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  USS Noxubee AOG56

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Noxubee Crest

The Skipper


By Dick Barber

I would like to tell a little about the Skipper, Lt. Wilkey as best that I can remember. He was a Mustang coming up from the enlisted ranks, apparently always remembering he was one of us. He had a German Shepherd that stayed with him almost everywhere he went except if he was out on the town and even then the dog would sometimes accompany him.

CO's Inspection During 1950 the card game Canasta became the craze, at least it was on board the Noxubee. The CO really enjoyed the game and would send a messenger to find SN Meyers with whom I worked on the deck force. The reason for the messenger was the ship did not have an intercom (1MC) until sometime in 1951 when the IC Electricians and some other crew members installed a system. On with the story, the CO would have Meyers get two other men to join them in the Wardroom to play Canasta. Needless to say BMC Campeeze was upset more times than one could count on both hands when the games started(most of the time at sea). The ships officers did not care much for them either as the Skipper would usually keep them out of the wardroom also during these times which was always during normal day time working hours. We could never figure out what Meyers had on the old man or if it was just an old friendship because they were two very different people.

The ship was heading south to Lake Charles, LA to pick up fuel and I was In the galley mess cooking on a very hot Sunday afternoon the Port holes and hatches were open to get what little air could be captured (The ship had no air conditioning) and Meyers was in with me talking while I cleaned up from the noon meal. Comments were made about the heat as it was summer and we were now down off the coast of Miami, Florida. Myers said he was going up to the bridge to speak to the CO about a swim party, and a few minutes later the ship made a hard turn to Starboard sailing to less than a quarter of a mile from the beach. The anchor was dropped and boats lowered and the word was passed for an all hands swim party. There was a man with an M-1 in each boat on the lockout for sharks while the crew swam. Quite a crowd was visible on the beach watching to see what the ship was doing out there.

Both the Captain and Meyers liked to fish so it was nothing for him to get the CO to slow down in the Gulf of Mexico for a couple hours to fish and the Captain would think nothing of accelerating the pumping of cargo and leaving port earlier than scheduled to spend a day en-route fishing.

Meyers took leave later in the summer or early fall and was about 10 days AWOL. BM3 Brookes wrote him up and took him to Captains Mast. After the mast was held Brookes returned to the Boatswains Locker muttering to himself so we asked what happened. From what we got of his reply Meyers told the Captain "he lives so far back in the hills of Kentucky and had not been home in so long that he got lost, taking the wrong trail back out to the main roads to return to the ship and it took him that long to find his way back." He was excused at the Mast.

Captain's Dog Meyers was not the only one that the CO looked favorably on. There was a time in Italy that the quarter deck watch refused to let the Captain board the ship holding him at gun point during the mid to four watch. Nothing happened to him. Another time one of the biggest men on the ship started an altercation after returning to the ship one night in Casablanca. The Captain and Pal his dog were involved somehow and four or five men were trying to restrain the seaman on the mess deck by the starboard hatch. The Captain was trying to get on to the Mess deck through the hatch from the main deck but it was being held closed by the seaman with the four or five men trying to get him away from the hatch. The hatch opens out to the main deck and the seaman broke from those trying to restrain him and suddenly pushed on the hatch shoving the Skipper overboard. When it was realized what happened, the Seaman started to cry worrying if Pal the dog was hurt. Not about the skipper's condition. Fortunately the only damage to the CO was he got wet. The Chief medic finally came up and sedated the Seaman and confined him in a straight jacket for a few hours. No other mention of the incident ever came up and the CO and Seaman carried on afterwards as though nothing ever happened. I was on the Mess Deck that night when that incident occurred.

Captain Wilkey also showed concern for many others on board by offering them money to go on liberty if they were short of cash especially if our pay did not catch up to the ship when we were in port. He would generally stop in to the crews local watering spots in Norfolk like "Bunny's Trade Winds," and buy a round for crew members that were there and spend some time talking.

The best of the best happened down in Jacksonville. Florida several of us were in "Lou Flynts" a local watering house some what upscale from some of the other local establishments. The personnel man from the ship came in and said the CO asked for us to wait for him as he was coming in and wanted a little help. When he arrived he had a couple of suitcases and explained nothing was to be said and to hide them from the XO who was coming in. He put some money down to buy drinks "Moscow Mules" which was a specialty drink at Lou Flynts served in a special mug which you kept. (I have a set of six) We were to keep the XO drinking until the CO came back. Drinks were poured for the XO and he was never allowed to have an empty mug over the next couple hours. The CO returned finally with a taxi and we had to help him load the XO into same with his luggage. Our job finished the captain took over escorting a very tipsy XO to the airport where he put him on a flight to Seattle, Washington with a set of leave papers and his personnel file. Evidently they did not get along with each other and the Captain had expected Lt.Johnnie J. Wilkes to take over as XO. The last we heard was the XO sent the skipper a telegram to the effect, I know where I'm not wanted.

Lt. Wilkes got the XO position and it was taken for granted he would become the new CO when Lt. Wilkey retired. That did not happen as a new officer Lt. Bruce Wells (I think) came on board as the new CO in late 1950. He suffered a heart attack in early 1951 only a couple of months after coming aboard. Only then did LT J.J. Wilkes assume command.


