VOL 10  NO 1





MM Veteran Period Extended    Page 2

From GIRA President                Page 2

How to Submit Application         Page 2

Treasurer’s Report                    Page 2

Application for Service Time      Page 3

More on Branson                       Page 4

Asbestos Legal Clinic                Page 4

Fleet Post Office                        Page 5

Handran’s Hours of  Horror        Page 5

North Pacific Crossing               Page 6

GMDSS Fully Operational          Page 7

Russian Train Ride                    Page 8

Voyage #1                                  Page 8

Voyage #2                                  Page 9

Scuttlebutt                                  Page 10

Ships’ Itineraries                        Page 11

Two Blue Moons                        Page 12

CCC Training                             Page 13

CCC Group Plans Reunion       Page 13

Sporting Bill Fails                       Page 13

Why I Left Gallups                      Page 14

WSA Report                               Page 15

Manoora                                     Page 16

Author Seeks Input                     Page 16

Guadalcanal Book Review         Page 17

Author Flubs Story                     Page 17

A Convoy Foul-Up                      Page 18

GIRA Book Available                  Page 18

A Final Payoff                             Page 19

In the Mail                                   Page 19

Branson Registration                 Page 21

Branson Itinerary                        Page 22

Silent Keys                                 Page 23

Lost Contact                              Page 23




Hey guys, BRANSON is ALL SET for our 1999 Reunion on September 30 and October 1 & 2. (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday). Mark your calendars and register early as possible. The QTH in Branson is the Radisson Hotel  which is located on Wildwood Drive, just south of the “strip” (at 76 Country Music Boulevard). It is one of the two tallest buildings, just past Wal-Mart and McDonalds, which are on the strip.

The Radisson Hotel’s phone number is (417) 335-5767 which should be left with family, friends, or business associates for needed contacts. Please refer all reservations and information requests to the tour operator, Branson Music Tours at (417) 335-6007 or (417) 336-5350.  Ask for Buddy. Branson Music Tours’ E-mail address is: Buddy@bransonmusic.com.

Shuttles will be available from the Springfield/Branson Regional Airport on September 30 during the day. Early arrival times are important. You must notify Branson Music Tours of your flight number and scheduled arrival times so they may provide ample shuttles. Airport shuttles will return you to Springfield on Sunday, October 3rd. Also we need your return flight numbers and time of departure. Arrivals on October 1 or 2 will need to rent a car or catch shuttles on a pre-reserved basis at extra expense. The shuttles on September 30 and October 3 are included in the convention package as noted on the registration form. Shuttles may be identified by the GIRA sign in a front window.

Free parking is available and while motor homes may park there, no hookups are available. However, RV parks are available elsewhere in Branson.

If you read your information carefully, I think you’ll find most questions answered. Of course, special diets and smoking or non-smoking rooms are available. If any other questions arise, call Bob Mitchell at (918) 355-3907 between 0700 and 1900 (7am to 7pm) central time (1300 to 0100 GMT for purists). If you get Bob’s answering machine, try again later. Obviously Bob can’t afford to return all the telephoned questions.

Above all don’t procrastinate. Make your arrangements now.


See you in Branson,

Dr. Sam.




Submitted by Ralph H. Albers


Legislation sponsored by Rep. Lane Evans (D-Ill.) and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss) extends veteran status and “benefits” to Merchant Mariners serving between August 15, 1945 and Dec. 31, 1946, the date proclaimed by President Harry S. Truman as the official end of World War II. The bill became law in late 1998.

Regrettably the new law does not confer “full” veteran status on these men, who did not get access to the same health care or disability benefits available to the nation’s 6,300,000 surviving WWII veterans.

It does provide for a flag, a grave marker, and burial in national cemeteries including Arlington plus, more importantly, belated recognition of honorable service to their country.



From GIRA President Urban (Bud) Guntner:


Merchant Mariners Fairness Committee


Toss the heaving line. Home at last. Our voyage is over.

Our Bill S-61 amended to HR-4110, passed the House on Oct 10th by 432-0. The US Senate passed HR-4110 unanimously on October 21st 1998.  President Clinton signed PL 105-368, which carried our bill, on November 11th 1998. This ends the speculation and confusion of dates being circulated.

We regret that we had to wait so long to notify you. Release of information by the USCG was delayed due to time required for setting-up the administrative procedure to process discharges.




Contact the Coast Guard and ask for DD Form 2168

Complete the form and send it along with qualifying ships discharge or other proof of service at sea. Send completed form along with a check payable to the US Coast Guard for $30.00 to:             Island Community Bank, USCG WWII

                             PO Box 804118

                             Chicago, IL. 60601-4118



Requisite form included in this issue of Spark Gap








JANUARY 1, 1998 - DECEMBER 31,1998



Donations                                       2,031.00

Dues                                            16,090.00

Interest on Checking Account             130.00

Merchant Marine Book                    6,150.00


TOTAL INCOME                         $ 24,401.00



Bank Charges                                     45.00

Copying & Printing                             254.00

Equipment Repair                              350.00

Gallups Islander Mailing                  1,771.00

Gallups Islander/Jennings               3,794.00

Legal Fee                                           25.00

Office Supplies                               1,295.00

OnLine Service                                 200.00

Postage                                         1,672.00

President Expense                            187.00

Sec/Treas Expense                           600.00

Sec/Treas Stipend                          1,800.00

Slop Chest Expense                           10.00

Spark Gap Editor’s Fee                     800.00

Spark Gap/Ward                             3,834.00

Telephone                                        308.00

US MM Book                                  5,600.00

TOTAL EXPENSES                     $22,545.00


Total Income                               $24,401.00

Total Expenses                           $22,545.00

Net Income                                   $1,856.00


Beginning Balance, 1 Jan 98        $14,825.12

Net Income                                   $1,856.00

Ending Balance, 31 Dec 98          $16,681.12







ON DD-214

Capt.  Frederic J. Grady

U.S. Coast Guard

2100 Second Street

Washington, D.C. 20593-0001


Dear Capt.  Grady:


The undersigned World War II Merchant Mariner hereby requests that the U.S. Coast Guard amend his DD-214 to include as part of his active services in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II the following periods of time:


LIFEBOAT TIME: The undersigned was aboard the S/S ___________________________ on or about

when said vessel was sunk.  The date of rescue was on or about _______________

Repatriated back to the U.S. Port of ___________________ on the date of _______________


REHABILITATION & LEAVE TIME.  On the basis of the above sinking and lifeboat time, and to provide for a proper period of rehabilitation, the undersigned requests active service time be extended to the date of _______________ which is the day prior to his next voyage assignment.


HOSPITAL TIME: Due to an illness/injury, the undersigned request that from the date of

_______________ to ________________ be included as part of his active service.  The undersigned, to the best of his memory and knowledge affirms he was hospitalized as an inpatient/outpatient between

the above dates at the ________________________ Hospital for the reason of


HOSPITAL RECUPERATION & REHABILITATION TIME: Due to the above illness/injury the

undersigned requests active service time to the date of _______________ be included in his DD-214.

Said date is prior to the next ship assignment date.


TRAINING TIME.  The undersigned requests training time be included as part of his active duty.  Assigned to the U.S.M.S. Training Station at ___________________________________________

from the date of _______________ to _______________


UPGRADE TRAINING TIME: The undersigned requests upgrade training time be included as part of his active service.  Assigned to the U.S.M.S. Training Station at _______________________________

on the date of _______________ to _______________


The undersigned hereby affirms that the information contained in this application is true and correct to the best of his knowledge and memory.  Copies of substantiating documents, if available, are attached.  Respectfully submitted:


_____________________  __________________                                            _________________________________________

Printed Name                       Social Security Number             Mailing Address



Signature of MM Veteran


If more than one hospitalization or sinking occurred use separate forms for each occurrence.





While driving through Branson  both south and northbound about 15 years ago, we noticed nothing that would set it apart from any other Ozark town or village. Then, few people had ever heard of Branson, But now there are few people who haven’t.

Branson is about as centrally located as any place in the US could be, a bit closer to the Atlantic Coast than the Pacific, somewhat nearer to the nation’s southern border than the northern boundary but about as close the nation’s center as possible. And with the prime vacation season over (schools back in session) and before the ravenous irritants of winter are a threat, it’s the ideal time to enjoy the open road.

The Ozark Mountains, also called the Ozark Plateau, encompass 33,000 square miles in Southern Missouri and 13,000 square miles in northern Arkansas. Ozark is a corruption of Aux Arc, a French trading post in the region during the 1700s. The Ozarks are really hills rather than mountains. The highest peak in Missouri is Taum Sauk Mountain  “soaring” to 1,772 feet. In northern Arkansas the tallest peak is Magazine Mountain , a bit higher at 2,753 feet. Branson itself just missed being in Arkansas by a half dozen or so miles.

