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Here is a moment in Begor history I’ll never forget. In the spring of
1945, we were anchored in Hawaii having completed our final scheduled
training exercises at UDT School, Maui. Since the majority of the crew
was at sea for the first time, and an APD was a new type ship, a lot was
accomplished. We had passed our final tests at Guantanamo Bay with
flying colors and felt ready to go. We had secured from quarters that
sunny day in Hawaii when we became aware of three destroyers being
towed into the harbor. The area above the main deck on all ships was
a mass of twisted and broken steel. They had been hit by Kamikazes. It
reminded us that from now on we were playing for keeps.
(John Harman lives in Menlo Park, CA).
Anchoring at Yokosuka, Japan in 1945
By John A. Harman, LCDR, XO, CO 1944-46
In reference to going alongside a dock at the Yokosuka Naval Base in
late August 1945, I don’t remember going alongside, but we were
certainly the first ship there. We had quite a problem with the Navy
Captain who was on board as Unit Commander.
He insisted that we anchor with the ships bow facing the bay, rather
than the beach, so we could get out quickly in case there was firing
from the beach.
Captain Brooks explained that the wind was from the beach and BEGOR
at anchor would head into the wind because of our topside construction,
and also our best armament was the 5" 38 on the bow. Of course we lost
the argument, so we struggled.
[Note: John Harman was the first XO and second CO.]
Since BEGOR was one of the first US ships into Tokyo Bay, the crew had
the opportunity to go ashore before Marine guards were sent in to
prevent looting. One Seaman got a sword for Captain Brooks [the man
alleged]. I took a rifle from a Japanese guard [inadmissible: coerced
confession], but nothing else, as I was a new CPO and did not want to
screw up. The officers were just as bad [objection! hearsay]. A few
BEGOR motor mech’s got the suicide boats working, hence boat racing in
the bay, including boat crash fun -- until the larger ships put a stop
to it [killjoys!].
[Point of order: is there a Statute of Limitations on Pillaging?]
After serving on various ships, including submarines, memory mixes up
crews. One sea memory has stayed with me for over 60 years. We left
Okinawa to miss a typhoon. Instead we hit it head on. I thought we
were going to roll over several times. After that experience, a rough
sea never bothered me again. After meeting members of UDT TWENTY ONE,
I wondered how they could mix with civilians after they were discharged.
[If Tarzan the Apeman could, why not a few Frogmen?]
(Bill Bowman lives in Dedham, MA).
Focus on History
By Gerald Hammer, Radarman, 1944-45
I was a radar operator at the time we entered Tokyo Bay. As I recall,
we went in alone and at battle stations. I believe we were considered
to be expendable and were sent in alone just in case there were some
Japanese who would rather die than surrender. There were no other Navy
ships in sight as we went in. We were ordered to go directly to Yokosuka
Naval Base with orders to destroy any weapons found. Our UDT would go
out each morning and found many two-man submarines and suicide boats
that were to be used against us, when and if Japan was invaded. The
Japanese Battleship NAGATA, that was heavily damaged by skip-bomb
attacks, and the Japanese Cruiser SAKAWA were moored nearby. When
the USS MISSOURI entered the bay, she was moored not far from BEGOR
and we could see, with the aid of binoculars, the signing of the Peace
Treaty that took place on her deck.
(Gerald "Jerry" Hammer lives in Tarpon Springs, FL)
USS Missouri, platform for the Japanese Surrender, which ended
World War II in the Pacific, as seen from USS Begor in late August
1945, shortly before the surrender date, 2 September 1945.
USS Begor (APD-127) was omitted in error from the Navy's list of
ships present in Tokyo Bay on the day of the surrender signing
(see list at
http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq69-2.htm), an error which
has still not been corrected. (Photo by ENS Barry McCabe, UDT-21)
The USS BEGOR—UDT Connection
By Barry McCabe, Ensign, UDT-21, 1945
A platoon of UDT-21 aboard USS BEGOR, August 1945. Sea story
author, Ensign Barry McCabe is at right with camera strap over
As World War II closed, I was aboard USS BEGOR with Underwater Demolition
Team (UDT) 21. My team was tasked with locating and destroying Japanese
suicide boats and miniature submarines in the area around Yokosuka, the
main Japanese naval base on Tokyo Bay, in September 1945.
The suicide boats were about 20-feet long, with wooden hulls, and powered
by gasoline engines, many by American-made Gray Marine six-cylinder
engines of about 70-80 horsepower. The boats did not have a reverse gear
(for obvious reasons)!
Dozens of the boats were stored in caves on top of dollies that ran on
railroad-type tracks, to enable the Japanese to quickly run them into
the water. We found none that were loaded with explosives, but, if the
US invasion became imminent, explosives would have been loaded quickly.
Each boat would have carried two depth charges, 260 pounds apiece, which
were released by hand or on impact with their targets. The boats were
usually painted green.
See related photos on the Photo Gallery page.
I and other UDT 21 officers were involved with supervising the teams in
the destruction of these suicide weapons. We tried burning the boats
in the caves, but they were so damp they wouldn't burn, even with
gasoline being poured on them. Obviously, we tried to blow them up
close to where we found them, but after doing it once, we decided it
presented too much danger to the villages, because the boats were right
where the people lived. We finally towed them out into the water and
sometimes cut holes in their hulls with axes to sink them.
As for the midget subs, they had to be towed out and sunk. As with the
suicide boats, Japanese laborers provided most of the muscle for moving
the boats from storage to the water, with UDT members supervising. I
can't recall the subs’ length, but they were extremely small, as you
can see from the
related photos on the Photo Gallery
page. They were perhaps about 4' in diameter.
When people question the use of the atomic Bombs, which ended the war,
I tell them even though it was catastrophic, I along with a million
American troops probably wouldn't be alive today [had the war been
fought to its conclusion through invasion and conventional warfare].
I was amazed that, once the Emperor told the people the war was over,
they immediately gave up their arms and were remarkably friendly.
Otherwise, men, women and children would have fought to their deaths.
(Barry McCabe lives in Westport, CT)
Comment on Barry McCabe's sea story by the BEGOR website team
We thank Barry for his story and the accompanying photos on the
Photo Gallery page, all of which were taken by him. USS BEGOR’s
crewmembers are honored and privileged to have worked with the
effective and courageous men of the Underwater
Demolition Teams over the years. For more information on the history of
UDT and that program's evolution into the Navy SEAL program, go to
Barry is not resting on his laurels. Here is a Spring 2005 email
communication from him:
"FYI, for the past 10 years I've been working closely with a Captain
in the SEAL Reserves in a very successful program physically testing
and mentoring young SEAL candidates at the Merchant Marine Academy in
NY. That's the primary reason my attention these days is more focused
on the SEALs. To give you an idea of our program's success, of all the
men across the country who enter the demanding 6-month program in
Coronado, called BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition SEALs), about 80%
fail. Of all the men we have tested and recommended for BUD/S, 70% make
it and only 30% fail. It's truly rewarding working with these young men."
That is dedication! Our BEGOR ballcaps are off to you, Barry!
Going Home to Re-Tire
By GM3 Frank Wittman, 1945-46
During the war, I had a 1935 Dodge which used 6.000x16 tires. New tires
were difficult to obtain due to rationing. You were required to have five
riders in a car and rationing stamps. When my tires were beyond repair,
I went to the Rensselaer County (NY) Courthouse to request stamps for new
tires and was denied by the official there. While I was in his office,
the official pulled out his desk drawer, and I saw it was jammed with
Subsequently, I was drafted, served on the USS Begor, and was present when
the Begor entered Tokyo Bay. At one point, I was assigned to supervise a
group of native Japanese to help pull suicide boats out of caves. Some of
the boats were on tracks; others were on trailers with rubber tires. As
we pulled a trailer out into the light, I looked down, and there were two
brand new 6.000x16 B. F. Goodrich tires!
After returning home at the end of the war, I read in the paper where the
county official was being prosecuted for ration stamp fraud!
Front row, l-to-r: SKD1 Thomas O'Keefe, GM3 Robert Croft,
WT3 Roderic Ross, and Coxswain Eugene Lang
Standing, l-to-r: GM3 Wm E. "Bill" Walsh, GM3 Frank Wittman
(Sea Story author), FC2 Julian Lapinski, and SM2 George Masterson
[Editor's note: I want to make an example of author Frank Wittman,
because, despite being one of our Association's older members, serving
aboard Begor at her very beginnings, he has shown the desire and
determination to contribute a charming anecdote for our Sea Stories
collection, has dug out photos he took along the coast of Japan in 1945,
verified the names of his shipmates in the group photo and made a plea
to anyone who served with him to please get in touch. What a great
example of energy and positive thinking for all of us! I hope his
effort will inspire many more shipmates to pen their recollections of
Begor Days! We have an active bunch of plank owners and other WWII
vets supporting the Association and attending reunions, so I hope those
who remember Frank will drop him a line. Here's his impressive
biography, which concludes with his mailing address:
After two years of service, I left the Navy in January 1946 as Gunners
Mate 3rd Class. I returned to my hometown in upstate New York to my
wife, Jane, and young daughter, Judith. After having a couple of
temporary jobs, I obtained employment in a milk-bottling plant called
Diamond Rock. I was employed there for 22 years. It was a well-paying,
steady job which we were happy to have at the time. The plant closed
in July 1967 and I went to work at Hudson Valley Community College and
ultimately became the grounds superintendent there. I stayed for 15
years until retiring in 1982.
I was married to Jane Bott for 64 years and we raised two daughters and
a son. I have five grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. Jane
passed away in 2004.
After basic training, I was interviewed and when they found out that I
had worked in the
(the oldest military manufacturing
arsenal in the US), they sent me to gunners mate school, because I was
familiar with the construction of artillery. I was then assigned to the
USS Begor. I was fortunate to be at the ship's commissioning ceremony.
She was named after Navy doctor Fay Begor who was killed in New Guinea
during World War II. I participated in the invasion of Okinawa and was
within sight of the signing of the Japanese surrender aboard the
battleship USS Missouri with General McArthur in Tokyo Bay.
Serving in the Navy was a great life experience and I found many friends.
I was only 24 years old, but that was older than most of the men and they
looked at me like a father figure and depended on me to get them back to
the ship "without incident" whenever we had liberty. I have many fond
memories of my shipmates and would be very happy to hear from any of them.
My address is 53 Main Street, Poestenkill, NY 12140.
(Signed) Frank Wittman, GM3.]
Pick Your Fight!
By E. Glenn Boverie, SM3, 1945-46
On VJ day, I drew shore patrol duty in New Orleans. Just got off armed
guard ship. Another gob and I walked down Canal Street and he went into
a movie to see that there was no trouble. At least that's what he said:
I think he just wanted to see the show.
All of a sudden I heard someone shout "FIGHT!" and I saw a couple of gobs
whaling tar out of each other down an alley. I ran down to see the fight.
Then I heard someone yell "Here comes the shore patrol!" and the fighters
scattered. Suddenly I realized that "I" was the shore patrol they were
(Glenn Boverie lives in St. Louis, MO.)
Pick Your Fight! (II)
By E. Glenn Boverie, SM3, 1945-46
While in New Orleans, several of us shipmates from St. Louis went to
the Lake Ponchatrain amusement park .We were shipping out the next day.
On the way back on the streetcar, we were sitting at the rear, which had a
circular shaped seat. This was the last run from the park. At the next
stop, a group of colored people got on and the conductor told us that we
had to move to the front, because colored people had to sit at the rear.
We refused. In St. Louis, we always sat at the rear and we got there
first and it was easier for us to talk that way
The conductor refused to move on. About ten minutes later, a police car
came looking for the streetcar and were told the problem by the conductor:
"These sailors are trying to start a riot! They won't move to the front."
Just then, a Shore Patrol jeep showed up and the cops told them that we
were breaking the law. The SP Lieutenant said, " They are not breaking
any navy laws." We were at a stand-off. Then, one of the colored riders
said: "We appreciate what you are doing but we just got off of work and
want to get home."
"Okay," we said, and we then moved and everybody on the streetcar
I came on board BEGOR in November 1945. At the time BEGOR was moored
at Broadway Pier in San Diego. I had returned from the Philippines on
the USS SALAMAUA (CVE-96) and was attending fire control school at the
Naval Repair Base.
The only trip we took while I was aboard (except for several up and down
the west coast), was to Johnston Island and Hawaii to pick up 30 Army
personnel who had been stationed on this small weather station for up
to eighteen months. Most all were seasick on the way back to the States.
When we returned to the States we went into dry-dock at the Naval Repair
Base in San Diego for a paint job. It is obvious I missed most of the
interesting historical events of the ship.
(Mike Redmond is living in Federal Way, WA).
1945-46 Shipmates, Sound Off!
By Clayton Hicks, MM3 1945-46
I was assigned to BEGOR on 29 November 1945, four days after my 20th
birthday. According to papers I have in my file, LCDR John Harman was
CO, and LTJG Jerry Hoover was XO. As a machinist mate, I was assigned
to the Engine Room.
We cruised from San Diego to Seattle, stopping off at San Francisco on
the way. The ship was assigned duty taking military personnel to a
point where they could complete their discharge. My tour on BEGOR was
very short and I don’t remember much about the crew I served with. If
there is anyone who served during the period November 1945 through April
1946, I would like to hear from them. I am now 79 years old and living
in Franklin, TN
In 1946, while steaming from Pearl Harbor to Bikini Atoll, the ship’s
baker baked several apple pies and set them on the mess deck tables to
cool. Some hungry crewmember stole one of the pies. In Caine Mutiny
fashion, the Chief Stewburner attempted to find the guilty party. Having
no success, the Chief gathered all the remaining pies and threw them
overboard. The crew was very upset by the Chief’s action and hoped the
Skipper would conduct a little disciplinary action on him. Much to their
dismay, the Skipper backed the Chief.
