Yosemite Ship Saga – Blog Article by Dick Wibom, MM2/c
This article originally appeared on our previous USS Yosemite Association website. It’s now republished for your reading pleasure on our new website.
Dysentery Hits The Yosemite
One of the things you have to constantly be aware of is the strict maintenance schedule for all equipment. In “A” division, we had to clean out the tubes of the evaporators that made our fresh water from seawater. One day, some of the work gang went to noon chow and forgot to wash their hands. A short time later, they all came down with dysentery. These “endless craps” lasted several weeks, and the guys got weaker from losing appetite and weight. I remember Dave Katz lost almost thirty pounds before he got it out of his system. I was lucky that I was on duty for that section in the ice machine, or I could have easily been a victim, also. The only thing they could eat was dry bread and tea. We all washed regularly before eating after that happened.
Toothaches No More -Oh Yah!
One time when we were in Ulithi, a dentist and his crew came aboard. The announcement said anyone who was in need of any dental work should head for sick bay. Well, I had a very small cavity that gave me a little trouble, and against the advice of my shipmates, I went to see if I could get it filled. The dentist quickly had me in his chair, arms lashed to the side rail and a band across my forehead to hold me in place. He looked and said he would like to pull that tooth but didn’t want an infection resulting from bleeding. The next thing I knew, he had a gold-colored chisel and hammer in his hand and said, “This may hurt a little”. WOW! I was almost out of my mind. He cracked it off and smoothed it with dental cement. When I left, I banged my head on the deck and passed out. When I woke up, my toothache was gone.
Sometimes You Can’t Fix ‘Um’
We had a number of Tin Cans alongside that were in dire need of various repairs. I recall one Can came alongside that thought they had a 500-pound bomb down along the keel. We sent them on their way because it would have been too dangerous to work on it. Maybe she had to be scuttled. Another Can came alongside with a live shell stuck in their 5″ gun barrel. I never heard whether anything could be done to help them remove the shell and replace the barrel. We had a “four-stacker” come alongside with marine raiders aboard who had chow with us. The old Can was having a lot of problems because of its age. We gave them provisions and miscellaneous supplies and wished them well. We never heard whatever happened to the raiding party or the “four-stacker”.
USS Canberra CA-70 With Big Problems
The Baltimore class Heavy Cruiser, the USS Canberra came alongside. She was named after an Australian city. Off Formosa, a Jap torpedo bomber came at her and was hit in flight. The plane exploded, but the torpedo had a magnetic head and came up under the ship in the forward engine room and exploded. We sent a working party aboard, and I was chosen as one of the groups. We had to go down through an 8″ gun turret and worm our way into the engine room. I couldn’t believe what I saw, the drive shaft was embedded in the ceiling, and boiler tubes were strewn all over like spaghetti. We listened to the crew members tell us how everyone in the engine room and fire room were killed instantly. We worked in near darkness with battle lamps, building a false floor over the gaping hole. We heard she made it to Pearl. (Links: 1, 2, 3)
Time To Leave Ulithi Atoll
The stay in the atoll lasted about three months. Never had I seen so many ships of all types in the harbor. The rim of the volcano was several miles wide so it gave an excellent shelter. For our work, we received a number of citations. We heard that the Yosemite had tended over 140 ships while we were there and had over 50 ships alongside. Not knowing where we would be, some thought Australia, others the Philippines and some thought close to the Japanese homeland. I thought it was kind of lonely place, not much to do on liberty but beautiful weather and magnificent sunsets. MacArthur had landed in Leyte (Links: 1, 2) so I had a feeling we would end up someplace in the Philippines soon.