VOL 11  NO 1






Map of Boston                      Page 3

Friendly Fire                         Page 4

Wartime Voyage # 7            Page 5

Wartime Voyage # 8            Page 7

Wartime Voyage # 9            Page 9

GIRA Reunion 2001             Page 10

Not a Bad Tyrant                  Page 11

FCC Gets Tough                 Page 12

ARRL and FCC                    Page 12

GIRA Amateur Net               Page 12

Regional Directors               Page 13

Journeys’ Ends                    Page 14

Quiz                                     Page 15

Liberty Ships                        Page 15

Tough Duty                          Page 18

Flotsam & Jetsam               Page 19

Answers to Quiz                  Page 19

Tankers Ablaze                    Page 20

Letters                                  Page 21

Registration Form                Page 25

Silent Keys                           Page 27



by Raymond King, VP

The 2000 GIRA reunion (60th anniversary of founding of Gallups Island/Resident Radio School) will be held August 10 - 13 at the Braintree Sheraton Hotel in Braintree, Massachusetts.  If you made either the 1990 or the 1997 GIRA reunion, you are familiar with the Braintree Sheraton. If you plan to attend, please complete the Registration Form printed in this issue of the SPARK GAP and forward it to Ray King, 108 Great Hill Drive, Weymouth, MA 02191-1938. Include your check payable to GIRA Reunion to cover the optional reunion events in which you choose to participate.

If you plan to stay at the Braintree Sheraton Hotel, make your reservation directly with them by calling 1-800-325-3535.  Identify yourself as a member of GIRA in order to get our group rate of $89.00, plus tax, per night, single or double occupancy. This special rate will be honored for three (3) days before or after the reunion dates for those wishing to come early and/or stay afterward.

If you plan to drive to the Reunion, see adjacent map. This abstract map is not detailed enough to show the exit off Route 128 leading to the hotel.  However, if you are proceeding south on Route 128, which is also Route 93 north, take Exit 6 (route 37) and turn right off the exit ramp.

If you are coming through the City of Boston, turn north on Route 128 and take the first exit (exit 6, route 37) and turn right off the exit ramp. The hotel is next to the exits off Route 128. There is sufficient parking at the hotel, free of charge. You can even park a recreational vehicle, but no hook-ups are available.

 If you plan flying into Boston, you may be able to get a discount on your airfare through Katlin Travel Group. Call them at 1-800-552-8546 and identify yourself as a Gallups Islander attending the reunion. Discounts are available on American and US Air.

Upon arriving at the Boston Logan Airport, simply go outside your airline terminal and proceed to the nearest bus stop. One is located every few feet on the circular airport road in front of each of the airline terminals. Take the bus marked “Braintree Logan Express.” Buses run frequently all day and until 2300 or 11:00 p.m. The fare is $7.00 for seniors (most of us qualify). It’s an express run to a terminal directly behind the hotel. If you inform the bus driver you are staying at the Braintree Sheraton, he will radio ahead for the hotel van to meet you at the Braintree bus terminal, which is directly behind the hotel, but too far to walk carrying luggage.

You will not need a car at the reunion, but if you want one anyway, call Penfield Business Center at the hotel  (781-794-6208).

Our Hospitality Suite at the hotel is Suite number 1007 on the ground floor next to a side exit where the buses for our reunion tours will load. This is the same suite we had at the 1997 reunion. The Hospitality Suite will be open more or less continuously beginning on Wednesday evening, August 9.

…continued on inside


GIRA REUNION   …continued from front page

The hotel has a cocktail lounge and restaurant on the ground floor. Hotel guests can use the indoor and outdoor swimming pools at no extra charge.

There is a large regional shopping center known as South Shore Plaza directly across the street from the hotel. The shopping center has several restaurants as well as a “food court.”

Here is a synopsis of reunion events: All day tours are available on Thursday and Friday. Saturday tours are afternoon only inasmuch as GIRA directors and immediately afterwards the members meetings take up the morning hours.

On Thursday, we feature a daylong Plimouth Plantation tour, which is recommended by your reunion host. It is scheduled for Thursday to avoid the heavy southbound traffic commonly encountered going to Cape Cod on Fridays and Saturdays. The bus ride is less than an hour. Plimouth Plantation is a re-creation of the Pilgrim’s World of the 1600’s and is the number one tourist destination in the Boston area. To get the most out of it, you should talk to the “pilgrims” wandering around their village in period costumes and inquire as to what they do for a living, what they eat, etc. You will get interesting answers in their ancient dialects.

If you choose the all day Boston tour on Thursday or Friday, you will have plenty of time for leaving the bus to walk about, eat, and so forth.

The Friday tour of Boston, Lexington, and Concord is the “Total Boston Experience.” You will, more or less, see all the sights of the Boston tour, but additionally, you will visit Harvard in Cambridge, and follow the Paul Revere route to Lexington and Concord. This tour is also recommended by your reunion host.

The reunion dinner and dance are on Saturday night. Music will be provided by Joe Contrino’s band, the same excellent ensemble that we had at the 1997 reunion. Choose and specify your dinner choices on the Reunion Registration Form.

On Saturday afternoon (remember our directors and membership meetings are in the morning) you have a choice of three tours. You may go to Gallups Island (via bus to Hingham Harbor and by boat to the Island); tour the City of Quincy; or go to the Kennedy Museum and Library. These same three tours were available at the 1997 reunion. If you took one of them then, you may want to choose a different one this time. The City of Quincy and Kennedy Museum & Library tours are excellent, and by scheduling them on Saturday, we should avoid traffic tie-ups such as the one we had on Friday in 1997 on the Kennedy Museum and Library tour.

If you have visited Gallups Island in recent years, your reunion host recommends that you take the City of Quincy tour or the tour to the Kennedy Museum &


Library on Saturday afternoon. Regrettably, there is nothing left to see on the Island now except wild rabbits.  On the City of Quincy tour you will visit the home of John Adams, our second President, and the heavy cruiser “USS Salem” that was built in Quincy. On the Kennedy Museum and Library tour, you will also see the Boston campus of the University of Massachusetts along with the spectacular I.M. Pei-designed Kennedy Museum and Library overlooking Boston Harbor.

If you are not departing the reunion on Sunday morning, you may wish to join your reunion host on a World’s End walk. World’s End is a 251-acre park on a peninsula jutting out into Hingham Harbor. It was landscaped in 1890 on a design by the world famous landscape architect, Frederic Law Olmstead. There are myriad, magnificent views of Boston Harbor and the Boston skyline from the park. You must be comfortable walking a mile to make this trek. Wear “walking” shoes and casual clothing.

If you aren’t interested in any of the pre-planned tours, but would like to “do Boston” on your own, you have a number of choices. You can take the red “Beantown Trolley” directly from the hotel, departing at 0800

(8:00 A.M.) daily. The Beantown Trolley is a bus decked out to resemble an old-fashioned trolley. There is a fleet of them. You can get off the trolley anywhere in Boston you desire to visit, and re-board the next one that comes along to resume your tour. Speak to the hotel concierge to reserve a place, or call Gray Line Tours at 617-236-2148.