During our time at the Bikini Atoll, we were allowed to go on liberty on
one of the deserted islands that had been converted into a recreational
area. We always had a good supply of beer to take ashore. I was a supply
petty officer and my duty was to guard the beer and distribute it to the
Of the two bomb tests, the second was most spectacular. When the bomb
went off you could see ships standing on end in the waterspout. It was
a mass of water and fire. We were closest ship to the blast in both
tests. Our UDT was responsible for sending out radio-controlled boats
to take water samples to check for radiation.
(Ray Bartel lived in Grand Prairie, TX).
Belle Bottoms, Perhaps?
By Donald Peirce, BT2, UDT THREE, 1946
I was a member of UDT THREE under the command of CDR Walter Cooper
during Operation Crossroads. We boarded BEGOR at Oceanside, California,
following Team efforts to retrieve Marine bodies lost during an
amphibious training exercise. UDT THREE was re-commissioned onboard
BEGOR while underway to Bikini.
One of my memories of BEGOR relates to the dungarees carried onboard
and issued to us as replacement for our usual bell-bottomed issue.
We were all convinced they were designed for use by WAVES with rather
It was not unusual for us to have to strip “buck naked” aboard the
LCPR Drones before being allowed to re-board the ship due to our
radioactivity, sometimes as often as three times a day. I wondered how
the ship was able to produce so much fresh water and mused at the
source of the water. I was not, however, amused at being intimately
inspected with Geiger counters in full view of ship’s company!
I did not return to San Diego aboard BEGOR, as I accompanied our
picket boat onboard the APA SAINT CROIX, where they issued us
(Don Peirce lived in Sudbury, MA).
I Remember Bikini
By George Kimmel
As a BM3 on Begor in July 1946 I participated in the two Atomic Bomb
Tests known as Operation CROSSROADS.
I remember arriving at Bikini Atoll on June 5th with Underwater
Demolition Team Three on board. We were designated the Control Ship
for the drone boats used in collecting contaminated water samples
following the two denotations.
Begor departed Bikini Lagoon at 0544 on July 1st to take up station for
the first explosion, known as test ABLE, an air detonation approximately
518 feet above the target fleet. The detonation occurred at 0900 and we
were about 10 miles from the target area.
Immediately following the detonation we guided the drone boats into the
target area to take water samples. The drones were then directed back
to Begor where the boats were washed down thoroughly with sea-water.
After being declared safe to board, a UDT3 crew and a radiochemist
boarded to transfer the collected water samples.
With the exception of a rehearsal exercise on July 18 and 19, Begor
remained in Bikini Lagoon performing routine activities until July 25.
At 0540 on July 25 Begor departed the lagoon to take up station for
test BAKER. During test BAKER the bomb was exploded beneath the surface
of the water. The explosion occurred at 0835.
At 0912 Begor began moving two drone boats toward the target area to
retrieve water samples. Each drone boat collected ten water samples.
These samples were delivered to the USS Albemarle. Two days later,
July 27, four more drones collected water samples, which were delivered
to the USS Haven.
Begor was one of the operating ships in CROSSROADS whose involvement
caused it to be temporarily listed as radiologically suspect. This was
largely caused by low level radioactive contamination of the lagoon
waters following test BAKER, and was confined to the exterior hull at
or below the waterline and the internal salt water piping systems. We
were directed to scrape off marine growth near the waterline, plus a
few other safety measures.
Begor departed Bikini Lagoon on August 3, en-route to Pearl Harbor,
arriving on August 8.
[George Kimmel served in Begor during 1946-47]
Howard Hughes and his Spruce Goose
EMP3 Foerster on Begor's fantail in 1947, the year he witnessed
By Tom Foerster
World War II had ended, and I was stationed at the Naval Air Station in
Pensacola, Florida. Not ready to return to civilian life, I decided to
reenlist for another four years. In mid-1946, I was transferred to the
Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado, California. In June 1947, I ask for
sea duty and found myself on board USS Begor.
On November 2, 1947 (a Sunday morning), Begor was in Long Beach undergoing
some repairs. We were at anchor in Long Beach Harbor and the duty section
was doing what the duty section does on a Sunday - nothing much.
The only flight of the Spruce Goose, with USS Begor (and the author)
standing by (photo from History Channel video)
Hearing a loud noise, I ran topside to the fantail and observed the
historical test flight of the Spruce Goose. I don't remember if she was
in the air or still on the water as she went by. The roar of the eight
engines was so loud I could feel it on my face and arms. Of course I
didn't know it at the time, but Howard Hughes was at the controls and the
Spruce Goose was airborne for about a mile, rising to a height of some
eighty feet. Her flight path was very close to our anchorage and I got a
great view of this historic plane. This was the only time the Spruce
Goose was ever airborne.
Years later, the History Channel did a documentary on Hughes and in the
background of one of the shots across the four starboard engines in
flight was an APD. That APD was none other than the USS Begor APD-127.
Had it been a close-up of Begor, you could have seen me standing near the
stern. That photo has an honored place on my wall.
The author, Tom Foerster, and wife Bea, at home in Rockland County,
[The Spruce Goose never made it into production and was on display in
Long Beach for many years, before being moved to the
Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Oregon. Tom Foerster joined
the Navy in 1944 and
was an EMP3 (electrician/power & light) while in Begor's crew (1947-48).
When Begor deployed in 1948, Tom was a short-timer, and so stayed behind
and spent a few months aboard an LSMR and an LST before his release from
the Navy in '49. He returned to his pre-enlistment job as an installer
at New York Telephone full-time and pursued a career with the phone
company. He was recalled to active duty for the Korean War in '51 and
spent 18 months in ship's company on a repair ship. Back at the phone
company, Tom climbed the ladder to Test Bureau Foreman, retiring in 1985.
He ran his own phone installation and repair business for a couple of
years, then traded his truck for a golf cart! Tom and Bea, his wife of
55 years, live today in New City, New York.]
I reported aboard Begor in January 1949, in time for the deployment
[If anyone aboard at that time remembers an accident aboard during the
stop in Pearl Harbor -- in which Richard believes a sailor was killed
when one of our landing craft came loose and fell on the boat below --
please provide details to the Webmaster or Historian. -Ed.]
We were supposed to go into Mainland China, up the river to relieve
USS Bass in support of the US Consulate. As we neared China, we were
instructed to go to Okinawa and wait for Bass. The Communist forces
were making it dangerous to remain up the river.
We were soon directed to steam to Hong Kong, and the Consulate moved
there. While in H.K., a group of destroyers asked us if we would like
to take a tour of the Philippines. I'm sure they wanted the use of our
landing craft. We started at Zamboango, and a few of us decided to
form a basketball team. At each stop, we were challenged to a game by
the local team. We managed to win all the games. At the last stop,
the locals held a big party for all five ships. Because some of our
crewmembers had misbehaved by taking a jeep on a joyride, resulting in
property damage and possibly injury in the village, no one from Begor
was to go to the party. The Destroyer Group Commander wanted a good
showing from all the ships, so he leaned on Begor's skipper to send
the liberty party. Even though many went reluctantly, the party turned
out to be a great one.
[If anyone has any recollection of the incident
Richard describes, please submit your version. -Ed.]
Our basketball team was invited to play a game. I thought I was tall,
but these local kids were really big! To make a long story short,
they beat us pretty badly. Their coach thanked us and asked if we knew
who they were. When he replied, "This is our National Olympic Basketball
Team," we didn't feel so badly!
When we arrived in Subic Bay, while approaching our pier, the ship became
stuck in the muddy bottom. With a lot of rocking back and forth, we
worked the ship loose and backed out into the main channel and made a
clean approach to our assigned berth.
[If anyone knows whether this was an official grounding, please let us
While in Subic, ten of us were selected to form a Landing Party and train
with the Marines. We went into the jungle with a contingent and trained
on the Marines' weapons. We were now prepared for any future need of a
This deployment had too many events to mention them all. I could write
a book about our stay in Hong Kong alone! For instance, our Chief
mentioned a place that would clean our watches for a great price.
Everybody, including the Chief, gave their watches to the shopkeeper,
who apparently "went north" with them. Eventually, the British caught
the guy and we had to go to court to identify him. He was found guilty
and sentenced to six months at hard labor in Calcutta. We were told
that he would never be back.
When we arrived back in San Diego, I transferred to the Wantuck. While
in Hong Kong, the Korean War started. We were at the Inchon landing,
serving as Primary Control Vessel for that. We earned six battle stars
for that. On the east coast, we helped British Commandoes blow up
railroad bridges and tunnels, and we supported the Wonson landing.
When we left Korea, it appeared that the war was over, but, boy!
Did the Chinese screw that up and prove us wrong!
[Richard lives in Greeley, CO. He has written two books available on
China Sunset and
Tribulation and Last Days.]
Begor Deployment, 1949
By LTJG Jim Smith, Supply Officer, 1949-50
Jim Smith then & now
Early in 1949, Begor participated in a cold-weather operation in Alaska. En route we took the beautiful Inland Passage from Vancouver to Juneau and were treated to some of the most awesome sights that nature has to offer, such as snow-covered peaks and glaciers.
Later in the spring, we deployed to WestPac and en route were ordered to divert to Shanghai to assist in evacuating supplies and equipment from the US Embassy, as it was being closed due to the communist takeover of mainland China.
Included in embassy supplies were five 93-piece sets of Noritake china. We were allowed to buy the china for $25.00 per set. I purchased a set, sight-unseen, and lucked out with a very nice pattern. That china was what my bride and I started housekeeping with when we got married in February 1950. We still have the set.
Later we were ordered to Hong Kong as station ship. The whole crew was excited to have a few months in this great liberty port. "Street Girls" were plentiful and hotel rooms were cheap. As we entered the harbor we were just awe-struck at one of the most beautiful harbors in the world. Hong Kong means "beautiful lagoon*." A primary role of the station ship was to support the US Consulate with high-level classified radio communications with Washington.
A first impression on going ashore was how terribly crowded Hong Kong was. Thousands of Chinese families had fled Shanghai, Peking and other cities to escape the communist tyranny. Thousands were living on houseboats and in the streets.
A young female named Mary Soo came out to the ship to see me and offered her flotilla of girls to keep the ship sides painted in exchange for the garbage from the general mess. The ship provided the paint and we struck a deal. Mary's sampan crews picked up the garbage daily and took it ashore and sifted, washed and separated all vegetables. She took the cleaned vegetables to Wanchai, a lower class neighborhood, and sold them to the local cafes where many of the refugees ate. Begor's superstructure glistened while we were in Hong Kong.
The money exchange rate was six Hong Kong dollars for one US dollars. You could get the best dinner in the best restaurant for six Hong Kong dollars.
The late actor and movie star, William Holden, was in Hong Kong filming a movie and he frequented a local bar that I went to almost every day for Happy Hour. We became drinking buddies and friends.
The high point of our visit was a ship's party at the old Hong Kong Hotel. I bought a tailor-made white linen suit to wear to the party. I had met a very affluent girl that had migrated from Shanghai and brought her to the party. She became quite upset when she realized she was socializing with "street girls," brought in by some of our sailors, so the party ended pretty early for us. I have many fond memories of that exotic city.
[Edited for publication by Gene Combs.
*Website Editor's comment. I like Jim's translation of "Hong Kong," because it is, for many, one of the most beautiful cities or harbors in the world. Here's another viewpoint: In James Clavell's novel Tai-Pan: a Novel of Hong Kong, the author states that the English translation of "Hong Kong" is "fragrant harbor." The website AllExperts.com agrees with that, but adds another twist, and I paraphrase:
There are two meanings for "Hong Kong" in English. The meaning, in direct translation, is "a harbor which is fragrant." The paraphrase of "Hong Kong" in English is "a harbor which has joss sticks/ incense for sale."
Even though it may be the aroma of burning incense, noticeable at some distance outside the harbor, that gave Hong Kong its name, the natural beauty of Victoria Island, Kowloon and the New Territories draw far more visitors than do the fragrances!]
This is the first time that the Begor Association has published a work of
this size or one that addresses a subject of such weight. And if size and
weight were not enough to make this a Must Read, consider that this story
is about your ship and her connection to the murky world of Special
Operations; ops which were heavily classified when the Begor crew plied
the North Korean coast by dark of night, launching and recovering American
and Korean men who risked their lives to undermine the enemy. We who bring
you the USS BEGOR Newsletter and Website are proud to present this
historical work, told in the first person by an American like you, who went
to war to protect his Nation, because that's what citizens do. You'll
learn a little of Jack's beginnings in the Prologue and a little about
Jack post-CIA in the Epilogue. Those of you attending the Baltimore Reunion
(October, 2006) had the pleasure of meeting him at the Banquet and hearing
his remarks after dinner. Everybody else can see photos of him mingling
with the crew (see the Baltimore Reunion page update post-reunion)!
— The Editors.