SN Birmingham and Lt. E. Wilkey


Noxubee Crest

The Noxubee Galley


By Dick Barber
After a little over a year in the deck force chipping paint, painting and painting over the side while underway: yes on a trip back from Cassablanca (the Atlantic was as smooth as glass, not even a small swell to be seen and we were hanging over the bow in boatswains chairs painting, and a couple of guys were swinging from the stack doing the same), splicing lines, working the chain locker, bow hook and finally boat coxswain, quarterdeck watches in port, bridge watches underway especially the flying bridge when it was hot or cold, rainy or sleet and snow, tours of mess cooking, compartment cleaning, shoveling debris and rust out of the cargo tanks, a tour in the paint locker, and the final straw was being broke out about 0300 to chip ice from the 01 level while heading up around Greenland. I submitted a request to strike for cook thinking this might not be too bad a job, at least warm and no watches to stand. My request was put on hold, as there was a cook and baker on board at that time.

Coming back from a night in Bermuda about Feburary 1951 the Quarterdeck Watch handed me the keys to the galley and said Burlingame, the cook was taken to the hospital with an attack of appendicitis and the Captain said I was the new cook. After about 3 hours sleep the messenger of the watch rousted me from my bunk to start my new assignment in the galley. After unlocking the galley and entering I was confronted with a side of frozen veal that was for the noon meal that day. The mess cook and I started our first of many days of confusion preparing meals, cleaning the galley after each, getting acquainted with the paperwork associated with food service. There was enough paper work involved to put an accountant down.

The Navy at the time was working on the "36 System", which was in simple terms using a ration factor for each item saved or used in meal preparation. Each item had a factor that was used to determine the amount of an item to be used for each man each meal and had to be multiplied by the number of portions to be fed to determine the quantity to be used. Each item in a recipe had to be worked by the factor that was designated: salt, pepper, onions, potatoes, meat and so on. The only factor that I still remember was for oils and sauces (condiments) which was an 80. If you used a #l0 can of catsup, it would wipe out any other condiment for about 10 days feeding a crew of 65 men. The Navy eventually moved on to the "45 System", which was a monetary system where you received a monetary allowance per man and could serve almost anything as long as you did not exceed allowed cost. We had a 1945 Navy Cook Book with recipes and information on menu preparation to work from. The forms, stock ledger, stock record cards and other accounting sheets had to be deciphered from some of the older ones that had been filled out. CS3 Ted Pahanish was the baker and provided some help but we worked for about 30 days straight from 0430 to after 1900 before any additional help was provided. Another striker was then assigned with no experience other than a tour of Mess cooking.

In the late 40's and early 50's many menus were repetitious especially breakast. We had the baked navy beans with cornbread and boiled eggs on Wednesday and Saturday, other days were Minced Beef on Toast, (also known as SOS) a mixture of ground beef, sauteed onions and canned tomatoes and seasoned with salt, pepper and nutmeg usually accompanied with hash brown potatoes. Another favorite was Creamed dried beef on toast (affectionately known as, well the men had another name for it) also served with hash brown potatoes. Fried or scrambled eggs usually once a week with sausage or bacon and toast also hash brown potatoes. Hot cakes or French toast with breakfast meat would also make up one meal, other offerings such as pork scrapple, scotch eggs (hard-boiled in a cream sauce)then fresh fruit as available and dry cereal, milk, tea and coffee. Fresh milk was usually available in port in the states but there was also the evaporated milk and a canned product called Realfresh, which was not too bad if chilled to near freezing temps. Frozen milk was also available but separated when thawed and was less then desirable.

Beef came boxed frozen and was identified as Beef Boneless Frozen 4-Way. The breakdown as close as I remember was 30% ground, 30% diced stewing, 20% roast moist heat and 20% roast and steak dry heat. Unfortunately the percentages rarely matched, ground and diced beef usually came in higher quantities especially if a stores ship replenished you. During one supply run to the Supply Depot at Melville while in Newport, RI I had a discussion with one of the supply reps on the way we usually received beef. Evidently he took note and our receipts of beef ordered included at least 50% steak, beef tenderloin and loin strips (New York Cut). There were some really good dinners made from that load. One problem encountered aboard ship was that the CO, Lt. J.J. Wilkes liked his meat all cooked well done and the XO, Lt. C.V. Wells liked his rare, steaks on the grill turned and off The Captain did not want to see any blood or juices on the platter when it was brought from the galley to the wardroom (all wardroom food was prepared by the cooks in the galley and the stewards were not permitted to help by direction of the CO. Any platter of meat with juices visible were promptly returned to the galley by the CO personally and he waited till all meat was re-cooked well done. You guessed it, the XO would then come to the galley fix his meat to be re-cooked to his desire. The skipper would not allow us to put meat on two platters to avoid the conflict so the cooks and Stewards were always in the middle of their feud.

Sunday evening meals almost always consisted of cold cuts and another area of conflict, but with the crew. Bologna and Salami always had a greenish tint to them due to preservatives; hot dogs were also greenish in color. With the cold cuts there had to be sardines which smelt up the galley for hours (I never did like them).

