The Seaweed

USS Champlin DD-601  

Spring 2001

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I had rigged. I was due to go on my own 48 at 08:00 the next day. I was up all night, and at 08:00 had made very little headway. When Lt Simmons, Senior Engineering Officer, returned from his own 48 and asked, 'What the hell are you doing?' When I informed him, he laughed and told me, 'Neither Fitz or you are very well informed! The ship is balanced by a crane laying heavy lead weights on the high end until balanced. Go get cleaned up and go on your liberty.' I recall that no one had a very high opinion of Fitzhugh, but I shall always remember Fitz, George Styles and Bosun Powell, with ropes tied to them, trying to haul in survivors in a rough ocean. There is good in everyone.

"While on the subject of being good, we in the fire room were not responsible for blowing tubes when the crew was airing bedding. That order always came from the bridge. We took a lot of flak over that. Another strong memory was being tied up to the seawall at Mers-El-Kabir the day Roosevelt died. The P.A. announced it while we were swimming nude. They played taps while we stood at attention. . .nude. Another big occurrence, though I can't remember the date, while in the middle of the Atlantic where subs were sinking ships of our convoy regularly, we lost our fires, our steam, and our generator power. The forward fire room had lost its fire because of water in the oil. Some great brain decided to open connecting valves to the after tanks. Problem was they didn't shut down the forward pump and it had greater pressure than the aft. Result, bad oil put out the fires aft. There we sat dead in the water for about an hour, while we hand pumped good oil into the boiler till we got enough steam to run the steam pump, and eventually enough to start the generators. Talk about luck, no subs found us."

Archa Knowlton recalls that after the commissioning, the Champlin sailed to Casco Bay, ME. "A night or two after we got up to Casco Bay, we received more of our crew. They were mostly fresh out of Newport, RI training and one thing I noticed, their last names all began with M, N, O, P, etc. In other words, the selection process must have been done in quite a hurry. They were all as new to the ship as I was, but somehow or other we got along fine. The next night we were ordered to escort a hospital ship up to Argentia, Newfoundland. It was rough and dark, and I was up in the gun fire control turrent not knowing anymore about what I was doing than the next guy. That gun director was about as cold and rough as it could get. Out of the blue, around 22:00 I got a call from the Executive Officer and, as I remember it, he said, 'We are all seasick down here, do you know anything about conning a ship?' I told him they had not taught me anything about that at the '90 Day Wonder' school I went to, but I had been in the Merchant Marine for a couple of summers and stood watch every night from 20:00 - 24:00.

He called me down to the bridge, and sure enough every one else on the ship including the Captain was seasick, and I mean everyone except me and Charlie Smith (XO).

"He pointed out the outline of the hospital ship we were escorting and told me to keep it at about 100º. We were zigzagging and all they had ever taught me at school was to judge distance from ships by the size in you binoculars. I had no idea what radar was or anything else, but I kept giving compass headings to the helmsman and wondering what was going to happen next. Every now and then I would hear a voice in the next compartment call out range numbers and a pinging sound - whatever that was. But somehow we got through the night. I wasn't afraid or anything like that (for some reason), but it did occur to me that here I was, fresh out of midshipman's school, in charge of a

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300 plus foot warship with 250 seasick souls, and this, sure as hell, was a lot different than sipping martinis at the Boston Ritz Carlton hotel. Somehow or other, we made it through the night and the next day I found out what the pinging sound was (sonar), that there was a thing called a radar that could tell bearings and distance a lot better than the size of a ship in my binoculars, and that from then on, I would be OOD every eight hours for the rest of my career on DD601.. All I can add is that the good Lord was sure watching over me and all my seasick shipmates that stormy night, bringing a hospital ship up to Argentia, Newfoundland, and that He must have had a soft spot in his heart for all of us and the USS Champlin for the rest of the war

Jack Evans remembers, "My first impression after boarding the Champlin was of the fuel oil smell. I remember shortly after being aboard, finding myself stacking ammunition boxes in the 40MM ready-room. After we had been doing this for some considerable time, I found myself starting to get kind of queasy. I continued what we were doing and a short time later someone told me that I didn't look too good and suggested I go topside and get some fresh air. When I went out on the main deck, I realized for the first time that we were underway. I had no idea that we had even left the pier, much less, had left port. Of course, what I was experiencing was sea-sickness and this is what I lived with for three days to the minute, each time we went to sea. After that time, I had no trouble going down to the mess hall and having chow with everybody else. It didn't make any difference whether we hit the rough seas of the North Atlantic or what. I had no trouble after those first three days. When we went to the Pacific theater, I was amazed at how smooth it was and even though we went through a typhoon, I never was sea-sick."

Carl Olson writes that, "When I first came aboard the Champlin, I shot off my big mouth and I got put on mess cooking. Oh joy! The good thing that I got out of it was the location. It was right near the IC compartment. I had the good fortune of meeting the Fire Control gang. I had finished my schooling at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa at their electrical school. That was good luck and I managed to get in the gang. This changed my feeling about the Navy so much that I enlisted in the Reserves when I got out in 1945. That led to my being called back during the Korean conflict. That's my Navy experience."

Don Higgins recalls, "It was some time early summer of 1942 that I left Boot Camp. I was assigned to Torpedo School, a skill the Navy decided I'd be good at. Little did I know that skill would also introduce me to my lifelong friend, Jack Brawdy. I was transferred to Pier 92 in NY for only a few days, then to Brooklyn Receiving Barracks. This was short lived - I must have done something right and received liberty. Saddle Brook was only a short distance from Brooklyn, nevertheless it felt good to go home. I would bring Jack, a Pittsburgh boy, to Saddle Brook on many a liberty."

"I was ordered a day after liberty to get my seabag and was moved out with another sailor to pick up a ship in the East River. As my luck had it, the ship had already left. Was this Murphy's Law or fate? Seabag in hand, I went back to the receiving station in Brooklyn. Days passed and a call came in to head to Norfolk, VA, where I was to pick up a ship. The train ride was overnight and I...

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