|WDE||487||Coast Guard Destroyer Escort|
|DER||387||Destroyer Escort Radar Picket|
A photo of a spindly tree, being held by a crewmember aboard the USS Vance while off the coast of Vietnam during the sixties, brought back memories of an earlier "tree". Christmas on the USS Vance 1943 We were far from home and family, most for the first time, the holidays would soon be here. We had completed our training and shakedown at Bermuda and were at sea heading for Charleston, SC. with the hope that we could at least be ashore if not at home for Christmas. The Atlantic off the East Coast can be stormy and it was just that, a fierce storm was brewing and we were in the middle of it rocking, rolling and listening to that ominous clunking of the ship's hull. (Forward starboard side, did it still do that in 1966?) It was obvious that we would not reach Charleston in time, to lift our spirits it was decided that a Christmas Tree was needed a couple of brooms, some colorful paper and wire made a respectable tree, but what to use for lights? " We have them" someone shouted pointing to the battery operated red lights attached to our life belts and so our tree was complete lights and all. Christmas Eve was celebrated with carols and good wishes, for a few moments, our memories of past celebrations at home with family and friends were with us. Our special Christmas Day Menu was reduced to sandwiches. powdered milk and coffee as it was hang on to something and eat with your free hand as the rock and rolling continued thru-out the day. Port was reached on the afternoon of the 26th and we tied up at the Charleston Navy Yard Liberty was posted and those who could made calls to their loved ones. That was Christmas 1943 as I remember it. ----Ozzie Henry MoMMl/c Addendum: Crewmembers aboard at that time might shed some light on the medical emergency that occurred on one of the DE's accompanying us. Was an attempt made to put our doctor aboard to attend the victim only to have the small boat smashed against the davits? Forward Gun Shield Photos on the USS Vance Web Site reveal storm damage to the forward gun shield, they were taken during Operation Deepfreeze in 1964, I wonder how many times that occurred during the many rough seas that the Vance encountered? I know it happened once before in 1944. Norfolk VA. 20. January 1944 For those that had the time and were in the vicinity of the piers at the Norfolk Navel Station it was always interesting to watch the often hair-raising attempts to safely guide a ship into the dock with the ever-present strong currant. On this particular day the USS Vance garnered more than the usual interest as the ship successfully entered the dock. Along side on the pier waited an ambulance and close observation revealed a crumpled forward gun shield along with many pieces of grit paper, used to provide safe footing pulled loose from the deck. Soon after mooring lines were secure a stretcher and its occupant was taken from the ship and placed in the waiting ambulance and off it went, what had happened? On 7, January 1944 the day following our arrival at Norfork from Charleston, SC we were ordered to join a convoy of tankers to Port Arthur TX. After an uneventful trip port was made on the 12th and liberty granted that evening. Orders were received for departure the next day, a good thing, for many of those on liberty had been involved in what had been described as a near riot between sailors and patrons of a local watering hole. The first few days produced smooth sailing and the ships work was being done and reoccurring training was being held. One call to general quarters was for a sonar contact that proved to be false but it was amazing to see how fast a Navy Tanker could move at flank speed. We were off the Carolina coast one evening when attention was called to the unusual green color of the reflected sunlight upon the clouds described by Lt. S. J. Ellis, as phenomenal. It may be but what went on later that night and following day got our attention, phenomenal or not. It seem to come up rather quickly, the sea became rough and orders were given to secure hatches, safety lines run upon the deck and leeside announced at the change of watch. I stood the eight to twelve watch in one of the engine compartments and was aware of the reduced engine rpm's, a concern of seawater pumps losing prime, the need to hold to something and the ever present "clunking" of the hull. After standing watch the best place to ride out the storm was in my bunk laying catty corner with chain secured between my neck and shoulder and hand wrapped around the frame. At one point during the night a series of rolls took place so violent that some crewmembers were thrown from their bunks, fortunately none were injured. At one point there was a loss of power and was eerily quite for a moment. During a change of watch one seaman exited to the deck an the windward side, was hit by a wave breaking over the starboard side carried across deck between the deckhouse and the aft gun shield and fortunately became tangled in a portside "K" gun preventing him from going overboard. His shipmates rescued him, unfortunately he suffered a fractured leg. Damage control and carpenters mates were called when was discovered that the forward gun shield had been partially ripped from the deck. Seawater was entering a forward compartment from holes in the deck. They quickly applied wood cones, shoring, a mattress or two and submersible pumps were brought to the scene. It was later revealed that on one of the more violent rolls that our ship was at or close to the point where it could just as easily gone on and capsized as to return upright. A figure of 54 degrees comes to mind but I'm not sure of that. Any way that all came to mind when I saw the 1964 picture of the damaged gun shield. That's the way I remember it. Ozzie Henry MoMMl/c - USS Vance --1943-45
These stories were mailed May of 2000 by Ozzie and not posted till Nov 2000- Joe I would like to mention the picture Ozzie mentions of Christmas was actually at Green Cove Springs and was used as the home page picture December 1999.
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