|I wrote my Navy History for my children,
grand children, great grand children and those yet to be born. I have given
copies to all of them old enough to read. I have also written my Life History
and passed it on to them. I encourge everyone to do the same for their
Dick Fason - Mar.1999
Posted on Ron Martini's Submarine Board - March 23, 1999
I enlisted at Albany N.Y. Nov. 1942. They enlisted me with the rating (EM3c) because of my past electrical experience. The SeaBees were set up in the same room and tried to enlist me but I turned them down. Two weeks later we were loaded on a train for Samson NY, at Lake Geneva. We arrived in the morning at Samson Naval Training Station.
The station was still under construction, and we were one of the first companies to arrive there. We stepped off the train in mud ankle deep and singled filled to a building where we received our standard navy issue, including sea bag and a hammock, I never used the hammock. The next day they marched us to the tailor shop where they were supposed to make the clothes fit you, I was lucky mine fit well.
The next few days it was shots, barber and dentist. After all this we were down to the start of boot training which was hell, but I finished with good marks. I always had my left foot where my right one should be when marching. We didn't get the whaleboat training because the lake was frozen over, that was the end of boot camp training.
I had been assigned by (BuPers In Washington, DC.) as an instructor in Class "A" Electrical School at Samson Training Station. The school unit wasn't quite finished so I was put in charge of the OGU (Out Going Unit) barracks for two weeks. Boy! Was this some experience? The men were coming in and going out every day to their assigned duty stations and nothing to do but hang around. They were to keep their bunk in order and keep the heads clean. I enforced this rule, which made a lot of guys mad. I lived in a single room at forward end of the barracks.
One morning when I came out of my room, there was a cartoon stuck on the outside of my door. It had a man with very broad shoulders and a very skinny lower body and legs, with a whip in one hand. At the top it read "Barrel chested Fason" at the bottom it read "I'll work you'se guys 26 hours a day and 8 days a week". (I kept it all these years but now can't find it. I may have given it to one of my children.) Now it's off to school I go. It was a great relief to get away from OGU.
Another petty officer and I were put in charge of one of the school unit barracks and lived in a single room at the forward end, this was one perk we had. We had about 60 students bunked in our barracks, some of them not quite dry behind the ears and missed their mommies. There were a few rules in the barracks one of them being lights out at 9:PM.
The first night there were Pillow fights and all kinds of loud noises long after lights out so the other petty officer (don't remember his name I've always had a problem with names) went out and told them to knock it off and go to sleep. The next night I went out and told them they had 1 week to shape up or be punished. I posted a note on the bulletin board to that effect. When the week was up the same old thing after lights out. I woke them up at midnight, got them dressed told them to grab their sea bags and form up outside. There were no lockers in the barracks, everything was stored in their sea bag. I marched the men around the parade grounds two times with their sea bags on their shoulders. The C O of the unit was waiting for us. He told me when I was finished marching them he would like to talk to them. I said sir I think they've had enough. He had his talk with them and we all went back to bed. I know it was mean of me but you had to keep control and it worked very well. The next night 10 minutes past lights out you could hear a pin drop on the barracks floor.
The classrooms were well equipped with teaching aids and instruction books; we also had a large lab. Room with all kinds of electrical equipment. We used the lab one-day a week for hands on training. I taught basic math, electrical theory and in the lab. Taught them how to operate and troubleshoot the equipment. I must have did a good job because several of my students wrote letters to me saying how much it helped them in their navy assigned jobs.
Just before each class graduated a notice was posted on the class room bulletin board for volunteers for submarine duty. I enjoyed the instructing part of my assigned duties but the other part wasn't to my liking. I had to march them to the messhall, paymaster almost everywhere they went, it was march here a march there a march, march everywhere a march, march.
Every Saturday we had an inspection of men and barracks. If you had the best inspection you won the Rooster Award and aloud to go on liberty. My group won it several times. I don't know why it was called Rooster, maybe because you could fly the coop and go on liberty. That was the only way you could get off base liberty. Once a month I had shore patrol duty on the weekend either in Geneva or Rochester N.Y.
