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.

Liberty On the Atoll
We had liberty on one of the islands that formed the rim of this volcanically rimed harbor. There wasn’t much to do except look for shells, starfish, and other sea life. When the tide was out, it left a number of yellow and gray-centered cowry shells that we made into jewelry. One time I ran into some Seabees that had found a coconut crab with its vice-like claw that could open a coconut. I remember that during that time, the flies were a problem; they looked like the house flies at home. There were the ants I described earlier and some big beetles. We made our own Plexiglas-bottomed buckets to see the shells in the water. Once in a while, natives in outrigger canoes would pass by and disappear into the open sea. We had plenty of work to do keeping the ships ready for action with the fleet. We found things to do whenever possible to keep us from going ‘buggy’. We had an endless pinochle game going in the print shop. It was a single deck, penny a point, and the dealer takes no bids. We settled at payday and kept losses down. Crap games were going on after taps in certain areas of the ship as well. We also had our music. I and several others played the harmonica. Frank Kuhorich gave lessons. We also had classical music from several who had bought albums and record players in Pearl. At times we sang to ragtime piano. As I described, we made necklaces and bracelets with sea shells we had collected. Some were pretty good, but they had a strong odor for some reason.

General Quarters at Movie Time
One night we watched movies with several Tin Cans tied up alongside when there was quite a bit of excitement. The searchlights on the destroyers came on and spotted a plane almost directly overhead. They sounded General Quarters, and we all broke ranks at the movies and went for our assigned General Quarters station. The hatch I had to go through was down, so I had to slide through the manhole center. When I hit the stairs, I flipped in a somersault, landing on my knees with the rest of the crowd right behind me. Limping, I continued on to damage control in the Mess Hall. I never heard whether it was a friendly aircraft or a Jap taking pictures from the Island of Yap.

Where Did Those Lobsters Go?
One time, when we checked the readings on the food cargo hatches, a box was found outside the door. Nobody was around, so we thought it was some leftovers and took it down to the engine room. Opening the box, we found two large lobsters. Using superheated steam, we had a quick lobster dinner and flushed the shells out of the bilge, and hid the box. The mess man had forgotten the key, and while he had returned to get it, we discovered the box. The FLAG was aboard the “Y” and they had been ordered for a special occasion. We said we hadn’t seen a box and knew nothing about it, but we hoped that some mess man didn’t get his butt in a sling.

Midget Subs in the Ulithi Atoll

japanese midget sub

Japanese midget sub

While we were repairing destroyers at Ulithi, the Japs were planning to hit us with midget subs, I don’t know how they got in, but we heard there were three of them. General Quarters sounded and for a time, it was every ship for itself. We zigged, zagged, and had no way to exit the Atoll. When GQ sounded, one of the ice machine crew by the name of T. C. Rowland, Rocky Mt., North Carolina, got his fingers on the edge of the watertight door. We were working on the compressors and saw the two fingertips come into the ice room. No purple heart, just weeks of anguish for Tom. Later, after everything settled down, they found the midget sub on the beach with a dead Jap inside.

To read the next episode, click on Yosemite Ship Saga – Part 9