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 (

Friday, September 11, 2009

09/07/2009 - Labor Day

Weather was great and the number of visitors was fairly substantial. I started out slow, the 1st tour was given to a single visitor who was waiting to catch a bus. The next group was largely made up of Navy Vets and their families. The final group was the largest of all, perhaps 15 visitors. The group included a teacher who was planning on taking her class to the Slater. I think this is fantastic and I'm sorry I didn't spend more time discussing her plans. While the USS Slater is a great destination for a Social Studies/History Class, I think we need to do more for Math and Science.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

8/16/2009 - Hot! Hot! Hot!

It looks like summer is finally here. It was pretty hot today. Surprisingly, it wasn't unbearable below decks. The heat did have an affect on the number of visitors. I had gave two tours, with a total of fourteen visitors. One advantage - with the small groups you're able to get everyone comfortably into all the compartments.

During one of the tours I was asked about how long the USS Slater took to be constructed. In WWII terms it actually took the Slater a long while to be constructed (Approximately 11 months). The keel was laid down at the Tampa Shipbuilding Company on March 9, 1943. The Slater was launched in February 13, 1944, and approximately three months later it was on Active duty. After 3 1/2 years of service the Slater was decommissioned. On March 1, 1950 the USS Slater was transferred to the Greek Navy. After 44 years of Service it became a museum ship. The ship history is available at

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

8/9/2009 - Vets and their famlies

On some days we seem to have visitors who are vaguely aware of the Battle of the Atlantic and the Navy's role during WWII. This wasn't one of those days! We had scores of visitors who were navy vets and their families. They gave me plenty of material to write about in today's blog entry. The ships mentioned included: the USS Yorktown (CV-5); the USS Tinsman (DE-589); the USS Salt Lake City (CA-25); the USS Bennion (DD-662); the USS Maloy (EDE-791); and the USS Long Beach (CGN-9). And I know there's a few I missed (I just don't take good notes while I'm conduction a tour).

At the onset we were well staffed. I think we had seven guides to start with. We thought we would be luckily to give one tour apiece. A pleasant surprise - we were all pretty busy. I managed to give three tours, probably about 30 visitors in total. The weather was great for touring the Slater. It was relatively cool, and overcast but no rain. This kept us dry above decks, and the lack of sun kept it comfortable below decks.

A friend from one of my work places (I work at several places) asked about a tour, and I recommended Sunday Morning at 10:00. On Sunday we always seem to start slow. The biggest groups arrive right after Sunday Dinner/Brunch. However, this Sunday was an exception. We were busy right from the start. In the first group I had a WWII vet who served on the USS Tinsman (DE-589), and another family who's father was a WWII DE vet. I love having WWII Vets in a group because their reflections add an interesting dimension to the tour.

When I have children in a group I try to play a little game revolving around Naval/Nautical Terms. It helps keep them engaged. I'll ask a question like "What are you standing on?" The typical answer would be a "Floor!" I would respond "NO", in Navy terms that would be wrong - "It's a Deck". In the 2nd tour group I had a Navy Vet who joined in (with an interesting twist). He watched my language intently and was sure to correct me whenever I failed to use the proper Navy Term. It was great fun and I think the kids liked seeing me on the defensive.

The last group was a small one that arrived about 45 minutes before the Closing (4:00 PM). Since it was a small group we could move quickly, and I could tailor the tour to their interests. I managed to cover all the highlights. Near the end I was happy to learn that I was giving an encore presentation. They had visited a year before and I was their guide. Next time we'll have to make sure that they have another guide to give them a little different presentation.

In my first tour group there was a WWII vet who served as a fireman on the USS Tinsman (DE-589). I couldn't find many photos of the Tinsman on the Navsource Online: Destroyer Escort Photo Archive. The ship on the right is the USS Tinsman (DE-589). It is under construction with the USS Peiffer (DE-588) at the Bethlehem-Higham Shipyard.

During the tour we recounted many details concerning the USS Tinsman. The ship was named after
Sea 2c Carl Welby Tinsman who was killed on the USS Eberle (DD-430). Tinsman was a member of a boarding party on a German Blockade runner the Karin. The full account is detailed in this book concerning Marylander's Service in WWII.

One of the last reunions that the USS Tinsman had was a memorial for it's Captain, Lt. Commander William G. Grote, USNR. Captain Grote passed away in November, 2006 (obit.).

Following WWII the Tinsman rode out a typhoon. A typhoon, by itself is very dangerous. The one that the Tinsman had an added danger. While ridding out the typhoon one of the ships that the Tinsman was escorting was damaged by a mine. During that storm the Tinsman spotted an destroyed six other mines. The account was detailed under the Wikipedia entry for the USS Beckham (APA-133).

Shinyo Boat

During a tour, when I'm at the 20mm gun mounts, I usually discuss the Kamikaze threat to Destroyer Escorts. I've written a few blog entries about Kamikazes before.

During January 1945, in the Philippines, the USS Tinsman (DE-589) and the USS Lough (DE-586) engaged a groups of suicide motor boats (Called Shinyo Boats). The Tinsman Vet noted that his ship salvaged one of the boats and delivered it to Naval Intelligence. He also noted that the boat was equipped with two depth charges and a Ford Engine.