The Big Blow At Hungnam
By Gene Combs, SK1, 1950-52
A less famous photograph of the Hungnam demolitions of Christmas
Arriving on December 14, 1950, Begor spent ten days in Hungnam Harbor
before Underwater Demolition Team (UDT)-THREE was ready to push the
plunger from one of our LCVP’s, blowing up the dock facilities, an
ammunition depot and an oil storage facility at the port of Hungnam,
at approximately 1430 on 24 December 1950.
On the 22nd, Begor was relieved as control vessel by the USS Diachenko
(APD-123) and shifted to an anchorage 1000 yards off Hungnam breakwater.
Begor was now on station and ready for demolition duty.
During the night of 23-24 December Begor boats and working parties
assisted UDT THREE personnel in transporting explosives to the beach
and in planting demolition charges in the Hungnam Harbor area.
Several other volunteers and I went ashore with the Team. In addition
to carrying the explosives from Begor to the beach by boat, we were
assigned various duties, from placing of the explosives to assisting
in the tying of fuse lines. A UDT member showed me how to tie the lines,
and watched while I attempted a couple of knots. After observing my
lack of dexterity, he complimented me on being a six foot 220-pound
crewmember and assigned me to the "mule" detail. For the next
several hours, I carried eighty-pound packs of explosives all along
the dock facilities, passing them to a Team member, who would properly
place them in an already dug hole.
I remember one shipmate, Vincent McEntee, BT1, who was tying lines as
a 2-star general, smoking a cigar, walked up and asked Vince how he was
doing. Vince promptly jumped up, grabbed the cigar out of the general’s
mouth and commenced to lecture the general on how stupid he was to be
smoking a cigar in the vicinity of the explosives! The general took it
in good stride, thanked Vince and turned around and walked off.
[Vince, a great shipmate, passed away early this year.]
I remember it being "cold as a well-diggers butt in Idaho" that day,
and Turkish infantrymen gave us hot coffee as they were being evacuated
from the dock.
Upon completion of the job, we all left the dock for the trip back to
the ship. I will never forget the sad look on the faces of hundreds
of civilians gathered in the dock area, hoping to be evacuated, but
time had run out for them.
After returning to the ship, there were several smaller explosions,
apparently from an ammunition or fuel oil storage facility. We knew
time was running out for us, too, as we observed gun flashes from
the mountains behind the city as the Chinese were steadily approaching.
From a Begor LCVP, a member of the UDT-Team pushed the plunger, blowing
up the whole area. I wondered what happened to the hundreds of Korean
civilians still on the dock. A photographer from the flagship, USS Mt
McKinley, took that famous [Official US Navy] photo of the destruction,
with Begor appropriately centered in the photo. The rest literally is
history, for that photo appeared on the cover of ALL HANDS, the Bureau
of Naval Personnel magazine, in many US newspapers, and can now be
found on our website’s homepage, on many other websites, and in the
Of course, many of us snapped our own photos of the explosions at
Hungnam Harbor. None matched the sheer drama of the most famous one,
but they all take us back to that day when we made history aboard
(Gene Combs was commissioned in the Supply Corps, has retired from
the US Navy and lives in Deltona, FL)
A Letter from Hungnam
by Charles Brady, PFC, USA, 1950
To USS Begor Shipmates:
PFC Charles Brady was Gunner on this Tank.
Later, Squad Leader on another.
I recently discovered your ship's website. I have a story involving
your ship...a vessel I remember with great fondness. On December 24,
1950, I was a Private First Class on an T-141 Tank
(I manned the anti-aircraft artillery weapon, twin 40mm cannons in an
open turret atop the tank). We were the last combat vehicle evacuated
from Hungnam. Four of our weapons had been dug in at the Hungnam City
Dump adjacent to the dock and the long train that had been rigged to
explode. For several days, the Battleship Missouri had fired over our
heads...at night, their huge shells glowing and looking about the size
of VW Beetles. (We rummaged through that train...with its bombs and
other explosives...to get warmer clothing and covering for ourselves;
it was horribly cold that winter!) Originally, we were to blow up our
vehicles and catch a Korean fishing boat out to a waiting LST, but at
the last minute a tank recovery vessel arrived and took our tanks. The
crews were taken out to the few remaining ships in the harbor. My crew
was taken aboard your ship, where we were given clean clothes, showers
and a wonderful hot Christmas dinner (with homemade ice cream)… our
first real meal since September! An Army unit, we had been assigned to
the Marines, landing with them at Inchon and then going to Iwon with
them in the north. Our A Battery was with them at Chosin.
Anyhow, we stood on the ship at Hungnam and watched the explosion
depicted on your website. We spent a couple days with your ship and
then were transferred to another ship and sent back south to Pusan. I
will never forget the kindnesses shown by everyone on the USS Begor and
that wonderful Christmas of 1950.
I later received a battlefield commission but chose "ten to out,"
staying in the reserves. I was recalled to active duty for Vietnam
and served until retirement in January 1974.
Happy reunions, USS Begor Shipmates!
/s/Charles Brady, Major, US Army (Retired)
(PS: I have been a school administrator and teacher since retirement,
still teaching part time in San Francisco, and I make my permanent home
in Pacific Grove, on Monterey Bay, California.)
[To all our Website visitors:
It is a real pleasure to post stories from those who have rubbed elbows
and shared a cup of Joe with us aboard USS Begor. If YOU have a story
about our ship and crew, please share it with us, so we can relive the
moment together! See instructions for submission in red text near the
top of the Sea Stories Page!
Charles Brady has shared some additional details about his unit, their
tanks and their service in Korea. I think this material provides great
background on how one PFC came to ride Begor and to enjoy his visit so
much (as he so beautifully expressed in his story above).]
PFC Charles Brady, USA, atop M19 Tank in Korea
QUOTE. Our "tank" was initially a "T141"...later it became an M-19
and then later still an M-42. It was nicknamed "The Duster". It was
new when my unit, the 50th AAA AW Battalion - then at Fort Bliss,
Texas - was alerted when the Korean War began. We were told to leave
our antique half-tracks carrying quad fifty calibers and that we would
pick up our T-141s in Japan...being shipped separately. We saw movies
about the 40mms and vehicles during the two weeks before shipping out
and on the Liberty Ship (taken out of mothballs for us) from Seattle
to Japan. We trained for two weeks, then shipped from Sasebo,
Japan.... transferred to LSTS and landed with the Marines. We were with
them thru Seoul then up near the 38th...then back with them to catch
LSTs for the invasion at IWON. When they started withdrawing from
Chosin, my tank was sent out to cover them. After all US and South
Korean personnel passed, we followed as rear-guards and became the
ultimate rear-guard unit at the harbor shore, dug in (not really...the
ground was frozen solid) on the Hungnam city dump. It was so cold that,
when we heard about a nearby US supply train a couple hundred yards
away, we sneaked…a few at a time...over to free up parkas, ponchos
and canned food. We figured we'd need supplies since we were told
that we would have to use thermite grenades on our guns and burn our
tanks, then catch waiting fishing boats and SAIL out to catch waiting
navy vessels! Of course, on the 24th of December, a tank recovery
vessel picked us up. We went by a small boat to the Begor where we
were given clothing, showers and that wonderful food I mentioned
(since September, we had been eating C rations warmed by the exhaust
of our twin-Cadillac engines on our tanks. I did not learn, so could
not recall, the name of your ship, but remember it had a three-number
designation ending in "7". I also know it was the Begor that we were
on because, when we watched the explosions, there were no other vessels
between us and the shore (as shown in the series of photos on your website).
That Christmas remains special to me and I remain grateful to everyone
aboard and attending your great ship.
Sincerely, Charles Brady ( firstname.lastname@example.org.) UNQUOTE.]
I Think We Got an APD, Captain!
By Jeff Gallagher, EN2, 1949-51
While we were in Korea, the ship had taken a group of guerillas to an
island just south of the Yalu River. The boats had been put in the water
at about 2200 hours and did not return to the ship until 0500. The boat
crews ate chow and hit the sack.
General Quarters sounded around 0700. We had just buttoned up in Damage
Control 3, when the stern was given one helluva a jolt! The lights went
out and we all thought we had taken a hit. We had three men stuck in
the scuttle, trying to get out of the compartment.
Come to find out, the ship was in a minefield, and the skipper, LCDR
William A. Walker, decided to knock loose with some depth charges. They
were set to go off at 50 feet and the ship was only doing about 5 knots.
The first explosion lifted the stern out of the water and caused a
breaker to open in the after engine room. Sure scared the living hell
out of a few folks!
There’s Never a (Water) Taxi When You need It!
Paul Kelly, SN (YNCM-Ret), 1952-53
Frank Huffman and I had gone ashore in Sasebo and arrived at the Fleet
Landing just as the last liberty boat was about 100 yards out. Using
some good ole American ingenuity, we spotted an anchored Japanese
fishing boat that had a small dinghy tied up at the stern. We duly
claimed ownership of the dinghy, without the owner’s knowledge, of
course, and pushed off before realizing there were no oars in the boat.
Ripping apart a wooden grating, which consisted of slats, in the bottom
of the boat, we commenced rowing at an extremely slow rate of speed.
(The slats were about 1-1/2 inches wide!) When we finally made it to
the ship, reveille had sounded and many laughing Begor sailors witnessed
our not-so-clandestine boarding.
(Paul Kelly lived in San Diego, CA)
Give me Liberty...and a Boat to Get About In!
By Gene Combs, SK1, 1950-52
BEGOR had completed the Hungnam operation in late December 1950 and was
anchored in Sasebo late in January, awaiting propeller/shaft repairs.
Early in the morning hours, Seaman Clyde ________, was struck with an
unbearable desire to go on liberty. The fact that the liberty boat had
long before made the last trip to the beach did not deter Seaman Clyde.
He merely climbed out the boat boom and jumped into one of the ship’s
boats. Acting as coxwain, engineer and bow hook, he made his break for
the beach. Several searches by our boat crews during the next two days
failed to locate our wayward boat or Seaman Clyde.
On the third day, during morning quarters, here comes our missing boat
and Seaman Clyde alongside. BMC Fred Kuhlman and his crew secured the
boat, and Seaman Clyde came aboard amid cheers from the crew. During
his AWOL status, he had run the boat into a sea wall, causing some minor
damage. I don’t recall what happened next at Captain’s Mast, but I’m
sure Skipper William A. Walker performed a little jurisprudence.
Some ten years later, I reported aboard USS PARICUTIN (AE-18) as Supply
Officer and discovered that Seaman Clyde was a first division crewmember.
He was wearing three red hash marks, but was still a seaman! He told me
he didn’t remember his punishment on BEGOR, but he said whatever it was,
two day’s use of an LCVP made it worthwhile.
(Note: I have not mentioned Seaman Clyde’s last name, but I’m
sure many of you remember the incident and the seaman involved.)
Liberty Boat - What Liberty Boat?
By Gene Combs, SK1, 1950-52
Now that the statue of limitations for prosecution has hopefully
expired, I will admit to a short period of bad judgment and stupidity
while performing my official duty on board Begor back in 1951 while in
The final evening liberty boat had just returned to the ship with two
or three Cinderella liberty hounds. As a Petty Officer First Class, I
was standing the in-port JOOD watch on the quarterdeck. While the boat
was still secured to the accommodation ladder, the ship's Yeoman came
running up hoping the boat was just loading for the final run.
I advised him the boat had already returned from it's final run and the
next trip would not be until 0300 at which time they would be picking
up the real sailors from their late liberty.
I owed the Yeoman a favor, (I'm not saying what for), and he reminded me
the favor would be paid in full if I would have the boat crew make
another quick trip so he could meet a hot date in San Diego.
To make a long story short, I authorized the crew to make an unofficial
trip to accommodate this Yeoman. As they were departing, a towboat
pulling a barge was steaming by. They ran right under the towline, just
barely clearing the cable. Had they hit that cable my Navy career would
have suddenly ended.
When the boat returned safely about fifteen minutes later, I swore never,
ever to be so stupid again.
By John Camp, Supply Officer 1951-1952
First a little background: A ship's welfare and recreation activities
are funded with profits from the ship's store. A percentage of those
profits are remitted to the Navy Department for distribution to ships
and stations lacking ship's store facilities to generate their own
support for recreational programs.
During the summer of 1951, Begor often found herself moored in port,
attached to a cluster of vessels all sharing the same buoy. Being the
happy ship that she was, Begor hosted twilight movies on the fantail
Two enterprising storekeepers, namely Gene Combs and Tom Gideon, saw an
opportunity and seized it. Candy bars, cigarettes, and bottled Coke were
sold before and during the movies to benefit the ship's store profit.
There were no beverages other than Coke, and Coke was sold in bottles.
Venders required a deposit on the returnable Coke bottles. Our
forward-thinking storekeepers surcharged the distributors' deposit
charge to the ship with an additional 15 cents per bottle to encourage
redemption after the movies and minimize collecting empty bottles stuck
in every nook and cranny around the fantail.
Sailors being a carefree, spendthrift lot rarely redeemed their bottles.
Pure profit resulted and, since the deposit procedure was outside the
ship's store sales accounting, the surcharged deposit went entirely to
the Begor welfare and recreation fund.
Since Begor was the only ship on the buoy to show nightly movies, the
collections were often and substantial. Small wonder, with that kind
of money to lavish on our own recreational activities, Begor was such
a happy ship!
Now you know the rest of the story.
[Gene Combs' comment: Upon being reminded of this enterprise, I recall
the dilemma of trying to cool the two hundred or so cases of warm coke.
