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 (

Thursday, December 22, 2011

12/16/2012 - Victory Garden

Linda led a small contingent of DE Docents to Sheridan Academy to give presentations on the World War II home front.  The central theme was victory gardens.

Jack Madden and Linda Wruck (USS SLATER Education Coordinator) were the key note speakers. Jack is a WWII Navy Vet and DE Docent "par excellence". They did a great job. Gardening is not my cup of tea, nor is it my area of expertise. That said, I was glad to help and enjoyed the experience.

Note - One thing we need to add to the presentation is a few rolls of paper towels and a dust bin/brush combination.  These things can get a little messy.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

09/21/2011 - Visit to USS Yorktown

During September I was on vacation in South Carolina, and whenever I am near a naval museum I try to arrange a visit.  My visits are usually something more than a causal pass through - typically an all day affair that involves conversation with the docents.  This also requires a complex negotiation with my wife: a dinner or two; and a visit to garden, a show or a shopping mall.  The Yorktown trip required two days at Brookgreen gardens

The USS Yorktown is berthed at Patriot's Point.  At the point there are several museums included and things to do besides the USS Yorktown, including: USS Clamagore; the Vietnam Support Base; and departure points for harbor cruises to Fort Sumter and Charleston.  I was hoping that the USS Laffey had returned but no luck.  The Laffey is a famous Destroyer, that was attacked by 22 kamikaze planes while on radar pickett duty off of Okinawa in 1945. The Laffey was in urgent need of repair and the Patriot's Point Association had to take urgent action, it went deeply in debt (see :ABC News - Patriots Point moving forward with payback plans).  Unfortunately, this is a story that is going to repeated number times at several museum ships in the future.

Unlike the USS Slater, there were no guided tours on the Yorktown but plenty of exhibits with signage.  I was actually very surprised are some of them which were somewhat rare but out of place: The SS Normandie and a 1.1 Anti-Aircraft Gun.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

08/31/2011 - Irene

On Sunday, I was scheduled as a tour guide. I cancelled because of Hurricane Irene which dropped record rainfalls on the region.  The photos were taken the day following.  What is impressive is the new dolphins (vertical piles that keep the Slater in place) that were installed in the prior year.  Bravo Zulu (well done) to the engineers and contractors involved with this project.  It's my guess that the SLATER would have sustained substantial damage with the old camels that were used to keep the ship in place.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

07/17/2011 - Steamboat Square, 20 MM

The Madison Ave Exit from 787 is closed because of repairs to the Dunn Memorial Bridge. It a little difficult to get to the USS SLATER from the north. If you're visiting from this direction it would probably be a good idea to call ahead and get directions (431-1943).

Sunday was a hot day. Started nice, but got very hot in the afternoon. I gave two tours.

I had a problem with the 1st group. A number of people came after I was showing the video in the briefing room. When I exited from the briefing room, without any prompting for me people waiting for the NEXT group tagged along with my group. When I got aboard the ship I found out that I had a huge group. It was just too large to get into all the spaces. When I tried to separate the people who tagged along, this lead to a protest. I let it slide and made do with the large group. In retrospect I should have asked for help from an intern and split the group into two.

In the second tour we had a VERY inquisitive young visitor. He was a great visitor - very well behaved and quite entertaining. Whenever I could I made him part of the show. We had fun at the 40mm. He was too small to move the mount by himself, so I helped him. When I did he would happily exclaim - "It's working!" But after a few seconds he would want to do it himself. Then the mount would stop and he would exclaim sadly that "It's not working!". We repeated this procedure several times. Very entertaining.

Where was Steamboat Square?

Between one of the tours, I was asked where Steamboat Square was in Albany. Basically it was by the underpass of 787 (at the foot of Broadway), perhaps a 1/4 of a mile north of where the USS SLATER is moored. This is also the site of the old Fort Orange.