There's an excellent account of Shinyo Boats on the web site for the 503d Parachute Regimental Combat Team. The 503th encountered Shinyo Boats during the recapture of Corregidor. Unlike the boats that the Tinsman encountered, these boats were equipped with Chevy Engines. It's my guess that the Sinyo boats were manufactured locally, using materials on hand. The Japanese probably gathered up pre-WWII American cars as a source of engines. Sometimes they used Ford Engines and sometimes they used Chevy Engines.

There's a surviving example of a Shinyo boat from Kerama Retto, Okinawa at the PT Boat Museum, at Battleship Cove, Fall River, Massachusetts. This boat had a Crosby Marine Engine (made in Detroit).

A few other Links on Sinyo Boats:
Tosashimizu 132nd Shinyo Special Attack Squadron Monument

Grave markers at sea: Record of sea-based special attack shinyo boats
by Seifu Nikaido

Sunday, August 9, 2009

8/9/2009 - City Data

Had a discussion today about the relative cost of Hawaii relative to other Navy Home ports. When I was on active duty (40 years ago) use to hate Honolulu. While it was a very beautiful place, in those days one of my major concerns was the cost of beer (relative to my meager biweekly salary).

A great site for cost of living comparisons is City Data. Two of the cities discussed were Honolulu, Hawaii and New London, Connecticut. While I was doing research I discovered that the Navy was considering closing New London Base.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

08/2/2009 - Rain, and more Rain

It's been one very wet summer, this Sunday was no exception. The day started dry, with just a little overcast. After an hour it changed to a persistent drizzle. Luckily throughout the day there was never a down pour. One advantage, without the sun beating down on the steel hull, it was relatively comfortable below decks.

I think I'm getting use to giving wet tours. I'm starting to learn how to keep visitors under shelter at each tour stop. For example, I can talk about the all the 01 level stops (the motor whale boat, 20mm, and 40 mm) under the signal bridge overhang. Then I give everyone a quick walk through. This minimizing the time that they're exposed to rain.

We were a little short of guides, so we all kept pretty busy. I gave three tours, with an average of approximately ten visitors in each group.

On the 2nd tour there were several visitors who's father/grandfather served in the Canadian Navy on Corvettes. This gave me a chance to give a plug for the HMCS Sackville, a Canadian Corvette Museum Ship.

The Corvettes were a stop gap measure. These ships were deployed a few years before Destroyer Escorts were available, during the dark days of 1941. Compared to Corvettes, the Destroyer Escorts were faster (21 knots vs. 16 knots); larger in size (306 ft vs. 205 ft,); had bigger crews (215 vs 85); had better radar and sonar; and were much more heavily armed. I would say that sailors who served on these small ships, during the dark days of the Battle of the Atlantic earned every Canadian dollar they were paid.

There are some excellent photos of the HCMS Sackville on the Steel Navy Web Site, and on Macs Navy Links (including pictures of the Sackvilles hull during maintenance when the ship was out of water). Here's the link to the Official HCMS Sackville Website.

During one break I started chatting with a few young ladies on the guest shop deck area. One visitor mentioned that her deceased husband had served on the USS Earle (DD-635/DMS-42). I promised that I would do a little research and post some links. Photos of the USS Earle are available on Navsource. One Earle Shipmate posted a few of his recollections.

A sister ship of the USS Earle was the USS Thompson DMS-38. A major motion picture in the early 1950s was filmed on this ship - The Caine Mutiny.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

07/22/2009 - Raining, One Youth Group

The rain finally caught up to me. Today we had a tour group from a summer school program. Instead of the usual tour route we took the kids through the interior passageway (visible on the USS Slater, Main Deck Plan).

I think the kids enjoyed themselves. Unfortunately, I think it could have been a little better. The visit was characterized by just a little too much and a little too little! The rain was just a little too much. The individual group size was just a little too large (especially when we have to remain below decks because of the rain). And, the time was just a little too short. The group timed their day to leave approximately one hour. A precise one hour tour is a excellent standard for a small group of passive visitors who listen intently to a guide who's talking very fast. It just doesn't work when you have a large group of kids, who are highly enthusiastic, constrained by bad weather, and brimming with half a dozen questions - each!

Monday, July 20, 2009

07/19/2009 - Quiz the Docent

The USS Slater has been real busy this year. Someone in the PR department is doing great job. I need to start an informal poll to see why business has been so good.

Today the weather was fine, a little on the warm side. It was a bright sunny day. This makes it a little tough below decks and in smaller compartments like CIC. It gives you a good incentive to keep the group moving forward.

On Sunday I gave three tours. I
t was non-stop except for a brief interlude, while we showed the seven minute video introduction. At least the groups were good size. I was able to get everyone into all the compartments.

During one tour I was asked a lengthy series of very detailed stories. It seemed like the visitors were playing a new game - "Quiz the DE Docent". I enjoyed the mental exercise.

40mm Manuals

One very tough question, what was the load rating of the recoil springs for the 40 mm guns? I checked all my resources and I don't think I'm going to find a definitive answer. However, I can make an educated guess! Surprisingly, there is Internet access to two excellent sources of info on the 40mm: the Service Manual (40 MM Antiaircraft Gun, OP 820, 1943); and the catalog of Naval Weapons (Gun Mount And Turret Catalog, Ordnance Pamphlet 1112, 1945).