Ice, of course, was at a premium on this little 324-foot vessel, so we
went to Rollin Schroeder, Chief Commissaryman, and asked permission to
put the 200 cases of warm coke in his vegetable reefer where a temperature
of about 45 degrees was normal. After about five hours, the temperature
in the vegetable locker was suddenly around 68 degrees. And Chief
Schroeder's temperature rose to well over 100 when he realized his celery
was going limp!]
[John Camp still counts beans – and Coke bottles –, but now
it's as our Association Treasurer. John lives in Cape Coral, Florida with
his wife Joy.]
In the summer of 1954, I was on my second WestPac deployment.
LCDR Zavin Mukhalian
was commanding officer and LT Earl Marconnet, Jr. was XO.
I knew this was not a routine deployment when we arrived in Yokosuka
and were assigned a berth at a pier.
At 0200 an all hands working party was called away to load stores. At
the same time a UDT detachment, along with their equipment came aboard,
and said they were complying with verbal orders to report aboard Begor
At 0500, on the third day after arriving in Yokosuka, the special sea
and mooring detail was set and Begor got underway at flank speed. Among
the various items we were carrying as we left Yokosuka was OpOrders for
operation "Passage to Freedom". Speeding through the Paracel Islands at
night, we rendezvoused off Touraine with the transports that would
initially be involved in transporting refugees from Haiphong to Saigon.
After distributing the OpOrders to the transports, Begor proceeded
independently to Haiphong. Embarking a French pilot off Haiphong, we
proceeded up river and moored to a pair of mooring buoys, and became the
first U.S. Navy ship to enter Haiphong Harbor.
We were moored to a pair of mooring buoys on the opposite side of the
river from the city of Haiphong with our bow facing downstream. The
tidal currents were tremendous. Flood- lights were rigged to illuminate
the waters around the ship and additional watches were posted on the boat
deck. From one hour before sunset to one hour after sunrise, an LCPR
equipped with two 50 cal. machine guns, hand grenades, etc., patrolled
around the ship.
Begor functioned as station ship, quartering and supporting the staff
in charge of the evacuation, including the medical team headed by
DR. THOMAS A. DOOLEY, who later devoted his short life to
humanitarian efforts in southeast Asia.
After a month in Haiphong, we were relieved by a sister APD and departed
for Saigon, which is located about 40 miles up a narrow twisting river.
Arriving at the mouth of the river, a French river pilot came aboard and
asked how fast we could go. When he was told "20 knots", he said "O.K.",
and off we went at 20 knots.
Arriving in Saigon, we moored at a quay wall outboard of some French
frigates. Daily, we would watch cooks emerge from below deck, go to the
depth charge racks, pull back the canvas, and take the meal's wine from
casks stored on the roller racks.
After a month in Saigon, we returned to the Haiphong area, anchoring in
"Along Bay", where we stayed for a couple of weeks before returning
again to Saigon.
On 17 November 1954, we dipped down across the equator and celebrated
that occasion in the time-honored fashion. We spent only two nights
in Singapore. On the second night we got orders to return to Saigon
immediately. So we returned to Saigon, quickly loaded some special
cargo and departed for Naha, Okinawa, where the cargo was offloaded.
I don't know what we did, but we were later advised that we received
a highly classified "Well done" for it.
[Note: Roger Turk served on Begor from 1952-1955 as a Radarman,
retiring as a Commander, USNR in 1972. He was a Past Secretary of our
Association and was influential in its success. Roger passed away in 2004.]
A Footnote to Operation Passage to Freedom
By Jerry Walden, SO1, 1952-55
The narrative by our deceased shipmate, Roger Turk, ended with him
mentioning Begor's quick trip to Naha, Okinawa to off-load our "special
A footnote: after the cargo was off-loaded, it was determined that the
forward bunking area and the bosun locker needed a good airing out. So,
at dockside in Naha, the focs'le hatches were opened wide, letting hot,
humid, fresh, tropical air into the crews' quarters.
The ship was alerted to a fast-developing tropical storm (typhoon?)
headed directly for Naha. It was ordered to immediately set sail for
open sea. Things happened so fast that we were already underway before
the hatches were battened down.
Sonarman Bill Bauer took on the task of going on deck to secure the
forward hatch. Unfortunately, a storm-generated wave hit Bill as he
hugged the hatch. It did a real number on him.
The CO ordered Begor back to Naha so Bill could be treated at the medical
facility there. We off-loaded our "special cargo" and then high-tailed
it out to sea.
Things are a bit fuzzy after that, except Bill did catch up with us
shortly thereafter and resumed his sonar shack duties.
(Jerry Walden now resides in Stone Mountain, GA)
By Jerry Walden, SO1, 1952-55
A photo I took of a couple of guys watching while a third swabs the roof
of the bridge reminds me of an incident in which I was center stage.
Through the benevolence of the quartermasters and with our CO's okay, any
interested sonarman was encouraged to practice and learn the
quartermasters' visual signaling duties. Semaphore flags and blinker lights
were the focus of my attention. I was having trouble with the flags, so
more practice was required.
On one occasion, we were participating in a practice refueling operation
with an oiler. At disconnect, I scrambled to the bridge roof with
semaphores and a message form. I was going to practice! Standing boldly
and confidently by the light standard, I put the message form under my
toes, got the oiler's attention and started to wave away. I became so
engrossed with my reading the message and correcting my errors I neglected
to look up at the receivers until the oiler was about a quarter mile off our
stern. They were giving me wild "goodbye" waves and hoots of laughter!
The quartermasters encouraged me to stick with pinging.
Soon after Ensign Jim Ralston reported aboard Begor, it came to light that
he had graduated from the University of Kansas with a major in music.
Whether during quarterdeck watches or bridge watches, the idea of forming
a barbershop quartet surfaced. Quartermaster Billy Avery, Corpsman Richard
Sifuentes, and I joined with Ensign Ralston to emulate the Four Freshmen.
Unfortunately, Jim Ralston had only willing amateurs to work with and very
scarce time and space in which to do that work.
Just like any new act, we thought we should hone our skills in less
demanding environs before a big time opening in the U.S.! Darn good thing.
But we did have fun singing in officers' clubs in Beppu (top photo) and
Saigon, and a couple other places. Even sang for Sunday service
(bottom photo) onboard the station ship in Saigon harbor for Task Force (?)
Chaplain Barnes, during Operation Passage to Freedom.
We would have liked to keep it going, but we didn't. Don't remember ifi
someone was transferred, we returned stateside or there was a gentlemen's
agreement that we just weren't very good.
[Footnote: Prior to his retirement from The University of Kansas in
1994, James Ralston, LTJG aboard Begor and member of the Clefdwellers
quartet, had been professor and director of choral activities for more
than 30 years. The former USS Begor Clefdweller, who holds bachelor's,
master's and Ph.D. degrees from KU, was the former chair of the Department
of Music Ensembles and developed KU's master and doctoral programs in choral
conducting. In 2003, Jim was the recipient of the Phoenix Award for
achievement in musical arts, an honor bestowed by the Lawrence (Kansas)
Arts Commission to members of the local creative community.]
I Kinda Felt Like Jonah!
By Russ Machen, RDSW3, 1952-55
RDSW3 Russ Machen
As I am in my "later" years, my memory is in vast need of some "dry-dock"
modification and repair. But, I do know this for certain: even though
it may seem like this entire story was a dream, believe me it wasn't!
I was in charge of "guest space" when we had Underwater Demolition Teams
/ commandos / marine recon, etc., aboard. Marine Recon 1 was on board
for a while and I became friends with a few of the "troops." They were
to go on a "recon" (location classified) and I was invited to go ashore
with them to do their thing. My duty was actually to go along as
"ballast" and to hold the bow rope of the raft tight to keep us from
taking on water.
We "hit the beach" and the group took off, leaving me with the raft.
A while went by and they came running back, we turned the raft around
and headed back to the ship (we thought). I took my place in the front
of the raft and held tight to the bow rope so we would not get filled
with water as we were going out against the breakers.
It was pitch black and you could not see your hand if it were held
against your nose. The captain of the recon group was, in fact, the
only one who knew which direction we
were headed, as the rest of the group were stroking with the small oars
to keep us going straight "to the ship." Right!
In the darkness of the pitch-black night, we struck a large black object
in our path, and as if we were being "conducted" by an orchestra leader,
we all shouted out load, "Oh my God! A (bleep-in') whale!"
It was, in fact, a nuclear submarine! And this was a classified
rendezvous of which only the team leader was aware. He climbed up the
"belly steps" on the side of the "boat," went inside for a short while
and returned to the raft to again proceed back to Begor.
I have been in some very serious situations from 1935 to present, but
when asked, "When were you the most frightened in your life," my answer
"When I thought I was going to be Jonah and get swallowed by a whale!"
Marcy and Russ Machen
(Russell W. Machen served aboard USS Begor from September 1952 until
September 1955. Russ left the Navy in March 1960. He lives in Mesa,
Arizona (East Valley), with Marcy, his wife of seven years, of whom he
states, "… best thing to ever happen to me!" They have two "children,
both of the furry, four-legged variety." Besides "loving my wife and
dogs," he says his activities are "raking my rocks and watering my
cactus." Beats swabbing decks!)
To see some of Russ Machen's extensive and creative web-work, go to our
Additional Links page and click on
the URLs for two of his web sites, listed in Part I, Begor-related sites.
From those you can visit others.
Russ' whale tale was not just a fluke for Begor. To read more
adventures of USS Begor supporting clandestine operations, see Jack
Cremeans' Sea Story 49 of USS Begor, UDT and
the CIA behind enemy lines in North Korea, 1951-52.]
I was Chaplain’s Assistant to Chaplain Wendell Sullivan, who served LST
Squadron FIVE. In October 1954, the flag command and complement were
flown from San Diego to Saigon where we went on board BEGOR, which was
moored at the French Naval Base there.
We were in Saigon until mid-November when the ship was released to sail
to Singapore for R & R, first sailing south to cross the equator. Our
visit to Singapore was cut short when orders came to return to Saigon.
I remember having Thanksgiving dinner on the ship, while boat people were
alongside asking for the leftovers. We took aboard several Vietnamese
individuals to transport to Subic Bay.
In Subic Bay the Chaplain and I transferred to LST-1159 in early December
and that was the end of my brief experience on BEGOR. But, I will never
forget it. Such occasions as:
the huge river fish one of the crew caught and strung over the 5" gun on
the time the French destroyer came in too fast and ran up on our stern
cable. I was standing nearby at the time and watched the French captain
running around in circles;
the young sailor who tried to kill himself when he got a "Dear John"
letter from his wife;
the sad sight of the refugees as they gathered in the area by the ship
after making the trip south;
and, of course, the initiation as Shellbacks when we crossed the
equator (See Dave's Sea Story #51 about the
Line Crossing Ceremony, immediately following this story).
Anyway, I thought I would just share these memories.
(Dave Shaver lives in Arcadia, CA).
Begor Enters The Realm Of Neptunus Rex
By Dave Shaver, YN3, Embarked Staff, Chaplains
In 1954, during Operation Passage to Freedom (the evacuation of refugees
from North Vietnam to South Vietnam), Begor served as Station Ship for
several months in Haiphong and Saigon. I was on board as a member of the
flag complement of Commander, LanShipRon 5, serving as Chaplain's
assistant. In mid-November, the ship left station in Saigon, sailing down
the Saigon River into the South China Sea, for a cruise to Singapore,
giving the crew a few days of R&R. The orders also allowed the
captain to sail far enough south to cross the Equator.
"Pollywogs" under-go initiation, which will result in conversion to
On November 17, 1954, Begor approached the "imaginary" line known as the
Equator, courtesy of a good navigator. While a few on the ship had, in
the past, been duly initiated into the "Ancient Order of the Deep" there
were many like myself who had not. For the initiates the "uniform of the
day" was a pair of skivvies, just a pair of skivvies. The ceremony was
to take place on the fantail and, as we stepped through the hatch onto
the open deck, we were ordered to kiss the King's ring and the Royal
Baby's belly. The ring was on one of the toes of the "King's" left foot,
which belonged to a tall, lanky sailor. The Royal Baby was another sailor
whose beer-belly was smeared with chocolate pudding. Each initiate,
having duly performed this act of devotion, was led to the fantail, where
we were told to lie down atop a table set up between the depth charge
racks. At the command to "Open your mouth!" a mixture of quinine and
vinegar was squirted in. This concoction had the ability to duplicate
the effects of seas-sickness and proved to be quite effective.
Shellbacks received wallet cards and certificates to prove their status
and spare them future agony "Shellback" status
Following this treatment, we were ordered to crawl through a canvas tunnel
that had been diligently prepared by the galley staff. Leftover creamed
corn and other vegetables of the same consistency had been dumped on the
floor of this tunnel. The quinine-vinegar drink went to work then, as
each of us crawled through, and we contributed the contents of our
stomachs to the whole mix. Encouraged by the fact that this was all in
the name of mariners' tradition, observed for centuries, we gladly endured.
Fire hoses had been set up so that upon exiting the tunnel we were able
to stand up again and take a seawater shower. We were now Trusty
Shellbacks in the Realm of Neptunus Rex, with all the benefits of bragging
to friends, family and grandchildren. The Begor then turned north and
sailed toward Singapore for the anticipated visit.