Another choice is to take the hotel van (free) to the Braintree “T” station then board the “Red Line” train into Boston. Get off at Downtown Crossing for retail stores such as Filene’s Basement. Or disembark at Park Street for the Boston Common/Public Garden. On the return trip get off at Braintree and call the hotel (781-794-6232) for the van, or take a taxi back to the hotel (a mere five-minute ride).

Members doing their own touring may want to consider Boston destinations such as the Museum of Fine Arts, the Science Museum, and the Aquarium.

If after reading all the above and you still have a question(s), feel free to call Ray King at 781-331-6154. 


There you have it. A plethora of choices. Couldn’t be better organized even by a “Harvard Law School” man. We never want to say never, but this could be GIRA’s last gathering in our beloved Boston. At any rate the 60th anniversary of the RESIDENT RADIO SCHOOL’S founding is reason enough not to miss this nostalgic event. After that kamikaze left turn in Braintree through a half-dozen lanes of traffic to get on the freeway for Boston, Carol and I plan to leave the driving to somebody more skillful and, especially, braver.











Map of Boston Area

If you are going to drive to the reunion in Boston, see the map printed below.  The map is not detailed enough to show the exit off Route 128 that leads to the hotel.  If you are proceeding south on Route 128 - which is also Route 93 North - take Exit 6 (Route 37) and turn right off the exit ramp.  If you are coming through the City of Boston, turn north on Route 128 and take the first exit, Exit 6 (Route 37), turn right off the exit ramp.  The hotel is next to the exits off Route 128.  There is plenty of parking at the hotel, free of charge.  You can even park a recreational vehicle, but no hook-ups are available.


If you plan to attend, please complete the Registration Form printed in this issue of the SPARK GAP and forward it to Ray King, 108 Great Hill Drive, Weymouth, MA 02191-1938. Include your check payable to GIRA Reunion to cover the optional reunion events in which you choose to participate.




We will enjoy the same band as in 1997

They play 40’s tunes




Ray and Jane King will be our hosts

at the reunion in Boston





by Carl G. Davis R-008

Friendly fire, an oxymoron if ever there was one, is an oft-used term in recent conflicts, especially in the Gulf War. It happens in all wars but is commonly covered up by red-faced censors. This account happened while on my second ship after graduating from Gallups in June 1942 and covers three examples of deadly “friendly fire.”

The SS John Marshall departed New York in October 1942. It was supposed to be a routine round trip, but we got caught up in Operation Torch. The Army took our “good” U.S. rations and gave us British substitutes including untold gallons of prunes. We had plenty of Raisin Bran and condensed milk so managed to survive. Classmate Jack Warner told me they were on C-rations during the Italian campaign in 1943.

We sailed from Liverpool to join a convoy off Glasgow on November 8, the day of the North African invasion. Checking the transmitter as we sailed down the Clyde, I discovered it wouldn’t load up. A thorough check revealed that the deck crew had put the safety link across the antenna insulator grounding it to the metal mast. I climbed the slippery ladder up the mast, looking down at the swaying deck and rolling sea and, hanging on with one hand, got the safety link where it was supposed to be then the transmitter loaded properly. As Conrad would say, “Ah, Youth!” The rough weather was typical for the season and, with the ship rolling 20 to 30 degrees, I was seasick most of the time. I could keep down lifeboat chocolate rations but little else.

On Nov. 19, a nice, pleasant day, about 200 miles NW of Gibraltar, the ship ahead of us on the convoy corner took a torpedo and the number 4 hold blazed. We were in the outside starboard column, second ship. The vessel hit was the Norwegian Prinz Harold. We turned sharply to port, as she drifted by about 30 feet away. Its crew was already abandoning her. Next a small ship in the center of the convoy blew up. Then a British PBY flew low over the convoy looking for the sub. An American Liberty ship opened fire with its 20 MM guns. It proved an easy, slow, target only a thousand feet high and immediately heeled over bursting into a huge ball of flame and plunged into the sea in the middle of the convoy. The entire action totaled no more than a minute.

The Prinz Harold, which had drifted 3 or 4 miles astern, blew up with a mile-high vertical column of smoke. Its cargo was ammo, which explained the alacrity with which the crew abandoned ship. Today we would call it a “mushroom cloud” like a nuclear bomb. Mr. Woodard, the young gunnery officer, had us stand behind the stack for protection as she drifted by to his later embarrassment. If she had gone up next to us we would have been engulfed in the explosion and likely blown to smithereens.

The PBY violated standard orders by flying over the convoy, but the firing compounded the error inasmuch as its profile and markings clearly identified it as allied. I don’t know the consequence of this tragedy, but there were rumors of an upcoming court martial of the gunnery officer. But like many wartime snafus, it was probably ignored. Surely the Navy would issue reprimands for the gunnery officer and crew, but who knows. I remember the ship’s name but no point in reporting it now. The PBY probably saw the sub taking cover under the convoy, a common U-boat evasive tactic.  That U-boat used electric torpedoes that left no telltale wake. The helmsman, who had a good view of it, said he saw a little plume of water from air used in the launching. The sub fired at least 3 torpedoes, one of which was later found lodged in an anti-torpedo net on a British ship.

While our ship was anchored in Gibraltar harbor, I went ashore for the convoy conference. The town is small with narrow, crooked and steep streets awash in British sailors. Periodically at night a depth charge would explode in the harbor to discourage Italian skin divers trying to plant explosives on anchored ships. Reportedly they were successful for a time—not a job conducive to longevity.

We dropped anchor in Oran November 23 to find the harbor cluttered with 28 scuttled ships. The French had resisted vigorously and the British lost two destroyers and some 400 KIA in their effort to take the harbor. More friendly fire! After the war Capt. Edward Ellsburg, USN, told in an excellently written book, No Banners, No Bugles, how the salvage operations succeeded despite the hostility of


…continued on page 6




By Bill Devoe (W3PMS) R-019

New York – Cuba – Philadelphia

The old Henry D. Whiton had just returned from Trinidad. She unloaded her bauxite cargo at a wharf in Brooklyn directly into railroad ore cars. The bauxite powder had covered everything, but after being thoroughly hosed off, the ship was painted gray with the topsides a dazzling white. The battery room had a new coat of paint, but the radio equipment was unchanged. This was to be my second voyage on the Whiton.

The unloading and refurbishing had been a long process, but we finally had a sailing date for early November 1944. The convoy conference was held in the Whitehall Building in lower Manhattan, a building that, as a bank manager for Guaranty Trust Company near Wall Street, I had been in many times before Pearl Harbor.

The convoy formed-up and proceeded slowly south with escorts. Our destination was Manatise, Cuba. We were to pick up a cargo of raw sugar. This was my second and last peaceful voyage inasmuch as those following were in the North Atlantic.

From the Straits of Florida I could see the tops of the high rise hotels with binoculars. There were many waterspouts in evidence. One day I counted five at the same time. These whirlwinds are tornadoes when over land, and could do extensive damage if they encountered the ship, but none ever came closer than two miles.  Rain squalls continued for most of the second week in November.

