Recently people have been joining me on my Sunday Walks in Downtown Albany. Typically, I walk in Albany when I'm scheduled as a tour guide on the USS Slater. A slide show and a map are detailed at this blog entry. I plan on walking on Memorial Day, Monday, May 27. You can contact me at:

More on the USS SLATER (

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Tour 9/29/2007, USS Burrows (DE-105)

Once again, another beautiful September Day. Great for tours. This Saturday we had our annual recognition award dinner for Slater Volunteers. At the same time the "Michigan Crew" also reported aboard for their semi-annual visit. For many years, the Michigan crew comes aboard twice a year to tackle different restoration projects. They do a great job and their help is greatly appreciated. I was a little surprised! After talking to a few members of the "Michigan crew" I found out that these volunteers weren't from "Michigan", but they were from Pennsylvania. I'm confused! Are there members of the "Michigan Crew" who aren't from Michigan? Or are there two crews, a "Michigan Crew" and a "Pennsylvanian Crew"? I'll talk with Tim Rizzuto (USS Slater Superintendent) for clarification.

The first tour of the day was loaded with a group of very enthusiastic kids. I must have answered a few hundred questions. I really didn't have to give a tour, but just walk to a part of the ship. As soon as I stopped, I was bombarded with a half a dozen questions. On the Bridge, I remember answering questions at three levels (based on the height of the child): one kid pointed to things at the three foot level and lower; another at the three to five foot level; and a third to things over the five foot level. Overall it was fun, and I think the parents were happy to have a Q&A respite.

The last group was a small one. Unfortunately, it started right near 4:00 pm. Since the USS Slater closes it's doors to the public at 5:00 pm, I had to keep to a strict timetable and talk fast. With a small group, that's able to navigate the ladders reasonably well, it's possible to do a complete tour in the time. I think I finished in exactly one hour.

At the start of almost every tour I try to ask if anyone is a navy vet, or if they knew anyone who was. One person noted that his dad served on the USS Burrows (DE-105). The interesting thing about the Burrows, is that it's a sister-ship (basically the same make and model) of the USS Slater. Not only was the Burrows a sister ship, but both ship's war record were very similar. Destroyer Escorts were organized into teams called Escort Divisions (in official Navy terminology - a cortdiv). DEs in the same cortdiv usually sailed in the same convoys and basically performed similar functions. The USS Slater and the USS Burrows were both members of cortdiv 35. More DE-105 photos here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Tour 9/22/2007, 40mm Bofors

Another beautiful fall day, not too hot and not too cold, and perfectly clear. Tour-wise it was pretty slow day. We had plenty of guides and only a few visitors. I only gave one tour to a small group. From a visitor's perspective a small group is great. You get to go at your own pace and get details on any topic you want. After six years I can answer a lot of questions, but I still have a lot to learn.

During the tour, while sitting on a 40mm gun mount (trainer position), a young visitor pointed to an instrument dial and asked what it was for? I was stumped (while on active duty I worked on 5" mounts and had limited exposure to 40mm mounts). I asked a few other Slater volunteers, and they appeared to be stumped as well. Finally, Eric Rivet (Education Coordinator) told me it was used to measure the deviation that occasionally occurred between the Mark 51 Fire Control Director and the 40mm Gun mount.

Each 40mm could be aimed automatically by a Mark 51 Fire Control Director. The pointer (the sailor who sat on the left side of the mount and moved the gun up and down) and the trainer (the sailor who sat on the right side of the mount and moved the gun right and left) would raise a control lever to the remote position and the 40mm mount would track automatically based on input from the fire control director. It appears that sometimes the 40 mm mount would lag from the intended aiming position that was transmitted to the mount by the Mark 51 Fire Control System. In extreme cases the mount could drop the signal altogether. The gauge in question would measure the lag and would be monitored by the pointer and trainer for obvious safety reasons.


Wikipedia 40mm Bofors
USS Slater 40mm Page
DE 220, Destroyer Escort Fire Control
Navy Weapons - Mark 51 FCS
Navy Weapons 40mm Bofors
Swedish web site regarding Bofors
Photo Site - source of 40mm Gage Picture

On the next week, 9/27 I managed to do a little more research. The proper name for the instrument is a 40mm lag meter. This text is from the WWII-era 40mm technical manual (page 161):

"The lag meter is primarily a milliammeter which operates in automatic control to indicate if the gun is in or out of synchronism with the director (i.e., the error). The pointer and trainer both have lag meter units (as shown on figure 130). Only early mods have the rectifier circuit.

If the pointer's meter reads to the left of zero, it indicates that the gun is elevated higher than the gun order. Conversely, if the meter reads to the right of zero it indicated gun elevation is less than gun order. When the gun position corresponds exactly with gun order, the pointer of the lag meter is stationary at the zero mark. The meter pointer may be adjusted for zero position by inserting a screw driver through an access hole in the case and turning the zero adjuster screw. ......."

