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, 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).