Dave and Barbara Shaver kiss across the Equator
It would be almost 43 years before I again had the chance to visit the
Equator, but this time it was on land. In July 1997, my wife Barbara and
I were on tour visiting the work of a mission organization in Ecuador. We
boarded a bus in Quito, the capital city, for a 15-mile ride north to a
site where the Equator had been made visible by a red line on a large
concrete court. After happily hopping back and forth between hemispheres,
we had our picture taken as we kissed - Barbara in the Southern Hemisphere
and I in the Northern Hemisphere. That made my second trip to the Equator
more pleasurable than, and almost as memorable as, the first.
[Biographical notes from the author: "After release from the Navy in
August 1955, I entered college, graduating from Azusa College (now Azusa
Pacific University), Azusa, California in 1959 with a BA in Biblical
Literature and Theology. In 1961, I joined the staff of CLC International
in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania where I served in various positions in
the publishing program. In 1980, I and my wife Delores (whom I met and
married in 1962) and our two boys moved to Pasadena, California and I
became general manager of William Carey Library Publishers, a small
Christian publisher specializing in scholarly works for training
missionaries. I served in this position for 17 years until I retired in
December 1997. In 1992, my wife died from leukemia. I met my present
wife, Barbara, in 1994 and we were married that same year. We now live
in Arcadia, California."]
I want to say command of the BEGOR was the highlight of my naval career.
It was my second ship command, and later on, I had command of a division
of 4 LST’s followed by a squadron command of 8 LST’s. During my year of
command of BEGOR, I developed a new and fuller appreciation for the
I came to realize that anything that I accomplished with the ship was
due, in no small measure, to the performance of the crew. I learned to
appreciate that I depended on them and I was nothing without their
cooperation and their successful efforts. We operated independently
for almost four and a half months in the western Pacific. During the
six-month deployment we were in the company of PHIBRON THREE for only
the transit to WestPac and return to San Diego.
It was very gratifying to carry out all our assignments on time and
with distinction. It was extremely satisfying to be on independent
duty for practically the entire deployment, and I was proud of the
officers and crew. I enjoyed the challenges of being the "Mayor of
a Town" of 165 men.
(Frank Kleber lives in San Diego, CA).
The Best Reference You Can Get!
By Francis (Frank) Kleber, LCDR, CO, 1958-59
LCDR Frank Kleber assumes command
My mother and father attended the Change of Command ceremony on August
23, 1958, at San Diego, CA, when I relieved LCDR Phil Koehler as CO, USS
BEGOR. Afterwards, during the wardroom reception, my mother was talking
to LTJG Bob Lawrence, the ship's Operations Officer. She was proudly
telling him what a good boy I had been growing up. Then she ended this
motherly boasting sounding quite serious and looking him straight in the
eye, saying, "And he has never given us a bit of trouble!" I was
standing within earshot, looking for a place to hide, when I heard the
"family press agent" make that statement.
Bob, being quick with the repartee replied, "Well, we hope he doesn't
give us any trouble either!"
I assumed command of BEGOR on or about 23 August 1958. LT Edward
Rosendahl was my XO. The change of command was on a Friday and BEGOR
was still in refresher training under Fleet Training Command at San
Diego. Monday, as part of our operational readiness inspection and
training, we got underway to demonstrate our ability to tow a large
ship, in this case an "AE".
During the exercise, in attempting to position BEGOR ahead of the AE
and pick up their towing cable, the cable got wrapped around our port
screw. My XO, LT Rosendahl, was in charge on the fantail, communicating
with the bridge talker via the fantail sound-powered telephone talker.
The XO advised the bridge, "Do not use the port screw" " Do not use
the port screw!" Finally, in desperation as he saw the tow wire
starting to get closer to the screw, he began screaming as loud as he
could "Do not use the port screw!!" Later on, during the investigation
conducted by COMPHIBRON THREE, it was determined that the fantail
talker had “frozen up” and had not relayed any of Ed’s recommendations
to the bridge before the situation became critical.
The exercise was terminated, and one of the deck hands with diving
experience went over the side to see if he could cut the cable, which
he did. So there I was, on my first day at sea, in my second ship
command, limping back to port on one screw.
"My Hero!" "Who? Me?"
By Andrew Dexter, PNSN, with
CO, LCDR Frank Kleber, both 1958-59
[Editor's note: This has got to be one of the most interesting Sea
Stories developed to date, in part because it is presented in a
conversational style, with one party telling his memories of an
adventure aboard USS Begor and another party responding with a
conflicting version. If they were a pair of "running mates," spinning
yarns while sipping beers, this would not be unusual at all: just
another "he said, he said" story and you could believe one, the other
or something in between…maybe neither! But this is seaman, a PN
striker, and…oops! The Captain! But: not to worry. No blows have
been thrown and it's not even a "War of Words," rather some differences
on the details, sort of "dueling memories." In fact, what I see coming
through the give-and-take is a very healthy mutual admiration, which
was clear to me back when the two were "in the moment." It is pleasing
to see that this warm feeling survives to this day! They needed each
other then and they like and respect each other still.
Andrew Dexter provides the main thread of the story and Frank Kleber
(FTK) comments in brackets within the text.]
PNSN Andrew Dexter, 1959
Our skipper, LCDR Francis T. Kleber, recalling the WestPac Cruise of
l958-59 [Sea Story: "My Kind of Town, the
Begor Was"], brought back my
own memories. The cruise was exciting, trying, and scary at times and
interspersed with a lot of fun. My memories are tainted by the fact
that I retired as a Master Chief with a lot of duty stations and I look
back with a different perspective than I had as a Personnelman Seaman
(PNSN). I would like to comment on a couple of the Begor Officers who
particularly impressed me.
Our Recreation Officer, Ensign Stu Huntington, was very perceptive and
caring. He arranged to have tours set up in most of our ports to
acquaint the crew with the culture, sights, food and entertainment.
In Yokohama, we were taken on a ride through the countryside, attended
the Kabuki Theater and were introduced to a nice Japanese style dinner
including formal Geisha Girls serving the food, dancing and playing
music for us.
In Subic Bay, Ensign, now Captain (retired) Huntington set up a tour of
the Philippine countryside, where we saw the volcano and a chapel with
a bamboo organ. The one thing that stands out in my memory of that
tour was that every place we went, especially Sari Sari Stores, had a
picture of General of the Armies McArthur in it. At that time,
Americans and especially General McArthur were heroes.
LCDR Kleber, Begor's Skipper, in my opinion, saved the lives of some
Marines. Begor was ordered to off-load Marines into landing craft
during very heavy seas. We tried and so did the Marines. Recognizing
how dangerous the operation was, Captain Kleber cancelled the operation.
[FTK comment: A little dramatic, I think. The only embarked marines
I recall might have been Philippine Marines, and I am not positive that
we had them aboard. I think they met us when we were assigned with our
embarked UDT team to train the P. Marines for 3 weeks at Corregidor.]
I'm sure had we continued we would have suffered some serious casualties.
That was a good decision by our Skipper, and later we successfully
off-loaded the marines when the seas had calmed down.
[FTK comment: You can bet your boots that any CO would think
twice about endangering the lives of any person under his command;
if a casualty occurred, who do you think would be holding the sack?
It's nice of Andrew to think that I was heroic, but I don't think this
incident would be deemed or recognized as "heroic" by the casual reader.]
Another time, I think it was the same cruise and LCDR Kleber was the
Skipper. We were re-fueling from an aircraft carrier and, as seemed
normal, they put us at a re-fueling station mid-ships of the carrier.
[FTK comment: I am not so sure it was a carrier. I cannot recall
operating with a carrier during our entire 6-month deployment. More
likely, it was an APA, troop transport, or an AKA, amphibious cargo
ship. When I was XO of USS Arnold J. Isbell (DD869) and we operated
with the fast carrier task force, TF 77, off the east coast of Korea,
we had a lot of experience in going alongside a carrier or other
large ship for refueling and replenishment. At that time, our
skipper, CDR Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., was a bold and audacious ship
handler, so I received some excellent instruction and experience in
the fine art of going alongside a "heavy" for replenishment. I
learned there to rely on the inherent speed of a destroyer type ship,
in the event of a potential collision situation.]
This position next to the carrier made steering extremely difficult
because the water being pushed away from the carrier as it plunged
through the water made our helm hard to control. The four-inch fuel
hose was across and oil was being pumped. My job, as replenishment
recorder during that operation, was to hold a Plexiglas board and
record with a grease pencil the last engines/screws rpm, course and
rudder angle Captain Kleber had ordered. He would look over my
shoulder, making sure I got down the last order, and then make very
small changes as he thought necessary to stay in position with
respect to the carrier. If the carrier made any changes in speed
or direction, it would adversely affect Begor. I think back and
believe the Skipper must have been sweating bullets, as was our
best Helmsman, keeping Begor parallel with that big carrier. Fate
drew the Begor closer to the carrier and the Skipper ordered a change
and still we got closer. The Skipper knew if he made too large of a
change we would rapidly pull away from the carrier, but then we would
probably have to make an emergency break-away with only 120 feet of
hose. The BM3 called out the distance between the two ships to the
radio talker on the bridge who reported to the Skipper. The numbers
kept getting lower as we got closer to the Carrier. Still we got
closer, until the Skipper ordered all personnel away from the
starboard side (next to the carrier). I looked down from the wing
and saw the deck personnel leaving. In an emergency, the BM3 at
the re-fueling station had an axe he would use in an emergency
breakaway, to cut the manila line tying the four-inch hose to the
Begor. The BM3 leaned his axe against the bulkhead and took over
handling the distance line, a line that has the number of feet
between ships marked on it. The sag in the middle of the hose fell
nearer to the water as our distance to the carrier kept closing
and the carrier sailors pulled hard on their line to shorten the
hose. I sensed the OOD and starboard lookout leave the wing of the
bridge. I turned and started up the three steps to the flying bridge
when I heard the Captain calmly say, "Not you, Dexter. The Boats,
you and I stay. If we go, we go together."
[FTK comment: Okay, Dexter, if you say so. I must have been thinking
to myself, "Now, what would John Wayne say if he were in this position?"]
I returned to my position just inboard and immediately in front of the
Captain. The bright sunlight stopped and I looked up, expecting to see
a big white fluffy cloud. Instead, I looked up at the underside of a
bulkhead-gray elevator on the carrier we were re-fueling from. I
remember thinking, "If Begor rides a wave crest up and the carrier
follows a trough down, we are dead!" The skipper must have been
thinking the same thing, because he said low enough that only he and
I could hear, "Both ships are riding the same waves."
[FTK comment: Again, I plead nolo contendere! Am I
missing the point here? Yep, they're riding the same waves, and
they're in the same water, same ocean...
Editor's comment: I do understand Andrew's fear that Begor could
be raised under the elevator platform, crushing all exposed Begor
personnel, and I'm willing to bet that the Skipper sensed that fear
and tried to quell it. We all know that "the tide raises all boats,"
but out to sea, wave crests and troughs can treat boats or ships
differently. The Skipper's remark may have been intended to point out
that both ships were heading across the wave front together, the only
way to assure that they pitched up and down in unison and did not roll
from side to side out of synch and possibly get thrown together.]
I thought if we got much closer I would reach out and touch the
carrier's side. The phone talker was calling off descending numbers
then stabilized at about eleven feet. All of a sudden it was twelve
then fourteen, and the skipper started reversing his previous orders
and ordered all personnel back to their re-fueling stations and
"prepare for an emergency break-away!" The numbers grew more rapidly
and we only had enough hose for about 120 feet. The seamen on the
carrier were rapidly letting out the hose as we pulled away. Begor
straightened out at about ninety feet. I looked up at the Skipper
and he gave me that all-knowing, confident smile that a Commanding
Officer gives a crew to build confidence, and he did.
[FTK comment: I was probably just as relieved as he was. But, I like
his story writing ability.]
CTCM Andrew Dexter
Forgive me if my memory fades here and there, and that I took a
writer's right to embellish the story a little bit. This incident
will most likely be included in my next FICTION book, which is based
on my Navy Career.
Well done, Skipper!
[Captain's closing comment: Thanks, Andrew, for a great Tale of
the Sea! I am happy to be the hero of your story, though I fear that
part is the "possible embellishment" of which you spoke!
I really do not specifically remember the heroics to which Andrew
refers. I do not doubt him. I have a pretty good memory, but I am
sorry that those details were not cemented in my dome. I do remember
Dexter as being our PN in the ship's office and a willing hand,
wherever he was assigned! I'm pleased to hear that he made Master
Chief and is fulfilling his urge to write.
Editor's final comment: Since Vern (Andrew) and I worked closely
on Begor's administration (i.e., paperwork), I am especially pleased that
he is now writing Sea Stories for us!
Andrew Dexter is a retired Master Chief Cryptologic Technician who
lives and writes in Napa, still the heart of California's premier
Wine Country! He has already published some full-length fiction
books and we look forward to reading and reviewing his forthcoming
book based on his Navy experience.
Frank Kleber is a retired Commander and Fermi Labs engineer living
in San Diego. One of Frank Kleber's comments on Andrew's story was
about another "hairy" Begor encounter with an aircraft carrier. It
was Sea Story material all by itself, so we posted it separately.
Please read that story, too. You can jump directly to:
"Clear the Flight Deck! Begor Landing!" ].
Clear the Flight Deck! BEGOR Landing!
By Francis T. Kleber, CDR, USN, Ret.,
Commanding Officer, 1958-59
Andrew Dexter's sea story about a "hairy refueling operation" made me
think of a close call and near-collision, which occurred when I was CO,
BEGOR. I think the "hairiest" ship-handling situation I experienced
during my entire tour was when we were docking at the port of Yokosuka,
Japan in the fall of 1958. We had just arrived from San Diego after
our Pacific Ocean transit in company with PHIBRON THREE and were
assigned a berth in the inner harbor.