Before writing this post I read these manuals. I can now tell you that the spring in question is a Recoil Spring, part # 298666-1. I can tell you how to assemble/disassemble the spring (described on page 82 of OP820. ) And, I can tell you that to assemble/disassemble the recoil spring, you need a Spring Compressor Tool (298860).

The primary means of slowing down the recoil of the 40 mm gun is not the recoil spring, but the recoil cylinder (Described on Page 86 of OP820). The primary purpose of the recoil spring is to provide counter-recoil. Counter Recoil is the process of returning the gun to it's firing position. If we turn to the catalog of Naval Weapons (Pamphlet 1112) - Section on 40mm twin mounts, we can see that the weight of the oscillating assemblies is 2,300 pounds (for two guns). Since the spring is used to return a 1,150 pound oscillating assembly to a neutral position I would say that this has to be it's minimal load rating. And, I doubt that the tension would be a great deal higher since this would slam the assembly into the stop when the gun returned to it's firing position. So the load rating of the spring is probably in the range of 1,500 to 2,000 pounds.

Sorry I couldn't come up with a definitive answer. That's about as close as I can come!

How many Cooks were on Duty?

A little while ago I wrote a post about the shipboard organization of a Destroyer Escort. Here's a link to the 1944 DE Organization Table (USS Stewart). The table refers to a DE that was slightly smaller than the Slater. It notes that there were 3 cooks assigned (1st class, 2nd class and 3rd class). They were supplemented by 8 mess cooks. During the tour I believe that I guessed that there would be 2 cooks supplemented by 5 or 6 mess cooks (while the ship was at sea). Based on the shipboard organization link, I think that this guess was basically correct.

How many loaves of bread were baked each day?

This is a recurring question. I believe that there is a local professor/teacher that assigns a tour of the USS Slater as an assignment (btw - thanks for the business!)

I searched and had trouble finding any published account on the Internet. I'm going to ask around and when I come up with an answer I'll publish an account. I asked around on Sunday and on Tuesday and no one had a good answer. One guide noted that when he was asked the question, he answer "they baked enough to feed the crew!"

Regarding the baking of bread, I remember it being baked in the morning. However, a few accounts mention it being baked my night after dinner. Since I was a Gunnersmate my only involvement with bread was eating it. Perhaps my recollection is wrong. I'll check this out as well.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

07/16/2009 - Cannon or Gun

During the day thunder storms were passing through. At times we had a drizzle but no down pour. I think the worse storm passed by after the Slater closed.

Normally, I give tours on Sunday, but I volunteer to come in on odd days when we have a large number of tours scheduled. I like it when it's busy. I hate to come in and waste a bunch of time waiting for visitors. This Thursday I wasn't disappointed. We were mobbed!

The 1st group I gave a tour to was a special needs group (From a NY ARC). I learned that once you get the safety aspects down, these tours go great. The visitors love the ship, and they love the challenge of navigating the passageways, compartments and ladders. Safety is the key. And the key to safety is to enlist the aid of the chaperones who are familiar with the abilities and limitations of the visitors. I start every tour like this with a brief safety discussion with the chaperones.

Flying Bridge - USS Hilbert DE 742 in WWII and USS Slater, today

In the 2nd Group, one family had a grand parent served on USS Robert E Perry DE-132. One young visitor was very well informed, and he was very interested in his Grandfather's WWII Service. He was very well informed and asked some very probing questions. I was told that his Grandfather was in his 90s and gravely ill. In WWII, his duty station was on flying bridge. I was very sorry that I couldn't make arrangements to open up the Slater's Flying Bridge. We were just too busy. The image above shows how the Flying Bridge would have looked when his Grand Father was on duty.

Cannons or Guns?

In last group Dad & Son, interested in military academy. Dad was dressed in suit and obviously had limited time. Tried to get the highlights and loop back for other visitors. This worked well because ship was so busy. Using this technique I was able to bypass bottlenecks.

Also in last group there was a Destroyer Escort vet who had a Navy Rating of Fire Control Technician in the 1950s. During the discussion about the USS Slater I referred to some of the guns as cannons. He stopped me and noted that his Chief in Boot Camp (a Chief Gunnersmate) said there there were no cannons in the US Navy - they were always called guns!

I recited the text book definition of a Cannon, and noted that a gun was a more encompassing definition covering small arms as well as cannons. I also noted that the Slater's main gun's, the 3", 40mm and 20mm all fit the text book definition of a cannon. And, finally I noted that I couldn't remember the prohibition against calling a naval gun a cannon.

This was rather embarrassing, as a Gunnersmate I should have know the answer. My first impression was that this comment was something like the boot camp scene in the movie Full Metal Jacket "This is my rifle this is my gun" (Quote is on the bottom of page).

I decided to check Navy a few of the Navy Manuals that the Slater has it it's extensive collection. Surprisingly, I could find any mention of a cannon. It appears that in all OFFICIAL communications the Navy doesn't use the term Cannon (always Gun). One example is the Gun Mount and Turret Catalog (ORDNANCE PAMPHLET 1112, 1945).

I apologized to the touring FT and thanked him for the correction. I'll keep up my quest and if I ever find an Official document, published after 1941 that refers to a Naval Gun as a Cannon I'll post a correction.

