Commentary by John Palm and Others on the Weeden Crew

By John Palm

CONLEY–appears in many gatherings in crew’s quarters, always with his guitar, with which he entertained the crew and led song sessions. He is supposed to have written a ballad about the Weeden.

DON FORD– He vied with Goins for courtmartials and brig time.He recently passed away and during the past few years taught at a technical college in Ormond Beach, Fla. He recalls being in the brig aboard ship too, at one time with Rolf Ware, who also resides in Florida. Dominic Mazziotti recalls – We put Donald Ford in the brig, but, as a tough BM 2/c that I thought I was, I was bringing him egg sandwiches. What do you think of that? What I think, Dominic, is that maybe we need to hold some new, 50 year-late Captain’s Masts at the next reunion.
FRECK, HARLAND — from Buffalo, N.Y. Mazziotti remembers vividly that Freck was the only one of the swimmers who jumped over the side at Manus to rescue him who actually reached him. Despite being a strong swimmer, Mazziotti must have been almost gone, and he’s never stopped being grateful to Freck.
HEINBACH, STAN — A quartermaster on the Weeden, Stan was somewhat older than most of our crew; I think he is over 80 now. He was a lively participant at earlier reunions. With a wry sense of humor and a ready tongue (he became a school teacher) he also has a heavy German expression. What he became famous for at these reunions is his graphic, dramatic accounts of our battle action while he was on the bridge, with shells and shrapnel flying all around. Since nothing like this ever happened, we wonder if he is pulling our legs, or did he stand out on the bridge in the tropical sun too long? Or did he mix us up with another ship on which he may have served?

HAL KNIGHT (Dominic Mazziotti) One night the men were having a big crap game going on in the rear Crew’s quarters, all in a huddle, all hollering, saying, I got it, who’s going to take the rest, and one of the guys said, “I got it.” Then a voice from out of nowhere said, “No, you haven’t; I’ve got it,” Guess who? Mr Knight.”We will put the money into the ship’s funds” Ha Ha. (Ed Hansen) Hal was also known as “Father Knight” and I remember his Sunday morning services on the fantail. His influence was felt throughout the crew, and manifested itself on paydays when his and other officers’ unannounced tours through the crew’s quarters found the men on their knees “praying.”
LOMAN, MORGAN, from Nashville, Chief Yeoman Loman was a very quiet master of Navy and BuPers regulations, old by our standards then (not by our standards now ) anticipating retirement. He kept admonishing Gil Oliveira, in ways Gil has never forgotten, to learn from him rapidly, for he was getting himself off this “one-trip ship,” By this he meant we had a very thin skin and only peashooters for armament, so we would go down before we made a second convoy trip. Aren’t we

SMITH, JOHN, of Beattyville, Ky. — John (Sonar)Smith, our sound officer, deserves anything I might say about him, for I and others have urged him in every way (I even made a side trip to visit him) to come to these Reunions, but he’s never made one yet. A pre-med student when the War came, he became an MD afterwards. I found that he and his pharmacist brother, living next door, have a lock on all the medical and drug business in Beattyville. With his strong Kentucky accent, I’ve remembered him for “hahrs and pahs”. He was constantly complaining about finding hairs in our wardroom meals. And he loved pears and wanted them served often. When we finally socked him with the rotating mess treasurer duty, he promised we’d regret it, for he intended for heads to roll until no hair appeared in our dishes; and he said we’d see lots of pears on the menu. I also recall once during his reign, in port, he supervised the production of a culinary masterpiece for a Navy ship – baked Alaska, which I’d never eaten before, and have had only a few times since.

RAY SWEENEY, ship’s barber, from Penn. This good-natured shipmate died even before our 1st Reunion, but his widow, actually twice-widowed, came to our 1st Reunion. In civilian life Ray was a ladies’ hairdresser, and the Navy in it’s profound wisdom decided to make him a ship’s barber. But almost none of the men would let him cut their hair, preferring a civilian barber ashore instead. But he remained a good-spirited shipmate nevertheless.