The White and Black rivers, tributaries of the Arkansas, drain the area. Float fishing is popular on the Mulberry and Buffalo rivers with headquarters at Russelville, Arkansas. The area’s rivers are much dammed to form a series of artificial lakes.

Nearby Eureka Springs (Ark) is another interesting tourist center. It was Cary Nation’s home town. Her old home place, with its hatchet room, is open to the public.

Southern Missouri has numerous extensive caves. One was used to film scenes for the movie Tom Sawyer. Inside another a posse had the Jessie James gang trapped. While the lawmen waited for them to surrender, the gang followed an underground stream leading to an unknown (until then) rear exit.

One of the events offered in the GIRA brochure is the popular Shoji Tabuchi Theater. Most articles about Branson appearing in national magazines mention the Shoji Tabuchi show, his musical skills, showmanship, and rapport with audiences. He is renowned for meeting and greeting fans before and following the shows.

When time permits you may enjoy forsaking the freeways’ sameness for the byways. The old routes, while only two lanes, are usually wide and are little, or at least less traveled, go through the middle of all the little towns. Most natives are friendly, if sometimes hard to get away from once engaged in conversation. Motels are cheaper, gasoline a little more costly, and eateries aren’t likely to be fast-food chains. They do eat up more travel time. Massachusetts friends wintering in Arizona like to travel the back roads. At one stop their cat escaped and the whole town turned out to find it. Several years later they stopped for lunch in the same place, the waitress remarked. “Oh, you’re the people who lost the cat.”






During WWII the spraying of ships with a coating of asbestos was apparently a routine procedure with uncertain but potentially harmful consequences for crews manning them. The Maritime Asbestosis Legal Clinic has been formed to represent merchant mariners and file a class action suit in their behalf. The firm is:


The Maritime Asbestosis Legal Clinic

Division of the Jaques Admiralty Law Firm

Attorneys and Counselors at Law

1570 Penobscot Building

Detroit, MI 48226


You will need copies (they will copy and return originals, but entrusting irreplaceable  documents to the mail service may be risky) of voyage discharges (U.S. Coast Guard Certificates of Discharge).

They will also need a copy of your last chest X-ray which the firm will obtain from your doctor or clinic. There is no charge for legal services unless claims are successful then they charge one third of any remuneration.

You may call 1- 800 492-3849 for details and proper forms and instructions.




by JJ

In WWII the FPO (Fleet Post Office) occasionally dropped the ball (mail) but generally they were remarkably efficient despite endless ship diversions, limited transportation, and myriad uncertainties. On one trip to the south Pacific, we were diverted several times, but our mail was there waiting at the final destination.

A friend, stationed in the early part of WWII at Schofield Barracks on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, had saved a letter that an illiterate fellow soldier, Tennis Martin, had asked him to read. The letter, mailed with a 3 cent stamp, was from a girl friend in the Appalachian Mountains (possibly one of my relatives) addressed to Pvt. Ten Martin, Waho Ilan. It was promptly delivered to the intended addressee along with the requisite bureaucratic stamp “Inform correspondent of your proper address.” He didn’t inform her of anything inasmuch as the gist of the message was that “she was in a family way and needed money.”

Later in another war (euphemistically called a “Police Action”) our skipper had left his dental plate at a Norfolk dentist for emergency repairs then to be airmailed to our next port of Argentia, in Newfoundland. But we were diverted to Goose Bay, Labrador, then to BW1 in Greenland.  When I gave him the second diversion message, he shook his fist at the sky and lamented, “there go my blasted teeth on some airplane to heaven knows where and I’ll be on soup and broth all summer.” But his teeth were waiting on the dock at BW1, and he was able to “enjoy” one of our leather-like steaks for dinner that night.

Also there was the often dreaded epistle known as a “Dear John letter.”  Many wartime relationships were based upon tenuous foundations exacerbated by loneliness and unknown fates. Initially the recipient of a  “Dear John” usually become morose and depressed but eventually recovered. Likely a girlfriend had realized that it was prudent to settle for a bird in hand rather than a one in a bush especially if the bush was on the other side of the world.

Some disillusioned sweethearts would not bite the bullet and pen a Dear John letter but  simply write ever more infrequently until the epistles stopped



coming at all. As I recall, mine, both outgoing and incoming, were fortuitously of the latter type.

While Dear John letters were usually devastating initially, they often proved wise in the long run inasmuch as many such betrothals were based upon short and nebulous relationships. Viva the FPO!




by JJ

A former stroke had primarily affected John Handran’s speech,  and he’d developed the habit of repeating words or phrases, often several times. He served as second mate aboard the USNS Tamalpais on an around-the-world trip of 92 days. Years before in the Gulf of Mexico as a mate on a tugboat, Handran was sleeping on the fantail when fresh winds from a rain squall worked the canvas cover overhead loose, and its vigorous flapping became annoying. While climbing up on the wet railing to secure it, the boat suddenly lurched, and Handran found himself in the water. Faced with a loaded barge virtually upon him he had to dive fast and deep. When he surfaced the tug was a quarter of a mile away and no way could anybody hear his shouts over the noisy diesel engine. He wasn’t missed until it was time for his watch.

Handran could see the rotating beacon on Dry Tortugas and began swimming  toward it. Near exhaustion hours later, he seemed no closer and knew he would never make it. Barely able to tread water now he realized that his time had run out. Reluctant to accept a watery grave,  he struggled on ever weaker then suddenly there was a light and a huge shadow bearing down upon him, an empty, westbound tanker. He screamed like a banshee  and thrashed about to stir up the water’s florescence.

On the bridge he heard a voice exclaim, “My God, there’s somebody down there!” He could hear the telegraph to stop engines then another, to reverse them followed by the ship’s general alarm. Clad only in boxer shorts, famished, dehydrated, and his energy spent, he was hoisted aboard.

The ship’s staff furnished him a set of clothes from the slop chest, and somebody donated a suit. They


…continued on page 7




by J.L. Dunlavey

In the winter of 1952 I awaited an assignment in Portland, Oregon, from the Sailors Union of the Pacific (SUP). Our government was amidst a big grain giveaway to India and had reactivated some Liberty ships from the reserve fleet. I was assigned to the SS Thomas Fitzsimons. I loved those old Liberties.

We loaded 9,600 tons of grain for India. Grain dust was all over, in our quarters, in our hair, in the food. Departure day, January 4, 1952, had the usual hustle of signing articles, readying for sea, and getting the new men settled into their job routines.

We headed down the mighty Columbia River to Astoria where the river pilot was exchanged for the bar pilot. Due to heavy seas we anchored until conditions over the bar settled down. After dinner we got some much needed sack time.

We got underway earlier than expected without thinking to close our portholes, a major error. Joe Bozik, my watch partner, and I were in the lower bunks when the ship took a hard roll to starboard permitting the seas to pour in. We found ourselves in waist-deep water flowing out the door and down the passageway. My brand new Samsonite suitcase floated out. We finally got organized and pulled out our bedding and wet clothing to dry over the engine room.

Joe and I had the midnight watch. Joe took the first two hours at the wheel on the bridge. After several tries we managed to get the bar pilot off without disaster into a whale boat that was rowed to the safety of the pilot boat.

The black night engulfed us with winds whipping salt spray at a 30-knot velocity. It was the last we would see of  Columbia Bar pilots for a full three months.

The first day at sea is for housekeeping and securing the ship  properly for sea. The portholes were now dogged down securely not to be opened again for week. Raging seas cleared the decks of debris and everything else not firmly secured. Ahead was 30 to 40 steaming days to Calcutta, India, that we fervently hoped would improve significantly.

In 1952, manning scales on American-flagged ships with union crews were set by the US Coast Guard, the operating companies, and the maritime unions. Liberties have the Captain, three watch mates, a chief engineer with three assistants, a radio officer, the chief steward with his crew of cooks, baker, room stewards, and mess men.

At least seventy percent of the Thomas Fitzsimons’ crew were veterans of WWII. Most had been under hostile attacks, some survivors of sinkings.

The storming weather and punishing seas were relentless. The SS Washington, a US Line C-3 was in serious trouble, taking on water and barely maintaining steerage way. We were in no position to help. With engines reduced to 50 rpm, we tried to keep our bow into the weather. During the night the radio operator received an SSSS from the SS Pennsylvania in immediate danger of sinking. She went down with all hands lost.

The entire north Pacific was under a major winter storm system requiring frequent distress signals.

For the next week we took a helluva beating often rolling up to 30 and occasionally 40 degrees. Strapped or wedged in our bunks, we tried to catch some sleep with little success.

Green seas crashed on the main deck and the midship house. The bow would plunge into mountainous swells making the stern rise out of the water with the propeller vibrating in air. We all know that the Liberty ships were thrown together in a matter of days often by inexperienced, aging men and well meaning but limited skilled women. This ship’s builders had done a good job.