Monday, July 13, 2009

7/12/2009 - Sunday Watch

Another beautiful Sunny Day, temperatures around 75-80. This Sunday the Slater was fully staffed and moderately busy. On a typical Sunday, the we usually get a crowd right after lunch. This Sunday was no exception. I gave a tour to one group of 15 visitors.

One of the reasons I like to write a blog, is that writing process helps to fact check myself.

Between tours I had a discussion with one of the younger volunteers about the configuration of the 01 Level when the Slater was first launched. The 01 level is the deck with the motor whale boat and the
40mm cannons. In 1945 the Slater was re-armed for the Pacific theater. At that time Japanese Kamikazes were a major threat. The after torpedo tubes were removed, and the single 20mm cannons were replaced with twin mounts. And two additional twin 40mm bofors gun mounts were added.

This Sunday, I got some of my facts correct. However, I incorrectly described the configuration of the 20mm's by the stack. We also discuss the 3" Loading machine (which is used for training gun crews). We knew that the Loading Machine was before the stack when the Slater returned from Greece. However, I wasn't sure that it was there in WWII. I served on two destroyers, one had a Loading Machine and one didn't. I incorrectly surmised that perhaps the WWII Slater didn't have a 3" loading machine. Since the Aethos D-01 (the Slater's name in the Greek Navy) was a training ship, I incorrectly surmised that the loading machine (used for training gun crews) as a Greek Navy addition.

I decided to check for old photo's of the configuration of the 01 Level. I ran across this one of the USS Osterhaus (DE-164). Like the Slater, the Osterhaus was a Cannon Class. The photo clearly shows the 01 Level: with torpedo tubes, with 20mm single mounts by the stack, and with a 3" loading machine.

Regarding the use of a 3" Loading Machine, I found this interesting WWII story about training on a 5" Loading Machine. When I was on active duty, I remember instructing my ammo handlers to remove all rings from their fingers. The linked story tells why.

Saga of Polish Gold
Saga of Polish Gold

During the slack times between tours the guides also tell sea stories. Following one of the tours, we chatted with a visitor who noted that he was from Poland. I told the visitor about the Saga of Polish of Polish Gold. In 1943 two DEs, the USS Breeman and the USS Bronstein, were dispatched to Dakar, West Africa. They were assigned to pick up 60 million (1943) dollars in gold that belonged to the Bank of Poland. This was over 50 tons of gold, and in today's dollars it would represent approximately 1.5 Billion Dollars.

The full story is detailed in one of my favorite books about Destroyer Escorts:
Tempest, Fire and Foe by Lewis M. Andrews, jr. Portions of this book are now available on Google Books, including the Saga of Polish Gold. This is a great book that I highly recommend.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

7/7/2009 - Tuesday, Preschooler's Summer Camp

I was a little concerned that I was going to give a tour to a group of preschoolers during a thunderstorm. Luck was with us! The thunderstorms passed through before the group arrived. Only problem was that the wet decks (without deck thread) can be a little slippery. I had a premonition of a problem when I was in the wardroom. The Slater's wardroom has a secondary function, when the ship goes to General Quarters (GQ) it serves as the ship's hospital. As I explained that to the kids, one of them asked me where we kept the band aids. Since I try to have a few emergency band-aids in my pocket, I reached in an showed the kids my personal stash. About 15 minutes later, one of my kids was over-enthusiastic and disobeyed my instruction not to run and managed to slip on the deck. Luck was with me, and her dad was there to attend to the problem swiftly and with great skill (and with the help of one of my emergency band-aids).

Tuesday is a great day for giving tours to preschool groups. It's hard to mix a preschool group with another groups touring the ship. We always have to take extra time for the kids. Safety is very important! Since the Slater is not open to the public on Tuesday, the guides can focus on the needs of the kids. Another big advantage of Tuesday visits is that these groups have to be scheduled! That way the Slater can insure that the group has good footwear, and there is an adequate number of chaperones.

When giving a tour to a preschool group I've found that a few activities seem to be popular. When the kids come aboard I pipe them aboard and have them salute (just like a VIP). The USS Slater has an selection of audio samples of bosun pipe signals..

During the tour I also play a game with Naval words: port, starboard, deck, bulkhead, galley, head, etc. In a berthing compartment I turnoff the white lights, and switch to night-time red lights.

In the Combat Information Center (CIC) I have the kids request a status report form Sonar (detailed in an earlier blog entry).

At the 20mm cannons they like to listen to the cease fire alarm. I warn them to cover their ears first (some kids get startled by a loud noise).

On the 40mm cannons most preschool groups are too young and the groups are too large (ratio of group size to chaperones) to permit them to man the 40mm. Recently the Slater had a new addition, stimulated 40mm ammunition clips (in lightweight plastic). While the steel clips loaded with dummy rounds are too heavy for the kids to handle, the new lightweight plastic clips are great.

With a small group I usually let each kid ring the ships bell, but with a large group I have them vote on which chaperone will ring the bell.

Before we get to the after-crew's head (where the Slater's oscar resides) I tell them about man overboard drillls.

Some thing I need is a few more funny kid-friendly stories about the navy. One possibility might be the story of the Lighthouse and Battleship (I can tell this story at the Slater's signal light). Another addition that I would like to see is a kid-friendly video about the USS Slater that's geared to preschool groups.