From the chart, the prevailing wind and the existing weather, it
appeared as if docking would be a "snap". As we eased along, I
remembered my days with CDR Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., then CO of USS
ANOLD J. ISBELL (DD869) and later the Chief of Naval Operations
(CNO) in command of the entire U.S. Navy. I was his Exec aboard
ISBELL. He and the other skippers in our destroyer squadron
considered the use of tugs when docking under normal conditions
to be for the less-than-bold and a crutch which might reflect
adversely upon one's ship-handling skills. With this in mind,
as we approached the inner harbor and were asked by the Yokosuka
Port Control, "Do you require a tug or pilot for docking assistance?"
I answered smugly, "No, thanks. None required"…. After all, I was
a Zumwalt-trained man.
As we got close enough to view the location of the assigned berth,
my level of concern began to rise, and my confidence waned somewhat.
The wind had changed. Our berth was at the head of a pier just
forward of a very large aircraft carrier moored port side to. The
empty space between the carrier's bow and the beginning of the pier
looked really small. I didn't need such a challenge. As we entered
the slip and began to slowly pass the carrier, I realized we had a
stronger-than-expected wind blowing us towards the carrier. Not a
good sign. We were inching our way along, and the distance between
our port yardarm and the overhang of the carrier's sloped side was
decreasing much too rapidly and getting bothersome. A collision
appeared likely unless I made some drastic changes. The small
berthing space available ahead of the carrier would limit the amount
of speed I could use in my approach to the pier to offset the wind
nudging us towards the carrier. The distance between our port yardarm
and the huge ship kept getting smaller… and prayers would not solve
I increased the ship's speed to full and applied right full rudder
for a few seconds to throw the bow away from the monster looming above
us. Then, when it appeared we would not collide and would clear the
carrier, I ordered, "Left full rudder. All engines back full!" for a
moment or two before stopping the engines as the wind helped push us
towards the pier.
After getting alongside safely, I turned around and looked up at the
bulging carrier above and behind us. With my heart in my mouth, I
couldn't believe how close our yardarm had come to the carrier's side.
Somehow, the gods were smiling, and we managed to get alongside without
any damage. I heaved a sigh of relief and some wonderment; because
that situation, with the unexpected wind and my "No thanks, I'm so good.
I don't need a tug" attitude had "Board of Investigation" written all
over it with my name as the "Interested Party". Needless to say, after
that painful "lesson" in seamanship, I did not hesitate to ask for a
tug or pilot on future occasions as any prudent mariner might do!
This doesn’t qualify as a "war story," but at the time we thought it was
pretty funny. It was sometime in 1955 or 56 and we had both a new skipper
and XO reporting on board. The crew had the impression they must have
thought BEGOR was a battleship, because new uniform regulations were posted
that required the crew to chow down in undress blues, no dungarees on the
mess deck. We also had to wear our whitehats instead of the ball cap while
Well, four enterprising young sailors went ashore, rented a typewriter, and
wrote a letter to the XO, voicing their displeasure with the new regulations
and offered some suggestions.
When the letter came on board, one of the authors saw it and headed around
to the porthole to watch the XO open it. He read it then crumpled it up,
throwing it into the trashcan. He then thought better of his action and
retrieved it, smoothing it out.
The next morning at quarters, the skipper read the letter to the crew. He
said the only problem was the letter wasn’t signed and he didn’t know whom
to give credit for the letter. No one claimed credit, but in short order
some of the "battleship regs" were rescinded and the crew went back to
their old ways.
(Bill Cofer lives in Pampa, TX).
The Esther Williams Photo and Pennant
A Sea Story with "legs"
By Morys "Peaches" Hines, SO2, 1955-58
It all started about 1957 when Esther Williams visited an Aircraft Carrier
in Japan. She posed for several photos while on board and one ended up
being displayed on the wardroom bulkhead. At that time someone created an
Esther Williams Pennant that could be flown from the yardarm.
In short order the fun began. A visiting officer from another ship stole
the photo. Some carrier officers paid a visit to the offending ship to
retrieve the photo. A brief scuffle ensued and the carrier officers were
forced off the ship. So the tradition began.
According to the rules, the photo was to stay in the Far East and it was
established as an "officer thing". Any officer could steal the photo and
keep it on his ship, and the pennant had to be taken down and handed over
to the thieving officers. The photo had to hang in the wardroom for all
to see and the ship’s officers guarded it with their lives—or so it
Partial USS Begor Wardroom of the Esther Williams Era.
1 LCDR Phil Koehler, CO, 2 LTJG Bob Lawrence, Comm Officer,
3 ENS Brookes Treidler, 4 LTJG Walt Doucette, Eng Off,
5 LTJG Ed Birkenshaw, 1st LT, 6 ENS Al Lutz, Gunnery Off,
7 LT A.C. "Ace" Lassiter, XO
I don’t know how they did it, but some BEGOR officers stole the photo.
My understanding was there was a good fight on the other ship while getting
the photo. I heard some officers were thrown off the destroyer during the
process. I also heard that the First Lieutenant and the XO were a part of
it, but, of course, I wasn’t there. We kept it for a full week. The only
reason we had it so long is because we went to sea for a week!
Upon our return from sea, we went into dry-dock in Yokosuka for some
repairs. As luck would have it, I was on duty as JOOD with a seaman to
run errands, etc. Since we were in a secured shipyard, most everyone
coming and going was cleared to be in the yard. But this would be a day
etched in my memory.
During my watch, many workers came on board with the proper passes. At
one time several Japanese construction workers, with "Supervisor" printed
on their hard hats, came on board. Guess what? The photo of Esther
Williams was taken from the wardroom that day. And to top if off, which
officers got it? Oh, the shame! The Hooligans (sailors’ slang for Coast
It was great for our officers to participate in this Far East tradition.
It was an honor for them to have the photo and pennant. I wonder if this
tradition is still carried on in today’s Navy.
("Peaches" Hines lives in Albuquerque, NM)
Comment on the Esther Williams Affair by E. Brookes Treidler, ENS, ’57-58
Co-Defender of Esther Williams Trophies and Co-Defendant of Bob
Lawrence, had he been charged and indicted (see below)
I was a direct participant in the adventure of "The Esther Williams
Pennant" as featured in Volume 16 No. 1 USS Begor Newsletter. Here's my
version, based on my limited memory of the summer of 1957.
The photo seemed to be a publicity photograph of Esther in a swimsuit,
posed somewhat like the famous Marilyn Monroe nude. It was encased
between two pieces of plastic with flotation material around the outside.
The wardroom game around this photo was quite well known throughout the
Western Pacific. Once a ship had "captured" Esther, the ship that had
had the photo would turn over a logbook and a flag. Each ship with the
photo would enter its experiences in the log for posterity. The flag,
as I recall it, had a yellow background with a black silhouette of
Esther diving. The flag was to be flown from the yardarm, which of
course made that ship a sitting duck.
My memory is that one of our officers had made a legitimate business
visit to the ship that had the photo and was left alone with it. He
simply grabbed it and left.
We were then in Yokosuka and a sister APD was docked nearby. Rather
than engage in subterfuge, the officers of that ship boarded the Begor
at noontime and attacked us in the wardroom. At the time, I was barely
out of UCLA and "Amphib" school at Coronado. I looked like I was about
sixteen years old, but I weighed a solid 180 pounds and I was especially
strong in the legs. In those days I could punt a football 50 to 60 yards.
Although their biggest man came at me, I had little trouble keeping him
away from the photo. They were clearly no match for the Begor officers,
and they eventually retreated. It was a real donnybrook and I well
remember the shouts of crewmembers watching through the portholes.
We had the photo for a few more days, but it was causing an extreme loss
of sleep. When another ship's officer of Asian descent came aboard
dressed as a Japanese workman, he had no difficulty removing it from
the wardroom. It was probably several hours before we even noticed that
Esther was gone. It had been an adventure, but we were glad that it had
(Brookes Treidler was CIC Officer in 1957-58 and now resides
in Pasadena, CA)
Comment on the Esther Williams Story By Bob Lawrence, Communications Officer
at the time of the Esther Williams "acquisition:"
Confessed thief of Esther Williams photo and pennant, with the
pennant, LTJG Bob Lawrence
I confess! I was the stealthy sailor who brought Esther to the Begor.
Lest you think that this was an act of bravery you should know that it
was done without a tussle. I had business on the ship holding the trophy
(I've forgotten both the ship and the business). While alone in
the wardroom, I hid Esther amongst my stack of papers and walked off the
Quarterdeck with a jaunty "Permission to leave the ship, Sir."
No derring-do here!
Keeping the trophy was another matter. One attempt at liberating Esther
from the Begor's wardroom was unsuccessful and resulted in LTJG Ed
Birkinshaw shaking the miscreants off the bow line into the harbor as
they were doing a midnight hand-over-hand toward the Begor's gunnels.
I never knew what ever happened to the poor wet lads. I don't remember
the Balduck dustup but the final attempt was successful and my memory
follows the narrative above.
(Bob was Begor’s Ops Officer in 1958-59. He lives in Placerville, CA
and is Webmaster for www.ussbegor.org .)
Comment on the Esther Williams Story By Gene Combs, SK1, 1950-52,
USS BEGOR (APD-127) Association Newsletter Editor
Begor shipmate "Peaches" Hines wrote an article in the January Newsletter
under the title "The Esther Williams Pennant". When I received the story
my first reaction was to ask "Peaches" how much of the story was
fiction/imagination and how much was factual. His reply was "the
whole damn story is true". So I published the story hoping to get
some feedback from the crew, and feedback I got.
Our Association Secretary, Raoul Seré, did a little sleuthing of his
own, making some very interesting and intriguing discoveries about the
"Esther Williams Photo/Pennant." Turns out "Peaches" story was factual,
but there is more to the story
The story dates back to 1943 and involves two young Royal Australian
Navy Lieutenants, Lindsay Brand and David Stevenson (who later went on
to become Chief of Staff), on board an R.A.N. N-class Destroyer attached
to the British Eastern Fleet.
During a night out at the Stardust nightclub, they met an appealing
young lady who caught the attention of them both. Unfortunately for
Brand, he was romantically out-maneuvered by Stevenson. However, to
ease Brand's loss, Stevenson presented him with a framed photo of
Esther Williams. Before giving Brand the photo, Stevenson inscribed
the photo with the words, "to my own Georgie [Brand's first name],
with all my love and a passionate kiss, Esther".
Brand hung the picture in his cabin until one day it disappeared. He
heard that the photo had been stolen by another officer and set out
getting it back. Once back with Brand, the original thief set about
stealing it again, only to have it stolen again by another ship. This
started the ball rolling and before too long the "Esther Williams
Trophy" had become a sought-after prize between wardrooms. Over the
years, the trophy was fought over by US, British and Canadian ships
and is believed to have been held by more than 200 vessels. In 1957,
"Esther" was retired by the US Navy and sent to the Naval Historical
Collection at Spectacle Island in Sydney.
Apparently BEGOR was one of the last ships to hold the trophy,
It's not over yet, Mick De Jong, an Australian filmmaker hopes to
develop the story into a documentary, due out in 2006. BEGOR must
play a part in the documentary! Raoul is working diligently to get
the whole story and see that BEGOR is not overlooked. We will keep
Left Full Rudder! (An Underway Refueling Incident)
By Hines-Birkinshaw-Challans and Others
[Editor: This sea story was written from the recollections of several of
our shipmates who were involved in the incident. Contributors are
identified in the Editors' notes at the end of the story.]
It was September 1957. President Eisenhower had announced a two-year
suspension of nuclear testing, the Mackinac Bridge was opened to traffic
between Michigan's two peninsulas, and USS Begor was en route from Japan
to San Diego.
The sea was extremely rough and Begor was running low on bunker fuel.
LCDR Phil Koehler, a former UDT Officer, was in command. Second in
command was Executive Officer (XO) LT A.C. "Ace" Lassiter. A decision
was made to refuel underway from USS Pickaway (APA-222), a troop
transport, despite the high seas. As all fuel transferring ships do,
Pickaway would set and maintain a course and speed and Begor would come
along her port side and maintain station relative to her at approximately
120 feet off, during the entire refueling process. It was Begor's
responsibility to make any small course and speed changes to stay on
station, so the ships, once "tethered" by the suspended fuel line, would
neither come so close together as to risk a collision nor get so far
apart as to risk parting the fuel line. On a smooth sea, this maneuver
takes good ship-handling skills: on a rough sea, a very high skill level
is essential to ship safety.
The skipper decided to turn over ship control (the "conn") to the First
Lieutenant/Gunnery Officer, LTJG Ed Birkinshaw, as a means of honing Ed's
ship-handling skills. The CO and XO remained on the starboard wing of
the open bridge with Ed, where all could eye-ball the water gap between
ships.* Others there included ENS Bob Lawrence, Junior Officer of the
Deck and, on the ship-to-ship phone circuit, as "command-to-command"
talker, was SO3 "Peaches" Hines. In the Pilot House nearby was an
experienced helmsman, whose identity has yet to be established, but whose
reputation was that of an experienced wheel-handler, with QM2 Bob Challans
looking over his shoulder. In situations as tight as this, it was
important to ensure that helm and lee-helm (who relayed commands to the
engine Room via the engine-order-telegraph) heard and executed commands
from the conn quickly and correctly. At the fueling station, where the
hose from Pickaway was connected to the fuel trunk on Begor, was an
experienced crew, supervised by a Chief Boatswain Mate. A member of that
crew was BM3 Walter Johnson.