Some days we would make fifty miles, maybe seventy the next, followed by a thirty-mile total. Everybody was on the ragged edge for lack of sleep. During the next few days the winds diminished to almost manageable levels then the barometer began to drop again, and the winds increased to 60 to 70—almost hurricane force. One day about noon the wind died down to almost calmness although the seas were still

…continued page 7




North Pacific  …continued from page 6


tremendous. The calm was short lived, however. By ten p.m. the wind picked up again to near hurricane force. We reduced speed to the point of just making steerageway. On the bridge, the Dutchman third mate, hanging onto the porthole dogs would say, “Ja, I thing we are going to make it through this one all right.” Getting off watch, I was a nervous wreck. Later that day, the wind shifted around to the north and northwest bringing on a confused sea. Waves broke in every direction, over the bow, over the sides, up on the boat deck and even over the stern. Then a huge sea rolled over the port side onto the boat deck and smashed through an oak door into the passageway. It looked like we’d bought the farm. Frantically we plugged up the worst leaks with mattresses, but the punishment continued relentlessly. One lifeboat was gone, the others hung by a single davit. Then the weather began to change ever so slowly for the better. At sunset there was a red sky—red clouds at night, sailors delight, an ancient truism.

Welds had popped everywhere and steel beams and stanchions were bent and twisted. The captain estimated repairs in Yokohama shipyards would take ten days which delighted the crew. Fortunately the last leg was through ideal weather, and we arrived in Yokohama with barely a hundred barrels of fuel oil—a half-day’s worth. But we had faired better than many ships that had to be towed in. This horrible crossing required twenty-nine and a fraction days. Old timers claimed it was the worst pounding that they’d had experienced in 30 to 40 years at sea. Of the three ordinary seamen, all first trippers, one said he was going back to logging while the other two would return to driving cabs. But I suspected if the rest of the voyage was in pleasant weather, they’d be back in the Union Hall seeing another ship.

The bosun summed it up, “the first drink will be a toast to the men and women who built this ship.”

It was a tough crossing, but we made it. The SS Thomas Fitzsimons was a helluva ship.



Handran …continued from page 5


also took up a collection for him to manage upon arrival in Texas.  Seafarers have always been good Samaritans.

The Tamalpais’ circumnavigation of the globe was from east to west. Our destinations were kept secret from the crew, but the Panama City newspaper listed in the shipping section, “USNS Tamalpais arriving from Houston, Texas, en route to Pusan, Korea.”   Towards the end of the voyage, Handran had some sort of  mild attack and missed a couple of watches for which he apologized profusely. The skitish skipper, whom some called Captain Queeg, treated him terribly.


For some unknown reason this Tamalpais Captain seldom bothered with fire and boat drills. Somebody, not Handran, tipped off the Coast Guard and upon our arrival in Texas the skipper was summarily removed.

Considering Handran’s medical history we were happy that he was married to a younger lady who was also a registered nurse. But amazingly he outlived her by decades. For at least a quarter of a century I  got an annual Christmas card and a typed note—his handwriting was shaky—from Handran. He continued to call me “Sparks” and always commented that “he hoped that I didn’t mind.” Actually, I was delighted.



Morse code, as of Feb 1st, is no longer the formal communications mode on the high seas. Replacing it is the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System, known as GMDSS, using both satellites and  high-frequency radio, which is now required by the International Maritime Organization for ships over 300 tons and ships that carry 12 or more passengers in international waters.  The system uses both satellite and terrestrial digital communications, and pinpoints the location and identity of a stricken vessel.

The old system was a ship-to-ship system with a single Morse Code operator. The GMDSS is predominantly a ship-to-shore distress alerting system, which still retains ship-to-ship capability. The single Morse Code operator has been replaced by at least two GMDSS operators.







Bill DeVoe  W3PMS  on the air



by Bill Devoe, R-19

New York—Glasgow—New York

My first assignment after graduating from Gallups Island R-019 was on the M.S. Texas Sun, a 287,000 barrel tanker with a five cylinder diesel engine. I signed on in Philadelphia (actually Marcus Hook) for a convoy bound to Glasgow in April 1943. The convoy formed at New York for the voyage to the British Isles that was under wolf pack sub attacks beginning about 40 degrees west longitude.

Crew members were issued a huge rubber suits (dubbed Zoot Suits) that were worn over our life jacket. The suits were designed to protect the wearer from burning oil in the event you had to abandon a torpedoed tanker. The attached rubber boots were so big that if you weren’t careful the boot may be facing backwards while you walked forward.

When the usual nighttime attacks commenced, the general alarm sounded and the crew jumped into their zoot suits. I was the third assistant radio operator and had the 12 to 4 watch. Our shared cabin was on the boat deck under the radio room and I had to stumble up the companion stairs in the

awkward zoot suit when the alarm sounded.

Several of the convoy’s ships were torpedoed but fortunately, we were not. A Canadian Corvette escort made a sub contact very close to us and

…continued on page 9


by Bill DeVoe, R-19

Our Liberty ship SS Joyce Kilmer arrived in Bakaritza on the Archangel River, USSR on April 12, 1944. We unloaded our deck cargo of locomotives before the ammunition and wheat from the holds. This was followed by RR flat cars, rails, and bogeys with female stevedores doing much of the work.

Cargo discharge went well until one sling of rails slipped and several penetrated the deck and ceilings ending up in the bilges. Our crew welded patches over the holes.

Bakaritza is situated about six miles south of Archangel on the west side of the river—Archangel itself is on the east side. A single rail line runs along the heavily wooded west bank.

John Angel, the third mate, and I decided to go into Archangel. A train was stopped a quarter mile away so we walked over to watch the activity.

The locomotive, its tender, two passenger cars and a flat car, were ancient relics. The engine had a funnel shaped smokestack. Women laborers were filling the tender with wood cut from the nearby forest. They cut, chopped, and tossed everything including the gleanings into the tender.

A half hour later the women ran back and climbed into a passenger car. The locomotive, which had kept steam up, was ready to roll. The train crew in the cab could see our ship being unloaded. They motioned to Angel and me to climb up into the cab which we did.

The woman and man crew in the cab said nice things (I’m sure) about Americans and seemed genuinely glad to have us. The stoker was busily feeding wood into the firebox making it very hot in there. For relief, Angel and I hung onto the outside as the train began to move. We began to move amid a shower of sparks and choking smoke.

The train rolled along at a speed of  perhaps 15 mph. As we came to the shore opposite Archangel, they stopped to let us hop off. We waved our thanks and headed down the river bank.

The river was frozen solid except for the channel in the center where planks had been thrown over to form a crude, temporary  bridge. We’d both done these crossings before so we reached Archangel without getting our boots wet.



Voyage # 1  …continued from page 8

dropped depth charges. I don’t know if the U-boat was hurt, but we sprang an oil leak from one of the cargo tanks and were ordered to leave the convoy and proceed alone to the Firth of Clyde. Otherwise our oil leak would be a telltale giveaway of the convoy’s position. We increased our speed from the convoy’s 8 knots to about 14 knots.

We followed a zig-zag course from about 20 degrees west longitude to the Firth of Clyde where a pilot boarded. We didn’t see any subs, but enemy aircraft were overhead probably checking how much of the shipping had survived. The most memorable sight was Ailsa Craig, a mountain rising to a great height wrought out of the middle of the Clyde River. I would be seeing it again while en route to Murmansk.   We sailed from Glasgow in May 1943 to arrive at New York in June. The convoy sailed by Cape Farewell, Greenland, before heading down past Newfoundland to NYC. Lots od depth charge activity until about 30 West with the loss of three ships.



by Bill Devoe, R19

New York—Aruba—Sydney—Los Angeles.

The Texas Sun left New York with a slow convoy in June, 1943, for Aruba, N.W.I. in ballast with a deck load of fighter aircraft. The fuselages were cocooned with the wings in separate crates. We had some air cover and saw no U-boats nor were any depth charges dropped by our escorts.

Before arrival in Aruba, we pumped ballast and butterworthed the tanks. Butterworthing is a steam cleaning operation using a rotating nozzle on the end of high pressure hoses hung in the cargo tanks. The operation makes a terrific noise. With Baker flying we loaded aviation gasoline.

We departed with a single escort arriving in Colon, Panama, July 5, 1943. Several 55 gallon drums of lubricating oil carried on deck came loose as we rolled in moderate seas. One crew member lost 3 fingers while trying to lash the loose drums. He was put ashore in Colon for medical treatment.

Transit through the canal was routine. Although we’d been forewarned , monkeys scrambled aboard at the various locks stealing anything that was shiny. One got the third mate’s wrist watch. They were well trained.

