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.

First Chance To Board The Yosemite
The next time I went to the Tampa shipyard, I decided to go aboard the Yosemite and find out where the ice machines would be located. They gave me a badge and clearance to go anywhere as they thought I was an expert to help keep her going.

It was an endless travel through smoke, fumes, cussing, and sweating, but eventually, I found a ladder in the mess hall that went down to the refrigeration room. Then, there was a big surprise. I had been taught to service Carrier equipment, and the Yosemite had three York compressors. It was like going to Chevy School and then service a Ford. Anyway, I got the specifications and found that they were similar. I would survive, I hoped! After several visits to the ice room, I was approached by a fellow who said he was the lead man. He said if I wanted, I could work for good pay doing the silver soldering of the refrigeration tubing – it would be cash, no records kept. Well, I could see myself in one heap of trouble if I did, so I said, “No way!” There were plenty of things I did on my navy pay that really did help get the ship ready. I assisted with putting in the steaming lockers, Freon tank racks and locks in place. At that time I did not know if I would be alone with all this equipment or if others would be coming aboard who knew more than I did. It did happen that the crew had eight people assigned to the ice machines.

Free Time
As the weeks passed, the ship began to appear more complete. I still reported every day to the Yosemite office and did a usual routine of assignments. More of the crew started to appear and they had a specialist rating of one sort or another. After evening meals, I usually went fishing off the piers of Tampa Bay. For a couple of dollars, I got a Gep rod with a pistol grip and a Pflueger reel. The bait shop sold crabs that you cut up for bait. Most fish caught were Sail Cats, Ocean Perch, Sting rays and Mullets. Sometimes, on weekends, I and some buddies would go to Clearwater and Tarpon Springs. One Sunday morning, I remember seeing so many big Gar fish, four to six feet long that it looked like a log jam. We also rented bikes and rode to the end of the piers, sometimes just to feed the Pelicans.

Bon Voyage USS Serria AD-18
One morning I reported to the Yosemite office and was told to report to the shipyard where I would help the dock crew get the Serria free from her dock moorings. Her decks were full of sailors yelling and cheering their good fortune to go to sea. Several days earlier, several of her crew wanted me to initiate a transfer, but I had already gained a close feel for the Yosemite – so the answer was NO! We followed her along the dock area, and about this time, a British freighter came limping in, her bow almost blown away by a German torpedo. Along the docks were other merchant men in for repairs to damaged sections to their ships caused by enemy torpedoes. One had a hole amidships you could drive a truck through. The German subs were still off Florida in early 1944, and they were a concern.

Mugged In Ybor City, Tampa
After a while, more of the Yosemite crew arrived, and we started going out to local bars and places of entertainment. On one occasion, we had a street car station right near the shipyard that went to downtown Tampa through a portion of Ybor City. We had a great time, I think there were six of us, including a Chief who kind of kept us under his wing. When we started to go back to the ship via the trolley tracks, we discovered there was a curfew, and no trolleys were running. We decided to follow the tracks back to the shipyard. About two blocks in, a group of young thugs blocked the tracks, flashed switchblades, and demanded our money. Quick as a flash, the Chief hit the leader in the head with a wine bottle he carried. We were running for our lives and ran right into a Shore Patrol. They took us back to the shipyard and said that we were lucky to get out alive!

To read the next episode, click on Yosemite Ship Saga – Part 3