One of the most interesting things was St. Elmo’s Fire along the guy wires. It occurred on nights when the humidity was high. The bluish fire appeared in balls that moved around the mast, and even on the antenna insulators but only a few at a time. They were similar in appearance to aurora borealis or northern lights. They were spooky indeed, and some of the crew interpreted them as a hex sign.

We left the convoy and made landfall at Manatise on the Cuba’s north coast where the pilot boarded. We were the only ship in the port and loading commenced immediately.

The sugar plantation was owned by the Manati Sugar Corporation, and its manager had been educated in the U.S. and had previously worked for General Electric. He invited me on a tour of the plantation and the sugar manufacturing plant, the most interesting part of the entire voyage. I followed the Manati Sugar Company stock on the NYSE after the war until Castro came into power and the company disappeared.

The cane sugar was cut by local labor, transported to the plant, and then cooked in large SS vats. These caldrons were traced with steam lines. The low pressure steam boiler was heated by burning the spent sugar cane stalks mixed with oil.

The resulting coarse, brown sugar was bagged in burlap sacks, which were sling loaded into our holds using the ship’s booms.

There wasn’t much to do while this was going on, so I went fishing. There were a lot of red snappers at the end of the pier that I was able to catch with a hand line.  We all enjoyed several fried fish meals.

After completing the loading we proceeded to the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, anchored and awaited orders. Time for more fishing off the fantail. I delivered several fresh Pompanos to the cook. After several days a number of ships arrived in the anchorage and got sailing orders from the Navy.

The convoy up through the Bahamas was pleasant sans U-boats. We had air cover, and on several occasions, I used the Aldis lamp for I.D. with the aircraft overhead.

Although we did have some minor engine problems, they were less serious than on the previous voyage. We left the convoy before reaching Cape May, and sailed up the Delaware River to Philadelphia. Unloading began at once after we docked at the sugar wharf. I was able to get shore leave but needed to report back in four days for departure to New York.

Upon arrival at the Big apple on December 6, 1944, I signed off. My radio duties consisted of keeping watch and looking after the storage batteries. It was a most relaxing voyage.




FRIENDLY FIRE  …continued from page 4

French port authorities. In the 1920s Ellsburg had salvaged two U.S. subs (the S-4 and S-51).  Another surprise, I saw posters in Oran extolling the virtues of General Petain contrary to our “conventional wisdom.” I also visited Mers-el-Kebir, the naval harbor near Oran. Some of the sunken French navy ships visible were a battleship lying on its side and smaller vessels. A bronze plaque on the sea wall proclaimed the French sailors were “murdered” by the British. These ships were sunk to prevent their falling into the Germans hands. After a warning and a deadline, the Royal Navy battleships fired at point blank range sinking all the French naval units in the harbor with heavy French KIA. More friendly fire!

I also met two friends there, Mike Mikel (R-008) and Gilbert, the RO I relieved on the Pan Maryland.

One of the ubiquitous Oran beggars was a young woman carrying a child. The woman had only two holes where her nose should have been. Most of the beggars were Berbers.

From Oran we sailed to Arzeu where the U.S. First Armored Division (the Big Red One) had deployed. A French Foreign Legion fort, looking like something from Beau Geste, stood out on a hill above. The cargo lieutenant managed a jeep and drove us into Oran about 20 miles away.  At St. Cloud, midway between the cities, was the sight of a vigorous fire fight between U.S. troops and Foreign Legionnaires. Later they came over to our side and fought valiantly for the Allies. This battle was another case of friendly fire.  In the Admiral Doenitz Memoirs he admitted that the North Africa landing completely surprised the Germans, noting their intelligence service under Admiral Canaris was a complete failure. In praising U.S. security measures, he conceded that their U-boats concentrated near the Straits of Gibraltar were hampered by shallow water and heavily protected convoys. His mention of a U-boat succeeding in sinking two ships in a convoy was possibly ours.

In Arzeu I visited Army HQ for obscure reasons where I noticed a young GI sketching cartoons on a huge drawing board. I resisted the urge to chat with him not wanting to interrupt his concentration. I’ve often wondered if, and suspected, it was Bill Maudlin since he mentions Arzeu in his book about the war.*  The high morale of U.S. troops was both surprising and impressive. It was the rainy season—yes North Africa has one—and they were sleeping in pup tents in the mud. Likely their high spirits resulted from the knowledge that the war was finally turning in our favor.

Another plus for Arzeu was that Muscatel was good, available, and inexpensive. Tangerines (named for the city of Tangiers or perhaps the other way around) were plentiful and a delight after 3 months without fresh fruit. A brisk interchange between sailors and the Arabs were in bed sheets and mattress covers, which they converted into their tradition clothes.

It was an exciting, if sometimes trying, time being where the action was, to feel you were a participant, however minor, in the greatest (well at least the most horrible) of all wars.  Much of this story relies heavily upon my diary or journal, albeit illegal, which was vital in restoring memories.

In New York, the custom officials sought to locate and confiscate all diaries, but mine was well hidden in the radio shack. I regret that I didn’t do the same with a small camera, which I had at Gallups Island in September 1941, but had to turn it in with the declaration of war.


Editor’s Note: It seems to me that our authorities were paranoid about cameras and journals. Even if the enemy could have obtained some (likely very few) their value would be highly questionable. Intelligence gleaned from such sources is of little value except historically. I regret not having been able to record in writing and on film my micro view of the “great” war.

*One of Bill Mauldin’s Stars & Stripes (a limited range) cartoons won a Pulitzer Prize. It depicted a footsore, exhausted Joe escorting equally footsore, exhausted German prisoners in the ubiquitous drizzles. The caption was:“Fresh, spirited American troops, flushed with victory, are bringing in thousands of hungry, ragged, battle-weary prisoners” (news item) Upon seeing the cartoon, General Patton reportedly summoned Mauldin to headquarters and dressed him down, charging him of “Undermining the morale of the Army, destroying their confidence in the command, and making soldiers appear unsoldierly.”





by Bill Devoe (W3PMS) R-019

The SS Henry H. Richardson, KIAV, Liberty Ship hull   # 528 was loading munitions and other cargo at a wharf in Bayonne, NJ when I boarded and signed articles. The date was January 25, 1945, and Germany was relentlessly being crushed.

The morning before the convoy conference, my assistant radio operator showed up and was waiting in my cabin when I re-boarded the ship. William Dorsey was a 36-year old black man, a former public school teacher from NYC. He was small of stature, friendly by nature. I don’t know to this day how he obtained his 2nd class radio-telegraph license, but he had one.

I attended the convoy conference with Captain Egar at the Whitehall Building in lower Manhattan to learn our destination was Marseille. We were cautioned to keep a sharp lookout for mines while in the Mediterranean Sea. German U-boats were still sinking our ships, and although we were not told, a growing number had snorkels.

The convoy formed-up off Ambrose without incident and steamed northeast. It was good to be underway again and not as scary as my previous crossings had been.

Early on, I asked Mr. Dorsey to monitor the coastal stations for BAMS messages. His copy was terrible. He had been able to copy only about 50 percent of a general message to all ships. We discussed this inadequacy at some length. He was incapable of copying plain language code at the BAMS rate. He could, however, copy numerals well.  I informed Captain Egar and the A.G.O. Lt. Gwinner. In my letter I said Dorsey’s responsibilities were great, and that complications might arise endangering the safety of the vessel. I also stated “This is in no way a reflection of character but rather a report of inadequate professional ability.”