The USS Slater has a web page that details a few Educational Activities.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

7/3/2009 - A Friday!

Normally I stand my Slater (tour guide) Watch on Sunday. This week, because of my wife's work schedule, I switched to Friday. Many years ago I use to give tours on Friday, so it was great to say hello to Docents from my old watch section (Jack, Russ, Bob, and Rob from Brooklyn).

This Friday the weather wasn't great, but it wasn't bad either. It was overcast. We had the threat of a Thunder Storm, but only intermittent light rain. I was expecting that we would have a relatively busy day. The day before the Times Union gave the USS Slater a front page plug as a 4th of July destination. It didn't happen. I think most people visited on the 4th (on the 4th I called to ask a question and it sounded they were being mobbed).

I gave two tours to approximately eight visitors in each group. This is really a great size for a tour group. You can move relatively quickly, and you can get all the visitors inside all the compartments on the tour.

On one tour I had an retired commercial fisherman who had an interest in navigation and with the chart room. I typically skirt past the chart room because only 2-3 people can fit into this tiny space. After the tour I took him back and we discussed the Loran receiver and the portable signal light (that looks like a 2 gauge shotgun).

While we were giving tours we had a couple of WWII Destroyer Escort Sailors were giving a self guided tour to their families. Many years ago the Slater decided to do away with self-guided tours for the general public. This decision was made so that museum artifacts can be exhibited in their original setting. It also adds an element of safety which is important for younger visitors. The one exception to this policy is DE Veterans. They always have the option of joining a tour group or going on a self-guided tour.

After their visit I had a short discussion with one the
WWII DE Sailors. He was a crewman from the USS Barr (DE-576) that served with the USS Block Island (CVE-21). In May, 1944 both the Block Island and the Barr were torpedoed by U-549. Shortly afterward, U-549 was sunk by the USS Ahrens (DE-575) and the USS Eugene E. Elmore (DE-686). A few years ago I gave a tour to a DE vet from the USS Ahrens (DE-575) and I wrote a blog entry about the Block Island. Afterward, the Barr was repaired, and re-entered service in the Pacific theater as an APD (Fast Transport). Another Blogger has a detailed story about his father who served on the USS Barr.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

6/30/2009-7/1/2009 - Youth Groups

This Tuesday and Wednesday several LARGE youth groups were scheduled to visit the USS Slater so I volunteered for a few extra watches. On Tuesday the Slater is closed for regular tours so the kids had the ship to themselves. I gave 2 tours to groups of approximately 20 preschoolers (and their chaperones). It took a long time on the ladders, but that's OK (Safety is paramount). The chaperones were great help with the process.

At the 3" cannon I started to demonstrate how a cannon is loaded. When I picked up the 3" round and started to show how it was loaded into the chamber, one of the preschoolers started to get pretty upset. I had to cut the demonstration short and promise that I wasn't going to fire any cannons. I guess there was a little too much realism.

The highlight came at CIC (Combat Information Center). We have a stimulated Status Report on one of the intercoms (It plays a recording). I usually ask for a junior volunteer and have them request for a status report from the sonar. It seemed that all the kids were too shy to volunteer so I orchestrated a group response. I had 20 kids yelling "SONAR" - "CIC" "GIVE US A STATUS REPORT". The kids were really surprised when Sonar responded with a status report ("... submarine bearing 235 degrees at 3,500 yards, rising from a thermal layer ...").

On Wednesday the Slater was open for regular tours. We also had several bus loads of youth groups. While the other guides gave tours to youth groups, I was the only guide giving tours to the adult groups (at least to start off with). It seemed that they were adding people to the tour, until the size of the group swelled to perhaps 30 visitors. This made it very difficult to manage. I had to skirt smaller compartments (just giving everyone a drive by description). Eventually, it all worked out.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

6/28/2009 - Great Day

This Sunday was a great day - very, very busy. Don't know what happened but we had plenty of guides and we were aways giving tours. I gave three tours to groups ranging from 15-20 visitors. My voice was sore when I finished.

"Where did the USS Slater get it's Motor Whale Boat from?"

Today's stump the Docent question was asked when I was at the Slater's motor whale boat. During this part of the tour I usually describe the capture of U-505 by the USS Pillsbury (DE-133) (shown in the picture above). I start the narrative by noting that the motor whale boat is a prize artifact. It's one of the few wooden motor whale boats (that were used in WWII) that's still in existence.

After a little research I found the answer - In 2004 Tim Rizzuto (USS Slater's Superintendent) published a story: "....When the USS SLATER arrived in Manhattan in 1993, there was an appreciated treasure aboard, a US Navy 26 foot motor whaleboat. The Navy Historical Center estimates that 26,000 of these boats were built between 1927 and the late 1950's when the fiberglass boats were introduced. "

I really do read Tim's Slater signals, and I'm sure that I read the Whale Boat Story in 2004. I should have known the answer! Unfortunately, I find it nearly impossible to remember the vast amount of knowledge transferred to us volunteers in Rizzuto-grams.

More pictures about U-505 Capture are available at the U-Boat Archive. U-505 is an on display in Chicago, at the Museum of Science and Indusrty.