According to LTJG Birkinshaw, all went fine until the high seas caused
Begor to begin to yaw away from the APA. He gave the command to come
right, but apparently the helmsman misunderstood and went left, which
aggravated the situation. Birkenshaw again gave a command to come right,
but Begor was slow to respond, owing to the rough sea. He then gave a
command to cast off the lines and to cut the fuel hose. The axe was
apparently dull and bounced off the fuel line. Another crewmember then
used a large knife and cut the fuel hose.
During these actions at the fueling station, BM3 Johnson was caught in
the bight of a running line, which broke his leg, but fortunately did not
pull him overboard.
In the meantime, Pickaway's captain decided to make a course change, which
brought him toward Begor as she was beginning to respond to the right
rudder. Noticing this, Birkinshaw ordered left full rudder - and then
all engines back full. Begor was almost stopped when the ships grazed
each other, causing Begor's starboard anchor to part from its chain, fly
into the air and sink to the bottom of the sea. As a result of cutting
the hose, black bunker fuel spewed all over the area of the fueling
station as well as all over crewmembers in the general area including
the starboard wing of the bridge!
An ensuing inquiry determined that Begor had done all possible to avoid
the collision, but the skipper of the USS Pickaway was admonished for
failure to maintain a steady course.
Begor was running dangerously low on fuel and was ordered into Midway
Island for emergency refueling. The seas remained very rough and Begor
took on a pilot to enter the harbor. The pilot rammed the pier and
captain Koehler promptly relieved him and brought the ship alongside.
[In the Navy, underway refueling has been a common practice since the
1930's. Used extensively since the 1940s, UNREP is an exacting but
dangerous maneuver, especially during rough seas. The weather was a
factor in this UNREP and it was prudent to stop the maneuver and put
into Midway Island to top off our bunkers. All Begor personnel did a
fabulous job in recovering from a mishap that could have been much more
serious. The fact that the finding of an official inquiry placed the
blame on the delivering ship for failing to maintain a predetermined
course speaks well for Begor personnel.
This story was compiled and edited by Stu Huntington and Gene Combs from
written and oral recollections of Morys "Peaches" Hines, Ed Birkinshaw
and Bob Challans, whom we thank for their generous inputs. Special
thanks go to Peaches for suggesting the story and sending us a first
draft, which formed the heart of the story.
If you have a story for the Newsletter or Website, but can't remember
all the details, send us what you remember, as Peaches did, and we'll
cross-check it with shipmates who were there and publish, crediting all.
*How far away is that other ship anyway? When ships are a mile or more
apart, as when steaming in formation, radar can be used to determine
distances between ships, as can optical range-finders. In close
quarters, the best gauge of distance is the "Mark One Mod One Eyeball,"
connected to a decent, experienced brain! However, when ships are
connected by a highline or fuel line, distance markers are attached to
the line to add precision.]
Where’s My Relief?
By Bill Meeker, LTJG, Supply Officer, 1958-59
I relieved Johne Brooks as Supply Officer, while BEGOR was in San Diego,
in the spring of 1958. Later that year, we went to Long Beach Shipyard
to prepare for WestPac.
Highlight of yard work was when the “sounding mallets” went through the
hull in several spots! I guess the highlights of the trip to Hawaii, as
we steamed to WestPac, were seven “engineering casualties” in seven days
of steaming, from loss of rudder control, to loss of radar, loss of
sonar, and even a ruptured water line shooting water through a hole into
the mess deck.
There were any number of highlights to the WestPac tour: Thanksgiving in
the Philippines, Christmas in Yokosuka, New Year in Hong Kong, underwater
demolitions in Okinawa, sailing into the jellyfish infested harbor of
Jesselton, British North Borneo, a beer party on the beach there,
visiting the fortifications of Corregidor.
Another highlight for me was flying to Clark AFB in the Philippines to
make sure that I had my hands on my relief, Duane Furan, and got him
back to BEGOR in Subic Bay, the day before the ship left to return to
San Diego. No shore patrol personnel were required to assist! At the
reunion in San Antonio, Duane reminded me about the fog being so thick
on the flight that we couldn’t see the ground.
(Bill Meeker lives in Strasburg, VA)
Face Forward or Face the Music!
By Stu Huntington, Ensign, 1958-59
Stu Huntington and Bob Sloan
I was in training for my "OOD, Independent Steaming" qualification, on
the long trip to Westpac in Fall, 1958 and back to CONUS in Spring,
1959, and all times in between. I felt lucky then, and still do,
because I had one of the best OODs in the business as my instructor-mentor.
That was LTJG Al Lutz, from Philadelphia.
Al liked to have a good laugh in the Wardroom, but, on the Bridge, he
was one serious dude! Whenever he could do so without being distracted
from his primary duty, which was keeping the ship and crew safe, Al
would instruct and quiz me.
I’ll never forget the night I was facing Al as we spoke in the Pilot
House. He was looking directly forward along the ship’s intended track,
and I was standing just to one side of his line-of-sight, looking right
at him. I had the con. It was Lesson Time!
"When you have the con, you must keep your eyes forward while the ship
is going forward! You are your own best Lookout; the only person you
can completely depend on to be vigilant! Even if everybody else is
looking out for the ship, you are one more pair of trained eyes, but,
most important, you are the one most responsible for the ship’s safety,
next to the Captain, and he ain’t here right now!"
I was a little embarrassed, but I knew Al was right and I immediately
corrected my behavior and made a mental note: henceforth, my nose
would be like the needle of a compass, attracted to the ship’s line
of motion, be it forward or back!
You can imagine my shock when I caught Al Lutz doing exactly what he
had chided me for! There he was, OOD and conning the ship and he was
facing aft, looking at and talking to me as I faced forward, the way
we were steaming!
"Mr. Lutz," I tried to interrupt him. Then I saw it was too late for
him to correct the situation! We were headed right toward the pier,
going about 10 knots, and we were no more than 50 yards from impact!
I tried to shout, but couldn’t! The words would not come out!
Then I heard, "Stu, are you OK? I think you were having a nightmare,
I blinked and looked around. It was black as tar, but I was calmed
by the familiar voice of roommate Bob Sloan. "Go back to sleep, Stu.
You have the mid-watch in an hour."
(Stu lives in Murrieta, California)
Smokes for Floats
by Stu Huntington, Ensign, 1958-59
During our six-month deployment to WestPac, from October 1958 until
March 1959, we steamed independently from port to port, covering much
of the Western Pacific Ocean between Yokosuka, Japan and Jesselton,
North Borneo. As we were transiting the South China Sea during one of
these voyages, we came upon a Chinese fishing boat, which lay dead in
the water. The crew was very much alive and animated, as they called
and waved to get our attention.
Our Skipper, LCDR Frank Kleber, had the OOD pull the ship along the
windward side of the distressed smaller vessel and, mostly through
sign language, we ascertained that the fishermen had run out of fuel.
The captain said "Yes," we could provide enough fuel to get the little
boat safely to port, some 100 to 250 miles away. Once it was
established that the Chinese crew would sup at home that evening, they
became very high-spirited, laughing and smiling at us. I don't recall
any blown kisses, but that was the mood they were in.
While the engineers of both ships worked their way through a modest
fuel transfer, the non-busy members of both crews smiled and waved at
each other, until one of the fishermen thought of the tremendous
resource that sat a few yards off their starboard side. He performed
a hand-and-mouth gesture toward us: the international sign for "Got
smokes?" Immediately, his comrades took up the gesture, as
if to help their friend communicate. Together, it was like a chorus of
"Got smokes?"-- "Got smokes?"
As our crewmembers started to show understanding by nodding or returning
the gesture, some entrepreneurial fisherman lifted a green glass ball
about 15" across and encased in rope netting. Someone said, "He's
offering a fishnet float for cigarettes!" Soon packs of cigarettes
were flying from Begor to fishing boat, accompanied by the occasional
cigar. The return volley was a carefully aimed fusillade of green
glass balls, all of them caught in mid-air by eager-Begor-ites, me
included. Mostly those who were interested in such souvenirs got one
and only one float before it was time to shove off. One of my fellow
officers managed to haul in three. I asked him for one, and a few
days later, when he started giving me the international gesture for
"Got smokes," I described a small globe with my hands: the
international sign for "Got fishnet float?" I had my second float!
Three years later, I showed those floats to my new bride and told her
of my plan to incorporate them into the décor of our bar. She assured
me that we were not likely to ever have a bar and that the floats were
therefore unnecessary. That was the end of the honeymoon! The lesson
here is not that one should never marry, but that there is always a
responsibility for a ship at sea to perform a humanitarian act, when
the opportunity arises. I was very proud to be a member of the Begor
crew the day we saved those fishermen, and I have my fishnet floats
(in the garage somewhere) to remind me.
Those of you who were aboard in 1958 should remember that the movie
"Love is a Many Splendored Thing,"
starring William Holden and Jennifer
Jones, was in theatres that year and the title song, recorded by the
Four Aces, was very popular. The Foreign Correspondent's Club of Hong
Kong invited PacFleet officers to use their facilities, so Bob Sloan and
I took a cab up there one weekend afternoon. To our amazement, we
recognized the building's exterior as the "hospital" where Han Su Yin
(Jennifer Jones' character) worked in the movie! And over on the other
side of the parking lot was the flight of stairs the two lead characters
took to get to the "high and windy hill," on which they "made out" and
professed their undying love! Bob and I ran to the stairs, anxious to
climb to the top and see Hong Kong Harbor from that lofty perch! But,
alas, the rest was Pure Hollywood! The stairs led only to a small
platform, with a very high mountain beyond, and many other roads and
buildings between that point and the summit. And there was no path
upward beyond the top of the stairs. The view of the harbor from that
point was good, but not nearly as nice as from the edge of the parking
lot below! Hollywood, you fooled us once again! We did a little movie
making of our own -8mm- then moved inside to examine the "hospital" in
greater depth. Much to our pleasure, the hospital interior was filmed
somewhere else (probably on a hill overlooking California's San Fernando
Valley), so we were able to join the foreign correspondents at their bar!
[Epilogue: I loved Hong Kong from that first visit, so I was fortunate
to be able to return three times while stationed in Japan in the 1975-78
period. I was also able to bring my wife and daughter there on those
vacations from Japan. They, too, found it a many splendored place, and
they liked the shopping most of all! -- Stu Huntington]
By Steve Spence, SA, SN & HMSN, 1958-59
A Begor sailor on TAD with Corregidor Navy. Credit — Steve Spence
Let me start by stating that this story is based purely upon recollections
of occurrences of over 48 years ago!
It was the summer of 1958, when I was assigned to USS Begor, APD-127,
as part of the ship's complement before overseas deployment. I was a
seaman apprentice "Deck Ape," under the tutelage of both BM3 Walter
Johnson and BM3 Ray Beckett. My main duties were to get a
"clean sweep-down, fore and aft!" and chip and paint all surfaces with
Red Oxide and Navy Haze Gray, oil-base paint. Even to this day, I hate
RUST! I loaded supplies, such as food and ammo, manned oil refueling
lines, and performed other required duties.
The ship had just come out of dry-dock, and was ordered to go to sea,
for "Sea Trials," prior to overseas deployment. After a few "bugs"
were taken care of, we shoved off for Hawaii. As you all know, you
can only go as fast as the slowest ship, which was a top speed of 13
Knots. So it takes over a week to get to Pearl Harbor, with PHIBRON
3: five LSTs, two LSDs and APAs and AKAs, such as TULARE, AKA-112.
I forgot many of the ships' names, but I can look them up. The ships
carried the regular complement of men plus two teams of UDT personnel,
Team 12 and 13.
After a 3-month period, I was fortunate enough to become a Hospital
Corpsman Striker, under HM1 Richard Henderson. He was a great mentor
and instructor, as I later graduated #2 in Corps School. As you know,
Sickbay was located mid-ship, next to the laundry and supply division
berthing area. Just aft was the engineering berthing, consisting of
machinist mates, enginemen and firemen.
It was a great way to meet many friends, and it was while at sea that
I met PN3 Dexter, who typed out the P.O.D. (Plan of the Day). We were
in the Supply Division under LTJG William Meeker, who also acted as
the Morale Officer. I later found out that he and ENS Stu Huntington
were the guys who provided touring and recreation activities through which
the men of the Begor would have options, opportunities and information,
to enjoy and reap many fabulous adventures. So, instead of sitting in
a bar on liberty, we could take advantage of the many side trips, both
sightseeing and historical, to enrich and enhance this great opportunity,
to travel to the Far East.
Not that I didn't frequent many bars, such as the E.M. Club in Pearl
Harbor, Club Alliance, in Yokosuka, or Repulse Bay, Tai Pak Restaurant
in Hong Kong, or those countless "coffee houses" throughout the Far
East: it's just sort of a waste of valuable time. And, what the hell,
we were given the CHOICE! While in Yokosuka, ENS Huntington made many
reservations to tour the area, set up skating party, bowling party,
Supply Division Party and many other sightseeing locations to visit.