I had to copy all BAMS messages that were on his watch, but fortunately they were repeated on a

subsequent schedule so we didn’t miss any.

It was typical North Atlantic winter weather, gale winds and ice-cold rain. We rolled and plunged our way northeastward with no letup in the weather.

Off the coast of Greenland, near Cape Farewell, during the 4 to 8 watch, our general alarm sounded, and depth charges were dropped. The commodore had signaled by flag hoist that enemy subs were in the area.  No ships were hit, no subs sighted.

Mr. Dorsey spent hours copying news and weather synopsis from various coastal stations and slowly, very slowly, improved. The convoy continued east, then southeast until we reached Gibraltar. We had continuous air cover with no U-boat attacks, only stormy weather to plague us.

The convoy formed two columns and threaded its way through the straits into the Mediterranean. The seas continued rough, but moderated as we neared the coast of France. One of our escorting corvettes sighted a floating mine, which it set off with gun fire. The explosion was very impressive.

The Marseille pilot anchored us inside the submarine nets for the night. We kept a sharp lookout for mines but spotted no others. The next morning we steamed a few miles west to Port du Bouc where a tug pushed us alongside for offloading cargo.

It was good to walk on solid land again. Before getting to the end of the wharf I spotted a US Army dentist with a treadle operated dental drill. He had set up on the wharf expressly to fix any sailor’s teeth problems without charge. Perhaps he was just practicing, but I had a bad cavity from eating poor ship’s food for a couple of years. He drilled out and filled the cavity without pain killer. I made up for the lack of pain killer a short time later on shore.

After discharging we sailed across the Mediterranean to the North African port of Oran, Algeria to load ballast for the trip back to America. Oran was hot and dirty. The Casbah was decidedly not inviting. I bought a fez as a souvenir and returned to the ship.

We joined a westbound convoy and proceeded through the Straits of Gibraltar into the Atlantic where the seas became rough. We maintained our position in the convoy for three very-rough-weather days. On the third day into the Atlantic, we learned that a large crack was developing starting at the rail on the port side between number 4 hold and the ‘tween deck tanks. The


…continued on page 8


Voyage Eight   …continued from page 7

entire crew took turns watching this development. The crack measured about 4 inches at the rail and progressed down the side of the ship. Captain Egar notified the Commodore (via Aldis lamp) that we had a developing problem. The return message came a couple of hours later diverting us to Bermuda.

We immediately left station in the convoy, slowed down to 5 knots and set course for Bermuda some 400 miles away. The next day the rough seas subsided. Due to our slower speed reducing strain on the hull, the crack did not widen further. After watching it carefully for another day, the Captain sent a coded message. The answer came via a coded BAMS that instructed us to proceed to New Orleans.

The seas remained reasonably calm as we approached the coast without enemy contact. On April 11, 1945, we picked up the pilot and headed up the Mississippi .

The Mississippi delta results from alluvial deposits deposited by the river. It spreads out into a large area with at least ten passes into the Gulf of Mexico.

Since we would be in New Orleans in a matter of a few hours, I started to wash a shirt in my cabin basin. Suddenly our whistle gave a short blast signaling that we were altering our mid-channel course to starboard to pass another vessel port to port. I rushed out to see what was happening. The sun had set, and there was a ship moving down one of the passes towards the Gulf. It was difficult to see if she was in our pass or the next one over, but her lights were easily visible. The various passes bend and curve, and with the marsh grass between us and the other vessel, we couldn’t be sure where it was.

Since we did not hear a whistle response from the other vessel, the pilot gave two short blasts meaning we were altering to port and would pass starboard to starboard. Then we swung over to the west bank of the pass. Meanwhile, unknown to us, the other ship gave one blast on her whistle just as we were sending two blasts on ours. The approaching ship had moved down stream and was also hugging the west bank.

She was now a quarter of a mile from us and clearly in our pass. We were almost over to the west bank when the other ship blew the danger signal (5 shorts followed by a long blast). We were then only a few hundred feet apart and a collision was inevitable. We blew the danger signal, reversed engines, and started to move out into the stream, but the other vessel hit us about 20 feet aft of the stem on the port side. There was an earthquake-like shock, and our stern swung over to the opposite bank and chewed into a shack with shingles and chickens flying all over. What a mess!

The other ship was the SS Arthur Newell Talbot, a ferro-cement vessel on her maiden voyage. She sank to the bottom of the pass with her decks still about four


feet above water. A lot of shouting and confusion followed on the Talbot with a lot of flowery speech coming out of our wheel house. We took off most of the Talbot’s crew, and I transmitted wireless messages for the Captain and Pilot. It was agreed that when we made our second whistle signal, the Talbot was making her first one so we didn’t hear it. Neither ship had a whistle light which illuminates the steam when the whistle blows.

About 11 a.m. the next day a tug showed up to tow us up river to a big shipyard in New Orleans. The Talbot effectively blocked the South Pass for several months. The hole in our side resembled the entrance to the Holland Tunnel.

The collision occurred just south of Pilot Town and below Depot Point Light. I was present at the Coast Guard inquiry and have a copy of Lt. Cmdr. Levine’s (USCGR) explanation. Levine was the pilot on our ship.

The Richardson went into dry dock for repairs. A steel belt would be welded all the way around the hull, but I didn’t stay to watch.

Most of the crew were anxious to get paid off and depart. This included Mr. Dorsey who was apprehensive about leaving the ship in New Orleans because of his being black. In those days (spring 1945) there was still some remnants of apartheid. After Dorsey had been paid off he asked me if I would go with him to the RR Station which I was happy to do. He Calmed down after getting his ticket to NYC. I stayed in New Orleans for several days for the hearing.

The next time I saw Dorsey was in New York City. He was sitting on a bench in City Hall Park as I walked from the subway to the ACA Union Hall on Beekman Street. There was Dorsey taking a little sun sitting with a friend. He jumped up and pumped my hand greeting me with great enthusiasm. He said there was a long waiting list for radio operators at the Union Hall, but he knew the dispatcher (also black) so I had a ship within an hour.

She was the Liberty ship William D. Byron waiting for me in Philadelphia for my ninth (9th) and last voyage of World War II.



A university creative writing class was asked to write a concise essay containing these four elements:


1)  Religion

2)  Royalty

3)  Sex

4)  Mystery


The prize-winning essay read:

"My God," said the Queen.  "I'm pregnant.  I wonder who did it?"





7/3/45 to 8/15/45

by Bill Devoe (W3PMS) R-019

Back in 1943, after graduating from Gallups Island Radio School and receiving transportation to Philadelphia to await my first ship, I met a girl. Her sister was a hostess at the USO officer’s club in the Bellevue Stratford Hotel in downtown Philadelphia. I was staying at the YMCA while awaiting assignment for my first wartime voyage and walked over to the USO. There I met Benno and was invited to her home the following night in Germantown for a cocktail party, and that’s when I met her little sister, Bidsi.