Some food items were left over from WWII and one that comes to mind was the cheddar cheese, heat stable . It came in a number 10 can which had to be cut away to remove it. The cheese had to be in a liquid state when canned as it filled the can and the rings around the middle of the can making it almost impossible to remove unless the can was gut away down the side as well as open from both ends. My first encounter with the cheese was preparing a macaroni and cheese dish. After preparing the cream sauce and finally getting the cheese out of the can I cut it as best I could it didn't cut well either. The cheese was added to the sauce to cook and melt but it did not melt. Finally the sauce was poured over the cooked macaroni and placed in the oven to finish but the cheese never changed its appearance or melted. The next time we had macaroni and cheese I tried grinding the cheese but ended up with the same results, grilled cheese sandwiches were no more successful, the cheese was definitely heat stable.

One morning in April, '51 the Certain came in the galley and asked me if I could pass a test for CS3? I told him I would try and his comment was yes or no to passing a test, so my reply was affirmative. I took the test and was advanced to CS3 in September, '51, passing with only two months experience but what an experience.

The ship was preparing for deployment to the Med and we started receiving more crew members a Chief Commissaryman and an E6, also another striker was added to the galley as well as another mess cook as the ships compliment rose from 65 to about 120 men and officers. The cooks during my time aboard the Noxubee were:

  • 1950 CSSN Bartell
  • 1950-1951 CSSN Burlingame
  • 1951-1952 CSC Dupont
  • 1951-1952 CS1 R. C. Cannella, USNR recalled to active duty during Korea
  • 1951-1952 CS3 Ted Pahanish
  • 1951-1952 CSSN Delton Ray Hedge
  • 1951-1952 CSSN LaFluer

The chief had one idea that we did not like to follow, that was to add a cream sauce to scrambled eggs to extend them and reduce the quantity of eggs used. Eggs were cold storage not fresh, and were dipped in wax to extend shelf life. They were always stale tasting no matter what you did to them.

Ted Pahanish was a good baker and when underway normally baked all the bread products which he mixed by hand the mixer being too small, about IO-quart. He really had to work to mix the dough by hand but seemed to enjoy it as much as he enjoyed his beverage as available, and it always seemed to be so. Even after ten or more days at sea he would still have a supply stashed someplace on board. There was an Ice Cream machine on the mess decks; (hard not soft) and I started to experiment with it turning out some decent product with canned fruits and coffee. The crew enjoyed the effort.

With limited chill space on board fresh fruit and vegetables were not always readily available. Storage life was reduced to the degree of where it was obtained local stateside or via MedReps while deployed. All efforts were made to put out a decent product with what was available and the experience of the cooks, which gradually improved with time. The Navy had started new programs for food service coming out with a recipe card service to replace the old cookbook and increasing the number of recipes available. The Ney Award Program was started to assist and improve food preparation, all of which produced dramatic changes over the years.

During a short yard period in Boston, Ma. Prior to the increase in personnel I was able to swap two cases of coffee for stainless steel panels behind the steam kettles improving the appearance and eliminating the greasy painted bulkhead. Later in '52 on our return from the Med the ship again went to the Boston ship yard where the galley underwent other changes including turning the steam table to allow the crew to enter and depart the serving line without having to go out on the weather deck. This work was completed after I departed the ship but I did finally see the results when I visited her at the Naval Base Little Creek, VA in 1975 just before she was decommissioned.

The Noxubee, my first permanent duty station was the start of a career that totaled twenty-eight and a half years of naval service, retiring in 1978 as a Master Chief Commissayman. I have no bad memories from Noxubee, as people say your last duty station was always you best, that period was and always will remain one of the best. I may have forgotten some of the names but it was a great bunch of guys as well as a crazy bunch. There are things I cannot write or talk about, do not want to embarrass any one, but they were some great times. I'm sure that crews following carried the same traits making Noxubee one great ship.


Noxubee Crest

Alien Creature


By Dick Barber

It was a warm and muggy evening at Tripoli, Libya. About 2100 SN Lafluer and I were sitting around talking on deck and we decided to do some fishing. The Deck Force had the punt (a small flat-bottomed square nosed boat) over the side painting around the waterline that day and it was still in the water. I got some chicken pieces from the galley and we rowed the punt out into the harbor.

The harbor was very dark only getting some light from the ship at the dock and a little from the casino/club that was not far from the end of the pier and located on the highway running between the city of Tripoli and Wheelus Air Force Base. There was little or no moon but the sky was bright with stars that did nothing to light up the area. I'm not too sure how long we were out there fishing but something finally hit my line and I tried to set it to hook the fish. There was no play from what ever took the hook but I could feel the weight on the line so I started to reel it in. Just below the surface whatever was on the line came off. I stopped reeling in and let the line back out. Before it hit bottom something took it again. This time after setting the hook and reeling it up I managed to boat the creature between myself and Lafluer. About the time the creature hit the bottom of the punt it started to spread out like a blob. It was too dark to see the creature and neither one of us wanted to reach down to find out what manner of thing we had in the punt with us. The creature was trying to take over all the space in the punt so we both picked up the oars and paddled the punt back to the dock, no doubt setting some type of speed record for a square flat bottom craft without the benefit of any type of power. The blob continued to spread out in the bottom of the punt with neither one of us willing to try and contain a creature we could not identify. By this time the scare factor was getting to us as newspapers were full of UFO reports and sci-fi movies were popular.