We departed Panama City in early July 1943 heading across the Pacific independently. We broke down twice and seeing no sharks, we lowered the swimming ladder for a few hours of relaxation in the warm and gentle waters of the mid-Pacific.

Gaudalcanal in the Soloman Islands was our first stop. With its vital airfield, the island had been captured  after a prolonged struggle. After unloading part of our aviation gasoline via lighters and unmolested by the enemy,  we sailed for Sidney. One evening just after sunset, lookouts reported star shells on the horizon. I heard an SOS on 500 kcs and reported it immediately to the bridge. We sailed directly away from the action. I reported the incident including the distressed ships call letters upon arrival in Sydney. Unfortunately I didn’t keep a copy of the plain language message.

We sighted North Cape, New Zealand, during daylight as we entered the Tasman Sea. The voyage to Sydney should have taken only four days but required ten because of rough seas and heavy rain with 60 knot winds and poor visibility. The ship rolled in the mountainous waves with the decks awash preventing us to go aft for meals. A life line was rigged along the catwalk, but the seas were so strong we had to do without hot food for about six days. Caught in troughs, the ship rolled so violently that that the port then the starboard lifeboats went under water and were ripped from their davits and lost. When the boats went under and were ripped off as the ship righted itself, it made such a loud noise that we thought we had been torpedoed—unlikely in such rough seas. Only the twisted davits were left intact. At one point I was thrown against the steam radiator in the shack resulted in a nasty burn on my left ankle. I still have the scar.

Upon reaching Sydney we learned that we had been reported missing and presumed lost. Sydney was great. Instead of hamburgers we got steaks on a bun at “fast food” places.

After the deck cargo was off loaded and the main tanks emptied, we sailed for Los Angeles in August 1943 arriving in September.


…continued on page 14




by JJ

***In the recent mail-out to GIRA membership concerning the upcoming Branson, Missouri, reunion, the name of the host hotel was inadvertently not published. It’s the Radisson Hotel.  Add the name to your packet and make your reservations early. Two hundred (200) rooms have been blocked. Unneeded rooms can be turned back, but it’s not always possible to obtain additional ones. Make your reservations early. We look forward to seeing you there.

***Another Silent Key ends an era. What has God wrought? The world’s last marine radiotelegraph (CW) station closed forever in Japan on January 31, 1999.  Samuel F(inley) B(reese) Morse invented the telegraph device and developed the Morse code circa 1839. Morse, a graduate of both Andover and Yale, was an uninspired student. He was a painter (portraits and natural scenes), but had a keen interest in electricity. The code that we used aboard merchant ships was an European adaptation of Morse’s code which is somewhat simpler than the original, and was called the International Morse or the Continental code.

***America’s airlines completed the year of 1998 without a single fatality, a remarkable record. The down side is that travelers are faced with the same too narrow, too crowded seats and mediocre service.

***The Administration’s proposed budget for Y2K or year 2000 is 1.77 trillion—that’s with 12 zeros. This comes to $14,182,692 per minute (52 forty-hour weeks). The merchant marine’s one billion appropriation equals one hour, ten and one half minutes’ worth.

***Astronomers deny that Pluto’s new status is a demotion although the little guy is no longer considered a planet. Smaller than the Earth’s moon, Pluto is now considered just another rock floating around out there with thousands of others. Although I can’t speak for all the other Scorpio millions, I don’t feel any different at all.

***Finland is the world’s most-wired country with 877 host computers for each 10,000 people. In total numbers the U.S. towers above all others with twice as many as the number-two nation, which is Japan.

***When asked what was the most powerful thing on Earth, Albert Einstein reportedly answered, “compound interest.”  At lunch recently an old friend protested  that his accountant kept telling him he was rich but “he had no money.” He needed only to cash in a few securities to be startled by the capital gain taxes. Among other things, in 1948 his wife inherited 25 stocks of a home supply company then worth $30 each for a total of $750. She forgot about them. Since then the stock has split numerous times and today there were 7200 shares currently selling for $80 each for a total of $576,000. Just think where we’d be today if we had only  bought a few blue chips and let them ride.

***The highest fee per word ever paid for a piece of writing was for Truman Capote’s Handcarved Coffins. A mystery of novella length, it was considered an ideal story for a movie, but for reasons only known to Hollywood, never got made into one. Capote, who took the name of his adopting Cuban stepfather, said, “I’m an alcoholic, a drug addict, a homosexual, and a genius.”

***According to an in-depth recent article in Harpers, the carrier USS Eisenhower cost 5 billion to build, its aircraft another 2 billion, plus untold other costs. The entire U.S. Merchant Marine got one billion in annual government aid.  Life aboard the huge carriers is no picnic even under ideal conditions. The article claimed that ever man and woman aboard the Eisenhower and other navy ships had their own copies of Victoria’s Secret catalog. Shucks! We didn’t even have a Sears catalog.

***If the Earth’s population were reduced to a representative 100 individuals, six (all Americans) would have half the wealth, two would qualify for Mensa (IQ above 135), two would need supervision to cope with daily living, a third of the Americans would be overweight, several would be miscreants, 50 would be malnourished—even many with wherewithal to buy what they wanted, over half would be illiterate, only one would have a college education, and none would be a radio officer.

***This country is awash in ethnic restaurants: French, Mexican, German, Japanese, Thai, Greek, Italian, and endless others. Of all these, Italian cuisine is the most popular. Ever notice the absence of any claiming to serve English cuisine?

continued on page 11



“Scuttlebutt”   …continued from page 10


***An Italian restaurant in Phoenix has the saying, “Love is blind, but dimming the lights helps”.

***An editor of a magazine that I sometimes write (mostly travel articles) for is usually late with Christmas cards to his contributors. His 1998 season’s greetings didn’t arrive until early January - along with greetings for 1999.  Now he has applied to the Guiness Book of World Records as having mailed out his Christmas Cards on the earliest date ever.. Originally  a booklet published by Britain’s Guiness Brewing Company to settle pub (bar room) arguments, it has become a huge tome with people competing in all manner of schemes to be listed in the now prodigious volume.

***The rate of change continues to accelerate with perhaps more sweeping changes in the 20th century than in the previous 900 years. At the end of the first millennium, the largest city in the world is believed to have been Cordoba, Spain, with about 450,000 inhabitants.

***Once aboard a tanker in the Pacific we had a two-hour Christmas resulting from crossing the International Date Line at 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve instantly changing to 10 p.m. Christmas day.

***Alaska, our 49th state, is obviously the most northerly, but did you know it is also the most westerly and most easterly. The Aleutians, part of the state, cross the International Dateline.

*** Hippopotomontrosesquipedalianism,

Chrononbotonthologos, and Adiadochokinesia are three real words not found in most PC spell-checkers. If you are able to spell and use them correctly in a sentence, it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever have to do manual labor.  The first is the practice of using long words,  the second burlesque tragedy, and the last, inability to perform alternating muscular movements—presumably things like chewing gum and walking at the same time.

***America’s early airways depended heavily upon radiotelegraph. Remember the expression “on the beam.” The first were low frequency, colored (red, blue, green, and amber with a number) airways indicating  you were on course with a continuous CW signal (beam). Straying off to the left brought an A (dit dah) and to the right an N (dah dit) giving the


direction to steer to get back on course. Later came homers (for DF), cones of silence, and finally VORs and TACANs (military) but all had beautiful-sounding, three-letter morse code identifiers such as PHX (Phoenix) SFO (San Francisco) DCA (Washington National).  Gradually the FAA added voice-over identities to the CW.  A private pilot friend admits he can’t read the morse code identifiers. The days of one of the last CW uses also appear to be numbered.  What has God wrought. Indeed!





by Otto R. Claus


Those of you desiring itineraries of former WWII ships—we weren’t supposed to keep journals, and Coast Guard discharges gave only the departure port and final destination—can obtain movement records kept by the Navy Armed Guard. Information kept in the Navy Armed Guard logs vary but includes the dates of departure and arrival for the various ports. In some cases the cargo carried and miscellaneous information relating to the Armed Guard unit is included.  Write to:


Modern Military Records,

Textual Archives Services Division

National Archives at College Park

8601 Adelphi Road, College Park

MD 20740-6001



Ask for NATF Form 72 and follow its instructions.

Payment may be made with major credit cards by including  the usual data: account number, expiration date, and signature.


If checks or money orders are used, make them payable to: NATIONAL ARCHIVES TRUST FUND. Must be in U.S. dollars, drawn on a U.S. bank.

Costs depend upon how much information and number of copies requested. Allow six weeks for delivery of orders.




A YEAR OF TWO BLUE MOONS                 by JJ

The final year of the millennium (1999) embraces a rare phenomenon: two Blue moons in the same year.  A blue moon is a second full moon occurring in the same calendar month, an event which normally occurs every 33 months. A moon that is actually blue in color, caused by peculiar atmospheric conditions, is ever rarer.