I dug up the slide show (mostly from Library of Congress Photos) that shows Steamboat Square and a collection of views of Hudson River Steamboats. These boats were very graceful and quite fast. I'm guessing that most of these boats were faster than the USS SLATER (21 knots). The Hudson River Day Liner Steamboats left New York City at 8:00 AM and arrived in Albany at 6:00 PM. This is a distance of 140 miles. During the trip they made 8 or 9 stops. Doing the math, allowing about 20 minutes on average for a stop, they would have to average roughly 18 knots during the rest of the trip. The last trip was made in 1948.

How long did it take to change a 20mm magazine?

While I was a Gunners Mate, I never fired a 20mm. I managed to dig out a video of a 20mm being fired in a training exercise. Looking at this, I would guess that a magazine could be changed in about 4 seconds.

I also found another interesting video showing a 20mm being fired at night. When fired at night you get a good impression of the arc and speed of a 20mm shell.

Here are some interesting links on 20mm:

Saturday, July 9, 2011

07/03/2011 - Compartment Labels, New Docent Policy

Sunday started out pouring buckets, I had trouble staying dry during my morning walk. Eventually the sun came out and it was a great day. I managed to give three tours and I kept everyone dry.

During one of the tours I was asked about compartment labels. The label above is an example. It's on the main deck, port side and it's between the 1st (Quarter Deck) and 2nd (Galley) tour stops.

The 1st line of the label is the door number: 1-81-2
(I added the colors for illustrative purposes):

  • 1 is the deck number (1 = main deck)
  • 81 is the frame number. Frame are vertical beams that extend from the keel. Hull plates are attached to frames. The SLATER has about 170fFrames. The lightly colored purple lines on the center of the USS SLATER Main Deck Plan are the frame numbers.
  • 2 indicates that the door is on the port side (left side).
The 2nd line of the label is a description of the space "Muffler Room". If you look on the USS SLATER Main Deck Plan you can see that there are four Mufflers (one for each main engine). The door in question is right before Muffler #4.

The 3rd line of the label is the number of the compartment (compartment is a navy word for room):

  • B - represents the section of the ship. A sections are before main machinery spaces; B sections are over main machinery spaces; C sections are aft of main machinery spaces. This is fairly clear when you look at the USS SLATER 1st Platform Deck Plan).
  • 103 is the compartment number. The one in the 103 indicates a compartment on the main deck. A 203 would indicate a compartment one deck down (2nd platform) and a 0203 would indicate a compartment one deck up from the main deck (referred to as the 01 level).
  • The final letter - E represents the usage of the compartment. E represents an Engineering compartment (contains machinery). A complete description of these codes are contained in the Navy Publication: Nomenclature of Naval Ships, February 1942. This letter has important significance for damage control parties. For example special attention was given to fire suppression near in a compartment with a F or M designation (F is for fuel, M is for magazine, explosive storage).
In 1949 the Navy changed the numbering system, but when the USS SLATER was built the 1942 Nomenclature was used (reference - Nomenclature of Naval Ships, February 1942). Today a different and more comprehensive system is used (example contained in 3M Company Compartment Damage Control Marking Guide).

Recently the USS SLATER has changed the manner that tour guides are assigned giving priority to volunteer tour guides:

  1. If you are a veteran and a tour guide, you have priority on whether  you take a group, or pass it on to an intern.
  2. The role of interns is to fill in when the veteran tour guides are  all busy, or when vets prefer to pass it on.
  3. If you would like to move to another day for tour guiding, that is  fine, but please know that the "original crew" of any given day has top  priority for their day, followed by interns.
In my opinion this is a very welcome change! As a veteran (4 years active and 4 years reserve) and a Volunteer Tour Guide (over 10 years, since 2000), I get a little disheartened when I am sitting on the bench waiting for a tour. One of the main reasons that I typically come on a Sunday is that it's a fairly busy day.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

06/25/2011 - USS Slater and Scouting

Over the last year the USS SLATER Professional Staff and Volunteers have expanded our offerings to Scout Groups. These are not hard and fast offerings, but are flexible to meet requirements. At this stage we're willing to try new and different things and we welcome feedback and new ideas.

