroyer Base.  They were needing transportation home so they were put in the empty bunks on the ship for transportation to San Diego.

Leaving Pearl we hit a rough patch just as Chow was piped.  Now those marines had been on land for two or three years and as you all know, a DE isn't the smoothest ride on the sea.  They were the first in the chow line because the rest of us had been busy getting us out of the harbor.  We had refueled, and the fuel tanks just below the mess hall so there was a strong smell of fuel in the air mixed with
the food smells.  I can't remember what was served, but at any rate, the marines, almost to a man, became severely seasick and remained that way the next five days on the way to San Diego.  They didn't get much sympathy from us.  They were all housed in one section and it really stunk of vomit down there.

The trip through the Panama Canal was a pleasure cruise.  We had good liberty there and most of us did some sight seeing and got a little drunk. (More than a little really) Then up the coast to Charleston S.C.  I remember coming into that harbor at night. I had the radar watch and was plotting the ship up the channel.  It was really fun.  From Charleston we went up to New York where we were supposed to furnish power to the Holland Tunnel because John L. Lewis' coal miners were on strike and there was going to be a power shortage.  The strike ended without us having to supply power. 

I left the ship in June of 1946 while she was tied up in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.  Bill Cutten RDM 3/c

*Webmaster's note: In June 2013 I received the following letter from Lew Cowden who was a plank owner and one of the few who stayed on board to lead the 2nd crew which took the ship back to the Pacific late in the war.

Max, I was just reading Mr. Cuttenís Memories and I can tell you he is mistaken. He States that he thinks we did not supply power because the system didnít work.  When we arrived at Manila Harbor, they were waiting for us. We tied up to the breakwater and they immediately hooked us up to the power lines they had prepared. We were supplying power within about 2 hours of tying up.  We supplied power continuously until we untied and got ready to head for Guam.

         At Guam we were unable to start the dredge because the starting amperage was too high and we waited for a few days until another converted power supply DE arrived.  Then both ships were hooked up. With that hook up we got it started. From then until I left the ship in February we ran the dredge taking turns with the other DE. I think we alternated one week on and one week off.  Lew

 

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