Indian tribes of what is now the north and eastern United States kept track of the seasons by giving a name to each full moon. The Algonquin tribes used the following:


               January:               Wolf Moon

               February:              Snow Moon

               March:                  Worm Moon

               April:                     Pink Moon

               May:                      Flower Moon

               June:                    Strawberry Moon

               July:                      Buck Moon

               August:                 Sturgeon Moon

               September:          Harvest Moon*

               October:                             Hunter’s Moon

               November:           Beaver Moon

               December:           Cold Moon


*Harvest moon is the full Moon closest to the autumnal equinox. When the Harvest occurs in October, September’s full moon is the Corn Moon.

Inasmuch as the moon’s phase is approximately twenty-nine and a half days, while the earth’s months average 30.43 days, there are about 11 days extra each year. If unaccounted for, the Harvest moon would eventually end-up in various seasons. So once in about 33 months the extra full moon is called a “Blue Moon” which keeps things in sequence.

In 1999 the Blue moon occurred January 31. In the three out of four years that February has 28 days, March is virtually identical to January, bringing, in this instance, a second Blue Moon on March 31. Good luck? Bad luck? Indifferent? Your choice.

The new moon rises at sunrise.

The first quarter rises at noon.

The full moon rises at sunset.

The last quarter rises at midnight.

Moonrise is 50 minutes later each day.

Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox (March 21). This year the first full moon after the spring equinox is a blue moon on March 31, fixing Easter on April 4th.

One of the SUN’S moons, Planet Earth, also gives us problems. The Julian calendar’s estimate of Earth’s year was 365.25 days, but was later determined to be 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds (or 365.24219 days).  The Julian calendar was off by 11 days when the Gregorian calendar was introduced in 1582. People went to bed October 4 and got up October 15, but of course, most didn’t have a clue.

In 1752 when England and the Colonies implemented the Gregorian calendar the error had increased to 13 days so citizens had a 13-days long night. There were protests and near riots when people demanded to have their 13 days back. Imagine what lawsuits that would stimulate today.

We all know that every four years is leap year (when February has 29 days) with the exception that it is not a leap year if divisible by 100. But there’s an exception to that exception: if it’s divisible by 400, it is still a leap year. 2000 will be a leap year, but 1700, 1800, 1900 and 2100 are not. There is a final exception to the first two. If divisible by 4000 it is not a leap year.

All these corrections still doesn’t make the calendar exact. We are now off (behind) and by 2049 the error will reach a full hour. In 20,000 years it will be a full day.   We have now developed an atomic clock accurate to one billionth of a second. However, the Earth tends to wobble minutely, thus throwing-off the timing and making it necessary to reset the super accurate clock.

Since there was no year 0 (zero) purists say that the new millennium doesn’t begin until 2001. Although information is sketchy, historians believe that Christ’s birthday was four to seven years before the calendar began, so the real millennium happened several years ago. Let the computers figure it out.







Excerpted from Happy Days, CCC weekly newspaper, the November 4, 1939 issue. Their slogan, “written by the CCC for the CCC”. Dateline Washington, DC.

Some 250 former CCC men (then called Boys) are at sea en route from New York to St. Petersburg, Fla. They were selected from applicants from CCC camps throughout the country for a year’s seamanship training by the U.S. Maritime Service. Most are on the SS American Seaman, a 7000-ton Maritime Service training ship, but about 15 are assigned to the four-mast, full rigged Joseph Conrad. Both ships are under the control of the U.S. Coast Guard.

A permanent training base is being established at St. Petersburg where the trainees will receive intensive instruction in all phases of seamanship. Both ships have classrooms and machine shops. The Coast Guard operates the Maritime Service activities in much the same fashion as the Army does with the CCC.

“These are fine specimens of young men,” a Coast Guard official said. “We certainly went to a good source for the right kind of trainees.”

Another 250 trainees may be selected for the same training next spring or summer.

The initial 250 enrollees reported to Camp Dix, NJ, where they underwent final examinations by the Coast Guard on October 26. A few days later they embarked at New York for a leisurely trip down the coast with an ETA at St. Petersburg on November 10.  After a year of sea training they will accept employment in the U.S. Merchant Marine if jobs are available.

While in training status, the men will receive from $21 to $36 per month. In addition, they are supplied with uniforms, food and lodging. The ration allowance is 65 cents per day.

Some of these boys (men) ultimately ended up at Gallups Island for radio training. We’d like to hear from anybody from this group or those that may have gone directly to Gallups from CCC camps.




by Francis J. Derwin

The National Association of Civilian Conservation Corps (NACCC), Massachusetts Civilian Conservation Corps ALUMNI, Chapter 60 brings to the attention of GIRA their reunion August 30-September 1. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was an important depression era program from 1933 to 1942 that gave many able, if impoverished, young men a leg up. This group of men contributed significantly to the many phases of the WWII effort.

Gallups Islanders, who were former CCC men (boys), or their survivors and others interested please contact Francis J. Derwin, 80 Clay Street, Quincy, MA 02170 2727

Mr. Derwin emphasizes that it will probably be the last reunion of this CCC group as more keys become silent. Many of the CCC boys serving in western camps said that they had nothing to go back to so stayed on to marry local girls which contributed to genetic diversity. A friend from Montana said, “we locals were jealous of them, of course, but these boys (men) ultimately made remarkable contributions to the development of the west.”




The Chinese are renowned for their skill in and their enthusiasm for the game of table tennis or ping-pong. Some time ago, largely as a good will gesture, a U.S. ping-pong team toured China for a series of well-attended matches in which the Americans did remarkably well.

U.S. Senators William Sprong and Hiram Fong (of Hawaii) in Congress recommending the ringing of our nation’s church bells to hail the triumphant American team’s arrival back in Hong Kong.

Like so many others, this bill died in Committee, where much good and not-so-good legislation expires. Thus the Congressional propensity for procrastination prevented the nation from partaking of the pleasures of the Sprong-Fong, Hong Kong, Ping-Pong, Ding-Dong Act.





by Edward F. Pleuler, Jr., R003, CM006

While still a student at Gallups, my time came to sign up for the Draft. On the forms, I indicated my preference for Omaha, NE, to handle my records (My draft board).

I graduated from Gallups in the autumn of 1941, as Number 96, and shipped out as 2nd Radio Officer 12 days before Pearl Harbor. After a year at sea, including a trip to Archangel in Convoy PQ-16,  I took a short vacation, got married, and returned to New York.

While standing by for a ship, I heard at the ROU office that Gallups Island was looking for some of the early Gallups graduates as instructors. The Navy had taken over the school from the Coast Guard and were hard pressed for staff. I dashed right up to the Island and spoke to Lt. Cmdr. John Clark, Training Officer. He hired me promptly and basically I became a Lab Instructor, but also taught theory a few weeks. I also applied my woodworking talent making desk signs, plaques, and of course, the 3 X 4 foot Watch Board. I was honored to have a picture of this Watch Board on the first page of our Gallups Island history book.

In August 1945, my Draft Board was scraping for draftees so they put me in 1A for the 4th time. With notice in hand, I went to see Captain Reed on Monday, August 12. He said all he could do was to release me to return to sea unless I wanted to get drafted. I assured him I did not want this. He said Mr. Coates would have the paper work completed by Wednesday, so I could make plans to leave Gallups on that day.

Well Wednesday 14 August 1945, turned out to be VJ Day. I called the ROU Office in New York to tell Fred Howe of my plight. He said, “don’t worry. They won’t draft you now. Come down to New York next week.”

I became the Chief Radio Officer of the troop transport SS Colby Victory bringing the boys home from France. It was a joyous two round trips between New York and La Harve, but I got homesick to return to my wife and two kids in Boston. I signed off the SS Colby Victory on 21 November 1945.


The day after Thanksgiving, I visited the Boston Radio Marine office to turn in my log and abstracts, and casually asked if they were hiring. Mr. Meacham asked if I knew anything about RCA equipment. I told him of my three and a half years as an Instructor on RCA and Mackay equipment at the Gallups Island Radio School. On 27 November 1945 I joined Radio Marine as a Service Technician. This was the beginning of a 36-year career with RCA.



Vogage #2   …continued from page 9


We sailed again independently. The Naval Armed Guard officer was not popular with his men resulting in some loud shouting a few times. At breakfast after a very dark night, this officer was reported missing  and suspected to have slipped and fallen overboard. Of course, nobody knew anything.

We arrived at Los Angeles September 5, 1943 and anchored in San Pedro Bay. Naturally there were intense interrogations of each crew member concerning the missing Armed Guard Officer resulting in some classic stonewalling.

After we were paid off, I left the ship to take the longest trolley ride in my life (the Red Car Line). This was from San Pedro (Seal Beach) to the main railroad station in LA.