When I joined the navy I expected to be assigned to sea duty on a ship and see some action. After a couple of months as instructor I got bored and turned in a request for transfer to submarine school to my CO. After about three weeks, I hadn't heard anything, so I went to his office to ask about it. He said "Fason, (reached over and took the papers out of his inbox) "every week I take your request from the bottom of the stack, dust it off, read it and put it right back in the bottom of my inbox." This didn't sit to well with me.
At times I showed safety movies to civilians at an ammunitions depot across the road from the base and a few other facilities near by. I had to get the projector and film from the commander's office. One day when I went to get the movie gear I noticed on his bulletin board a notice wanting EMs for submarine school. I ask him if I could volunteer he said you sure can. He told his yeoman to make out the request form for me and send it off to BuPers in Washington D.C.. Three weeks later I received my orders to report to New London Sub. School. My CO a LT wasn't very happy I went over his head but there was nothing he could do about it.
Submarine School New London CT.
On arrival I was placed in what they called "Spritz's Navy" for two weeks. Spritz was a navy diver and had rescued men (using a diving bell) from the USS SQUALUS The SQUALUS was raised, refurbished and renamed USS SAILFISH. I will attach a document to this history about Chief Spritz.
In "Spritz's Navy" you shaped up or shipped out, in his unit we took all the tests required to start school. Swam around the swimming pool, go in the pressure chamber, two escapes, (one from 18 ft, one 50 ft.) from the escape tower, out of six men in my group, me and one other guy made it through the escape tower. There were a lot of other exams, Doctor, written test, reflex machine to name a few. Many of the men didn't make the grade and most were assigned to PT boats. I had heard this scuttlebutt and tried extra hard to pass.
Spritz kept everyone's liberty card in his office. To get off base, you lined up outside Spritz's office for inspection. He checked your shoes, uniform and hair cut. If all was in order you got your card. Everyone saluted when passing him on the grounds including Officers. You had to be in good shape of body and mind, but I made the grade. They only took the best for Submarine training.
The school was tough all study and no play, but I learned all about how they work. We studied O boats, R boats all the way through fleet type, which were the newest being built at the time. The most important thing was learning how to blow the head on O boats. If you made a mistake, you cleaned up the mess it made, whether Officer or enlisted man. My first and only day of on board training was on the O4. We made one dive and returned to dock. It was a great experience, I don't know how men stayed on them for months at a time. I salute the men who served on them.
The base had a theater where training films were shown to all students at the same time. One day we were watching a film on buoyancy. Most training films are boring. When it was almost finished the Commander walked in and found most of us sleeping or nodding off. He ordered a test be giving on buoyancy to all of us, immediately after the movie was over. If you failed it, you were restricted to base. There wasn't much sleeping in the theater after that. I lucked out and passed the test, because I had studied hard on the subject in the classroom. I graduated from submarine school Nov.15 1943 and was given two weeks leave.
The day I graduated I came down with pneumonia and lost a week of my leave in the base hospital, but only had a few days with my family, who lived in Cahoes, NY.
After leave I was sent to Gyrocompass school, at Brooklyn, NY, Navy yard, for 4 weeks. The instructor was very good at teaching. I enjoyed the class and studied extra hard. I received the highest marks of all the men in my class, including one Officer. I asked the instructor so many questions during the course (that's the way you learn by asking questions) I think he was glad to see me go. BuPers assigned me to the USS QUEENFISH SS-393, which was still under construction in the Portsmouth Navy Yard.
So I was off to Portsmouth, NH, arriving first week of Jan. 1944. I completed New Construction Submarine School Jan. 27, 1944. Then was sent back to New London for two weeks of IC school. (Interior Communication) then back to Portsmouth.