OURTELLOTE, CHARLES, from N.Y. This is my own candidate for “the most unforgettable character I’ve ever met.” And by this I mean with the most deep and lasting respect. He enlisted twice in World War I at the age of 16. Thrown out the 1st time, he was on his way to boot camp the 2nd time when a buddy he confided in warned him that he’d be pounding rocks in the pen if caught a second time. So he jumped off the train and disappeared, one of thousands of such deserters. Come WW II his son entered the Navy and was serving on a DE. Stirred with patriotism/remorse, he confessed his dereliction, got a dishonorable discharge, and a chance to wipe the slate clean by enlisting; he ended up on the Weeden, old enough to be father to most of our crew, and in a way he was. Very good at his electrician’s trade, he was a steadying factor with our young crew. I enjoyed very much our discussions, and wish I’d kept in touch with him after the war. I made strenuous efforts to locate him, and eventually found his son and learned, as expected, he was dead. Charles had a wry sense of humor. How well I recall when he came up to me in Boston with a straight face and a request for a week’s leave to remarry his wife and go on a honeymoon. I gave him a look, for I knew they’d been married over 20 years and I’d met her. It seems he was having paperwork problems getting his wife paid by the Navy, probably because his real name sounded more fake than the two fake ones he’d enlisted under in WWI. His solution finally was to remarry his wife of 20 plus years. Though he was a very good man — No better compliment in the Navy — everything possible — like that black cloud character on “li’l A bner” — seemed to happen to Tourtellote. One day he jumped down to the deck from his upper tier bunk, only to find someone had left a manhole cover open, and he fell part way through, fortunately not seriously injured. One day, sticking his head out of a hatch topside, to get some fresh air — as engineers are wont to do — his head came out just as the hose we were using to refuel parted, spraying him with hot, sticky, mucky oil. No better accolade: Charles Torrtellote was a good man. We did manage once in the Pacific to send him over in a whaleboat to visit his son on another DE.
TROY, ROBERT from NYC. He loved dogs, and when we left for the Pacific persuaded us, over Ed Legum’s fervent objections, to take along a stray dog as our mascot. Troy was caring and patient, and he had to be, for whenever Ed Legum found one of the dog’s deposits on deck, he would have the word passed over the ship’s loudspeakers, “Troy, lay aft to the fantail and clean up” or whatever the location was. I don’t recall the eventual fate of the Weeden dog.

TURNER, CHARLES — Our commissioning 1st Lieutenant, till we left for the Pacific. Our first memorable story about Charles – I’m counting on his good nature not to take offense –was before commissioning, when he deposited a huge pile of unidentified keys to Weeden spaces on the Captain’s desk, and in despair offered to resign, or commit ceremonial hari-kari, or somesuch, because the whole key business had gotten completely out of hand. Somehow, he was persuaded that we could still manage, and we did. Besides, it didn’t turn out to accomplish anything by locking a space, as proved by the theft of the beer from padlocked compartments aboard. A special phobia of Charles’s was socks. We officers got our laundry back from the ship’s laundry by name, except for socks, which came in one big pile, to be selected out. Charles was always avid to get to the pile first and be sure he got his share before anyone else. Charles has been located, and visited by Max Houchins. a rare case of a man living in the same home as in 1942, when he entered the Navy. But, considering how seasick he always got, with a bucket usually handy in rough weather, amazingly he stayed in the Navy longer than any of us, retiring as a Commander and then teaching. Health has prevented him from attending any reunions.
LAWSON, CLARENCE, QM 1C, from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Because we had to work navigation together, star sights, charts, etc., I was probably closer to Lawson than to any other enlisted man aboard. He was good and he was interesting, and I made a special effort to try to locate him, but unfortunately too late as I recently succeeded in locating his widow in California. Because I had lived a sheltered life, and he had not, I learned much about life from him. For example, he made his living for awhile driving a truck of moonshine whiskey into Oklahoma, because this was the hypocritical state wherein the people always “staggered down to the polls to vote dry.” Lawson was a good man; I’m not sure I told him so.

CHARLES TILLINGHAST from Rhode Island. This story is at the Captain’s expense. I hope he won’t mind the telling after all these years. To understand it, you need to refer to our wardroom seating picture to the right. The Captain sat at the head of the table, then each of us right and left down the sides in order of rank. We had three seating plans depending on the state of the weather and sea. If calm, we just sat at the table in our chairs like ordinary folks. If too rough to sit at the table, we ate sandwiches on request out of our galley. On the day of this story, we were seated in an inbetween state, the ship rolling moderately. For this situation, receptacles for the chair legs were welded into the deck, so you could only get in on out by climbing into or out of your chair. Because the DE rolled far more than it pitched, a look at the photo will show you only one person sat “in danger” on this type day, the Captain. And sure enough, we mis-judged, and the Weeden began a deep slow roll, first to port — no one sat at that end of the table — then a deeper roll to starboard, which brought all the dishes, silverware, food, hot soup, everything, down on the Captain and into his lap! With one of his rare expletives he tried hastily to climb out of his chair, but too late. We other officers, with our food in his lap, tried to contain our laughter, for it surely was an Abbott and Costello vaudeville scenario!

Next Reunion – WILMINGTON(PDF)