"How the sailors avoided slipping around on the floor? "

I told the visitor that large portions of the deck * (Floor) were covered with deck tread (a non-skid covering). Basically deck tread is paint mixed with sand. After the tour I decided to do a little research on the topic. The Navy has a way of making relatively simple concepts complex. Here's the navy specification about the topic - MIL-PRF-24667C. In the 42 page document the Navy details 11 different ways of mixing sand in paint.

* Deck - The floorlike covering of the horizontal sections, or compartments, of a ship.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

6/21/2009 - Travelling, no tours

No tours this weekend - I was in Philadelphia. Next week on Tuesday, the Slater will have a special group of visitors.

If you saw this view from a periscope during the last two weeks of May in 1944 you were in big trouble. It's a bow on view of the USS England (DE-635).

Presidential Unit Citation -
"For outstanding performance in combat against enemy forces from May 19 to 31, 1944. Utilizing to the full all available weapons and equipment the USS ENGLAND skillfully coordinated her attacks with other vessels and with cooperating aircraft, striking boldly and with exceptional precision at the enemy. In a sustained series of attacks, she destroyed six hostile ships within twelve days effecting this devastating blow to enemy operations during a particularly crucial period and disrupting attempts by the enemy to supply or evacuate key units. By this heavy loss to the enemy the ENGLAND contributed substantially to unmolested advance of the United States Fleet pointing toward subsequent seizure and occupation by our forces. A gallant and daring fighter, superbly ready ready combat, the ENGLAND has achieved an outstanding record of success, reflecting the highest credit upon her gallant officers and men and the United States Naval Service."

During this week the Veterans from the USS England will be holding their reunion aboard the USS Slater.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

6/14/2009 - Great Day, and it was very busy

It was a great day. not too hot and not too cold, and most important, plenty of visitors. Only problem - they all seemed to visit at once. Luckily, we were prepared. There were enough guides standing watch to insure that all the groups were properly sized, and the guides to devote attention too every one's requirements.

We had a really diverse group of visitors s well! In terms of age, I would say the youngest visitor was two, and the oldest was a WWII Vet who served on Destroyer Escorts (probably 85 years young). When you have diverse groups, in large numbers it can get a little tough. Probably the hardest tour for a guide is a big group with a wide range ages. The guide can't focus, and has to do a complex juggling act. Many of Sunday's visitors arrived during a relatively short period. However, because we had plenty of guides, we were were able to structure the groups by age. A guide with a younger group would try to give a tour that focused on a hands on experience, that moved relatively quickly. A guide with the older group would move slower and be able to relate more technical and historical information. Considering the crowd, it worked out pretty well.

A nice picture of the Half Moon (sailing in for a two hour tour)! During the day we had a great deal of traffic in and (immediately) back out of the parking lot. There were a number of people who were looking for the replica of Henry Hudson's Half Moon. Unfortunately they didn't read the schedule:
" The Half Moon was not open for public tours during River Day stops, but we did conduct dockside activities for the public in Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, Kingston, and Catskill."

The Times Union Story seemed to imply that the Half Moon would be in Albany for a multi-day event. And, the River Day Log seemed to imply that there would be some thing going on in either Albany or Rensselaer. Unfortunately, there was no dockside activities in Albany. Despite excellent publicity, the Half Moon didn't even stop at Albany (as the schedule noted, the Half Moon just passed through). A few people seemed to get mad at the USS Slater tour guides when we noted that we had no idea where the Half Moon was!

Clearly, the port of Albany is become more vibrant tourist destination. The last thing that we want is to have disappointed and mad visitors. I think that a lot of this confusion could be avoided if an official at the Albany Visitor Center emailed a weekly schedule of events at the Port of Albany. This schedule should be sent to all the venues that cater to the Port Visitors: the USS Slater; the NY State Museum; the Aquaduck; the Port of Albany (the commercial port is not a tourist destination); the Halfmoon; and the Dutch Apple.

Perhaps an obscure schedule is posted somewhere - but that doesn't help. It needs to get in the hands of the people interacting with the visitors to the Port. (imho) The best way to accomplish that is to email a routine weekly schedule. Obviously the local press should be included in the email.

Near the end of the day, when several guides were having a bull session, we noted that the flag from the USS William Seiverling (DE-441) that was displayed in the wardroom was moved to the museum. The plaque on the display noted that the flag was retired the day after Frank Delano Roosevelt passed away (April 12, 1945).

I use to point to the Flag and note that FDR's son (Lt. Comdr. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr) was the Captain of another DE (the USS Ulvert M. Moore (DE-442)) which was at sea near Okinawa when he died.

Both ships were launched on the same day.

When I show the 20mm cannons I typically describe the threat that kamikazes had on Destroyer Escorts. Today I was asked about the motivations of the kamikaze pilots. This is a hard thing to answer. I don't know. Perhaps, this letter by First Lieutenant Hajime Fujii to his daughter Kazuko helps answer that difficult question:

"A cold, blustery December day. Your life disappeared as dew on Arakawa River's bank. It is painfully sad that together with your mother you sacrificed yourself ahead of your father because of his fervent desire to lay down his life for his country. However, I hope that you, who as a young girl vanished together with your mother, will be gladly smiling. Father also will soon be able to follow after you. At that time I'll gladly hold you close to me as you sleep. If Chieko cries, please take good care of her. Well, goodbye for a short time. Daddy will perform a great feat on the battlefield and bring it as a present for you. Both you and Chieko, please wait for me until then."
First Lieutenant Fujii was a kamikaze instructor. Because of his family, both Fujii and his superiors were reluctant to let him fly a kamikaze mission. Because of the reluctance, in December his wife killed herself and their daughter. Five months later First Lieutenant Fujii sank the USS Dexter (DD-741).