The rail journey across the US to New York City was a very uncomfortable five days and four nights with extended stops on sidings along the way.


Bill Devoe’s stories will be continued in future issues of Spark Gap.





The 1999 GIRA Reunion will be held in Branson, Missouri  from September 30th   to October 2nd.

Register as soon as possible for this fun event.



The War Shipping Administration Report


The out-of-print official government 80 page “Report of the War Shipping Administrator to the President” by Admiral Emory S. Land, dated 15 January 1946, has a brief one-page transmittal letter preamble paragraph which succinctly states:

   “This report covers the operations of the War Shipping Administration from its creation on 7 February 1942 through the end of hostilities and up to 31 December 1945. It attempts to evaluate the part that our Merchant Marine played in the victory of the United Nations.”


The WSA Report is a clearly readable analysis with extensive photo coverage of all major operations involving the Merchant Marine. The statistics are both complete and pertinent.  The Chapters are broken down into the following:


1.       The Winning Combination: Building and operating the fleet $22,500,000,000.

2.       The Cargo Lift: 268,252,000 tons, 75 percent carried by WSA controlled fleet.

3.       The Wartime Fleet: 4,221 ships of 44,940,000 tons; 733 ships sunk; 5,638 merchant seamen lost.

4.       The men who sailed the ships: 262,474 graduates of WSA training programs.

5.       The Administrative Machinery: $7,581,917,853 to purchase and operate ships.


The Report is Admiral Land’s final account of the WSA to President Truman. It is an official US Government Printing Office document now out of print and unavailable from the GPO.  It was acquired, at considerable dedicated effort and personal expense, by the Secretary of the Gallups Island Radio Association  (U. S. Maritime Service Radio Operators Training School in WWII) for the use of Association members. Copies are available for $10.00 from Mr. Homer N. Gibson, Secretary, Gallups Island Radio Assn. (GIRA), P.O. Box 1235, Hermitage, PA 16148.


Government Statistics Now Reveal—fifty-plus years after the end of World War II—that:

                          Combat Related Death Rates Were as Follows:


1.       U. S. Flag Merchant Marine……………….one in every 29

2.       U. S. Marine Corps…………………………one in every 34

3.       U. S. Navy………………………….approx. one in every 102*

4.       U. S. Army…………………………approx. one in every 153


*U. S. Navy statistics show the highest death rate was among Navy personnel assigned to the Navy Armed Guard as gunners aboard U. S. Merchant Ships. Navy men aboard fleet ships in the Solomon Islands and other early (1942) Pacific battles also suffered remarkable heavy casualties.






Registration Form and Reunion Itinerary

are on pages 21 and 22 of this issue of Spark Gap



by Jim Hester, R88

The first time I heard the word Manoora I was filled with apprehension, bordering on panic. The situation requires some background explanation.

I was serving as RO on the naval tanker USNS Mission Dolores. We were stuck on uninspiring, interminable shuttles between military bases in the Far East and the Persian Gulf. This trip was from Guam to Bahrein around Singapore and across the Bay of Bengal and into the Arabian Sea, hot and humid.

I frequently sunbathed, relaxing on a cot on the boat deck clad only in shorts. I acquired a deep tan on all body parts except where covered by shorts.

When we arrived in Manamah, Bahrein, I was eager for some relaxing shore leave. At that time ship crews were denied shore leave in Arab ports because our cultural difference often resulted in embarrassing disturbances. While Bahrein was the most lenient of the sheikdoms, shore leave was limited to purposes of ship’s business. But since I was both Radio Officer and Purser, I could usually conjure up a purpose to go ashore.

Visiting a country where you neither speak the language nor are familiar with local customs requires caution.  In Arab countries seeking female company requires finesse and stealth not to mention courage or perhaps foolhardiness is a better word.

Behavioral codes are more lenient with the wealthier class so I sought out the more elegantly attired women. Because of their all encompassing attire, Arab women reveal little about their looks except by their eyes.

When I made eye contact with one she slowed her pace with many backward glances. I continued following her down the street until she finally stopped in an open doorway. After glancing about furtively, she nodded her head in a gesture that seemed to indicate I should follow.

She led us to a second floor room with a large window overlooking an enclosed back patio. A pleasant breeze came through the open window. Amid many giggles we shed one garment after another—after all it was a tropical country. Things seemed to be going well until she saw my snow white tush and rushed to the window yelling

Manoooora, Manoora. Suspecting she was calling the police, a father, brother, or husband, I frantically tried to dress and beat a hastily retreat.

She stopped yelling and shook her head “no.” A black woman entered the room. Obviously she was the Manoora my lady friend was calling, a servant, possibly a slave. The two began an agitated conversation, apparently discussing  why my body was brown but the bottom white. Apparently I passed inspection since the servant departed and my friend settled down. I remember little about my adventurous lady friend who was perhaps in her thirties. She had a pleasant face and body. I don’t think she even told me her name, but I’ll never forget the slave girl Manoora.


New River has a nudist colony called Shangra La that has been here for ages. The colony’s permanent residents are generally well tanned all over while visitors or temporaries  tend to be tan except where usually covered by bikinis. The regulars call them cottontails.





A lady from Huntington, NY contacted the GIRA Secretary requesting background information for a history book about the OHEKA, the Spanish Castle of the Otto Kahn estate which was used for a time as the Huntington Radio School. GIRA members who attended the Huntington Radio School are requested to get in touch with Secretary/Treasurer Homer Gibson. The book’s author plans to include an entire chapter about the Radio School. She will send questionnaires to former students. Especially needed are pictures, experiences, remembrances, dates and other pertinent data.




Call Branson Music Tours to make reservations

for the GIRA Reunion

(417) 335-6007 or (417) 336-5350




Richard B. Frank’s book Gaudalcanal utilized official reports from both sides along with numerous diaries and journals. The struggle’s outcome was a tossup for months. Of the 13 allied cruisers (one was New Zealand) involved, all were sunk or damaged as were some carriers, and battleships. From the cheap items commonly sold in prewar U.S. five and ten cents stores, Americans commonly thought that everything made in Japan was junk. Not so. Their aircraft were faster and more maneuverable, their ships equal to ours and crews more experienced, their optics and skill of night fighting superior to our early radars.  And our main effort was in Europe. Although most of our forces had been equipped with the M1 rifle for several years, our Marines on Guadalcanal had to make do with the WWI bolt action Springfield. Despite gargantuan efforts down the “slot” at night the Japanese were unable to provide their troops with sustenance rice. They literally starved.

The Japanese torpedo had triple the range as ours, worked, and raised havoc with our ships. Our torpedoes were inaccurate and often didn’t explode. Apologists claimed they weren’t being used properly. Admiral Kincaid, relieved in the south Pacific for lack of aggressiveness, was chosen to test them on the unoccupied  Hawaiian Island of Kahoolawe. My friend Resterick was assigned to protect the admiral from possible attack from the superior enemy torpedo.

Three of our torpedoes were fired under ideal, controlled conditions at a vertical rock face. Two of the three exploded. A diver went down to retrieve the unexploded third one that lay under 100 feet of water. As the torpedo was pulled toward the surface, it became heavier and the line snapped. The diver’s suit was leaking, and he wasn’t eager to try again.  John Kelly, a local man, agreed to go down without any equipment and attach another line. At that time, submariners were required to be able to escape from 90 feet below by utilizing a device called a Mansom lung. Kelly did it without the “lung” then reversed the procedure  by diving from the surface down into the submerged sub.

He dove in only swimming trunks and successfully attached a line to the dud torpedo which was


promptly retrieved. The Admiral subsequently invited Kelly aboard his ship where he was welcomed by the white uniformed officers while he, himself,  was clad only in damp shorts and a T-shirt. Kelly held the record for spearing the biggest fish at that time along with many other diving feats long before Costeau invented the SCUBA (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus). Resterick’s ship was a converted yacht equipped with two Y-guns, a depth charge rack on the stern, plus one four-inch gun. It, and many others, was actually subsidized by our government for potential war time use. Resterick’s executive officer had taught ship maneuvering techniques at the naval academy and elsewhere, but could never grasp the simple technique of docking the twin-screw vessel himself, even under ideal conditions. The ship rescued one downed aircraft crew on the long route between San Francisco and Honolulu.  The yacht’s owner, who claimed to be a self-made man, had inherited 5000 acres in the middle of LA.  After the war’s end, he donated this yacht to Southern California University who sold it to an oil company that outfitted it with gold door knobs and endless amenities to be presented to Kuwait’s top shiek.



by JJ

Allistar MacLean’s novel The Guns of Naveron was an intriguing story of allied Special Forces including some American Rangers out to eliminate some invincible (to naval forces) Nazi guns dominating an important area of the eastern Mediterranean. Another book, HMS Ulysses, was a tale of a British cruiser engaged against overwhelming German forces while escorting a convoy around northern Norway en route to Mermansk. Since I know nothing about big guns nor special forces,  and little about Royal Navy cruisers, I was fascinated by both books. They were non-put-‘em-downers.  But after reading a novel by the same author about post-war civilian (merchant) ships, the requisite suspension of disbelief  became impossible. In this story full of intrigue, a freighter pretending to be Portishead Radio, (GBF) the major British marine station, diverted an ocean liner for devious purposes. As we all know, there’s no way this could be pulled off.

