The Seaweed

USS Champlin DD-601  

Spring 2001

      (continued from page 1)

"After Mark 1A Fire Control School in Washington Navy Yard and Antiaircraft School at Dam Neck, VA, I proceeded with my bride of two months to Boston and the building yard in the Fore River Yard at Quincy, MA. It must have been around September 1st in 1942. The next two weeks were a blur for a new Gun Boss with collateral duty as Commissary Officer. There was a wealth of talent among the Gunnery Dept. Personnel but not much in Commissary (No Supply Officers assigned to DDs in those days.), and I had no experience in Commissary matters (other than a short term as Mess Treasurer of the JO Mess in USS Lexington). USS Champlin was moved to Boston Navy Yard for the commissioning which occurred on September 12th, and we were all busy in that event. I spent the rest of that weekend with my bride and went to the ship Monday morning ready to deal with the forthcoming Fitting Out period. To my shock I was greeted by the OOD with the sad news that the Chief Commissary Steward had hung himself at the Boston YMCA sometime during the weekend. For the next month both gunnery and commissary responsibilities made me feel like that mythical character, Sisyphus, who was trying, without success, to push that huge stone up the hill. Needless to say I was overjoyed when Clyde Bain came aboard and took charge of the commissary endeavor."

"Shakedown was a continuation of the blur as the Executive Officer, Charlie Smith, effectively pushed the drill schedule and we began to shape up. As we sailed off on our first operational assignment convoying a few ships to Argentia, I ended up with the midwatch as OOD. We were zigzagging, all ships darkened, in bad weather. Charlie Watts, who had never been to sea before, was the JOOD. It was my first underway watch in such circumstances as OOD. My qualification had come with my final fitness report from the skipper of the USS Lexington when the survivors had returned to San Diego, and was based on observations of watch standing as JOOD and Asst. OOD. That was a night to remember! And that is my recollection of commissioning events."

Joe Black recalls that, "Regarding commissioning ceremonies, Ed Huthnance, Bill Oliver, Ersel Blackburn and myself arrived from Fleet Sonar School about five days before the ceremony and were assigned to Fargo Barracks where we enjoyed some of the best Navy chow we had eaten up to that point."

"Prior to going aboard that Saturday morning, we were assigned our watch, quarters and station assignments. Saturday morning a band played for the officers, crew and guests entertainment, signal flags and bunting decorated the ship. We assembled on the fantail for speeches from, I believe, one Admiral from ComDesLant and our Captain's acceptance."

"Upon the Captain's acceptance of command, the commissioning pennant was run up and we were in business. The rest of the day was pretty much taken up with getting acquainted with our living quarters and work stations, and meeting our supervisors."

"While at attention at the commissioning ceremony, I stood next to a young Ensign in dress blues and grey gloves who later I met and was introduced to Steve Anastasion."

"The next few days were busy taking on stores and ammunition, then we were off to Casco Bay, ME for training and shakedown. After about two weeks of this we returned to Boston. We then went into dry dock and all hands scrapped the barnacles off the bottom and painted it."

      (continued top next column)

"One day we sailed for Newfoundland and the next day we received word the Cocoanut Grove nightclub in Boston had burned down with a huge loss of life, including the famous movie cowboy, Buck Jones. Had we not sailed that day we could well have lost some of our crew, as many hung out there."

And, Bill Gauldin recalls, "My recollections of the commissioning of the Champlin is a little vague - must not have seemed exciting to me - (I had been on another DD, Overton 239) before that. Melson and Smith (Executive Officer) were not popular. Baughan was. I think Melson was a Green Bowler - Baughan probably knows - if you don't know, they were a special group destined for promotion among other benefits."

Archa Knowlton confesses, "My reply to your "Commissioning of the USS Champlin is unfortunately a blank. In August I reported to the construction operation in Quincy, MA and spent most of my time trying to figure out what the ship was all about. They assigned an "engineer" to me and every day we'd go down to the ship and check out the progress on the guns and all that kind of stuff, but when it came time to take the ship up to the Boston Navy yard, I took a long weekend - not knowing when I'd ever get back home again. The result was, when I got back to the ship that afternoon she had been officially commissioned and all I remember was going aboard and meeting the commissioning party which included some descendants of the ships namesake, Champlin, who were very charming people. The next thing I remember we were in Casco Bay".

Bob Maitre was there, and his recollection, ". . .is a bit hazy. I had just finished a short training period at Newport, RI. The day of the commissioning, I believe, was a beautiful day .It was a grand ceremony with a lot of gold braid walking around. I was tired from saluting and I was lost on the ship."


Our "Chickenpoop" article in the Winter 2001 issue of "The Seaweed" brought the following responses:

Bob Baughan writes, "I must tell you that I was disappointed in the "Chickenpoop" section of the last SEAWEED. I do not agree that Charlie Melson deserves to be categorized with that inference. Regardless of Kappes' impressions and perceptions, Melson was a competent officer who was recognized for his abilities with successive assignments to positions of higher responsibility, culminating as Superintendent of the Naval Academy with rank of Vice Admiral. As a DD skipper in wartime, he was a stickler for details and a 'worry wart' about matters of safety - for both personnel and ship. I have serious doubts whether the DIVCOM, Beverly Harrison, ever 'chewed out' Melson or anyone. He was a 'cool cat' He would certainly have told Melson about Kappes' poor response to his question regarding his lookout duties. If he had told me, I would have 'chewed on' Kappes myself. So much for a sad tale."

Joe Black: "Regarding chickenshit and the research that went into determining what it is, I think there might be a fine line between CS and discipline. Most of us were very young and still in our rebellious stage of life, so we confused this line, after all it was discipline that set us straight and got us through many scrapes. . not CS. After all, we did make nine round trips to the UK, Italy, Africa, sank two submarines, shot down a plane, rescued seamen adrift, downed airmen, made several invasion with relative little damage or loss of live, thanks to discipline.

        (continued page 3)

| page 1 | | page 2 | | page 3 | | page 4 | | page 5 | | page 6 |