Recently the SLATER has shifted from a one size fits all approach to overnights and tours, to a flexible menu of age specific tours.

  • Scout participation with events and reunion ceremonies
  • Morning Colors, Flag raising ceremonies
  • Merit Badge - Citizenship in the Nation
  • Merit Badge - American Heritage
  • Urban Hikes from USS SLATER
  • Coordination and Interface with other Albany Organizations (i.e. Visitor Center)
  • Training - Basic Seamanship, Knots, Rope work.

Besides on-board activities, the USS SLATER Professional Staff and volunteers are also offering free out-reach activities at scouting events (Pow-wow, Round Tables, Camporees, Scout Meetings).

This is a blog about the USS SLATER. Follow this link ( for up to date information about a visit to the USS SLATER. You can also contact the USS Slater at this contact link.

American Heritage Merit Badge

There are SLATER Volunteers who are counselors for this Merit Badge. As of June, 2011, some of the specific American Heritage Merit Badge requirements that are relevant to the USS SLATER are:
  • 1. Read the Declaration of Independence..... A few blocks away from the USS SLATER the Declaration of Independence was 1st read to the Citizens of Albany on 7/19/1776.

  • 2.C. With your counselor's approval, interview two veterans of the U.S. military.... There are quite a few veterans who volunteer on the USS SLATER. These interviews can be arranged.

  • 4.A. Explain what is meant by the National Register of Historic Places. .... The USS SLATER is on the National Register of Historic Places. Within a short walk there are at least a dozen other sites that are also listed on the National Register. During 2011 we are actively applying for status as a National Landmark.

  • 4.B. Research an event of historical importance that took place in or near your area. If possible, visit the place. Tell your counselor about the event and how it affected local history. Describe how the area looked then and what it now looks like. .... Albany is a top tier historic city. There are scores of historic events that took place within a short distance of the USS SLATER's mooring site. Henry Hudson, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Franklin Roosevelt all visited downtown Albany.

  • 4.D. Take an active part in a program about an event or person in American history. Report to your counselor about the program, the part you took, and the subject. .... During the year the SLATER hosts ceremonies and veteran reunion events. SLATER staff can arrange active scout participation at these events.

  • 4.E. Visit a historic trail or walk in your area. After your visit, share with your counselor what you have learned. Discuss the importance of this location and explain why you think it might qualify for National Register listing. .... As noted Albany is rich in historic significance. SLATER Volunteers also give guides walks of downtown Albany.

  • 5.A. Watch two motion pictures (with the approval and permission of your counselor and parent) that are set in some period of American history. .... The SLATER has several WWII Era movies in our library that can be aired during overnight visits. We can also provide a list of movies that are relevant to the USS SLATER, the US Navy and to Albany.

  • 6. Discuss with your counselor the career opportunities in American heritage. Pick one that interests you and explain how to prepare for this career. .... There are several professionals employed at the USS SLATER. These professionals deal with the Restoration Effort, Educational Effort, Archivists, and Administration.

There are Slater Volunteers who are counselors for this Merit Badge. As of June, 2011, some of the specific Citizenship in the Nation Merit Badge requirements that are relevant to the USS Slater are:
  • 2.a. Visit a place that is listed as a National Historic Landmark or that is on the National Register of Historic Places...... The USS SLATER is on the National Register of Historic Places. Within a short walk there are at least a dozen other sites that are also listed on the National Register. During 2011 we are actively applying for status as a National Landmark.

