The Helmsman

1961 Reserve Training

 written by: James R. Lawrence LMC USN Ret


Jim Lawrence


 Over 40 years ago, in 1961, I was a young YN3 (Regular Navy) and had recently reported aboard the WHITEHURST in Seattle, WA.  The WHITEHURST was then a Group II Reserve Training Ship at Pier 91, Naval Supply Depot, Seattle.  There were about 35 of us Regular Navy sailors stationed aboard as a nucleus crew (we loved it as we had plenty of locker space and plenty of chow, etc).  On the third weekend of each month the reserve crew came aboard (with their own CO, XO, etc) and we would take them out to sea on Saturday and Sunday for their drill weekend.  We would usually pull into Anacortes or Bellingham, WA for Saturday night liberty, and us Regular Navy sailors would make sure that the Reservists stood the in-port watches so we could go ashore on liberty.

On one of these drill weekends, as we were steaming through the Straits of Juan de Fuca, I was the 1JV phone talker on the flying bridge, and a reserve BM3 was on the helm in the pilothouse.  As we were proceeding through the straits, the Reserve Officer-of the-Deck, upon taking a look astern, observed a marked zig-zag wake, and this caused him some concern because he had ordered only one course change during that time.

He immediately shouted down, through the voice tube, to the pilothouse.. "Helmsman, what the hell are you steering?", and the Reserve BM3 on the helm answered, "The USS Whitehurst DE 634 sir!"

Note:  The Whitehurst was sunk as a target ship in the Pacific in 1971 by the Submarine USS Trigger while testing the newly developed Mark 48 torpedo.
The Last Hours of Whitehurst

                               Originally published in the November/December issue of DESA News.


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