William Gordon, at Wesleyan University developed an excellent web site on the topic of Kamikazes . He offers a balanced and comprehensive treatment.

One visitor on Sunday was a WWII Vet who served on the USS Bangust (DE- 739). His General Quarters station was in the gun director for a 40mm gun. After the tour he climbed a steep vertical ladder gave his son a personal tour of a Mark 51 director. Not bad for someone pushing 85+. The tour guides were impressed.

The Bagust was a real workhorse in the Pacific in 1944-45. I did a little research and found this
oral history from a Bagust crewman.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

6/7/2009 - Travelling, no tours

USS George Clymer (APA-27) at anchor off the Hawaiian Islands, 1964

This weekend I was travelling, so I wasn't available to give Slater tours. During the week I discussed this blog with an old friend who served on the USS George Clymer, APA-27. The Clymer was a little bigger than a tin-can (roughly 10 times bigger).

I believe he worked in the Radio Room. This link (Navy Radios) contains a few pictures of shipboard radio equipment including photos from both the Slater and the Clymer.

Monday, June 1, 2009

5/31/2009 - Slow day for Tours

The day was very slow and we had plenty of tour guides! On Memorial Day I probably gave more tours myself than we had today for all the guides. Not sure why? The weather was good for tours (cool, slightly overcast, intermittent sprinkles as clouds passed by).

On the one tour that I gave, a visitor had an uncle who flew a TBF Avenger from an Escort Carriers in the Pacific. Typically Escort Carriers operated with Destroyer Escorts (like the USS Slater) in Hunter-Killer Groups. The photo above is a TBF Avenger taking off from the USS Guadalcanal in 1944. The link shows a complete photo sequence of an Avenger attack on a submarine. Several months after that photo sequence was taken, the USS Guadalcanal Hunter-Killer group captured U-505.

While the visitor knew that his uncle flew Anti-submarine missions (he dropped depth charges and
sonobuoys), but he wasn't sure of the carrier(s) that he served on. TBF Avengers were produced in great numbers (over 9,000). The plane was a real workhorse in WWII so it's hard to pinpoint a particular ship (or even if it was an Escort Carrier). However, I'm making an assumption that it was an Escort Carrier since most anti-submarine missions were flown from this type of ship. The larger fleet carriers also flew TBF Avengers, but typically in anti-ship torpedo attacks or shore bombing missions. There were several famous aviators who flew TBF Avengers in WWII (George H Bush and Paul Newman).

Saturday, May 30, 2009

5/29/2009 - Battle under Orion

This evening, all of the USS Slater volunteers had an opportunity to view the American Premiere of the Japanese movie "Battle Under Orion". Last year, in August, many of the Battle Scenes were filmed aboard the Slater. This was also the last day of the annual reunion of the original USS Slater crew, so a handful of many of WWII sailors who served on the Slater had an opportunity to see the movie as well. Also in attendance were Albany's Mayor Jerry Jennings and few local dignitaries, and the American cast, Extras and Film Crew. The Albany Times Union did a bit earlier in the week, "Now Showing: USS Slater" by Paul Grondahl.

I enjoyed the movie, but when it comes to movies about WWII I'm easy to please. The best surprise of the evening was that my wife's reaction. Typically she avoids films with subtitles. And the only way I get her to see a war movie is if I commit to see chick flick. I was pleasantly surprised when she liked it (and I didn't have use a chick flick credit).

We sat behind a group of film extras. It was interesting seeing their reactions as they appeared on screen. Another surprise was seeing the USS Slater's Educational Coordinator, Eric Rivet, all dressed up in a suit and a tie (I hardly recognized him). One problem I saw, Tim had the USS Slater too bright and shiny. On film it looked like the USS Slater was just put in commission.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

5/25/2009 - Memorial Day

Another beautiful day, and a very fine Memorial Day Ceremony. CBS News provided great press coverage (I hope they keep the link active).

I kept myself quite busy until about three PM. I gave three tours and my voice was starting to give out near the end. Since we had a Quarterdeck Watch for part of the day, when I brought a tour group aboard I had someone to salute to and request permission to come aboard from. It added a nice touch.

Immediately following the Memorial Day ceremony we had a huge group (perhaps 50+ visitors). We divided the group up by age, and I took the older group. Large groups of mixed age are tough for a tour guide. But, if you have a large group in one age you can manage the task fairly easy by focusing on the needs of the group. Kids love to touch things and interact with stuff, they enjoy a manning the 40mm, and taking turns on the helm. Older visitors take a little longer on ladders, and love listening to a good sea story.

