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, 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.