…continued page 18



by Harold Hanson, R46

By March 1945, I had well over a year of sea time with the misguided belief that I’d seen it all when I shipped on the Bull Lines’ SS Cornelia out of Brooklyn.

Built in 1916 the Cornelia had spent a long career on the Puerto Rico sugar run. She was a revelation with the radio shack atop the deck just aft of the engine room fiddley. There was a small hatch between us and the rest of the midship housing. Refrigeration equipment had been fitted to this antique to carry a complete cargo of cold storage eggs. If she got torpedoes, we would have made the biggest omelette on record.

We joined a dozen other ships at anchor off Brooklyn awaiting convoy formation. During the evening a nasty combination of wind and tide swung the ships about with one colliding with us. Serious damage was prevented by quick action of the crew dropping bumpers over the side to cushion the collision.  A loaded tanker narrowly missed us on the other side. Several ships switched anchorage to end the danger.

Later the convoy formed and moved down the coast to join other sections departing Delaware and Chesapeake bays. When we reached the rendezvous area heavy fog complicated things quickly. Ships signaled their convoy position by blowing their horns and kept station on the log dragging behind the ship ahead.

The convoy commodore decided that our section had to change course to parallel another section joining us. The course change was to be made by radio at reduced power. I copied the message to “wheel” 45 degrees to port and relayed it to the skipper via voice tube. He instructed me to step outside the shack and blow my lifejacket whistle when the order came to execute the turn. The commodore requested acknowledgement from ship after ship on radio. After getting “R” from everyone they called, he signaled to execute the turn. I hurried outside to blow the whistle hard. As we went into our turn, all hell broke loose.

For some reason about ten ships in the convoy did not get the turn order. The ships that did receive the order turned to cross the bows of those ships maintaining the original course. We barely cleared


the bow of  a tanker and steamed across the stern of another freighter amid frantic blasting of horns. The pandemonium was over within minutes, miraculously avoiding any collisions.

When the fog lifted hours later, ships were still faithfully tooting out their positions. On the horizon in one direction there was another group of ships and yet another astern. Single ships plodded along here and there as the escorts raced about trying to reform the convoy amid shouted curses from the skippers. The remainder of the voyage was routine, and we unloaded all those eggs in Naples which is always another story.



Aurthor Flubs Story  …continued from

Then there was a scene on the ocean liner, itself, sailing along at twenty-something knots where the protagonist on the forward end of the vessel let himself down on a line (small rope) slipping along the line to the ship’s stern where he climbed up and into an open porthole  and ultimately dispatched the villain. Fairy tales are far more believable that such absurdities. As we’re told constantly, enjoying fiction requires a certain suspension of disbelief  but come on. Probably Rangers and cruiser sailors could detect similar nonsense in those The Guns of Naveron and HMS Ulysses. But in the merchant marine story the author had completely shot his credibility, even below the level of fairy tales.



When Mrs. Jim Jolly referred in a Christmas card to something in the GIRA  book We Came From All Over, We Went Everywhere I went to look it up but the book had disappeared—perhaps loaned to somebody. A check with the publisher confirmed that copies are still available from:


               412 Broadway

               P. O. Box 3101

               Paducah, Kentucky 42002-3101

ISBN (for international standard book number)

 1- 56311-115-2) 208 pages hard bound 8.5” X 11” (coffee-table size). The cost is $39.95 plus $6.00 for shipping and handling. While this may seem costly, it’s a good price for a coffee-table book of limited circulation.





by JJ

Recently while making copies of my Coast Guard discharge forms I discovered a pay slip, the only one that somehow got saved.  I joined the SS Alcibiades, an ancient Panamanian flagged tanker (operated for WSA by Cities Service Oil Company), in Galveston, Texas, on 4 May 1943. The Alcibiades, a noble name but a wreck of a ship, had been scuttled and set afire by its Italian crew at the beginning of WWII. It should have been left on the bottom, but instead was resurrected and sailed coastwise and nearby foreign for seven months, breaking down frequently, and in and out of various shipyards a half-dozen times. On 9 December 1943 we sailed for the Canal and thence to Australia and New Guinea to refuel 7th Fleet warships. The crew was repatriated  on a Dutch troop ship and paid off in San Francisco on 22 September 1944 after 9 months and 18 days (287 days or 9.6 months). The pay slip reveals:


Total salary          = $1609.33

Bonus                   =   2319.89

Deductions:          OAB* tax              =  $ 30.00

                             Income tax           =   699.29

                             Advances             =   216.20

                             Slops                    =       8.70

                             Total deductions  =   944.19

Net balance          = $2985.22


I remember my pay envelope contained two one thousand dollar bills, nine one hundreds, four twenties, a five, two dimes and two pennies. The Alcibiades was a single radio operator ship, with only low frequency radio equipment. My bunk was in the radio shack. Everybody worked a seven day week with no idea of what overtime was about. Most of the crew were foreigners from various countries.

*OAB  stood for Old Age Benefits which later evolved into the more euphemistic “Social Security.”  My daily basic salary was $5.59, about one eighth of today’s minimum wage.  Of course the dollar was mightier then but our payoff was final. No GI Bill and state bonuses to come later.  We ended up being the most hazardous and lowest paid service by far and had no PR organization to promote our image. Ah well as the cynics say, if you want justice, you’re on the wrong planet.



Dear E-Mail members of GIRA:

GIRA has a great Website lacking input and we need your help. The website address is:





Don Wagner at    DonW@4cs.com   needs your input; articles, photos, anything of interest for posting to the Website.

The 1997 GIRA membership roster includes 62 members with E-Mail capability and 24 of those are non-hams. Surely by now, 1999, there are many more E-Mail members AND many more to come !  It is time for us to team up in support of Don and the Website.  He put a lot of work into generating this Website for us and has been waiting for input.


Send your stuff to Don by E-Mail at: 

DonW@4cs.com   or by post to

Don Wagner

345 North Vassar

Wichita, KS 67208-3220

(Don is the son of Joe Wagner, R37)

73s         Ray Maurstad R92  W3HUV

               12082 Goldenrod St. NW

               Coon Rapids, MN 55448

               Tel (612) 755 7182



Dear JJ,

Feb 5th is Dave Bulkley's Birthday.

He was one of the Five founders of GIRA.

Congratulations to Tom Gibson on his 50th year anniversary as a member of Veterans Wireless Operators Association.  He must have been a young  teenager when  he joined......

73s, Ralph Albers






Delmar D. Davis, left,  and friend with 1943 Jeep


Dear JJ,


Enclosed is a snapshot of myself and another WWII Vet taken last year.  I have this 1943 Jeep which I have restored and drive in parades and other events, such as Memorial Day.  It and the uniform always attracts attention, as very few know of the Merchant Marine and its function during and after the War.  I have our flag and a large picture of the Jeremiah O’Brien that I carry in it.

I took this uniform back to Boston in 1997; I hand carried it all the way because I would hate to lose it after all these years.  They were certainly well-made of excellent material.  I don’t believe I realized that when I was 18!  I am looking forward to the Branson reunion, as that is only about 100 miles from here at Lake of the Ozarks.


Delmar D. Davis


Dear JJ,


We are in the process of cleaning out 50-plus years of accumulated items in the “Must Have”, “Needed”, or “Must Go” categories.  Some are interesting, and some are “why-do-we-have-it?”

In any event, I found some snapshots of our Gallups Island tour and am sending them on as I identify the people.  Enclosed are three of you.  There may be more as we go through the residue of the 94 Northridge Earthquake.

You are doing a superior job as editor of the Spark Gap so keep it up.  You should outlast most of us.


James E. Smith


Thanks, Jim, for the 1942 photographs.  I can’t believe I was ever that yung or that thin.  Hope to see you and Connie in Branson this autumn.

