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.

Time Was Near For Commissioning
Soon, additional crew reported for duty. Repair personnel came in from the Philadelphia Navy yard, but most of the crew came in from Newport, Rhode Island. I was relieved of my duties in the Yosemite office and spent more time aboard the ship checking out the refrigeration units. We had an older man with us in his thirty’s we called “Pappy” Wier. One day, as we were busily insulating the wall of our food storage locker, Pappy decided to take a nap inside one of these fiberglass containers. It looked and felt like cotton. A while later, when he crawled out, his skin started itching like crazy, even a shower wouldn’t help. He had millions of little glass spears in his body – After a week or so, nature took over, and he got relief.

The Launching Of The USS Yosemite
launch of the USS YosemiteThe keel of the Yosemite was laid on January 19, 1942, which seems like a long time ago. The ship was starting to look sharp. Painters put on our North Atlantic camouflage in grey, blue, black, and white. The launching was May 16, 1943. I recall the day we were commissioned on March 26, 1944. We left our barracks early in the morning with all of our gear. Going up the gangplank and saluting the colors was an exciting time. We all got dressed in whites and waited at our assigned division locations. Captain George C. Towner was our first captain, and Lieutenant Commander Wallace H. Gregg was our Executive Officer. Regular ship routine was then initiated, and we seemed ready to go to sea.

The ship was docked at Clyde-Mallory Dock, and we didn’t go very far the first few days. Supplies and especially food for the crew had to be loaded. The crew in the ice room had plenty to do supervising the loading inside the lockers. As the salami, baloney and cheese came aboard, a strange thing happened. Our ice storage locker soon had a full complement of food for late-night snacks. Later, we got so tired of the baloney and cheese, we gave the locker a good cleaning and sent the loot to deep-seven when we were at sea. After about two weeks, we left Tampa with a destroyer escort on our way to Hampton Rhodes and the safety of Chesapeake Bay. We cruised there for a while and even saw Annapolis. Finally, we sailed into Norfolk Navy Yard for a couple of days.

First General Quarters
After we were out at sea for a while with our destroyer escort, the USS Winslow, we had a little excitement. It was almost dark when the destroyer sonar picked up something. I remember the gonging of the General Quarters alarm and someone yelling that it was not a drill. It was almost bedlam in the lower deck. I had come out of the ice machines to take readings in the locker when the alarm went off. One seaman ran up a ladder with a battle lamp fully lit until he was tackled to keep the light from showing. It was confusion, the lights dimmed and the ship started some fast maneuvers. One man who was working on the big crane couldn’t get down but reported seeing the wake of a torpedo off our bow. Radio Berlin later said a sub sank the USS Yosemite.

Luckily nothing really happened to the Yosemite. Some crewmen later reported seeing depth charges dropped close to us during the prior night’s encounter. All hands not on watch had to attend briefings at their battle stations. My briefing was a damage control meeting in the mess hall right above the ice machines. I got a pail to sit on because I wasn’t on watch. As the meeting went on and on and on, I got tired. Well, I fell asleep. When I awoke, I was alone, sitting on my pail; everybody else had left. I tried to get down the ladder to the ice machines before anyone noticed but I did get the He-Haws from some of the cooks and the mess crew. Well, at least if I wasn’t tied to securing the ice machines, I was part of the repair group located in the mess hall.

To read the next episode, click on Yosemite Ship Saga – Part 4