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.

Last Visit With the USS Swordfish
On one of my liberties, I recall walking through the sub pens where many of our submarines were “hanging out their wash”, the flags of Jap ships they had sunk. As I passed a big olive green sub, I heard someone holler out, “Swede!” As I turned around, there was a shipmate from old Rockford Central High School where we were both on the track team. His name was McGee, and he ran the mile, and I ran the hurdles. Anyway, he invited me aboard, and it was an experience going inside such crowded quarters. It seemed that most of the crew was on liberty at that time so we essentially had the run of the ship. After being there for over an hour, we parted company. Months later, I learned the Swordfish S-12 was lost off Formosa due to enemy action. We would end up losing 52 subs with 3503 crew in the Pacific.

Almost Over Nuuanu Pali
Nuuanu PaliWhile we were in Pearl City, we had a vintage jeep at our disposal. One day a problem that required a part that we did not have in stock. We knew one could be obtained at the Marine Air Base on the other side of the island. The Chief picked three of us to drive over there and pick it up. As usually happens, there was a rain shower in the mountains, and the narrow road got slick. We drove a lot faster than we should have on those narrow roads, and when we hit a hairpin turn, the jeep skidded to the shoulder. Luckily we stopped at the very edge of Nuuanu Pali, the 1,200-foot sheer cliff and mountain pass, which is the principal route between Honolulu and E Oahu. We had to catch our breath! We eventually got to the airbase and picked up the part we needed, and returned a lot more carefully than on the trip over. Of course, we reported the trip as being uneventful.

Admiral Chester Nimitz and the Fuller USO
Right outside Pearl City was a big mansion that housed the local USO. It had a porch that went all the way around it, and it was called ‘Fuller USO’. Sometimes that’s where we would spend our entire liberty. They had a few girls working there, and they would dance with the most aggressive guys. Most of us would take a dip in the small 18 x 24 pool. It was 6′ foot deep and you really couldn’t do anything fancy. We did play a lot of ping pong and, once in a while, some horseshoes. I believe it was May when the USO was officially dedicated. Admiral Nimitz came over to say a few words. As he was leaving, I slipped out and managed to slide between his Shore Patrol escorts and ask if he would please autograph the program. He asked what ship I was on and when I said, “USS Yosemite, Sir”, he signed my program and said “Good Ship, Sailor!” I still can’t believe I got his autograph.

Final Thoughts On Hawaii
The six months that we worked on destroyers in Pearl City went far too fast. I remember celebrating the holidays with those special meals on the Yosemite. We had more than our share of good cooks and bakers. It really seemed strange to go swimming on Christmas day while the folks at home were struggling with the long winter.

I bought a copy of the Ships and Aircraft of the US Fleet – second war edition and noticed the number of ships lost in the Western Pacific. I also got the local paper from Rockford, Illinois, which was passed around until it was almost worn out. I got a few souvenirs to send home; one was a huge coconut that I put stamps on and mailed. The local mailman cussed me out because he had that twelve-pound nut in his bag for half the day. We saw Battleship Row, but only from a distance because it was a restricted area.

To read the next episode, click on Yosemite Ship Saga – Part 7