Ciao,  JJ






Sam Hucke Group for '99 GIRA Reunion in Branson, Missouri


      Name ______________________________________  Platoon: R ______   Spouse/ Person sharing room _______________________________

                        (as you want it on your name badge)


      Address ____________________________________  City ___________________________  State  ____________________  Zip  __________


      Phone #  ____________________  E-mail  ______________________________________________  HAM Call Sign   ____________________


      Please indicate your choices: See attached ITINERARY for schedules


                      Non-refundable Registration Fee of $10.00 per person - $10.00 each x __________  people       =                  $__________


                      Shuttle - Springfield Airport to Branson & return to Springfield Airport - $20.00 each x __________  people  = $__________


                      Hotel - Double room - 2 people - ($82.00 plus tax) = $92.00 per night - x __________  nights       =                  $­­­__________


                                                      - 1 person - ($82.00 plus tax) = $92.00 per night - x __________  nights       =                  $­­­__________


                      Thursday - 30 SEP 99

                                      Registration, Dinner on Your Own

                                      7:00 pm - Shuttle leaves for Shoji Tabuchi Theater

                                      8:00 pm - Shoji Tabuchi Show  -                                      $38.00 each x __________ people  =        $__________


                      Friday - 1 OCT 99

                                      9:00 am - Shuttles leave for Jennifer's American Theater

                                      9:30 am - Jennifer In the Morning Show (USO)  -            $35.00 each x __________ people  =        $­­__________


                                      3:30 pm - Shuttles leave for 4:00 boarding of the Belle

                                      4:30 pm - Showoat Branson Belle, cruise, dinner, show -                          $45.00 each x __________ people  = $­­__________


                      Saturday - 2 OCT 99

                                      10:00 am - GIRA Business Meeting - room with PA

                                      1:15 pm - Shuttles leave for Mel Tillis Theater (OR) Branson City Lights Show


                                PLEASE SELECT ONE OF THE FOLLOWING TWO SHOWS (Both offered at same time)


                                      2:00 pm - Mel Tillis Show  -                                               $ 35.00 each x __________ people  =       $__________­­­


                                      2:00 pm - Branson City Lights Show                                $ 35.00 each x __________ people  =       $__________

                                                      (Voted “Show of the Year” In '99)


                                      6:00 pm - GIRA Banquet In Hotel, menu to follow, cash bar available

                                      8:00 pm - GIRA Dance to 10:00  -  live band                    $ 40.00 each x __________ people  =      $ __________


                                                                                                                                                                                    Total Due $__________


                      Terms:  TOTAL DUE must be paid by final registration date pf APRIL 16, 1999.  Late registration is offered on availability basis only.

                                    Reservations requested after this date are subject to an additional 10% surcharge.

                                    We prefer payment by personal check, however, we will accept VISA OR MASTERCARD.  Upon signing and returning this

                                    registration form, Inserting your credit card number with expiration date, you are hereby authorizing Branson Music Tours, Inc.

                                    through it's affiliate company, Branson Country Store, to charge the indicated TOTAL DUE cost to your credit card.


                      Dated this __________  day of __________ 1999, Acknowledged and Accepted:________________________________________



      SPECIAL NEEDS (handicapped; smoking-nonsmoking, etc.)

                      Payment by check (___) Make check payable to BRANSON MUSIC TOURS - amount enclosed  $ __________

                      Payment by Credit Card (if applicable) Type of Card _______________  # _________________________ exp date ____________

      Notes: - Additional nights may be arranged In advance through BMT at cost of $92.00 per night tax included

      Please return this completed form to:           BRANSON MUSIC TOURS, INC.

                                                                            P. 0. BOX 7099

                                                                            BRANSON, MO 65615

                                                                            Phone:  417 - 336- 5350











      Day One - Thursday, September 30th

Arrive - times will vary - Registration Desk at Hotel

6:00 PM                 Dinner on your own - hotel restaurant or others nearby

7:00 PM                 Shuttles leave hotel for the Shoji Tabuchi Theater

8:00 PM                 Show #1 - SHOJI TABUCHI SHOW


      Day Two - Friday, October I st


9:00 am                 Shuttles leave for Jennifer's Americana Theater

9:30 am                 Show #2 - JENNIFER IN THE MORNING (USO SHOW)

3:30 PM                 Shuffles leave for the 4:00 boarding of the Belle

4:30 PM                 SHOWBOAT BRANSON BELLE - cruise, dinner and show


      Day Three - Saturday, October 2nd


10:00 am               GIRA BUSINESS MEETING - Room provided, with PA

1:15 PM                 Shuttles leave for the Mel Tillis Theater

Shuttles leave for the Branson City Lights Show




2:00 PM                 MEL TILLIS SHOW


2:00 PM                 BRANSON CITY LIGHTS SHOW


6:00 PM                 GIRA BANQUET in hotel - menu to follow - cash bar available


8:00 PM                 GIRA DANCE - with live band, geared to the "oldies"



      Day Four - Sunday, October 3rd


Times for shuttles to return to Springfield Airport to be announced





Cost rates on attached Registration Form are per person; the room rate per night is for two people sharing a room.

If requested, we will attempt to find a person to share rooms with single attendees.


      Tour operator, Branson Music Tours, Inc. will offer other "free time activities" at additional cost.

      Must be arranged in advance to ensure numbers and transportation.





P. 0. BOX 7099



Phone #:    417-336-5350

Fax #:         417-336-5535

E-Mail:        bdieb535O@aol.com







Silent Keys, the Sad Messages




Robert Calvelage                        M-0159                 R-014                   2-24-98

Charles S. Dippold                      M-0673                 R-022                   unknown

Vernon Estelle Gosch                 M-1444                 R-056                   10-28-97

Charles H. Hollisian*                   CM-0346              R-005 (B2)           unknown

James M. Jones                          M-0612                 R-080                   October 1998

Dominic Pallazolla                      M-0259                 R-035                   10-16-98

Stephen Russell Scott                M-0778                 R-049                   10-7-98

Richard Sharkey                         M-0393                 R-021                   June 1998

George C. Stallings                     M-0908                 R-047                   8-26-98

George L. Zolinger                      M-1279                 R-039                   4-10-98


*Obit below




Charles H. “Charlie” Hollisian’s death on 11 February 1999 was reported by his brother Leo Hollisian. Charlie was a Charter Member of GIRA (CM #32) with the Amateur Radio call W1PVS.  Charlie graduated

from Gallups Island Radio School, Boston, MA in class (platoon) R-005 in 1942. He was the Radio Officer of the SS Mormacsul and sailed in Convoy PQ-16 through the arctic to Russia. The SS Mormacsul was sunk by German aircraft on 27 May 1942. Except for three, the entire crew survived and was picked up by an escort vessel.  Afterward Charlie returned to Gallups Island as a Lab Instructor. When Gallups closed in 1945, Charlie became an instructor at Mass Radio in Boston. Later he opened his own radio repair business in Central Square, Cambridge, MA. Charlie is survived by a sister, Zee Hollisian and one brother Leo Hollisian. Condolences may be sent to the Hollisians at 54 Winsor Avenue, Watertown, MA 02472. He was 80 years old.




Anyone knowing the whereabouts of the following members, please forward to Sec Homer Gibson


      NAME                             PLATOON                            LAST ADDRESS

Eddie Zink                               R-092                          637 Euclid Av. #228, Miami Beach, FL 33139

Charles J. O’Leary                  R-022                          RR 1 West Bay Rd.,  Freedon, NH 03836

Kenneth Kunze                       Friend                          1050 Lincoln Way E, Plymouth, IN 46536

Dallas F. Darland                    R-061                          7500 South St. #4,      Lincoln, NE 68506-3067

Kenneth Troy Watson             R-075                          204 South Second St., Wylie, TX 75098-3533

William E. Fells                       R-025                          402 W. Waterway NW Lake Placid, FL 33852

Roy Christenson                     R-113                          Rte 2 Box 70, Menomonie, WI 54751

Robert E. Kohler                     R-074                          10641 SW 108th Av. Unit 2G, Miami, FL 33176

James Robert Matheny           Hoffman                      1315 Quintuplet Drive, Casselberry, FL 32707

Lowell G. Miller                        R-022                          19915 Saticoy, Canoga Park, CA 91306-2647

Joseph P. McCarthy               R-022                          2426 SE 17th St. #104-A, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33316






Non Profit Org.

U.S. Postage


Newington, VA

Permit # 66





John (JJ) Ward, Editor

49220 North 26 Avenue

New River, AZ 85027-8080

(602) 465-9256




Urban A. Guntner, President

(410) 377-5316


Raymond E. King, Vice-President

(617) 331-6154


Homer  N. Gibson, Sec-Treasurer

(412) 962-4213


The Spark Gap is published periodically by The Gallups Island Radio Association.  Basic circulation is confined to

Association members and Gallups Island Radio School graduates, instructors, and administrative personnel during

World War II.  This alumni newsletter is dedicated to the men who went to sea as Merchant Marine Radio Officers,

school instructors and support people assigned to Gallups Island.  Opinions expressed herein are those of contributors

or the editor, and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Organization, Officers, Directors, or Association members.



Into my heart a breeze that thrills

from yon far country blows.

What are those warm remembered hills?

What shores, what ports are those?

That is the land of lost content,

I see it shining plain;

The happy seaways where we went

But cannot go again.

            Stockhalsens,  modified by JJ