As far as Yokosuka, it was my first choice or pick of duty station, out
of Corps School. Only two of us received orders to report for duty at
USNH #3923, out of a class of 67. So that's what you can get from the
"Dream Sheet" request. While on shore duty in Japan, I was able to climb
to the summit of Mt. Fuji, or the 10th Gate, snow ski up in Nikko
National Park, walk the grounds of the Imperial Palace, see the Emperor
with his wife and practice the "People to People" program sponsored by
President Eisenhower. Sorry, I'm digressing: back to ship's voyage of
The Philippine Odyssey continues with Subic Bay, Corregidor, and Manila.
Subic Bay is strictly a Navy base: Olongapo, a town outside the base,
full of bars, and not much else except crabs and VD. However, the base
had great facilities in which to enjoy your liberty time. Now comes
Corregidor, with its famous history. The POD had four selections to
choose from: see the UDT personnel detonate leftover ammo, go into
the small village for unusual trinkets, swim along the beach, or climb
to the summit to check out the 16" gun emplacements. I chose the swim
and go to the top. The beach (see picture) was not too swift. No sand,
just rocks and one dugout canoe. Up to the top we went. The Bataan
Peninsula is north of the island of Corregidor [which sits in the
entrance channel to Manila Bay]. Just got there, and a runner requested
my immediate presence to address a problem down at the ammo dock. I
carried the first aid bag given to me by HM1 Louis R. Trujillo (UDT
Team 12). I still have possession of that same bag. Four members lay
out cold on the deck of an LCVP. [See picture of LCVP at Corregidor
pier. This is a purely "representative" picture of a "typical liberty
party," as neither names nor photos of the four "victims" exist.] The
four men were returned to the ship, administered first aid, and recovered
the following day with a large hangover. That was the end of our
Corregidor Liberty Boat
3. BM3 Ray Becker,
4. HM1 Richard Henderson,
6. HM1 Louis Trujillo,
7. FN Patte,
8. BM3 Walter Johnson,
10. SN George Parry,
Credit — Steve Spence
Now Manila. The Port of Manila was deep enough for us to dock, so we
did. Two city blocks away was the Hotel Manila and a large USO Office
and dance hall. From there, ENS Stu Huntington made arrangements for
sightseeing trips to the Unknown Soldier Memorial, Japanese gun
emplacements along the shore line, St. Thomas University, University
of Manila [Steve's photos of these PI points of interest are on the
Photo Gallery page, under the Peacetime Operations heading.] and
Sangley Point Naval Air Station, next to Caviti City. I believe we
spent Christmas in Manila and New Years in Hong Kong.
At this time we were steaming independently, so we could go at a faster
pace. We had a beach party outside of Jesselton, British North Borneo,
with a few beers. It was beautiful there (sorry no pictures, forgot
camera). Have some nice memories of that location. Onward to Hong
The colony of Hong Kong was unique at that time. Still under British
Government Rule, as a British Crown Colony on the mainland of China
and an island just off the coast. No major taxes or duties made it
a shopping mall extreme! Prices were lower than anywhere we had been.
So, many of the guys set out to have clothing such as suits, shirts,
and uniforms custom made, and found bargains in jade, ivory jewelry,
and watches. My watch lasted twenty-four hours and crashed! It's
lying on the bottom of Hong Kong Harbor. So much for bargains! I went
to Tiger Balm Gardens, Repulse Bay, Victoria Peak, The China Fleet Club,
a few Tattoo Parlors (free beer served), and the famous Tai Pak Floating
Restaurant for a 16-course meal. The village of Aberdeen and the Main
Prison on the island were included.
Pay was in Hong Kong dollars, which were three times larger than a
U.S. dollar. Normally we got MPC money, which was Military Currency
or "scrip," much smaller in size. I'm not sure of the exchange rate,
but it bought many gifts to share with loved ones back home. I was
able to enter Kowloon province, on the mainland of China (but still
part of Hong Kong, B.C.C). Was unsure of the situation over there,
so we came back to the ship after a few beers. Had ship duty on New
Years Eve, so with no more money to spend, stayed aboard till cast
off, back to Yokosuka, to meet up with ship convoy group, for the
The trip was uneventful, until we left Hawaii for the mainland. Two
days out at about 19:45, while watching a Bob Hope movie, Mayor of
New York, on the fantail, a slight leak was occurring down below in
the engine room. The XO, LT Ed Rosendahl, ordered the men available
to lay to the engine compartment to bail out water till the pumps
were established and in control of the water level. Two days later,
we entered the Home Port of San Diego, Calif.
Following his naval service, which ended in 1961, Steve Spence went
to work for with the Chicago Fire Department. He retired with 30
years service and still lives in Chicago.
Which came first, the USS Begor's softball team, the Knights, or the
ship's insignia, a red-winged knight in shining armor, carrying a large
black lance, astride a green seahorse rampant on a white background with
minimal wave-chop? (See picture.) Those of you who were aboard in 1958-59
should remember both the team and the ship's new insignia, which was
approved around that time. Obviously, there was a connection between
team name and ship insignia, but which one fostered the other is open
to discussion among the crew. All I remember for certain is that our
XO, Ed Rosendahl, was the creative and driving force behind the design
and execution of the ship's insignia, from the twinkle in his eye through
approval by higher authority and manufacture. Exactly when the first
small batch of ship's plaques was made by the tender, using a sand-cast
method, and when we got the first large (6") and small (3") ship's cloth
patches for the ship's store are matters other shipmates will have to
weigh in on. If we get more details through shipmates' comments, we'll
post them on the website with this story.
[Stu Huntington will bring his small Begor patch to the Phoenix Reunion,
so those who have never seen one "in the cloth" can do so.]
I have nothing but good memories of that little ship. I came off
(LST-848) to put BEGOR back in commission in 1961. Nine months later
we put her back to rest in mothballs. (APD-127) had a fine history
and I was proud to have got to know her.
(Chris Fowler lives in Palmer, AK).
Reporting Ready for Sea. Or Not!
By George Vandervoort,
LTJG (Engineering Officer), 1961-62
LTJG George Vandervoort
In August 1961 BEGOR was towed to San Pedro Shipyard, Terminal Island, CA.
The ship required extensive repairs to the hull and all systems including
the boilers and steam turbines. Westinghouse had a representative on site
in immaculate white coveralls who was paid the princely sum of $100.00 per
day. One day a crewman was scraping rust inside the hull when he poked
his screwdriver through the hull!
In addition to some training and administrative work, the officers and
crew did morning exercises on the dock at San Pedro. The USS WEISS
(APD-135) was being re-commissioned at the same shipyard, so, on 20
November, both ships held their commissioning ceremony. LCDR Sumner
Gurney, a 1947 NROTC graduate of Georgia School of Technology, took
command of BEGOR.
BEGOR steamed to her homeport of San Diego on 21 November 1961. The
crew passed Underway Training and carried out several exercises with
PHIBGROUP ONE off the coast of California, until she was
de-commissioned, for the second time, in August 1962.
(George Vandervoort lives in Wilmette, IL).
Where Does this Jacuzzi Go?
By Edward Kobs, EM2, 1961-62
During the re-commissioning of BEGOR, our time was pretty well wrapped
up in restoring all electrical equipment and getting the LCVP’s back
in running order. We had to check all ship’s wiring with a "megger,"
looking for weak insulation. One of the big projects was replacing
the incandescent lamps with fluorescent lights and old WW2 vintage
battle lanterns with the new yellow plastic model. I had some
civilian welding experience so I got to drag welding cable through
the ship, welding buttons in place, for the lights and brackets.
(Ed Kobs lives in Woodstock,GA)
The Plaid Ghost of the California Coast
By Ed Kobs, EM2, ‘61-62.
One of the strangest experiences occurred while steaming off of San
Clemente. We were participating in some kind of exercises and had a
UDT team aboard. I had the midwatch that night and after being relieved
came up on deck to smoke a cigarette. It was dark and a thick fog was
on the water. All of a sudden, I heard bagpipe music! I looked around
and didn't see anything, when all of a sudden there was a piper walking
on the water a few yards away!
Now, I was completely sober at the time and was about to shout when I
saw the piper was actually walking on the deck of a submarine standing
off our port side. This was all a part of the UDT exercise, but I tell
you, it sure did make me rub my eyeballs and look twice!
He Did It His Way
By George Vandervoort, LTJG, Engineering Officer,
Captain Gurney (final commanding officer of BEGOR) was a fine officer,
and I was proud to serve under him. He was good at instilling pride in
the ship's company and keeping up morale. As Engineering Officer, I
liked to steam with a light brown haze coming from the stack, indicating
that we were getting good combustion of the heavy oil. Captain Gurney
liked to steam with a clear stack, which looked good environmentally,
but required lots of excess air, resulting in inefficient combustion.
He had a strong, independent streak, but he was a very likeable person.
I remember one time when we were off the coast of California with our
Amphibious Squadron and the commodore told us to steam independently
through the night. The next morning, we were to form up and steam
back to San Diego as a squadron. Captain Gurney decided to anchor
off an island that night and give the crew a break. We were in an
unauthorized anchorage, full of seaweed, which fouled the condenser
tubes on the port engine overnight. (The starboard engine was off line).
That morning we could not draw a vacuum on the port condenser. We
started steaming on the starboard engine, but were moving too slow
to catch up with our squadron. Our chief machinist had the condenser
inlet and discharge valves isolated and the crew did a fine,
expeditious job of cleaning the condenser tubes and buttoning the
condenser back up, in time for us to catch the squadron.
[Note: George was the Chairman of our 2004 Reunion in Chicago.]
Hair Trigger Response
By Ted Driggers, LTJG, Operations Officer, 1961-62
During the short time BEGOR was in commission (1961-62), we accomplished
a lot under Captain Gurney's leadership. Once all the hard work of
putting the ship back together was accomplished, the task of training
the crew began in earnest. We did well on refresher training, including
the amphibious aspects as primary control ship anchored at the line of
Captain Gurney was a real professional. He was open to suggestions, but
always made his own decisions and I believe they were right (except
perhaps the stack gasses policy described by engineering officer George
Vandervoort. I remember one incident when I was conning the ship when
coming alongside a pier at 32nd street in a very strong wind (we were
usually stuck at a buoy in San Diego Bay). I had just given a command
to back the outboard engine full, when Captain Gurney took the con and
finished the docking.
I was really upset until he told me after we docked that the seaman on
the engine order telegraph had rung “Back Full” on the wrong engine!
His alertness saved what would have probably been a nasty collision
with the pier.
I was assigned to Begor right out of boot camp, as she was going through
final decommissioning in San Diego. My orders indicated I should report
to LT J. E. White on 19 May 1962. We were berthed on another ship, a
submarine repair ship, I believe, just a short distance away. I don't
recall any of ship's company sleeping onboard Begor. As a non-designated
E-2 I did slave labor in the engineering spaces. One of my jobs was to
clean the soot out of the ducts that fed the main boiler. My equipment
consisted of a whisk-broom, a dustpan and a few five-gallon buckets. A
few hours of this and I began to bleed from my nostrils, ending up in
sickbay on the base.
Another of my jobs was to paint the inside of the feed water boiler tank.
We used zinc chromate and eventually the fumes overcame me and I had to be
pulled from the tank. Most of the time I worked with several Navy
The ship was being gutted and all the storerooms were being cleaned out.
The ship's barbershop was still open and I remember getting a haircut by
a ship serviceman barber who was from the Philippines. While in the
barbershop, a couple of crewmembers came in with a container of canned
octopus. The barber opened the can and began eating the tentacles and
everyone thought he was crazy.
I also recall the gunners putting a cap over the 5-inch gun and pumping
it full of nitrogen to keep it dry. In addition to my regular duties I
stood a few fire watches while on board.
[ The Editors regret to learn, from this Sea Story, that slavery was
still being practiced in naval shipyards as late as 1962, but we are
happy to see that toxic fumes and small particle contamination, both
potentially debilitating and lethal, have not affected Steven's
intelligence nor his sense of humor! He provided the following epilogue
to his story:
"I left Begor late in June and was assigned to an aircraft carrier, the
USS Kitty Hawk (CVA-63). After four years, I left the Navy and recently
retired in Portland, Oregon from HVAC contracting. I just started a new
project of building a VW-powered Trike to ride all over the country. I
am a member of the Brothers of the Third Wheel, an association of about
6,500 members worldwide.
I am looking forward to receiving a copy of the Association Newsletter
as well as reading the entire history of Begor. I see she earned a good
service record and her place in Naval History."
We hope that Steven will include a stop at the USS Begor reunion on his
tour of the US!]
Here we sit off Hong Kong's shore,
Moored to Buoy number Four,
With anchor chain 4 fathoms length,
Holding Begor with its strength.
For purposes of auxiliary power,
We keep the plant on hour after hour:
Number 2 Boiler steams through the night,
While the Number 2 Generator makes our light.
USS Firm (MSO 444)
Takes some of our juice, same as before.
She's moored alongside, starboard side to,
Her side's being painted by our friend Mary Soo.
Other ships present in the harbor today
Include PacFleet units of the USA.
UN vessels and merchants can also be found,
And small harbor sam pans really abound.
SOPA was changed to Bayfield's CO
By a message received twelve hours ago.
This Senior Officer Present Afloat
Just passed our ship in a liberty boat.
Suddenly hearing a shout in the night,
I looked toward the beach and saw a great light.
As fireworks lighted the heavens, I said,
"Why can't I be at that party instead?"
The messenger, hearing me growing so moody,
Answered me, saying," 'Cause you've got the duty…Sir!"
The COLORS and NOISES caused my heart to sing:
Liberty… is a many-splendored thing!"