The Korean War was in full swing when I enlisted in the U.S. Navy on 4 November 1950. After completing boot camp in San Diego, I was assigned to Communications Technician School. What is a CTI? The people I asked didn’t know and the CTs I knew wouldn’t tell me. All I knew was that it had something to do with radio and Morse code.
After completing radio school, I was still in the dark as to exactly what my job would be for the next three and one half years. The mystery was finally revealed on my first day at CT school when we were instructed to remove the covers from the Underwood typewriters that were in front of us, and 1 looked at the strange letters on the keyboard. From CT school in San Diego, I attended CT school in Imperial Beach, California. My orders after Imperial Beach instructed me to report to NSA in Washington D.C. for language training. From there it was off to Wahiawa, Oahu, Hawaii Naval Radio Station where I thought I would probably spend the next year lounging on the beaches and playing golf at the Schofield Barracks course. Just as I was starting to get settled in at Wahiawa, I received a new set of orders that said, “Report to naval Radio Station, Yokosuka, Japan for temporary additional duty (TAD)with Commander Seventh Fleet. Could this be sea duty? I thought as a CT, I would spend my four years at shore stations. I enjoyed my short stay at Yokosuka waiting for the return of my ship the USS WISCONSIN. I found that the radio call sign for the WISCONSIN, COMSEVENTHFLT was “YAPU’ and knew the time was coming when I would soon be aboard. One day the Wisconsin was anchored in Yokosuka bay, and what an ominous looking sight she was as we were on our way to boarding her on an LCM.
We were taken below to C-deck, forward, where our quarters were and then up to the 03 deck where the CT radio shack was located. It was on the bridge level just aft of Flag Plot. We sailed that night, and in three days were in the war zone near the 38′ parallel.
The WISCONSIN’S mission was to cruise the North Korean coast line from south of Wonsan to Chonjin, which was about 170 miles south of Vladivostok, and provide artillery support for the troops ashore, bombard their railroad line, which ran north and south along the Korean cast coast and fire on “Targets of Opportunity.”
We CTs were not classified as “Ship’s Company,” but were attached to COMSEVENTHFLT, Admiral Joseph Clark’s (Jocko) Flag. The same old questions were always being asked by the slip’s crew as to what was going on in that compartment. I recall there was a first class quartermaster who became outright hostile that something was taking place on “his” bridge he wasn’t cognizant of.
Our Commanding Officer was Lieutenant Commander M.T. Smith who I remember was all business and had a habit of standing behind the CTs operating position peering intently over their shoulders when messages were being received of high priority. It was intimidating at first, but gradually we became used to it. After a couple of weeks of bombardment, we sailed back to either Yokosuka or sometimes Sasebo, Japan for ammo, fuel and supplies.
On our second trip back to the “Bomb Line” somewhere near the coastal town of Hungnam, we started to receive return fire from north Korean shore batteries. This Became a common occurrence, and it wasn’t unusual to count many shell splashes several hundred yards short of the ship. The inevitable finally happened one day as I was standing the day watch. CT1 Austin (A), opened the hatch to our compartment and said the ship had taken a hit. The projectile hit the main deck, amidships on the starboard side. After we got off duty, F.D. Johnson and I went back to see the damage. There was a small hole in the deck, near a bulkhead, that was maybe two feet across and damage control personnel were in the process of welding a patch over it. As I recall, three sailors were injured by shrapnel, one seriously.
The WISCONSIN’S tour of duty was up and it was back to Yokosuka to be relieved by the USS IOWA. The two ships tied up together, which I was told was the first time this had been done since the Pearl Harbor attack. The WISCONSIN was relieved to go back to the States, but not the Flag personnel. We packed our sea bags and stepped across to the IOWA.
The next day we were on our way again to the “Bomb Line.” My impression of the IOWA was that it was a fine ship with a good crew and high morale. We soon found that the IOWA’S gunnery was also top notch.
There was an incident that occurred aboard the IOWA I’ll never forget. It was about the third day out of Yokosuka, and I was standing the day watch when I heard the hatch being opened. I jumped up from my position in time to see a stranger poke in his head.
Since I didn’t recognize him, I grabbed his shoulders and pushed him back out of the hatch, saying, “You can’t come in here, this is a security area.” It was then I saw the eagle insignia on his shirt lapel and knew I had made a BIG mistake. He told me to step out on deck and proceeded to chew me out royally.
He said, “Don’t you know your Captain, son?” I said, “No sir”. He was really hot under the collar and asked me who my commanding officer was. He turned, leaving me standing there in shock. I fully expected a Marine to show up any time and escort me to the brig. I got on the phone, called my commanding officer and told him what had happened. He said he wondered what was going on because he had already received a summons to the Captain’s quarters. I sweated that day out. Finally the commanding officer told us when he arrived at the captain’s quarters, the captain was still angry, but cooled down some when he was told of our mission and of the extensive security training the CTs undergo. He calmed down more when he was informed we reported to Admiral Clark. He was unaware he had a CT detachment aboard. A couple of weeks later, an envelope was delivered to our radio shack and in it was an 8 x 10 photo. Written across the photo were the words, “This is your Captain. Keep up the good work.” Signed by William R. Smedbert, Captain USN. We posted the photo on the bulkhead for all to see.
After the IOWA’s tour was over, she was relieved by the USS MISSOURI. Same story, the Flag (transferred over and the IOWA headed back to the states. After two months on the MISSOURI it was time for our group of CTs lo head back for Wahiawa, but not before a well deserved R&R. We called it I&I at Lake Chuzenzi in northern Japan.
From Wahiawa I was transferred to an HFDF station at Marietta, Washington where I completed my tour of duty. There are many other memorable experiences aboard the ship I have recalled while writing this. Maybe I ought to record them for the grandchildren to read some day.
Featured Image: USS WISCONSIN CT UNIT, From left: Hodges, Nance, Lieutenant Commander Smith, Givens and Davis.
By CT2 William R. Hodges
Source: CRYPTOLOG Vol 20
(A) CT1 Austin was the first CT submarine direct support operator: https://stationhypo.com/2017/11/02/remembering-ctc-harris-monroe-red-austin-the-first-submarine-dirsup-operator/