We finally managed to get to the dock and we jumped out of the punt and held it with a line while we tried to figure what manner of creature was attacking us. It was an octopus. The creature was larger than the bottom of the punt especially when you can't see what it was, the tentacles did have quite a span to them, four to five feet across. You can imagine how this would affect two men vying for the same space left in the boat. The Octopus did not go to waste as one of the locals working on the pier was very happy to accept it and carry it home for a meal or two. We had quite a laugh the following morning. When all was said and done, it was quite an adventure. And no we did not do any more night-time fishing on that cruise.


Noxubee Crest

The Dungaree Navy


By Dick Barber

 

Noxubee 1952 The Noxubee was not a great ship for a 17-year-old just out of boot camp as far as the regular navy goes. Duty was more Mickey Mouse than navy at times, maybe most of the time. I remember a 3rd class Signalman on board that would stand Gangway Watch with a pair of Roy Rogers's cap pistols, holster and all plus cowboy boots. It was definitely "Dungaree Navy" and many liberties were spent ashore in same.

During my duty aboard Noxubee we ran the Gulf coast and Atlantic seaboard on up to Newfoundland and Eureka Bay, around Greenland, and over to Iceland. There were several trips to Casablanca, Morocco and then we made a 9-month Med Cruise over the period 1951-'52. I do remember spending Christmas of '51 in Gulf Juan, France. Almost all the cruising was done in and out of civilian ports stateside, mainly oil refineries where we picked up 145-octane gas or jp3 jet fuel. The ship would then carry the fuel to military auxiliary fields, again mostly through civilian services. The only real navy was Norfolk, VA or Newport, RI.

I will say the liberty was good but without a paymaster on board we were at the mercy of the post office in order to get our paychecks forwarded. There were quite a few occasions we went a month or more without pay. The C.O. at the time I reported on board was Lt. Wilkey. He liked to fish, so when we were down in the gulf of Mexico he would go out of his way to take on the cargo as soon as possible and get underway early to sit in the gulf and fish for a day or more. Fresh water supplies were limited when underway so there were more than a few salt-water showers from the sprinkler system on the tank deck. When I started cooking I became exempt from salt-water showers, due to sanitary requirements and could enjoy a fresh water shower if only for a few minutes.

I have been searching for years for an old shipmate Jack Conover; he was a Radarman or Sonarman. We pulled many a liberty together, unfortunately Jack and I had a collision during a softball game in Tripoli, Lydia. We were going after a fly ball in the outfield and he ran into me, his knee catching me in the stomach and ruptured his kneecap. They took him to the hospital at Wheelus AFB in Tripoli. I heard he was discharged with a medical and again never heard from him again. Maybe someone will run across his name and let me know. Jack might have been from New Jersey but I'm not sure. But I sure would like to hear from him. I did run across one shipmate in Chesapeake, Va., his name is O. J. Deal he was an MM1 or EN1. I just happened to see their picture in the local paper; they were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. I talked to his wife on the telephone but he never called back.


Noxubee Crest

1951 Cruise Book


By Dick Barber


Naples Harbor 1951

 


SN Meyer

FN Aurema and SN Peirce

CSSN Hedge
C V Wells
Lt. C V Wells

SN Lafluer


CSC Dupont

SA Dick Barber, SA Roy Carter,
FN Marler

Deck Division

 
Basketball at the British Army Base Larnaca, Cyprus 1951

 

 

 


Back home to New York
Thanksgiving menu
Click on menu to see whats for Thanksgiving Day Dinner 1951
It may be slow loading


Noxubee Crest

The Ship's Cook


By Dick Barber

 

1950 Noxubee During one of my earlier deployments on board Noxubee we were in port, Casablanca, Morocco. It was in 1950 and I was messcooking. We had a CSSN by the name of Burlingame and "Diamond" Ted Pahanish, either a CS2 or CS1. They both liked their booze and were somewhat expert at extracting juices from canned fruit and turning it into wine.

En-route to Casablanca they had made up about a dozen bottles from #10 can size blueberries and had them fermenting under the steam table in the galley. In port the CO decided to have a rare inspection so the wine had to be moved and stashed in some out of the way place. Burlingame took care of it by putting it up in the stack. The CO would never look there. Evidently their plan worked perfectly until around noontime when Mother Nature stepped in to put an end to their galley winery.

A storm came up and the mooring lines started to part (we were Mediterranean moored, anchor out and hawsers from the fantail to the dock). We had an engine on line to provide power but now there was a need for an emergency underway to stabilize the ship. Shortly after the ship was up to full power one of the engine room gang came topside with a report about some blue liquid running down the bulkhead in the engine room, and a strong smell of alcohol. The bottles in the stack were exploding from the heat of the engines being lit off. Not a word came from anyone in the galley as to what might have been the source of this blue liquid. To the best of my knowledge wine making became a thing of the past, none made again during my time on board.