This weekend I also had an opportunity to talk with John - Mechanic For Hire, the other USS Slater Blogger. It seems like his next project may be a cut away depth charge detailing the firing and safety mechanisms. This would be a great prop and it would add a new dimension to the tours. I'm looking forward to this addition.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Tour 9/15/2007, USS Hurst (DE-250)

It was a beautiful sunny day, mid 70s. But, it rained in the morning so attendance was on the light side. During the last tour of the day, the daughter of a WWII veteran (who served on the USS Hurst, DE-250) brought her dad aboard for a visit. After 62 years (1945-2007), some Destroyer Escort (DE) vets have a little trouble with the Slater's steep ladders, so the tour takes a little longer. The other members of the tour didn't mind since we were treated to a few sea stories.

One sea story of interest didn't involve Destroyer Escorts but Nazi spies who landed on a Maine beach in 1944: ".....It was 20 degrees and snowing late in November 1944 near the resort town of Bar Harbor, Maine, some 4,000 miles from Nazi Germany. Two men made their way along the beach, slipping through snow and tripping over exposed tree roots. Erich Gimpel and William Colepaugh would have looked like any other men but for the heavy suitcases they lugged and their light topcoats, which were no match for the northeastern winter. As they moved toward the cover of the thick coastal woods, two other men stood by, dressed in Nazi navy uniforms...." click here for more info on nazi spies.

After the tour I did a little checking to see what Internet Resources were available for the USS Hurst (DE-250). One of the other Hurst crew members, Frank Jones, recorded a very detailed oral history account. The full account is available in the Library of Congress Veteran History Project (Link: Frank Jones Account). After VE Day (Victory in Europe), but before VJ Day (Victory in Japan) the Hurst was escorting the USS George Washington. Here's an excerpt: ".....Following the London Liberty we went back to our ship. Our Atlantic Fleet assignment was a flotilla of six DEs (Destroyer Escorts). We were advised that we were to be split into pairs enroute back to New York, and eventual reassignment to the 7th fleet in the Pacific. In our dispatch we were assigned to escort a passenger ship which was like a former cruise ship, the USS George Washington, which was a hospital ship. The DE-249 (our sister ship), and our ship DE-250, escorted her and the military wounded back to New York without any encounter...." .

Sometimes Internet Accounts cross reference one another. My web search came across another account of the Hurst's return trip from Liverpool to New York by Don Hyerdall (a B-17 Bombardier and Repatriated POW): ".....We had to be in Liverpool in the morning, when 6 destroyer escorts were leaving at six in the morning. I said, "Don, I'll bet a bunch of these guys are going to back out - I'm going with you! Let's have a drink, and leave a note downstairs that we want to be awakened at about one o'clock, because the train leaves at two for Liverpool. We'll get over to the station (which wasn't far), and we'll hop on the train and go!" At one o'clock, they woke us up, we got dressed, went down to the station, got the train, and arrived in Liverpool about 5:15. We started walking about a mile and a half to the quay. We saw these beautiful, U.S. Coast Guard destroyer escorts. It was their first time over to England. We looked up and saw a guy, "Can you take us to the States?" "Sure! Come on up!" (USS Hurst, DE 250) Now, I have no orders, and neither did Don, so Don and I and a couple of other guys, and Lt. Col. Griswold (of the OSS [now CIA]- in charge of putting airfields in France after we liberated them - P-51s, B-26s and all that) boarded the boat, and we had a ball. We ate the best food! (We were escorting the USS George Washington on the way back.) To make a long story short, after I got back, I received a bill from the USS Hurst (DE 250) for $9 for 6 days of food. So, we're starting to approach Pier 6 in the Brooklyn Naval Yards, and the colonel had a little bit of power with the commander. "Say, is there any chance of you dropping me off here in Prospect Park, in Brooklyn? I have to make a phone call to Washington, DC." The commander thought it no problem to drop a little dinghy. I went with him. They dropped us off in Prospect Park - we could have been spies, for God's sakes - and we head to downtown New York....."

After escorting the USS George Washington, the USS Hurst was transferred to the Pacific Fleet. Regarding the USS Hurst in the Pacific, Frank Jones notes "...our mission from there was to search the islands of the South Pacific, 76 to be exact. .....". In November, 1945 (three months after VJ Day) the USS Hurst was given R&R in Tahiti.