Bidsi and I struck it off quite well, and in between the next eight voyages we got to know each other well enough to become engaged. Then on June 6, 1945, we were married, and honeymooned at Silver Bay on Lake George, NY. The Third Reich was collapsing, Hitler had shot himself, and VE Day had come but not gone. I thought that I could make another voyage or two and then quit the sea and go back to Lafayette College to finish my formal education.

At the end of Voyage Number Eight, I told how I had chanced to bump into Mr. William Dorsey, my assistant operator on the Liberty Ship Henry H. Richardson, while on my way to the ACA office in lower Manhattan.  He helped me find another ship quickly. It was another Liberty in Philadelphia where my bride was staying with her family.

On July 3, 1945, I signed articles on the William D. Byron, KVYP.  We sailed from Philadelphia through the Delaware and Chesapeake canal to Baltimore.  At Sparrows Point where we received some necessary repairs, an assistant radio operator came on board. He was an USN radioman 1st class by the name of Tommy Verchon, good looking and far from his home in West Virginia.  We had a few days while the Bethlehem Yard made repairs so I invited Tommy to my home in Tenafly, NJ for a long weekend. I wanted him to meet my kid sister, Louise, but nothing came of it.

I had expectations for a peaceful sea voyage never dreaming that our ship wouldn’t ever make it back home again.

We sailed from Baltimore on July 7, down the Chesapeake to Cape Charles and then independently, south along the coast rounding Florida at Dry Tortugas and then up to Pensacola where we loaded a cargo of coal for Italy. We departed Pensacola July 17, 1945, and sailed a great circle course to Gibraltar.

Initially we were bound for Naples, but as we neared Gibraltar I received a wireless message changing our

Destination to Leghorn then a few days later it was changed again to Savona, which is on the Rivera coast of Italy.

The Mediterranean was warm and calm, like a millpond as we made our way towards Savona. Our first landfall was Corsica, very mountainous, and the sea remained

calm. I saw many sea turtles floating on the surface with the tops of their carapaces dry from the warm sun. They swam away as the ship approached. We had been warned to be on the lookout for floating mines, but we saw none until the morning of our arrival at Savona.  There were Italian patrol craft a few miles off the coast, and they warned us of mines in the area as we approached. We did not see any, but one of the patrol ships detonated one a few miles away. The resulting geyser of seawater from the explosion was spectacular.

It was my 23rd birthday on August 11 when we picked up the pilot and were alongside and unloading that afternoon. Savona had special coal unloading gantrys with railcars being shuttled back and forth on the dock to receive the coal. The unloading operation was efficient, and we were empty in 50 hours. A tug helped us away from the dock, and we crept out past the breakwater to anchor in a mine-free area. This was on August 14, the day that Japan surrendered.

That afternoon, the Captain and I went ashore in a harbor taxi to receive sailing instructions. We had not yet heard that Japan had surrendered, but we knew it was imminent. We were instructed to proceed to Naples for a cargo of war supplies for the pacific effort. We were also told that due to the many floating mines in the area we must wait until daylight before proceeding, and that it was essential to keep a very sharp lookout.

When we were back aboard, Captain Martin told me that I must set a radio watch at midnight because we would be leaving shortly thereafter. I told him that we should await daybreak, but he said he wanted to get to Naples before nightfall, otherwise we would have to wait outside, and he insisted that I set the radio watch. The Second mate grabbed me, and revealed that the Captain had ordered him to set a course for Naples departing at 0100, and that he, the Captain, had a girlfriend waiting for him in Naples. The Second Mate told the Captain that we needed daylight to watch out for mines, but to no avail.

At 0000 ship’s time on August 15, I set radio watch with Tommy Verchon in the shack and then tuned the SW receiver to the BBC and piped the news into the Crew’s mess. It was all about the end of the war with Japan. I was lying in my bunk listening to the BBC announcer when I heard and felt the vibration of the anchor chain. We were upping anchor and getting underway in the black of night.

At about 0230 that morning, we hit the first mine. It was


…continued on page 16



GIRA IN LAS VEGAS 1st, 2nd, & 3rd OCTOBER 2001

by Bob Mitchell

Save your nickels, guys and girls. Las Vegas is looming for 2001, during the idyllic autumnal weather of October 1st, 2nd, and 3rd.  Notice that these dates are during the week when hotel room rates are half of that on the more popular weekends.

We have “cast off the dock lines and are under steam.”  Buddy Diebold of Branson Music Tours has started preliminary work for our reunion in 2001. It is somewhat early to provide you with firm data, but the venue will be the Sams Town Hotel. From feedback about the Branson reunion, we have insisted upon a “sit-down” dinner. Reservations must be made directly with the hotel using an 800 number, which is standard operating procedure.  Branson Music Tours has an “in” with a travel service (also an 800 number) that will provide us with the best possible transportation rates. I’ll have updates in future Spark Gaps to keep you all fully informed.

Buddy needs to know how many plan to attend—at least a “ball park figure” so that he can reserve the appropriate number of hotel rooms. Remember fellows, you may possibly be able to find a hotel down the street that is a buck or two cheaper, but SamsTown will be furnishing us with a no-cost hospitality room, meeting rooms, and a banquet room. And it’s great to be all together which is what a reunion is all about. Please send me an E-mail (bobw2csl@webzone.net) or a postcard to 21441 East Street, Broken Arrow, OK 74014. I’ll make the count and forward it to Buddy. If you wish to call (918) 355-3907, do so between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. Central time. Owing to the many calls I normally receive, I cannot call you back.

We realize it is difficult to firm-up your plans for October 2001 so far in advance, but it will sure help us plan the very best reunion we can do if you give us your thoughts NOW or ASAP.

GIRA president Bud Guntner (both he and President George Washington were surveyors) has sent me a list of GIRAers who live in Las Vegas. I welcome any input from them as to the activities that may be of special interest to us all.

I’m told that it is NOT TRUE that there are slot machines in the heads. (seems an oversight inasmuch as they’re everywhere else).

73s from Bob (R-34) and Virginia Mitchell.



The Gallups Island Radio Association Internet web-site


Don Wagner, our webmaster, recently received a lot of great suggestions on how to improve the GIRA website, and many of them have been implemented.  There is now a photo gallery, a radio schedule, a link to sign-up for the Gallups Islander Community, and lots of new links. The website is growing fast.  Check out the GIRA home page:




The URL is case sensitive so the B in Blade and the R in Runner must be upper case, and that is an UNDERLINE between Blade and Runner, NOT a DASH.






By Robert H. Mitchell  R034

Emil O. Nass was a crusty, laconic old Norwegian who had progressed from bosun (boatswain) carrying a whip on a Norwegian sailing ship to Captain of the Liberty ship SS John Wise. He never smiled, spoke only when spoken to, and everybody on board was terrified of him.

We had been ordered to Bristol Roads and taken on the pilot, Captain Bowden. Captain Bowden was now in command of the ship as we proceeded slowly towards dropping the anchor.

Captain Nass was very particular as to whom he permitted on the flying bridge. In addition to himself, he tolerated the mate on watch, the helmsman, the signalman, the gunnery officer, and the chief radio officer. Anyone else got a scathing order to get the hell below.