When my time as mess cook was done I went back to the deck force. I remember once during a trip up north to Newfoundland, we were shaken out of our racks around 0300 to chip ice that had formed on the 01 level, the masts, and superstructure. That was all the motivation I needed. I decided then and there to strike for cook. I knew I belonged in the galley not out chipping ice with the deck gang. Unfortunately, with two men in the galley the request was put on hold.

By early 1951 Burlingame was the lead cook and we were in Bermuda. I returned to the ship after a night of sightseeing at some of the local pubs. To my great surprise as I came back aboard I was handed the keys to the galley. Burlingame was taken to the hospital and the Captain told the Quarter-Deck Watch that I was the new cook.

When arriving in the galley the next morning at 0430 I was greeted by half a carcass of frozen veal. My task as a new cook was to turn that rock hard slab of meat into dinner. A new saga of my life had begun. There was so much more to the job than preparing a meal that even those before me didn't realize. Menus had to be prepared, usage records kept, stores to order, and no one to teach or start me out. It was strictly on the job training learning as I went along. But Steward Boyd gave me a great deal of help and advice. The messcook was a big help too. So I made headway and quickly learned my new job.

The CO came into the galley one morning in April and asked me if I could pass a test for CS3? With only a couple of months on the job I answered yes and was taken to the messdecks and given the test that was ordered for Burlingame. That September I advanced to CS3!


Noxubee Crest

Battling Hurricane Able


By Dick Barber

For ten days in May 1951 Hurricane Able, a category 3 hurricane with over 100 m.p.h. winds churned up the Atlantic Seaboard from Florida to Virginia.

The Noxubee was at Craney Island taking on a load of 145 octane to be taken to Casablanca, Morocco. The ship was Scheduled to depart on Monday morning. There were reports of a tropical disturbance in the area and our time of departure was changed to Sunday morning to get us out of port before the storm hit Norfolk. It was an early departure time and I was the duty cook so breakfast went down about the time the ship was preparing to get underway.

Ship Roll The menu for the noon meal that Sunday was roast chicken. I had the chickens dressed and in roasting pans and in the oven. Departure was uneventful but by ten a.m. we were in some heavy seas. Coffee was splashing out of the large ten gallon urn and had to be partially drained, water on the steam table was drained and the table was secured. The ship pitching and rolling so much that gallons of water were splashing out of the 50-galton steam kettles and I even had to drain the stock out of the chicken in the roasting pans as it was spilling in the oven. By 1100 hours waves were breaking over the tank deck with such force the captain secured the area and did not permit the crew to traverse from the forward section of the ship aft and vice versa.

Hurricane 1 The noon meal was scheduled to go down at 1130 a.m. and other than the chicken and a small amount of vegetables, it was going to be a rather simple meal. The mess cook and I set up as best we could but no one was showing up to eat. Eventually a half dozen or so out of a crew of 60 men and officers that came up to eat. I ended up tying the roasting pan with the chicken to a mess table and we sat up there eating and waiting for others to show up. Some one suggested we play cards and four of us started playing pinochle.

Hurricane 2 There was little activity around the galley for the next eighteen to twenty four hours as the storm continued to get worse. The ship's course took us deeper into the storm and we had no place to go to find calmer seas. Swells were running twenty feet to about forty feet and the helmsman had all he could do to prevent the ship from laying in a trough which would have been disastrous. Headway into the swells was like a roller coaster as the ship pitched and rolled. The vibration aft was the jarring as the screws came out of the water as the ship pitched forward running down the next swell of the seas.

Hurricane 3 Finally after 30 hours since getting underway the weather started breaking and we finally got some relief from the storm. But the ship had taken some heavy hits. The boom on the port side of the fo'cs'le was damaged, the covers on the cargo hatch were damaged and the ship had taken water forward partially flooding a dry stores provisions storeroom. The captain's gig was damaged. There were two 20mm AA mounts on the aft tank deck and the gun tubs were rolled back like sardine can tops over and onto the guns. A garbage chute had been installed on the port side main deck during the last yard period at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and it was twisted aft about 45 degrees (see picture). The crews berthing compartment forward of the tank deck had taken some water also. The gauge (can't recall the technical name) on the bridge that measures the ships roll had been marked at 54 degrees. The captain broke into the forward storeroom to get canned goods to feed anyone in the forward part of the ship that wanted to eat. There were canned meats, vegetables and fruit so food was available to those few in the forward section of the ship that wanted it.

Hurricane 4 The ship proceeded to Casablanca, off loaded our fuel and ServLant sent us up to Naples Italy for a short R&R before returning to the states. Once back home a quick yard period repaired the damage. It was at that time the two 20 mm AA gun tubs off the tank deck were removed leaving only two twin mounts aft on the fantail.

The pictures I took were mostly aft from the port side were I came on deck from the galley hatch. Needless to say the sight was breathtaking when I took the pictures but my time out on deck was brief as well as stupid, we were younger and more daring in those days. I had other pictures of the damage the ship sustained but alas they are some of the many that are stilt missing.


Noxubee Crest

Mac


By Dick Barber

 

As the Korean War picked up the Noxubee gained more crew members. Our compliment went from 65 to about 110 including officers just in time for a nine month long Med cruise.