Eventually, the USS Hurst (DE-250) was transferred to the Mexican Navy as the ARM Manuel Azueta (D-111). As far as I can tell the ship is still on active duty. The picture above was taken several years ago in Cozumel (More photos are available). Just my opinion, but Cozumel would be a great place to home port a museum ship.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Tour 9/4/2007: Desa, Engine Room

The Tuesday the Slater was host to the national convention of the Destroyer Escort Sailor Association (DESA). Instead of giving tours, my primary duty on this occasion was to show videos concerning Slater Restoration and Educational Efforts. I also escorted Desa members to areas of the ship which are not routinely open to the public. The USS Slater web site offers a virtual tour of these areas, including: the Flying Bridge; the Aft Motor Room (B-4); and the Aft Engine Room (B-3).

I enjoyed the tour of the Engine Room and the Motor room. In Navy slang sailors who work topside are referred to deck apes or (in my case) cannon cockers. Sailors who work in engine rooms are referred to as snipes. While on active duty it was only on rare occasions that a cannon cocker would venture into the work of snipes. Furthermore, the ships that I served on were driven by geared steam turbines, instead of the diesel-electric combination used on the USS Slater. So, I welcomed the rare opportunity to learn about a the Slater's Engine/Motor Rooms.

An often asked question is if the USS Slater's engines work? The short answer is that two have been restored to working order. The Slater has eight diesel engines: four used for main propulsion and four used to generate electric power. Currently two of the diesels which generate electric power have been restored. Ultimately, the main propulsion diesels may be restored for cosmetic purposes only. It's very doubtful that they can be restored to operational usage because of cost and environmental concerns. If the USS Slater is going to move under it's own power some of the engineering spaces will probably have to be retrofited with a modern power plant.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

USS Forster (DE-334) in Vietnam

During a lull between tours, I was discussing Destroyer Escorts and Vietnam with another docent. DE's in Vietnam was the topic of last weeks blog post. He related the story of the USS Forster (DE-334) that was transferred to the Republic of Vietnam's Navy (South) and, was eventually captured and integrated into the Vietnam People's Navy (North). Another Destroyer Escort, the USS Camp (DE-251) also served in the South Vietnamese Navy but managed to sail to the Philippines in 1975. It appears that both of these DEs are no longer on active duty.

One side story of interest, in 1974 the Forster (as the RVNS Tran Khanh DU, HQ-04) played a major role during the Paracel Island Naval engagement with China. From the account: “.......The battle lasted from 10:25 AM to 11:00 AM. When HQ10 fired on the island, HQ4, HQ5, and HQ16 together fired at the enemy ships. HQ4, with two 6,000-horsepower engines, ran at full speed and fired cannons, heavy machine guns non-stop. Most of the cannons on board were rapidly firing capable. HQ4 was about 1,600 yards from the nearest enemy ship. Therefore, most of its shots hit the enemy ship. The first 5 or 6 minutes of the battle would decide the fate of engaging ships. Enemy ships sank, our ship sank. Two enemy ships and our HQ10 were put out of action during this short period. ......”

Monday, September 3, 2007

Tour 9/1/2006, Mogadishu

This Saturday I had a diverse group of visitors with ages ranging from mid-2 to perhaps 50+. With a wide range of ages, the compromises necessary can lead to a long tour that makes everyone unhappy. Topics of interest for the older groups are often considered boring for younger members (who require hands-on interaction). Safety is always paramount for a tour guide, but irrelevant for a hyperactive two year old who's interested in exploring the world. Luckily I was blessed with a pair of very attentive parents. Every time I was distracted by a darting 30” blur a young parent was there putting my concerns at ease. Just my opinion, but I think everyone had a good visit.

After the tour I was asked if I heard of the USS Rich. The visitor noted that she had grown up in Mogadishu, Somalia (during a more peaceful time) and remembered a visit of the USS Rich in the mid-1960s. I was familiar with a Destroyer Escort named the USS Rich (DE-695), but it wasn't the same ship as the one that visited Mogadishu. The USS Rich, DE-695 was sunk on June 6, 1944 off of Utah Beach. The Official Loss of Ship Report is available at the USS Rich (DE-695) web site.

After the loss of the USS Rich (DE-695) the Navy built a new Destroyer named USS Rich. The second USS Rich (DD-820) was commissioned in 1946. The 2nd USS Rich did visit Mogadishu in February, 1966. Sometime. after a deployment, a ship would publish a cruise book that contains highlights and ports of call. The USS Rich published one following the 1966 cruise to the Red Sea, and it's available on-line. Several pages relate to the Mogadishu visit. The Rich's Captain (L.K. Fenlon, Jr) also sent a letter (Familygram) to the USS Rich's families about the deployment. Here are links to these references to the Mogadiscio visit (the Italian spelling of Mogadishu) on the USS Rich (DD-820) website:

Cruise Book Page 54
Cruise Book Page 69
Captain Fenlon's Familygram

It appears that the USS Rich has a very active reunion group and a great web site. It's my guess that the web master would be interested in hearing reflections about the USS Rich's visit from a Mogadishu resident (