  • 2.b. Tour your state capitol building or the U.S. Capitol. .... The NY State Capital is within walking distance of the USS SLATER. Guided tours of the NY State Capital are available during the week.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

06/19/2011 - Father's Day and National Maritime Day

It was a very fine day, and a very busy one. I started at 0900 (9:00 am) with my Albany 3-1/2 Mile walk, and ended at 1830 (6:30 pm) giving presentations on Mount 31 (the 3" Gun Mount on the Forecastle, pointy front end of the ship).

Today, no one joined me on my downtown walk. But, I did run into a few visitors along the way. On a Sunday Morning there are few places open in downtown Albany so I gave each group a little tour. I gave a brief over view of the Visitor Center, Albany Pump Station, and the Quackenbush House to one group. I saw the 2nd group a little later and gave an overview of the Empire State Plaza and the NY State Capital. A little later I saw both groups aboard the Slater.

The highlight of my day was giving a tour to a family that brought their family patriarch to tour the ship. He was a WWII Merchant Mariner. If he was 18 when he served he would be 88 today. He had a little trouble speaking, but managed to walk the full tour. It was very appropriate to give this tour on June 19th (it was both Father's Day and National Maritime Day). Here's a link to a slide show about the local observance of National Maritime Day in the Albany Times Union.

When our WWII visitor was serving in 1941, President Roosevelt made a few comments about National Maritime Day:

I am glad of an opportunity to send a Maritime Day message to the American people. Today, as never before in our history, our Merchant Marine is vital to our national welfare. I do not mean vital merely in the conventional sense that it makes an important contribution but in the stranger sense that it is a crucially decisive factor in our continued existence as a free people.

If we are going to keep away from our shores the forces that have convulsed the Old World and now menace the New, the job will be done in large measure by the ships and the sailors of the Merchant Marine and by the working men who build the ships and supply them. If they fail, the whole effort fails. And earnest, hardworking Americans, who spend the best part of their lives providing for the security and happiness of those they love, know that precious security and happiness depend exactly on the success of that effort.

I know the effort will not fail; that more and faster ships will be built, manned by trained American seamen, and that they will carry through the open waters of the Seven Seas implements that will help destroy the menace to free peoples everywhere.

Very sincerely yours, - (Signed) FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT....."

During World War II, Over 1,500 ships were sunk, with 1 in 8 mariners losing their ship. Casualties were kept secret during the war to avoid providing information to the enemy and to keep mariners at sea (source: US Merchant Marine made victory possible).

USS Slater - Covered in Ice during North Atlantic Convoy

During the tour our WWII Merchant Mariner noted that he started the War serving on Panamanian Flagged Ship. After December 7th the ship was re-flagged as a United States Ship. I managed to dig out a this relevant link: Yank Sailors on Foreign Flag Ships.

He also noted that he made a Murmansk Run in March of 1942. For a Merchant Mariner 1942 was probably the worst year, and the Murmansk Convoy was the worst place to be. Here is a Wikipedia link on Arctic convoys. There were three Murmansk Convoys in March of 1942: PQ12, PQ13 and PQ14. None of these convoys were pleasure cruises, but the worst was probably PQ13. There are a few detail stories about this convoy. One is the story of the loss of the British Ship SS Induna. Chapter II of the History of the Naval Armed Guard Afloat (OP-414)
covers PQ13 in detail.

Monday, June 6, 2011

06/05/2011 - Handy Billy, twenty three and a half days

Pretty nice day. Not hot, unfortunately not very busy. I gave two small tours of the USS Slater, and I stated the day with one walking tour of Albany.

On one of the tours someone donated a Handy Billy. We got into a discussion about Handy Billy as a emergency naval fire pump or a block and tackle. It appears that it's both. A couple of interesting links:

We also discussed American Public opinion leading to WWII. I noted the startling contrast of two important speeches both delivered on September 11, 1941 (3 months before America's entry into WWII). One speech was by Charles Lindbergh, delivered to an American First Group in Des Moines, Iowa. The other was Franklin Roosevelt's Fireside Chat to the Nation, regarding the USS Greer Incident (A Destroyer in the North Atlantic).