A few men at a time were allowed to go aboard and get acquainted with the systems. One day I went aboard alone. On the gangway I met a lovely lady who was going off the boat. We talked for few minutes, I found out she was a *burner in the construction crew and her name was Reta. A few days before the Commissioning I went aboard to invite her to go to the Commissioning Party and Dance with me. After some hesitation she agreed to go with me. Every one had a great time drinking and dancing, it was a big success. Reta and I were married in 1981. When I started writing this History,
Reta told me this story about her brother, who worked in the same shipyard. One day when he was leaving the yard he overheard some men talking about the "Gypsy Burner". He asked Reta if she knew who the Gypsy Burner*** was. She replied, " yes it's me, your sister." (*** Acetylene torch cutter/welder)
We took the boat out to sea for test dive, check out all systems, check out torpedo tubes and other things that's done on a new Sub. After all this, we were headed to the war zone in the pacific. We had to stop off at New London to have a propeller replaced, which took about a week. Reta came down and visited with me for a few days. After that, we stopped off at Key West Fl. For a week, then through the Panama Canal to Pearl Harbor. We were there for several days then off again to Saipan where we topped off with food and fuel. The Island had been taken from the Japanese by our Marines and secured.
We were off on our first patrol run in the China sea. When we had fired all our torpedoes, we went to Majuro for refit and two weeks rest camp. Our second patrol run was in the Yellow sea off the southern Japan, we sank lots ships and went to Guam for refit and two weeks rest camp. Our armed forces had just taken this Island back from the Japs. The food on Guam was much better than on Majuro. The third patrol run was close to the area of the second, but closer to the China coast and north of Formosa, another good run, with more ships sank, to our credit. (We were depth-charged many times during the three runs I made on her.)
We headed for Pearl Harbor for rest camp and refit. Several men, including me, were being transferred to other boats and had to stay aboard during refit. The other men went to the rest camp in the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. After she was refitted we had our two weeks rest there. I was transferred to the USS SUNFISH SS-281. She was headed back to the US for an overhaul at Mare Island shipyard, at Vallejo, CA. We were given one months leave. I went home to see my family who had moved back to Tampa, Fl.
We headed back out to sea for more patrol runs. After two days at sea we received orders to return to Mare Island, that the war was over. I wanted to be discharged right away but there was a shortage of EMs so it took me several months to get out. They used a point system and I had a lot more points than most of the men being released, so they had to let me out. I was discharged 10 October 1945 at Shoemaker, CT.
While on The USS QUEENFISH I qualified and got my Dolphin Pin, made EM2c and qualified as Controllerman. I will attach the history of the QUEENFISH and other documents of interest to this history.
Second Enlistment Aug. 16, 1946
My first assignment was Ships keeper at the Navy Reserve Armory, in Tampa, Fl. When I arrived at the Armory there was only one person there, Officer-in-Charge LT. J. W. Robertson. In a few days we had six enlisted men, (all of different ratings) arriving one at a time for duty. We got the armory ready for the reservist to get their weekend training. Five men, including me, were sent to Green Cove Springs, Fl to get the USS EARL. K OLSEN DE-765 ready for sea tow, to Tampa, Fl.
In a few days we had the Aux. Generator running and the galley cleaned up, ready for cooking. The tug boat arrived so we were on our way to Tampa, which was to be our home port. We worked very hard and got the ship ready for sea duty. There were other men being assigned to the ship, dribbling in one or two at a time until we wound up with a total crew of 22 enlisted men, just enough to operate as one shift at sea. We didn't have a Captain assigned to the ship yet.
When we made our first sea trip to check everything out, LT Robertson was our Skipper. Everything worked well, so we returned to port and docked with out any problems. The DE-765 was used for training Navy reserves, mostly in summer time.
Our first cruise with reserves (Which were from all over the country and all walks of life.) was quite a job, getting them assigned to their stations, teaching them what to do, and many other things. The Captain was a Commander in the reserves and In command for two 2 week cruises. The reserve Officers and men were supposed to operate the ship, except for leaving port and entering port and docking, but we did a lot of helping and training. Some of the men had never been on board a ship before and a couple served in the SeaBees during the war. It was quite an experience for me and I think everyone else in the permanent assigned crew. We visited many countries Puerto Rico, Panama and Mexico to name a few.