We were doing, perhaps, two or three knots when the pilot looked to starboard and noticed off our mid-ships the Panamanian tanker Franz Klasen apparently heading for the same anchorage but on a collision course. So the pilot said, “little left helmsman.”

“Little left sir.”

I was watching the helmsman who was holding the spokes of the wheel on the top, and I saw spokes go from LEFT to RIGHT. Doubting what I saw, I said to the gunnery officer, Lt. JG, Frank Pendleton, “Frank, for the love of God don’t take your eyes off the wheel.”

By now the Klasen seemed to be converging on us a bit more, so again the pilot ordered, “a little more left, helmsman.”

Again he answered, “little more left, Sir.”

Then I asked Pendleton, “did he turn the wheel the wrong way?”

“He sure did!” Pendelton confirmed.

Then I screamed, “Skipper, he’s turning the wheel the wrong way!”

Instantaneous reaction! The Captain bounded onto the platform that held the wheel, and with a mighty sweep of his hand knocked the helmsman away. The Pilot, the Captain, Pendleton, and I swung the wheel hard left.

But it was too late.

The Klason’s bow hit us on the starboard side in number two hold. That rolled us away from her, but our forward motion also caused her to give us a gash in both number 2 and number 3 holds.

After all these years I don’t remember how long it was before Nass had us all assembled in his cabin. He said more in a few minutes than he usually spoke in a week. “That was an accident. We are at war. If we tell the board of inquiry that the wheel was turned the wrong way, it will probably mean the helmsman will be in deep trouble. It will ruin his life. Let’s just say we don’t know what happened. I’ll have the helmsman up here in my cabin, and I’ll tell him what to say.”

So we all had to go to an Admiralty board of inquire, and when we got back to Baltimore, a Coast Guard board simply wrote it off as “an accident of war.”

Maybe Captain Nass wasn’t so bad after all. You decide!

Captain Bowden, the pilot, introduced me to his daughter, Mary, and while patches were being welded over the holes, we enjoyed dinners, movies, and other nice things in southern Wales with Mary acting as a delightful guide.

During wars, mishaps and accidents are often forgiven, but in peace-time if a Captain’s ship is damaged, he generally is out, usually at the insistence of the insurance company. I was on ancient tanker (built in Scotland in 1908) during WWII. If my memory is correct, to turn the old ship right, the wheel was turned to the left and vice versa. And there were no auxiliary motors to move the rudder. Could the helmsman have been used to such a system?

If nothing else Captain Nass was laconic—“of few words.”  It comes from Laconia (southern Greece) where Sparta was the capital. Phillip of Macedon in fourth century BC threatened Sparta, “If I enter Laconia, I will level Lacedaemon (Sparta) to the ground.” The Spartans’ reply, “IF.”

A more recent example was in WWII when U.S. Army General Anthony McAuliffe replied to the German commander’s demand that he surrender his forces at Bastogne. The press and a subsequent movie reported that the general replied, “Nuts.”

But we all know that the general didn’t use the word “Nuts.” Like all other good Americans, he would have used two words “f--- you!”



A friend has reservations for a long-planned trip to Tahiti with Air France (Take a chance with Air France, as we used to say). Their tickets cost more than a thousand dollars each. He learned from his son who works for American Airlines that if prices on tickets that you are holding subsequently drop, you can get the new price, but only if you call in and request it.

He has called several times, and now the ticket prices have dropped to $550 round trip.

He has since called a number of other airlines asking

If they honored the reduced rates. All told him the same thing: “Yes, but only if you call in and request it.” However they won’t notify ticket holders of changes.

They (at least most) will give you a refund in cash at the ticket counter when you check in.   Bon voyage.



Make your reservation now for the GIRA Reunion 2000.

Call Sheraton Braintree at 1-800-325-3535



by Homer Gibson

The FCC Special Counsel for Amateur Radio Enforcement, Riley Hollingsworth, hinted he might have to break bad on hard-core offenders this year. He explained that poor or lax FCC enforcement in the past led him to be more forgiving of rule-breakers during his first full calendar year in the enforcement chair.  Now, those who persist in operating outside of the stated basis and purpose of Amateur Radio  “are beginning to try our patience,” he said. “I can’t say we’re going to be as compassionate this year.”

Hollingsworth said he expected to continue his focus on incursions into the 10-meter band by unlicensed operators, especially as propagation gets better, and on equipment certification issues. “We’re very concerned about the illegal equipment we see for sale at hamfests,” he explained.

Overall, however, malicious interference remains “the basic problem,” as he put it. “We’re going to use the High-Frequency Direction Finding Center at Laurel, Maryland more this year to track down rule-breakers,” he said. In addition, Hollingsworth now has enhanced monitoring tools at his Gettysburg office, allowing him access to the HFDF Center’s 14 antenna fields plus VHF-UHF “pods” that can be moved around as necessary. “We have dial-in capabilities to all of our antenna fields and to the pods, so we can cover HF, UHF, and VHF anywhere in the country, right here from the Gettysburg office,” he explained.

“It’s a force multiplier, so to speak,” Hollingsworth said of the new capabilities.


ARRL Seeking Partial reconsideration

from ARRL Letter

The ARRL seeks partial reconsideration on two points in the Amateur Radio License restructuring plan announced by the FCC December 30.  Both points involve the way the new FCC plan deals with Technician Class licensees. The new FCC rules become effective 15 April.

The League will ask the FCC to continue to maintain records that indicate whether a Technician licensee has passed a Mores code exam to earn Novice/Tech Plus HF privileges. Under the current system, the license class of Technicians is designated by a “T” in the FCC’s amateur database, and of Tech Plus licensees by a “P.”  Under the FCC’s restructuring plan, Technician and Tech Plus licensees will all be known simply as “Technician.” The ARRL asserts the change will eliminate any easy way to tell which licensees have passed the Morse code exam and which have not.

The FCC has said that it would be up to Technician licensees, if asked, to prove that they have successfully passed the code test. The ARRL plans to ask the FCC to stipulate that any amateur who provides proof of having passed an FCC-recognized Morse code exam prior to 15 April would be entitled to receive credit for the Morse code exam element when applying for future upgrades. The FCC has indicated to the ARRL that after 15 April, code credit for Technician applicants passing the code test would not survive beyond the 365-day term of a Certificate of Successful Completion of Examination.

Under both the present and new rules, anyone who held a Technician license before 14 February 1991, has permanent credit for the Morse code element, but others do not.


FCC ULS Opens to Hams


The FCC's Universal Licensing System (ULS) opened its doors to Amateur Radio. The ULS ushers in an era of electronic, interactive filing and handling of Amateur Radio applications and marks a major change in the way Amateur Radio applicants will deal with the FCC. It also means the demise of the familiar paper FCC Form 610 series in favor of the ''universal'' Form 605--primarily designed for electronic use but also available on paper. To register electronically, visit http://www.fcc.gov/wtb/uls/


Paper forms are available at http://www.fcc.gov/formpage.html or by calling

800-418-FORM (3676).