Often on tours I discuss the productivity of the American Shipbuilding Industry in World War II. One extreme case is the Liberty Ship, the SS Robert E Perry, which was built in 4 and a half days. This was done for publicity. The high volume standard for Liberty Ships was a month (detailed on this web site). The Kaiser Richmond Shipyard wasn't the only yard producing Liberty Ships. Other yards took a little longer. As noted in this excellent article:
"...The Liberty ships were built to a standardized, mass produced design the 250,000 parts were pre-fabricated throughout the country in 250-ton sections and welded together in about 70 days. 441 feet long and 56 feet wide, a 3cylinder, reciprocating steam engine, fed by two oil-burning boilers produced 2,500 hp and a speed of 11 knots. the 5 holds could carry over 9,000 tons of cargo, plus airplanes, tanks, and locomotives lashed to its deck. Liberty could carry 2,840 jeeps, 440 tanks, or 230 million rounds of rifle ammunition. ..."

The shipbuilding record for a Destroyer Escort is the USS Fieberling (DE-640), built by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, San Francisco (Union Iron Works). It took nine days from laying the keel to launch, and 23.5 days for complete delivery (reference Hull #5407 for details). The National Register of Historic Places application for the Union Iron Works shipyard noted that: "....C. C. Bloch, Admiral, U.S. Navy (Ret.), Chairman of the Navy Board for Production Awards specifically cited the destroyer-escort USS Fieberling, delivered by UIW on April 11, 1944, only 23.5 days after keel laying, as “one of the country’s outstanding production records and a world record for this type of ship.....”

This is a little off topic, but I wanted to pass a few references along. On one tour a visitor noted that he volunteered at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. The museum holds the records of the Lake Champlain Transport Company and I noted during the tour that I did a little research on a past president of the company, Le Grand B. Cannon (bio is available here). He was also a Colonel during the Civil War and published two very interesting books: Personal reminiscences of the rebellion, 1861-1866; and Recollections of the ironclads: Monitor and Merrimack. He is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Troy, NY.

Monday, May 30, 2011

05/22/2011 - National Historic Landmark

It's been a while since I posted. I have to get back into the groove. Lately I've been a little busy on Slater related stuff that's taken a little time.

This Sunday was great. Started the day giving a Weight Watcher Group a 5k walking tour of Albany. I wrote a short story about Albany Walking Tours for the Slater Signals. Then gave two tours - beautiful day (slightly cloudy, which keeps the Slater comfortable below decks) . Everything went very well.

I had the pleasure of giving a few Motor Room / Engine Room Tours. These compartments are not on the routine tour, and special permission is required. One tour was given to a visiting Docent from the USS Cod in Cleveland, Ohio. With the exception of batteries, the USS Slater has a similar propulsion system with submarines like the USS Cod (both Diesel/Electric, 4 GM Diesels). The other was given to a DE Sailor (and Michigan Group Volunteer) who brought his grandson aboard for a tour.

The USS Cod is a museum ship that has the National Historic Landmark Designation (since 1986, nominated in 1984). This past week (5/24-5/26), the USS Slater's nomination was reviewed by the National Park System Advisory Board Landmarks Committee.

Update: Times Union Report on Status 5/28/2011, "....Leaders of the Destroyer Escort Historical Museum -- the nonprofit that maintains the Slater -- were in Washington, D.C., to receive the news Tuesday that the Park Service's landmarks advisory committee had voted unanimously to approve its application....."

Sunday, May 22, 2011

05/22/2011 - Albany Walking Tour

Almost every Sunday, before I start my tour guide watch, I take a 3 mile plus walk through downtown Albany. I started a daily walking program because of Weight Watchers. My daily goal is to walk a 5K every day (3.2 miles). For the last few years, in May the Weight Watcher program encourages members to train for a 5K walking event (May 22, Walk-It Day). This year, I invited fellow members to join me. Twenty-five fellow members walked along. A few stayed after for a Slater tour.

