THAT FOURTH PATROL, FROM THE WARD ROOM
While we were having R & R from Patrol #3 in Midway, Capt. Dan Daspit approached me at the bar in the Gooneybird Hotel, when he told me he wanted me to be exec. on the fourth patrol. Cdr. Don Weiss was being sent along on a PCO (his second) and with Commander Hunnicutt getting off, Paul Straub became next in line for exec. Paul didn't want the job. Hence, Dan Daspit came to me.
While I told him I wasn't interested, he wanted to know why. I said, "Captain, you are no fun to go to sea with, and I wouldn't enjoy being exec."
He said, "I'll do anything you ask if you'll take the job."
I replied, "Captain, you've got to come out of your room occasionally, play cards, get around the boat more than you do, and you've got to change the officer's watch system. Two hours on and six hours off never permits more than a five hour sleep."
He said, "Fine, go ahead and run it the way you want."
From that point on, morale in the wardroom improved, and we became a much friendlier, close knit group. I got Dan interested in playing Hearts while at sea, and we played almost every day after dinner.
The two most notable incidents of that patrol were the tough depth charging we received, and the torpedo that got stuck half way out of the tube for most of the day before we could come to the surface and do something about it. I think the incident of the depth charge attack is pretty well known so I'll cover it briefly.
After the torpedo attack, I was in the control room and so was Leo Bonner whose station, I believe, was the forward torpedo room. (Editors note: Leo went aft to ask permission to pump down the tubes, then was locked in the control room due to closing the watertight doors). After a rather close depth charge, Cdr. Don Weiss yelled, "Blow everything", and Leo Bonner, to my everlasting satisfaction, said something like, "Don't touch those valves and don't blow anything." Leo was right!
On the stuck torpedo, we got up to the surface sometime that afternoon to see what we had on our hands. Although I'm not much of a swimmer, I volunteered to go over the side and try to put a wedge in the impeller, a small wheel which turns like a water wheel as the torpedo goes through the water permitting the detonator to set off the warhead after the torpedo has run 450 yards. I got down beneath the surface and was standing on the torpedo but didn't have the ability to stay under and put wedge into the impeller. I came back up exhausted and Keith Van Gorder and Wes Fisher went over the side and quickly completed the work. I then asked the captain not to fire the torpedo until we were ready in the forward torpedo room and "vacated" the room, when the Skipper backed down and fired from the conning tower with all of us in there.
We did a lot of running around on this patrol; and when it was about time to go home, we were directed to Darwin, Australia for fuel and then on to Perth. Somewhere along the way we ran out of butter, and, we realized we were going to have to wait about a week before we got in where we could receive some. After a few days, the cook came and told us that he had found fifteen pounds. I was happy because I thought maybe this would last us until we got in, but when I checked up, I found out the crew ate the whole fifteen pounds at one meal. One of the oddities of submarine war patrols was that you never knew what was going to be the popular item on any particular trip. The fourth patrol it was butter, but on one patrol, it was tuna fish, and on another, it was peanut butter.
Unquestionably, the R & R and Perth/Fremantle was the best of the war and through the friendship I developed with the owner of the biggest department store in town, I decided to eliminate the Navy's medicinal whiskey or brandy, which we used to pass out after a depth charge attack. Instead, we took quart bottles of Australian beer and each time on the fifth patrol that we knew we were going into a torpedo attack, I would have fifteen quarts of beer put into the cold room. Then afterwards, everyone got a full eight-ounce glass of ice-cold beer, which to most of us after the heat and humidity of a depth charge attack, tasted as good as champagne.