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 (

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.