We were finally assigned a permanent Captain to the ship, LT Commander Wells, I liked him very much, and he was a nice guy. The Japanese captured him, just north of Australia at the beginning of the war with Japan. He was a POW for 4 or 5 years in Burma. He married the nurse that nursed him back to good health when he was released after the war was over. Shortly after we were headed to Charleston S.C. Navy yard for an overdue overhaul.
After the overhaul was finished, we went out for shake down tests at sea then returned to port. The Captain told us to get ship ready so we could head back to Tampa early the next morning. There were a lot of things to do, Around midnight he came down to my little office in the forward motor room and asked if we were ready, I said no sir. He said, "keep working until you finish". I said sir the men are all tired and sleepy, we'll finish in the morning. After we were underway, he called me up to his stateroom and said, "Sit down Fason". I looked around the room and the only chair was the one he was sitting in so I sat down on his footlocker. He said, "Fason, I don't mind you chewing me out but don't do it again in front of the men, dismissed".
There's one other thing worth mentioning. Most everyday the Captain would ask one of us to bring him a sandwich from our messhall for his lunch. I don't think he liked to dress, As required to go to the Officer's mess. Once in a while he would go there for dinner.
One year we made a three months cruse with reserves aboard, they were well trained when we returned to home port in Tampa Fl.. During this trip we visited Mexico (where we loaded the ship with rum, it was inexpensive there), New Orleans and New York then back home. My family lived in Tampa so I got see them quite often.
I kept in touch with Reta during al this time by mail and saw her twice, while assigned to the DE-765.
There is a couple other things worth mentioning while on the DE. On one trip about two-thirds on the men got seasick. We carried a Doctor aboard and he was giving them sick slips that relieved them from duty. We were so short of men to operate the ship, the Captain told the Doctor if they didn't have a fever or other ailments to put them back on duty. We gave them buckets to use if they were sick again.
From a book I learned to tie most every knot known to man. One day I tied a Turk's head knot around a GI cup and soaked in a bucket of water until it was very tight around the cup. I set it on a bench in the forward motor room and would watch the guys pick it up and try to slide it off the cup. No one every got it off the cup. I made my Mother a purse, by tying square knots, she liked it so much (maybe because I made it) She kept it until she died.
The USS BLACKFISH SS-221 was towed to Saint Petersburg Fl. and was docked at the Navy reserve Armory. I put in a request for transfer to her and it was approved right away, so I was assigned as Shipskeeper of the BLACKFISH, and the Armory, used for Submarine training of reserves.
I don't have, all of my Navy Records (I have sent for them) so am not sure where I made EM1c. I was electrician in charge on this assignment, as I was on the DE-765. The batteries had been removed and we used shore power for lights and other equipment that used A C power. This was the best assignment of my Navy service. Instructing was right up my ally, I enjoyed it very much. I taught in the class as well as on the boat. I designed, built and installed a control panel in the Officer's mess and wired it to the depth gage, bow and stern plane indicators for realistic training. I received a commendation for this. I will attach it to this history. Most nights I went home, which was just across the bay, except when I had deck watch on the BLACKFISH At times they would bring a live boat in and take the reserves out for a day of sea training.
I passed all of my tests for CEM. The practical part of the test required me (using the men assigned to the Armory) to put through the Manual of arms and march them on the dock, which wasn't to wide, I shouted left oblique and almost marched them into the water before I could say company halt.
I passed with flying colors. I completed an Officers Training Course and was recommended for Commissioned Officer.
In ending I must say, I worked and lived with A lot great Officers and men, who with honor served their Country well.
When the Korean War ended I requested to be discharged. I was discharged on July 20, 1951, at Green Cove Springs.