Click on this for a good reception of the site about ham radio electronic filing:




GIRA Amateur Radio Net Schedule

EST SSB Schedule

75 meters…3920 khz…MTWTFS…0700…K2LOT

75 meters…3920 khz…Sun…0800…K2LOT

80 meters…3549 khz…Wed…1930…K1CK

40 meters…7267 khz…Tue & Thu…1245…W3DOF

CST SSB Schedule

20 meters…14307 khz…Mon & Fri…1345…W3HUV

20 meters…14307 khz…Wed…1400…N5MPL



Regional Directors are listed below:



Region 1

William Anderson

74 Depot Road, Box 61

East Kingston, NH  03827-0061



Region 2

John Dziekan

137 West 8th Street

Bayonne, NJ  007002-1204



Region 3

William Fogleman

P.O. Box 2713

Gulf Shore, AL  36547



Region 4

William Yount

309 Paul Sawyier Drive

Frankfort, KY  40601-2952



Region 5

William Wittkowski

P.O. Box 549

Carlisle, IA  50047



Region 6

Lacy Williams

406 Maple

Richardson, Tx  75081



Region 7

John J. Ward

49220 North 26th Avenue

New River, AZ  85087-8080



Region 8

Eugene Harp

3617 Hawthorne Avenue

Eugene, OR  97402



Region 9

Edward Wilder

P.O. Box 4409

Crestline, CA  92325-4409



Region 10

Don Runmark

3035 Quail Avenue North

Golden Valley, MN  55422






By  JJ

q       Sultry actress Hedy Lamarr  (born Hedwig Kiesler in Vienna) 86, died last January in Orlando, Florida. She once said “Any girl can be glamorous. All she has to do is stand still and look stupid.” But stupid, Ms. Lamarr wasn’t. She held patents that were forerunners of some electronic marvels of today. In a eulogy Bob Hope (himself now a nonagenarian) said, “during a dinner with Hedy Lamarr, I gave one of my greatest acting performances ever by pretending I was interested in the food.” In the mid-fifties by pure happenstance, I met Ms. Lamarr at the airport in Amarillo, Texas. She was en route to Dallas to see her then husband, a Texas “oilman,” one of her six marriages. In those days there weren’t direct flights to everywhere. On the brief stopover in Amarillo she walked over to chat with several of us wasting time outside the terminal as naturally as if we’d been old friends. To the group’s credit, nobody asked for an autograph. Then at 40 she was perhaps beyond her prime, but still beautiful. Wanting to touch this icon, I offered my best wishes, and she took my hand and gave me an iceberg-melting smile before returning to the aircraft by climbing up the steps of the boarding ramp. She was often described as reserved, smart, and beautiful. But as my encounter proved, she could also be gracious and easygoing. A beautiful lady well met.


q       Jean MacArthur, General Douglas MacArthur’s widow, died in January 2000 at age 101 in New York City. When General MacArthur was relieved from duty during the Korean War, I was on a C-4 freighter converted to a troop transport that brought back their long-time family employees, a lovable and undemanding group. The MacArthurs had departed earlier in more posh accommodations.  Mrs. MacArthur met the ship and graciously thanked us for taking “such good care of her ‘family members’ and bringing them home safely.”  The General wasn’t with her.

q       Colonel John Paul Stapp, “Fastest Man on Earth” died at 89. On 10 December 1954, Stapp became “the fastest man on earth” (this doesn’t include aircraft and rockets) in a pioneering rocket sled experiment that accelerated to 632 MPH in five seconds and then brought to a complete halt in 1.4 seconds. The experiment’s purpose was to study effects of bailing out from supersonic aircraft. His medical research led to myriad innovations in seatbelts and safety devices. However, his recommendation to face the seats in passenger aircraft rearward was rejected. His landmark speed record put him on the cover of TIME magazine. His busy career earned him many honors including the National Medal of Technology presented by President Bush in 1991.  His work in high-altitude balloons with Col Joseph Kittinger led Stapp to develop lifelike human dummies that probably were the source of the Roswell “aliens.”  Reportedly, in a jet sled experiment, Col. Stapp was assisted by a Capt. Edward A. Murphy, Jr., who managed to hook up all the sensors incorrectly making the 1949 sled ride a complete failure. Capt. Murphy remarked, “If there are two or more ways to do something and one results in catastrophe, then someone will do it that way.” This statement evolved into the well known Murphy’s Law, “If Something Can Go Wrong, It Will“


q       Victor Serebriakoff, one of those most responsible for starting American Mensa, died January 1, 2000 just barely making it into the new millennium. Mensa, the high IQ society (top 2 percent) was conceived by two British barristers with the idea of the “brightest” making suggestions for helping political leaders with their myriad problems. A naïve endeavor, indeed. Quickly they learned that their politicians, like ours, weren’t interested in advice nearly as much as the color of money (contributions). Mensa is now a worldwide organization with the majority of the members American. Recently when Mensa invited Senators and Congress members to being tested for IQ, there were no takers. At least they showed good judgement there.



1.  We know a nautical mile is approximately 6080 feet, but what does it represent?

2.  What do the initials SS, MS, and MV mean?

3.  What are three (3) nautical miles up, down, or horizontally called?

4.  What is the nautical term for the distance between the ship’s keel and the water surface?

5.  What do the initials RMS mean?

6.  What is the ceiling of any ship’s room called?

7.  What is the measure of length, containing six feet, used to determine the depth of water, called?

8.  What part of the ship is the bow?

9.  What are the walls of a ship called?

10. What is the term used when the dock lines are let go and the ship is ready to move?

11. What is the instrument called that determines the course of a ship called?

12. The instrument used for measuring the pressure or weight of the atmosphere is called what?

13. The scale for recording the wind force at sea is called?

14. Where is the pertinent information regarding the ship’s position, speed, course, arrivals, departures, and myriad other information recorded?

15. What is the wheel that controls the rudder called?

16. If you are facing aft on the left side of the ship are you on the port or starboard side?

17. What is the middle of the ship called?

18. If you threw a ten-foot rope ladder with the rungs 12 inches apart that just touches the water’s surface and the tide rises a foot an hour, how far up the ladder will the water be in 5 hours?

19. Where is the prime meridian?

20. Where is Midway Island?  Careful! It may not be where you think.

21. Bonus question. What is the easternmost state in the union (U.S.)?

Answers on page 19



By Bill Hultgren  (from VWOA)

Liberty Ships sold by the United States Government after WWII.  These ships helped to rebuild the decimated Allied merchant fleets at war’s end. Many were resold one or more times after their initial sale by the U. S. Government. Many Liberty Ships continued in service for two decades after the end of WWII.


226  sold to privately owned U. S. companies

136  sold to Great Britain

100 sold to Greece

95 sold to Italy

76    sold to France (20 went to France in repayment for their huge liner Normandy, burned in New York)

61 sold to Panama

46 sold to Norway

36 Sent to Russia under Lend-Lease, but were never returned. Sans thanks.

28 sold to Holland

16 sold to Honduras

10 sold to Nationalist China

8  sold to Denmark

7  sold to Belgium

2 sold to Argentina

2 sold to Finland

2 sold to Sweden

1 sold to Poland

1 sold to Spain


Not counting the ones given to the USSR, this is a total of 853 ugly ducklings (Liberty ships) that did much to rebuild the decimated fleets of all these nations. They were remarkable bargains at the time for the price of $500,000 each or less than half the cost of their construction and when nothing else was available. The “law of supply and demand” seemed to have been ignored.  No data is available as to how much of this $413,500,000 sales total was ever paid off. In WWI only little Finland ever repaid its loans from the U.S.



