The Seaweed

USS Champlin DD-601  

Summer 2001

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"In only a short moment we were out in the current heading for the Brooklyn Bridge, yelling for help. A navy tug had to be called to rescue us. It was quite a sight. "

"My only worry; would we get back in time for liberty. I believe the other seaman was Danny Vaccaro. For those who don't know, a camel is a group of timbers lashed together to form a work platform. The year was 1943".

Richard Valentine GM3c writes, "I first laid eyes on the USS Champlin when she returned from her shakedown cruise off Argentia, Newfoundland in October of 1942. I came on board as part of a group of about fifty or sixty men that included Joe Tricarico, Larry Suter and the two Walters - Unkuski and Tempinski, at Casco Bay, Maine where the Champlin stopped to pick us up. I didn't know it then, but most of these guys would remain with "our" ship for the duration of the war, and several would become some of my best friends over the next fifty-something years."

"I can still recall in great detail one of my first 'encounters' with the Navy discipline. I had been on board a week or so and was having a little trouble getting my sea legs. I was in my usual position, heaving over the rail, when General Quarters sounded. Chief Bosun's Mate Malan came up behind me and asked what I thought I was doing. I said, 'I'm sick.' and turned away, back toward the rail. Instantly, his well-placed shoe lifted me off the deck and gave me a little boost up the first two steps of the adjacent ladder. I learned more about the chain of commands in that ten seconds than I would have in four years at Annapolis. From that point on, for the rest of my enlistment, no matter what, I was never late responding to an alarm for General Quarters!!!"

"A short time later, we were in port in Trinidad when Joe Tricarico, Nat Lerner, Walter Unkuski and I walked by a PBY seaplane floating alongside the dock. None of us had ever been on an airplane and I asked the other guys if they wanted to go for an airplane ride. They all thought I was crazy, but they agreed to go if I could fix it. I figured there was no harm in asking. I walked over to the plane, gave the LTJG my best salute, and told him the four of us would like to take a ride in his airplane. To my complete surprise, he said 'You're in luck. We're just going up on a practice strafing run. Get them aboard right now'. The four of us scrambled aboard the aircraft just as it gracefully waddled out into the bay and then up into the air. We spend the next hour looking out the airplane windows as the pilot flew back and forth over the dense tropical jungle, strafing everything in sight."

"When the plane landed, we all hopped back on to dry land, quite proud of ourselves for having pulled off such a score. It was only then that we realized that no one knew what we had done or where we were. If something had happened to the plane, no one would have known to search for us. We all would have been listed as AWOL forever!"

"After a while, I went from the deck force to "O" Division as a Gunner's Mate striker. When I transferred, I ran into Chief McKie, who had previously tried to recruit me to his gun crew. He looked me in the eye and said, 'Now you want to come with this (gun) crew? You didn't want to come with us before.' So much for receiving a rating, I thought. What he said was true and now I felt I was dead in the water for the foreseeable future. But I did my job anyway and when the next rating period ended, I was the only one of the 13 strikers to make GM3c. I never forgot the feeling of accomplishment I had that day when I saw my name posted for everyone to see."

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"The next incident occurred when we were en route to Londonderry on one of our first crossings. I was striking for Gunner's Mate when Chief Ranta came to me and said that he wanted me to overhaul the breach blocks (firing mechanisms) on all four 5" guns. I said I'd take care of it, but I also knew an opportunity when I saw one and I immediately started to plead my case. I explained that breach overhaul was usually handled by a GM1c and that it was routine that only the rated men would get a 48 hour pass when we arrive in Londonderry. I said that if I could do the work of a first class, then I should get the same benefits given to that rate. Ranta told me to get to work and walked away. I started the job and within the hour the Chief came past and said,'You'll get your pass'. That's the kind of men I remember form the Champlin."

"Perhaps my most personal memory of my time aboard the 'Champ" was later in the war, when we were anchored in the bay at Naples, Italy. I went to our Executive Officer, Mr. Baughan, and told him that my brother, Bill, was on the USS Hillary P. Jones (DD-427) which was also anchored in the harbor. Then I told him that my other brother, Lou, was with the Army Air Corps in the area and I had spoken to him by military phone. I said that I had not seen either brother since the start of the war, and asked him if it was possible to set up a meeting for the three of us."

"Mr. Baughan ordered the signalman to signal the Hillary P. Jones that I was coming over to pick up my brother. He then ordered a crew to lower and man the whaleboat, and off I went, to the Jones to get Bill and then to the dock to get Lou, who I contacted by phone."

"All three of us returned to the Champlin and Mr. Baughan allowed the visitors to join us at mess. He said that Bill would have to return to his ship after we ate, but Lou could spend the night aboard and he would make arrangements to have him put ashore if we had to set out quickly."

"In all, no less than ten shipmates, from the signalman to the ship's Exec had helped me pull off this amazing feat, just so that I could have a single meal with my brothers. But that was commonplace on our ship. For the most part, my shipmates acted like a big family, trying to help each other through some pretty tough times. We all found out quickly that if you listened up and did the right thing, you could get almost anything you wanted, within reason. This is the Champlin I served on".

Frederick Dunsmoor S1c sends this message. "To be real honest with you, I don't remember much about USS Champlin other than when we got hit with the sub. That was in 1944, and the Captain got killed."

"I do have a story for you. My soon to be son-in-law was home at his father's in Omaha, NE in December going through pictures. When he saw a picture of two sailors and looked at the note on the back it read 'Frederick Dunsmoor, Sicily, July 1944'. Would you believe it was me and his uncle Douglas F. Scheff in the picture. Then he started looking and found a picture of the Champlin, plus boot camp pictures Anyway, he sent the picture to me to verify, and it was indeed me and his uncle Doug. I did remember him after I saw the picture. We had the same battle station: he even went home with me one time to upstate, New York. That was what he had written to his parents on the letter. Small World!!! His uncle passed away a long time ago, you may want to update the crewmen's list. Attached is one of the pictures, and another picture will be sent to you in a separate e-mail, otherwise the file will be too large".

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