Logo by: Pat Stephens, Webmaster, DESA
Near Misses on the Whitehurst
Jake was RT 2/c at time of this story but is now LCDR-CEC-USNR (Ret). He served for many years on the Illinois Pollution Control Board, joining the board at its inception in 1970. He has also appeared in sixteen movies, including "Miracle on 34th Street" and "Home Alone ". He and his wife Dorothy live in Oak Park, IL.
When I reflect upon my eight or so months on the Whitehurst (November 1945 to July 1946) I can recall some instances that could have been tragic but were not. Thank You God.
Near Miss #1
We were moored in Apra Harbor, Guam, supplying power to the Electric Dredge which was clearing the harbor and channel of the ravages of WWII. The war ended with Japan's formal surrender on September 2nd, 1945. Sometime after the hostilities were over, probably in early 1946, Whitehurst was lying moored, a group of us were on the fantail when we heard a bullet go whizzing by, over our heads thank goodness. It was probably from a Japanese soldier who didn't know the war was over. Years later a soldier on Guam surrendered and was sent back to Japan. He returned home a hero after some twenty years. I wonder if he fired that shot at us.
web site author's note: WT 2/c Doug Smith has written of a similar incident, same place, about same time. Click on the link to read Doug's story. Bullets
Near Miss #2
Whitehurst was often sent on short voyages. On one such trip the weather was bad and the seas were very rough. A depth charge broke loose on the fantail. It rolled back and forth striking the cable railings. I wondered if it might explode. If it had it would have blown off our stern and probably the screws (propellers) that drove the ship. A brave soul ventured aft and waited until the depth charge rolled toward him. As the heavy steel jacketed bomb approached, he calmly stretched the lower lifeline cable high enough to let the depth charge roll on over the side. If it had been armed and set, it may have gone off and sank us all.
Near Miss #3
After coming aboard Whitehurst as the Senior Radio Technician, I decided to test all the Radio and Radar vacuum tubes and clean the porcelain condenser terminals of the radar transmitters. We had been taught to use a grounded probe to discharge the electric condensers after shutdown because they could retain and deliver a 25.000 volt jolt for long periods of time.
I didn't perform the discharge procedure. When I reached into the radar set with my right hand (I am left handed) a spark, four or more inches long, jumped from my right elbow to the vertical post holding the radar operator's seat. Fortunately the impulse didn't pass through my heart as it would have, had I used my left hand. It could have been a fatal shock. I closed up the radar set and quit for the day.
Near Miss #4
The Whitehurst's radio call name was "Water Bucket" but we affectionately called her "Rust Bucket". Because the ship had a Steam Turbine Drive system and special Power Reels, the ship could serve as a floating power station. We were supplying power to the electric dredge which was deepening the port while moored in Apra Harbor, Guam. It was November, 1945 or perhaps a bit later. I had gone ashore in the morning, either on liberty or to pick up spare parts for the radios or radar gear. When I returned to the ship a young fireman came running up the ladder from the boiler room to the main deck yelling, "She gonna blow! There's no water in the glass! i.e. the sight gauge that Boiler Tenders use to indicate how much water is in the boilers. A chief on the liberty boat, who was probably a boiler tender, leaped to the deck and dove down the ladder. I don't know what he did, but we didn't blow up.
Whitehurst didn't sink in peacetime by our own hand. How close we came, I'll never know.
See Doug Smith's interpretation of this event She's Gonna Blow
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