Shortly before we left the States, a few of us were on the fantail shooting the breeze. Someone said "here comes trouble." We all looked down the pier and saw a lone sailor, a Seaman with four hash-marks on his sleeve walking toward the ship with only a packet of orders in his hand and a small ditty bag. "Mac" as I'll call him in case a family member surfs in brought no seabag or other personal gear. He only had what his ditty bag could hold. He had been on the Noxubee a few years earlier and was coming back for another tour. So he was well know to a few of the old hands.

Mac would get up in the morning and head for the "Head" with only a towel and tooth brush. Somehow he would emerge back to the compartment fully showered, shaved, and hair combed ready to find clothing to wear. Over a period of time he accumulated his share of "D/C" stenciled dungarees and skivvies. Many a day he would show up with clothing that had a hole in it freshly cut where a name used to be. Mac was short, about 5'6'' or 5''7" and fairly stocky and it did not bother him if he could not get the waist buttoned. At one time he was assigned to the paint locker so he had access to the "D/C" stencil and lots of red paint. He was also assigned to operate the laundry for a short time. So he soon collected a full seabag.

Everyone quickly learned to keep their gear put up especially when it was time for liberty. Mac would always find something if he needed it though. There was a young SA from Philadelphia on board by the name of Lightner, he didn't smoke, drink, or curse and was very religious. At sea he would spend time spit shining his shoes (the Navy was emerging from blackened to polished shoes). The ship was in Keflavik, Iceland and he thoughtlessly put his shoes out getting ready for liberty; they disappeared. The next morning they were found by the foot of his rack. But the only resemblance to the shoes previously were the shined heels and sides, the toes were scuffed out almost completely. It seems Mac was up in the mountains, three sheets to the wind with a couple other men and they were trying to get a ride back to the ship before midnight. Someone in a small truck offered them a ride in the bed so they jumped in. But Mac didn't make it all the way in and dragged his feet part of the way down to the pier. You know who had poor Lightner's shoes.

Another item that was hard to maintain in those days were mattress covers which we each had two issued from boot camp and replacements cost a couple dollars a piece or so then. We were in Casablanca, Morocco and you would see some of the locals around the piers and sometimes in town wearing them. Holes cut through the bottom so they could get their head through and also cut to get their arms through, many still had the tie flap and names on them. Some of the pier workers would come to the ship during working hours and ask for Mac, he was their supplier. When in Morocco it was easy get your bunk stripped when you were working because no one was in the compartment.

Somehow Mac managed to make BM3 again but did not keep it too long. He was eventually transferred, but he left the ship with a full seabag as a four hash-mark going on five Seaman.


Noxubee Crest

Man Overboard


By Dick Barber

 

It was a warm humid and sultry day down on the Gulf of Mexico. It was either 1950 or 1951 and not sure of the month now. The seas were calm with only a slight swell that made the ship pitch ever so slightly. Up on the bridge the Captain (maybe he was stilt the XO at the time) was thinking out loud and commented it would be a good day for a man overboard drill. There was a third class signalman on board that I thought was a little crazy at times, he also was on the bridge on watch when the comment was made. The decision was to put a dummy overboard that was rigged for the purpose of conducting drills but the signalman convinced the CO that he could go overboard and make the drill more realistic. After much discussion with the two I overheard the comment "YOU WILL WEAR A LIFEJACKET" and advise me when you are ready to go over the side and something about leaving the ship from the tank deck.

About thirty minutes passed and the CO had not heard from or seen the signalman since they completed their discussion so he sent a messenger down to the forward berthing compartment to have him come to the bridge. The messenger arrived back on the bridge informing the CO that the man was not below decks. An immediate call went out to search the ship but the man could not be found so a man overboard was passed with the inclusion this is no drill.

The ship slowed and made a 180-degree turn back to the remnants of its path still somewhat visible in the calm seas. Extra lockouts were placed on the bridge to search the waters for our lost signalman, and M-1 's were also brought up and loaded in the event sharks were sighted. The motor whaleboat was manned ready to be lowered while many of the crew manned the rails to look for the man in the water.

The CO was furious at the thought that the man disregarded his strict instructions to notify him of his readiness to leave the ship and of the time he was going over the side. Now the thought was did he have on dungarees and a life jacket. What was he wearing? We had the old blue/grey Kapok life jackets on board not the high visibility orange that were becoming more widely used. About an anxious hour passed when one of the lockouts sighted something in the water and the ship slowed even more and approached the object sighted. To the relief of all, especially the CO it was the signalman who was rapidly hauled on board, wearing only an old navy issues bathing suit and a kapok life jacket. Once on board he and the CO made a quick departure to the Captains quarters and he was not seen again for a good half-hour or more. Fortunately every thing turned out alright but future man overboard drills were conducted with a dummy dummy not one that walked, talked and breathed.


Noxubee Crest

Noxubee Tails


By Dick Barber

 

Norfolk Liberty

During the summer of 1950 there was a major thunderstorm that hit the area of Norfolk, Virginia. The storm came up unexpectedly and the weather forecasters plus media information was not readily available. The storm took its toll on the waters of Chesapeake Bay by the Naval Station. A 40-foot liberty boat was headed in to the fleet landing as the storm hit. The boat was swamped and overturned and several sailors were lost as a result. The Commandant of the fifth Naval District put out an order that effective immediately personnel riding in small boats would wear life vests to and from destinations in the area.