My Slater-Albany 5K walk is not your average walk. From a historical perspective, the city of Albany is one of the most interesting places in America. It is one of the oldest cities in America. In Albany, European history started around 1540. The Dutch Colony (New Netherland) established a permanent (and continuous) settlement in 1614. The Albany City Charter dates from 1686 (Dongan Charter), and it is the the longest continuously chartered city in the United States.

The USS Slater is docked very near to the location that Henry Hudson visited in 1609. The walk proceeds along Quay Street, to Broadway and the site of old Fort Orange (built in 1614). It continues past steamboat square and the old offices of the Hudson River Day Liner. This is the site where America’s first steamboat docked (Robert Fulton’s North River Steamboat, aka Clermont).

Today, lower Broadway is dominated by administrative headquarters of the State University of New York (Old D&H Building). In 1754 the site was dominated by the Stadt Huys (Albany’s 1st City Hall). Benjamin Franklin chaired the 1st Colonial Congress here (Albany Congress) in 1754. On July 19th, 1776 the Declaration of Independence (Dunlap Broadside) was first read to the Citizens of Albany by members of the Committee of Safety.

A few blocks north on Broadway, the route turns up Clinton Ave at the Albany Visitor Center. Albany’s 2nd oldest house (Quackenbush House) is here. In 1777, following his defeat at the Battle of Saratoga, British General Burgoyne rested here as a prisoner of war.

The route turns south on North Pearl Street at the historic Palace Theater. A few years back, many Slater volunteers attended the American premier of the movie filmed on-board (Orion in Midsummer). Continuing south the walk passes the house where Herman Melville lived, the Dutch Reformed Church that Theodore Roosevelt attended and the infamous and historic Kenmore Hotel.

At Steuben Street the walk turns west, and climbs the hill to the New York State Capital. On the 4th of July in 1865 General Grant proceeded this way as the guest of Commodore Vanderbilt. A NY Times story concerning the visit noted the jarring cobblestones.They are still visible today. Walking up Steuben Street you pass historic St. Mary’s, built on a site visited by the Catholic Martyr, Ste. Isaac Jogues in 1643.

At the crest of the hill is the NY State Capital, Lafayette and Academy Park, NY State Court of Appeals and Albany City Hall. George Washington visited in 1782-83 (Mohawk Valley Tour). President Lincoln visited in February, 1861. Not only did Lincoln visit here, he attended a play - guess who starred (details in Albany Times Union September 21, 2009 and May 7, 2009). During the visit, Lincoln stayed at the Delvan House (located at the Union Station) and the Actor stayed at the Stanwix Hotel (located at Maiden Lane and Broadway). The walking tour passes all these sites.

Looping around the Empire State Plaza you can view the NY State Museum and the New York State Executive Mansion. Three Presidents lived in the Executive Mansion (when they were NY State Governors): Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, and Franklin Roosevelt.

The route returns down State Street and Maiden Lane. Martin Van Buren and Philip Livingston, a signer of the Declaration of Independence lived on State Street.

Near the bottom of the hill a comment made by Alexander Hamilton at a private dinner party on State Street ultimately led to his death at the infamous duel between Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Both Burr and Hamilton lived in Albany for a few years following the revolution.

Crossing Broadway, the route returns to the USS Slater via the Hudson River Way, a pedestrian bridge that crosses Route 787 and links the Corning Preserve and Albany. A hundred fifty years ago the Maiden Lane Rail Road Bridge crossed the Hudson River and the Albany Basin near this site. The Albany Basin was the eastern terminus of the Erie Canal.

Sound Interesting? Feel up to a 5K Walk? I'm is happy to accommodate Slater visitors with a free value-added walking tour of Albany. These need to be scheduled on a case by case basis, contact the Slater Office (518-431-1943) to make arrangements.