- Category: USS Arizona Survivor Stories
- Last Updated: Saturday, 21 November 2015 21:56
- Published: Sunday, 21 April 2002 00:00
When we went to sea, which was two weeks at a time, a good share of our time was spent at general quarters, practicing our routines. When they had target practice, it wasn't always necessary to be at general quarters, so we did get to watch that practice. The gunners on the Arizona were excellent. The anti-aircraft gunners got so good the Admiral had to ask them not to shoot at the sleeve that was being towed by the tow plane, but shoot behind it. They didn't want to stop the practice because the tow airplane would have to take time out to get a new sleeve when it was shot off.
The turret gunners were the same. They would shoot at sleds being towed by a tug. It didn't take long and they sank the sled and had to continue practice by shooting at a destroyer's wake.
I spent the last three months in the lighting gang. I liked this work because it gave me access to the whole ship and a chance to meet more of the men throughout the ship. One day, Captain Van Valkenburgh called for a lighting electrician to replace some burned out lights in his cabin. I was dispatched to do this work. When I got to his cabin, there were two Marines standing guard at his door. They stopped me and made me state my business in the area. When I had given them the information, one of them went into the Captain's cabin to clear my presence there. When the Marine came out of the cabin, he gave me clearance to go in. I thought, "If it takes all of this to get past two Marines, what must the Captain be like?" I was pleasantly surprised. Captain Van Valkenburg was the most accommodating person I had met of all the officers on board. He asked me if I had ever been in a captain's quarters before. When I said no, he gave me a tour through his whole cabin. When I had seen everything, he said to me, "What did I call you for?" I told him, "To replace lights, Sir." He said, "I like to have them all tested at times." That was the only time I got that close to him.
In port, when we had the weekend duty, on my time off I liked to look the ship over. I had gotten to just about every area on the Arizona except the boiler rooms. As I remember, we had six of those, but I wanted to have one of the firemen show me that area for safety reasons.
Another area I was impressed with was the manual steering compartment. That required 16 men and 4 large ship's wheels to steer the ship. Rating didn't mean anything if it would have been necessary to do this job. The strongest men on the ship would be selected to take turns with this job. Fortunately, we never had to use the manual steering.
Our meals were served in the same compartment we slept in, so that meant we always had to answer reveille and get our compartment cleared of cots and hammocks. There were storage bins along the outside bulk head to stow our sleeping gear. The passageways contained our personal lockers which were about 14" wide by 20" high and 14 "deep. We had all our clothes and toilet articles in these lockers.
The mess cooks, who were the least senior men of each division, set up the tables and benches that were stored overhead in the compartment. While we were washing up for breakfast, the mess cooks got the food from the galley in pots and platters. The food was served family style. We used heavy white porcelain plates and cups. The utensils were stainless steel.
The food was always very good. The senior rated man at each table was responsible for the conduct of the men at his table. After the food had been passed once around, you could ask for seconds if there was some left. When the food was passed, no one could take anything from the platter or pot without your permission. If anyone did, the senior man at the table would make them put it back. Most dinner meals included dessert of some kind, too. The mess cooks had to do the dishes, too, but that was done in the galley as I remember it.