Older visitors often have immediate family members who are WWII Vets. In one group I had had a WWII veteran accompanied by his family. He was a Marine Amtrak Driver. Immediately following the Japanese Surrender, he was also part of the occupation force and was at Nagasaki in 1945. Whenever I have a WWII Marine in my tour group I try to include a few comments about the DEs that were converted to Fast Transports (APD). These ships operated with Marine Units and Navy Underwater Demolition Teams. I also knew that several Destroyer Escorts visited Nagasaki immediately following the Japanese Surrender (USS Reeves, DE-156/APD-52USS Barr, DE-576/APD-39). These Ships served as Station Ships for the Strategic Bombing Survey Team.

Sometime when I give tours I like to check the date in WWII (May 25th). This Memorial Day has particular relevance to one Destroyer Escort - The USS Bates (DE-68/APD-47). From the wikipedia entry - "...At 1115 on 25 May, while patrolling 2 miles south of Ie Shima, Okinawa, Bates was attacked by three Japanese planes. The first plane dropped a bomb, scoring a near miss which ruptured the starboard hull of the ship, and then crashed into the starboard side of the fantail. The second plane, almost simultaneously, made a suicide hit on the pilothouse. Shortly thereafter, the third plane made a bombing run scoring a near miss amidships, portside, rupturing the hull. At 1145 the commanding officer ordered Bates abandoned. Twenty-one of her crew were either dead or missing from the attacks. During the afternoon, the tug US Cree was able to get a line aboard and towed Bates to Ie Shima anchorage. At 1923 on 25 May 1945, the still burning Bates capsized and sank in 20 fathoms of water."

One final Note - During a break another Slater Guide (Dick Walker) mentioned that there was a sunken WWI U-Boat in Lake Michigan. True Story - UC -97, here's the link!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

5/19/2009 Tech Valley IMA

I returned from my vacation and gave an after hours tour to a Professional Group - Tech Valley Institute of Management Accountants. While my non-paying job is a DE Docent (a Destroyer Escort Tour Guide), my paying job is as an Accountant. I've been a member of the local IMA Chapter for about 20 years. The Official IMA tour group was 20 members, but we expanded the tour with 5 or 6 people hanging round on the pier. The weather was fantastic. And, in my opinion the tour went great. I think Tim should promote more professional group tours. Instead of starting during the day, professional groups typically have to start after work (at 4-5).

A regular Slater tour starts with a short video about WWII, U-Boats and Destroyer Escorts. For the IMA group we aired a new video profiling the USS Slater as a museum in Albany, and volunteer activities. This video profiles the museum and the educational outreach. This was the 1st time I saw this video and I was impressed. It was a professional job done by the local public TV Station (WMHT). The Video noted that the USS Slater restoration effort involved over a million dollars in donations and 250,000 volunteer hours. What it didn't note (and I think it should have) was the number of annual visitors (approximately 20,000); the number of veteran group reunions (I'm guessing at 20); and the number of memorial services and military ceremonies hosted (probably 10).

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

5/2/2009 - Busy Day

It was a busy day. I managed to give three tours in approximately four hours. The Michigan DE sailors were also aboard, to start they annual reunion/work week. The weather was nice. It was slightly overcast and relatively cool.

On the 1st tour I had a well informed WWII enthusiast who bombarded me with questions. I hope I passed the test? I really did enjoy it. It keeps you on your toes. One of the questions, was how many decks the Slater Had? I had to form a mental image - and came up with seven decks (detailed in the uploaded image below). On the USS Slater web site you can click on the deck image and see details (USS Slater Deck Index).

In between tours I had a discussion about the drives for the 40mm gun mounts with a Fire Control Tech from the Michigan Reunion Group. I was under the impression that the drives were amplidyne (all electric). It turns out that the Slater has electro-hydraulic mounts. Onboard there's excellent documentation about the mounts so it was quite easy to check out the details. Regarding the 40mm there's also a great deal of information available on the web:

Monday, April 27, 2009

4/27/2009 - Destroyer Escort Shipboard Organization

It was a very nice Sunday, a little warm (especially below decks). We had a fair number of visitors. We also had a lot of tour guides available so we were able to handle everyone quite nicely. There was a little activity near the ship. They were filming action scenes for Angelina Jolie's upcoming movie "Salt", near the USS Slater. The guides were wondering if she would visit the ship (she didn't). I offered to pay for her tour if she came.

I gave two tours, one to a retired Chief Store Keeper and his family. This got me thinking about the ship board organization of a Destroyer Escort. I was wondering if there would be a Chief Storekeeper assigned to a the Slater (yes, a Chief Storekeeper would be included in the normal complement). A little research lead me to this document about shipboard organization of a destroyer escort. And, a little more research led me to a document about current shipboard organization.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

New Season - 2009

I didn't post any blogs during 2008. I was ill when the season started. After recovery I was very very busy with my paying jobs that I had little time to spare. Towards the end of the season I got back into the giving USS Slater Tours.

During 2008 a movie was filmed aboard the USS Slater (Orion in Midsummer). largely because of the filming, the Slater crew did a lot of work restoring the depth charges. Added the second rack, and faux fuzes. They also did a lot of work on the electonic equipment in CIC (Combat Information Center).

This year off to a great Start. The ship opened a little earlier than usual. I gave guided tours on two Sundays and was fairly busy. I think the economy is keeping people local.

USS Frank Knox - Final moments

The old link I had to the U-tube of the sinking of the USS Frank Knox in 1991 was broken (by the Greek Navy as a target). Here's a replacement.