The Noxubee was at the pier at Craney Island and we ran boats from there to the Lamberts Point Coal Piers for liberty parties to go ashore as transportation to Craney Island by road was almost non-existent. We had the old style Kapok life jackets on board that had a more or less blue/gray color to them. The jackets were made of a light canvass type covering over the flotation material and about three inches thick. There were three straps; two that passed back to front between the legs with clips that hooked to the bottom front of the vest. The third strap went around the waist and hooked into a clip on the side. There was also two or three ties that held the vest up close to the neck in front to bring the bulky collar close to the back of the neck. The lifeiackets were old and always left a powdery residue the color of the vest when touched. It was summer and we wore whites ashore. This was before you could wear civvies and it was long before the new style white pants and button down white shirts of the 70's. Putting on the Jackets over your whites for the boat run was bad enough but then upon reaching the coal piers you had to climb up the pier eight to ten feet on an old wooden ladder built to the pier. This was the same area that ships were loaded with coal being shipped to various ports around the world. After the trip from the ship to Lamberts Point you were ready to return to the ship for a clean uniform as the shore patrol in town would pick you up for your appearance, take your liberty card and hold you in a drunk tank until a patrol wagon became available to return you to your ship. After several men were returned this way we were given permission to leave the ship with dungarees over our whites until we got ashore and then remove the dungarees.

 

The Hospital Corpsman Striker

The Noxubee was deployed to the Med during the 1951-1952 time frame. There was a Chief Hospital Corpsman on board along with a Seaman/Striker that had some kind of limited medical background and spent most of his time in the dispensary assisting the Chief and learning his trade. While in Tripoli, Libya a 1st Class Motor Machinist Mate found the door to the medicinal alcohol storage open and medical records were strewn about the area. The only ones with key access were the Chief and the XO. The XO was notified of the situation and came to investigate. The inventory of alcohol was fairly well depleted, it was obvious what had transpired and the Chief was quickly transferred from the ship. That left us with just the Striker for our Corpsman.

A short time after, while underway one of the crew was complaining of severe pain in the lower abdomen. The striker diagnosed it as appendicitis. Messages were sent asking for assistance and first replies were to have the corpsman perform an emergency appendectomy. The CO responded and explained how we were deployed without the benefit of a qualified medic on board. The reply came back ordering us to change course and head to the nearest port. The ship was not too far from the Italian coast so we put into port where an Italian ambulance picked up the man and he was taken to a local hospital for surgery. The outcome was successful and the man returned to the ship about two weeks later. The remainder of the cruise was accomplished with the Seaman running the dispensary and doing a very fine job.

 

The Frozen Compass

Whle up in the North Atlantic before the Med Cruise a major steering problem developed and the rudder would not respond to the helm on the Bridge. The secondary conn located aft on the 02 level was manned. The weather was extremely cold and it was reported to the CO that the compass was frozen and not operational. Some one had replaced the alcohol in the compass with water. The steering problem was corrected in a timely fashion and the watch assumed the conn on the bridge. The compass was thawed and repaired.

Noxubee Crest

My Deck Courts-martial


By Dick Barber

Richard Albecker and I were taking Christmas leave at the same time in December of 1950. We left Newport, RI. heading for providence where we took the train to New York City. He lived in New Jersey and I in Queens, New York. The trip down was uneventful, but after making contact before heading back after Christmas Richard said he was going to drive back to Newport and asked me if I wanted to accompany him on the drive back. I agreed and we met in New York City for the return trip. It was late in the evening if my memory is correct and we headed north towards Rhode Island. The weather was cold and brisk and I don't recall if the car had a heater or not. It was either a Ford or Mercury coupe year now unknown. As we proceeded through Connecticut it started to snow and before long it was really starting to pile up. It was a wet pack snow and it was difficult for the windshield wipers to keep the windshield clear. The vision area gradually got to a point where we would have to stop and clear the windshield by hand each time the build up got so bad that you could not see. The wind was really blowing and the snow flakes were some of the largest that I had seen in many years. We were in a blizzard and the road was piling fast. Tire tracks from other very light traffic enabled Richard to maintain the car on the road as we continued our very slow progress. We passed a sign identifying the town of Brooklyn, Connecticut coming up, but now the snow was so deep on the road the car became high centered. We made several attempts to push the car but to no avail as the tires just spun and we were stuck. It was about two AM and we sat in the car wondering what we were going to do. The snow continued to fall heavily and the wind blowing soon piled drifts around the car and we were getting colder by the minute.

We spotted a light in the distance but could not make out how far it was, maybe a hundred yards or more. We decided to try to reach the area where we saw the light and headed out walking. The snow was over two feet deep, wet and piling in drifts that made walking difficult in addition to fighting the wind blowing in our faces and the chill factor.(something I had never heard of at that time) We finally made it to the house where the light was walking at least a quarter mile. We knocked on the door but there was no response so we also started calling but still no answer. Now the question, do we try to break-in or head back to the cold car and fight the snow some more. About that time a shadow of another building about 200 feet away became visible and we decided to try that one-first even though there were no visible lights. We approached the building and saw it was a larger house than the first and proceeded to knock on the door and call for help. After a couple of minutes a light came on and a women came to the door. We explained our predicament and were invited into the house. Her husband appeared and they were a couple probably in their sixties. They Made hot chocolate for us and turned up the heat in the kitchen to help us warm up. They also informed us the house we were beating on and thinking of breaking into was a chicken house with no heat. No wonder we did not get a response. The snow continued through out the night and the telephone service was temporarily disrupted so there was no way to call the ship about our predicament.

