USS Whitehurst Logo by: Pat Stephens, Webmaster, DESA

Memories of CDR William E Bryan Operations Officer, 1956

Ship Ahoy!  My name is Ensign William E. Bryan. I reported aboard the ship in Agana, Guam in April 1956 on the day before we sailed for Pearl Harbor, TH. I was assigned the billet of Assistant Communication Officer under Communication Officer LT B. R. Clements. When LT Clements was reassigned as Commanding Officer of a PC (Submarine Chaser), I became Communication Officer, Operations Division Officer, Welfare and Recreation Officer and Postal Officer. I was nicknamed "Wild Bill" by LT Clements and "George" by the Boatswain Mate Chief, whose face I can remember, but whose name I can't remember. 

After a couple of weeks at Baker 1 Dock we went straight to Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard Dry dock for three months of major overhaul (not a fun place to be). In the fall we went through a month of Underway Training by the Fleet Training Group, followed by one month of Destroyer Escort Type Training, followed by miscellaneous operations at sea. As I remember, we had a couple of weeks in port during Christmas 1956. After New Year 1957 we departed Pearl Harbor for Pago Pago, American Samoa and thence to the equator for initiation by King Neptune, and thence to Brisbane, Australia for an official Good Will Visit, as the first U. S. Navy ship to visit since World War II. They treated us very well. We then departed Brisbane in a typhoon heading north fo Manus Island where we refueled, then headed north again between New Guinea and New Britain on a course for Agana, Guam. After refueling again we headed north for the Northern Marianas and Bonin Islands and then back to Guam again. Next we headed west to the island of Yap, the largest and most civilized island of the United Nations Trust Territories that we took back from Japan. We then headed west again to the Western Caroline Islands, Ulithi, Palau and several other islands where we conducted U. N. Trust Territory surveillance. After refueling in Guam again, we were scheduled for a visit in the Philippines, but then diverted for a Search and Rescue mission. Next we departed Guam for Kaioshung, Formosa, now known as Taiwan. After one night there, we got underway for Chinhae, South Korea where we attended the graduation of the South Korean Naval Academy. I photographed the South Korean President (Synghman Rhee) the American Ambassador (Wilson) and the Far Eastern Commander (General Van Fleet). The next day we operated with the Flagship of the South Korean Navy ( a sister ship identical to the Whitehurst), then departed for Sasebo, Japan. After a night there, we sailed through inland rivers and waters to Yokosuka, Japan, remaining there five days. During this period I traveled to Tokyo, Japan for one day, catching the last train back at midnight. Next we got underway for Midway Island (land of the Gooney Birds, a species of Albatross) and thence on to Pearl Harbor at 20 knots. On the day that we tied up at Baker 1, Twentieth Century Fox Director Dick Powell and Production Manager Eric Stacey came aboard where I was standing a Quarterdeck Watch and told us that they were looking for a Buckley Class Destroyer Escort to assist in the filming of a movie. Since our Captain and just about everyone else was ashore, I escorted them to the office of LT Murrell Brite, our Executive Officer and introduced them. After the X. O. called LTCDR Walter Smith, we were well on our way to being in the movies! As I remember, I believe that we had 30 days of R and R, and then began preparations to film "The Enemy Below". When the filming began, it was very  interesting and a lot of fun to help with the filming operations and meet some of the film crew as well as Dick Powell and Robert Mitchum. Fortunately, the summer weather in Hawaii is very mild and the ocean is a beautiful sky blue color. We went out to sea every morning and back to B1 every evening. The most exciting day was the day that the depth charges were rolled. June Allyson who was married to Dick Powell and her personal assistant as well as a reporter from the Honolulu Star Bulletin were aboard for the day. June Allyson was an actress, but had nothing to do with "The Enemy Below". The intentions were to roll one depth charge at a time from each of the depth charge racks. All of the parties giving orders through the Sound Powered Phones had taped down the buttons so that they would have both hands free to do whatever they had to do. The Captain would give the order to fire each charge to the Gunnery Officer on the Bridge, who would in turn give the order to fire to the Petty Officer on the Fantail. Because of the sensitivity of the Sound Powered Phones with the buttons taped, instead of sounding like one command to fire at a time, it sounded like three commands at a time to the person rolling the depth charges, thus all of the charges were rolled by mistake in just a very few seconds. Ordinarily, depth charges would be set for the depth of the submarine, but on this day they were set for 50 feet in order to create a maximum splash effect and with the large number of charges exploding in very close sequence, it caused the rupture of a high pressure steam pipe, which required some time to repair. The last day of filming was the simulated "Abandon Ship" scene, which was filmed moored to Ford Island, the former Naval Air Station for P5M and other amphibious patrol planes. The submarine scenes were filmed in a large concrete tank at Twentieth Century Fox, which I visited upon completion of my active duty. The filming went on for a month or six weeks, after which we performed typical destroyer operations which included: a lot of ASW exercises, Communication exercises, surface to surface and surface to air gunnery exercises, damage control exercises and task unit maneuvering exercises. After 18 months aboard the Whitehurst, I was detached around 30 September with 10 days leave. I flew to San Francisco, and thence to my home at Bozeman, MT, was married on 7 October 1957, three days after the first Sputnik was launched by the U. S. S. R. The Whitehurst departed for Seattle to become a USNR Training Ship. I reported to the U. S. Naval Communications Station, Pearl Harbor for another 18 months, where I served as a Cryptographic Watch Officer and later, as a Communication Watch Officer. At this time I was promoted from ENSIGN to LTJG USNR On approximately 16 March 1959, we departed Honolulu, HI on the SS Mariposa which was the last ship to arrive in the territory of Hawaii and the first ship to depart from the state of Hawaii. Hawaii had become the fiftieth state. The only bad thing was that we missed the statehood celebration. We arrived in San Francisco about three days later and I was released from active duty on 29 March 1959. We traveled around sightseeing and visiting relatives in several states in the West before returning to Bozeman, MT where I entered the farm/ranch business with my father. I joined a Naval Reserve Unit in Billings, MT where I attended one weekend drill per month and participated in annual Active Duty for Training at various Naval Bases and aboard a variety of destroyer type ships located in San Diego, Long Beach, San Francisco, Seattle, Dam Neck, VA, Norfolk, VA and Newport, RI until 1983 when I transferred to the USNR (RET) as a CDR. You have my permission to post this email or a portion of it. You are to be commended for a fantastic website. Thank you all for your dedication to the USS Whitehurst and the U. S. Navy! I hope that I will be able to attend one of the reunions in the future!!!

Bill Bryan


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