The Seaweed

USS Champlin DD-601  

Winter 2001

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I answered with a mild profanity like "F___ you!' and heaved my coffee cup at him. This was just what Melson was looking for and after a deck courts-martial I was transferred off the ship, as promised, to new construction.

But I was right: most other ships actually weren't nearly as chickenshit as the Champlin. I was assigned to the second Sumner-class ship, the Moale (DD-693). I could tell from the outset that our skipper and exec, even though Annapolis grads, knew that their crew was made up, not of southern volunteers, but of draftees--many of whom were high school graduates, or better, and who required handling in a different way. Melson was an elitist product of the 30's and couldn't grasp this. Our skipper knew every crewmember by name, he actually smiled sometimes (Did you ever see Melson crack a smile?) In contrast with the Champlin, the Moale was a happy ship. I remember chastising people on the Moale when they complained. But they had no way of knowing about the Chickenshit Navy. And this reminds me that I served in three different navies: The Chickenshit Navy, the 'Authentic' WWII Navy, and the Cumshaw Navy. I've already defined the first two but the third deserves mention too. After our ship was damaged after Iwo Jima, I was transferred to shore duty at Pearl Harbor as a sign painter and mural artist for an outfit called Fleet Recreation and Morale, 14th Naval District. I soon realized that the priorities here were completely different from those aboard ship. Power flowed not from one's rank, but from one's assignment. For example, a rear admiral in command of an ammunition dump had zero power in real terms. On the other hand, a lieutenant in command of an officers' beach club, where there were suites available for overnight trysts and an abundant supply of liquor, had enormous power, since the definition of 'power' ashore devolved around what one could barter. I could give you a lot of examples, but one personal one will suffice. When I was ready to be mustered out, my lieutenant saw to it that I got air transportation all the way from Honolulu to New York. This was at a time when most sailors were being returned on transports and carriers through the Canal, and only real hardship cases were transported by air.

Here's where I come out on all of this: While my experience aboard the Champlin was a bitter one in most respects, I now have the greatest respect and admiration for the Champlin guys because they didn't let it affect their comradeship. Curiously, today they are much more cohesive than my fellow crewmembers from the Moale, and this says a lot about them, character-wise. Hey, maybe chickenshit builds character after all."

And this from Thomas J. Hall, via several e-mails received in 1998. He was known aboard the Champlin as Howard E. Hall SM3c. "I enlisted in the Navy in the Summer of '42 when I was fifteen years old. My first love was the Marines but I was 5'6" and weighed 109. The Marines told me to come back in a year but I was afraid the war would be over by then so I settled for the Navy. I posed as my older brother Howard Earl Hall to enlist. When I left the Champlin (4/44) and reported to Norfolk NOB my mother had contacted the Navy and they ordered my special order discharge. As I had turned seventeen I consented to remain in the navy and my records were corrected to reflect my true name. I served aboard the Champlin, reporting aboard in April '43 and left for the DD-732 a year later from Casco Bay, ME.

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I think the most miserable year of my life was that year I spent on the Champlin. I made few friends aboard her. I remember Chief Signalman Lathrop and a guy named Pott, who I see became a first class. He was a striker when I was aboard. After boot camp at Newport, RI, I was assigned to Butler University in Indianapolis, USNTS (Signals). I graduated 5th in a class of 250 and was among the top ten percent rated 3rd class. Upon arrival at the Champlin I encountered a couple bad bastards. One was the SM1c, a guy named Hollingsworth, who is now dead. These guys took advantage of a sixteen year old kid and made my life miserable. I was one happy guy when I was transferred off that bucket. I found a different life aboard the Hyman (DD-732). I was discharged SM2c in 1946 after four years of service.

After I was discharged from the Navy, I enlisted in the Army where I served three years most of it in Europe (Austria). When the war broke out in Korea I finally joined the Marine Corps Reserve but did not see any active service in the Corps which is one of the biggest regrets in my life. After I was discharged from the Army in 1950 I began a career as a truck driver (18 wheeler). That was a family tradition as my father and all my uncles as well as cousins were drivers. In fact three of us worked for the same company; Associated Transport. Eventually I was elected president and business agent of my Teamster Local. I retired in 1981 at the age of 54 and entered Syracuse University. I graduated in 1981 and hired out as a union organizer for AFSCME where I was involved in the organizing of all state employee in Ohio. I also attended graduate school at Syracuse University.

I live in Syracuse, NY and two summers ago I was in Buffalo with my grandson and went aboard 'The Sullivans', a destroyer there. It was sure eerie climbing the ladder to the bridge and looking at the signal lights and flag bag. It was in the middle of the week and we were the only ones aboard so I was able to take the kid to the crew's compartment. I set him in the 40MM and took his picture. All the time I spent in the Navy I never fired a weapon other than a 22 in boot camp. Went all the way through the war and three invasions and never pulled a trigger. As I recall there was a guy who I think was named Miller who was washed overboard on the Champlin.

"To sum up what I consider an adventuresome life, I have made over 2000 skydives and at the age of 71 am still popping out a few.. Good luck to you."

Typhoon off Okinawa

The war was over. The Champlin was anchored in Buckner Bay, Okinawa. Japan had surrendered, but Mother Nature had not. The Champlin and her crew had one more wild ride to face. Let's find out what happened to some of those who were there. Starting with the diary of Richard I. Berman, TM3c we learn:

Saturday, September 15: Buckner Bay, Okinawa - Captain's inspection 0915. Beer party for today was called off. Tonight we have a movie that has five 2,000 ft. reels called "Pillow to Post" with Ida Lupino. Holiday routine.

Sunday, September 16: Buckner Bay, Okinawa - typhoon in this area. An LST was dragging anchor and missed us and went for a DE. They managed to get their anchor in and get underway. We got underway at 1000 to ride it out at sea. All ships left the harbor. Sandwiches for lunch and K-rations for supper. It's very rough with Sandwiches for lunch and K-rations for supper. It's very rough with winds up to 80 - 90 knots.

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