Around ten AM the snow had stopped and the sun was bright, snowplows had started to clear the roads. Richard decide he was going to drive back to New Jersey and I declined to accompany him back there. He took me to town where I would take the Greyhound Bus to Newport, RI. I could not call the Noxubee so I sent a telegram explaining the circumstances and that I was taking the first bus through to return to the ship. Finally arrived back in Newport being about sixteen or eighteen hours AOL.

I thought I did everything we had been advised to do when emergencies arose and you had difficulty returning to duty, notify your command and make the best effort to return in the shortest time frame possible. Well, the Captain, Lt. Bruce Wells had a different opinion and when I went to Captains Mast he ordered a Deck Court-martial for me. I believe he gave me two weeks restriction 28 hours extra duty and a Fifty Dollar fine, which was almost a months pay in 1950. There was also a mystery that was never resolved. I wore a set of gabardine tailor made blues on leave saving my regulation dress uniform for retuning to the ship. My Uniform had been dry cleaned and put on the top inside of my suitcase a Val Pack which was in the trunk of the car for the return trip. On arrival in Newport, RI and the bus station I proceeded to the mens room to change uniforms as tailor mades were illegal. Going back to the fleet landing, Shore patrol would normally grab you up and take your liberty card returning you to your command. Well, my uniform somehow disappeared and was not in my suitcase on arrival. To this day I never found out what happened to it. The Shore Patrol did not stop me on my return or that would have been another charge. But the cost to replace my uniform was enough to offset any other charges that may have been given. The Captain explained to me during my Deck Court-martial that it was because I did not return from leave by the same transportation as I had departed on. No matter that the trains were also delayed as well as bus service because of the storm. For reference the Deck Courts-martial was later named Summary Court-martial when the military were put under the UCMJ shortly after.


 


Noxubee Crest

Larnaca, Cyprus


By Dick Barber

 

The Noxubee entered port at Larnaca, Cyprus for the first time in August of 1951. Cyprus had a lot of history to offer and a lot to see for the average history buff. Hand made lace was also a popular item to see and purchase. The beach at Larnaca was a popular spot in the warm weather, not much sand, very rocky. There were shady areas built along the beach front with tables and benches to sit at and relax. Behind the beach was a row of businesses and a small hotel or two. One of the businesses was the Palm Beach Bar. It was more of a local restaurant that served food, soft drinks, coffee, tea and beer. There was a young girl working there that collected the checks from customers and helped the owner with his bookkeeping The owner looked very much like Ernest Hemingway. There was also a picture there of an old fisherman with a full beard in slickers that also had a similar look. I sat at a table near the cash register and struck up a conversation with the girl and spent a couple hours there. The next evening I went back and we talked some more about the town and local area. She was a high school student and had a sister (name escapes me now) that had just graduated and was working in a bank in Limasol. They were off the next day and we agreed to meet and they would show me some of the sites in Larnaca. A couple of other men from the ship came ashore with me, Jack Conover, Govero, Bob Cooley, Anthony Alexopoulous and Ed Dupree to name a few. We spent part of the afternoon seeing the area, and some time at the beach. After three or four days in Larnaca the ship was ready to head out for our next port of call. It was mid morning and the motor whaleboat had been hoisted aboard the anchor was being raised as well as the companion ladder. A small boat approached the ship and the Captain and XO were called to the quarterdeck. I was in the Galley working when summoned to the quarterdeck which was just outside of the messhall. To my surprise there was Helen and her Sister with two bouquets of flowers, one for me and the other for Govero. A lot of ribbing followed during the next few days at sea. The ship made a couple more visits to Larnaca during our time in the Mediterranean. On each visit several men from the ship would accompany me to visit Helen and her sister. On one occasion thinking I could get away from my shipmates I invited Helen to the movies. She agreed and when I went to pick her up at her house I was greeted by he mother. It turned out her mother and an aunt would chaperone us on our evening out at the movies Helen and I. On our visits to Cyprus, there were tours of the Island, and swimming during the warmer months. Several sporting contests were held against the British Garrison on the Island. Basketball, soccer and marksmanship competitions to name a few. The town of Larnaca was a pleasant quiet area to spend Liberty. I'm sure most of the crew would say it was small, but one of the best liberty ports we hit. My Wife and youngest Son had an opportunity to visit Cyprus in 1984. Although there were signs of Larnaca's growth there were still signs of the area from the early fifties. The Palm Room was still there, but now a full bar or lounge. I was able to identify it by the picture of the fisherman in slickers that still hung in a place of prominence by the cash register.

Bob, Helen, Alex, Helen's Sister

Alex, Helen's Sister

School

Young Sea Scouts

Dick, Helen