Visit the website of “Project Liberty Ship”, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of the Liberty ship SS John W. Brown.  They have a big selection of books, patches, photos, and videos.

They even offer cruises aboard the Brown.

Call (410) 558-0646 for the Ship’s store,  (410) 558-0164 to book a cruise, or visit their website:





Voyage Nine   …continued from page 9

a terrific explosion. There was a heavy fan on the bulkhead across from my bunk, and suddenly that fan was in my gut. It took about 37 seconds for me to get dressed, put on life jacket and arrive at the radio room (maybe even less time than that!). The shack was total chaos. The filing cabinet drawers were hanging open, and all the spare parts were on the floor. Verchon was shaking violently so I told him to go up to the flying bridge for instructions. Meanwhile, the ship had stopped and had taken a list to starboard.

I got things under control in the shack, and since Verchon didn’t come back I blew through the voice tube, and the first mate answered. He told me the Captain was in shock, but that I should call for a tug to tow us back into Savona. He didn’t think we were in danger of sinking.

At about 0330 I called FFM at Marseilles on 500 KC, but received no answer. I tried several other coastal stations to no avail, and so set the auto alarm into operation. Shortly a British ship out in the Med answered. He was very helpful, and said he would relay my request for a tug to Malta (VPT) who had an undersea cable to Marseilles. In another few minutes I received word that a tug was on its way from Marseilles with an ETA of 1200. The problem with my not being able to contact Marseilles direct was due to the approaching dawn and the repositioning of the Heaviside layer.

I blew through the voice tube to relay the good news, but got no response so I left the shack and climbed up the stairway to the flying bridge. The Captain had a white knuckle grip on the railing and said nothing. The First Mate took the message and told me the engine room was partly flooded, and that we would drop anchor to await the tug.

I started down the ladder when the second mine hit throwing me down the stairs and drenching me in fuel oil. I can still remember the extremely strong smell of cordite. Bunker oil covered the ladder and me. The ship immediately took a list to port.

I worked my way back to the radio room, mopping oil from my face and eyes. I soon learned that Tommy Verchon and someone else had been standing by their lifeboat when the second mine exploded. They both had life jackets on, and both were tossed overboard. I didn’t wait for further instructions but called Marseilles again, and this time, they answered. I reported our situation and location just off the coast at Savona, and that the second explosion had put two men in the water. By this time the sun was up and visibility was unrestricted. About half an hour after my contact with FFM (Marseilles) a Catalina roared overhead and landed on the calm sea. Both men were picked up. I never saw Verchon again, but know he was rescued.


There was much confusion on board as the Byron slowly settled. The port list became more extreme as we took on water. It was a long morning before the tug arrived. Meanwhile the crew had decided to get off the ship and lowered the lifeboats and two large rafts. The Chief Engineer asked me if I were staying on board until the tug arrived, and I told him “of course.” He needed someone to help secure the towline. I don’t know where the Captain was, probably in one of the boats. I think that the Chief and I were the only ones on board when the tug arrived. Meanwhile we had sent up flares, but no one on shore, only a few miles away, responded. The probably thought we were celebrating the end of the war.

Finally, about 1500, the tug arrived and passed a line to us. We were pretty low in the water, but it looked as if we would make it back to Savona. After dragging the towing cable from the tug and securing to a stanchion up forward we signaled the tug to start the tow. As soon as tension was applied to the towline, the Byron started a very slow rollover. The chief and I climbed up the bulwarks and, as the ship slowly turned over, we walked down the side and stepped onto a life raft.

It took us at least an hour to paddle over to the breakwater and another hour to make our way along the breakwater to the shore.  Meanwhile the tug still had a towline on the ship, but she was obviously a total loss. The last time that I saw the William D. Byron she had turned turtle with her bottom awash and the tug straining on the towline.

There was a gathering of the officers and crew in the dock master’s office. The Chief Engineer seemed to be in charge, and Captain Martin was nowhere to be seen. There was another Liberty ship in Savona, the Morris C. Feinstone, about to depart for Naples, and arrangements had been made for all of us to go on board for the short trip down the coast. The Chief asked me to take charge of the eight crew.  I had nothing but my wallet of seaman’s papers and my oil soaked clothes. The radio operator on the Feinstone kindly cashed a personal check for me so I had $25 U.S., but that was all. Unfortunately, I don’t remember his name. The situation was chaotic. Just before embarking, I was able to get my FCC license endorsed by Captain Martin. He gave me an “Excellent” rating.

When we arrived at Naples, the Red Cross rep came on board. He informed me that he had no jurisdiction over merchant sailors, and that I must find the War Shipping Administration Representative. Meanwhile, my gang of eight crewmembers had dwindled to six, and I had to find someplace for them to stay until I could locate the WSA man.

Naples in August was a hot and humid city with lots of activity. I made my way to a central square where a


…continued on page 17



Voyage Nine   …continued from page 16

quonset hut had been set up for meals for GI’s working the area. The Sergeant in charge was very helpful. He told me my men could come in for free chow anytime, and suggested a place for them to stay. When the crew found out that they would be bivouacked in the red light district they shook my hand and thanked me profusely.

I went back to the docks and found Louis Ward, the WSA man. He gave me a certificate of travel authorization to embark as a repatriated American Merchant Seaman on the SS John Fiske. He also arranged for me to stay at a hotel on the Piazza Garibaldi. The John Fiske, a Liberty converted to a troop transport, was scheduled to sail on August 23, 1945, about four days hence.

I had my meals at the Quonset hut. The Army was very generous, realizing that we had no resources at all. There was a U.S. Air Base northwest of the city, and the Mess Sergeant said that if I went there they might be able to fix me up with some clothing. The hotel where I was staying was a second class one so I was scratching bites from body lice plus itching from my oil stained clothing. I set out for the two-mile walk up the hills to the Air Base. Those guys were as generous as could be. I had a delousing bath, a complete set of clothes including combat shoes, and a satisfying meal before walking back to town. Things were looking up.

I did have to buy my ticket for passage on the John Fiske, but payment was deferred until I arrived back to the USA and got paid off. My pay, of course, stopped when the ship went down, and the bonus was to help defer expenses incurred in getting home. I still have the ticket. It was issued by American Export Lines, Inc., Augusto Dresda, Agent. The ticket was issued at Naples, Italy on 22 August 1945, and states that “Fare to be charged to operator Dickman, Wright & Pugh, Inc.” DW&P were the operators of the William D. Byron.

We sailed as scheduled on August 23. The ship was fully loaded with GIs returning from the war in Italy. I had two meals a day and my own bunk, but many of the soldiers had to hot bunk it due to space limitations. The trip home was uneventful. I played gin rummy all the way across the Atlantic with an Army Colonel. We were at it all day long, and I think I wound up winning something from him. If it wasn’t for his deck of cards we would have been bored to tears.

It was a very slow but comfortable voyage through calm seas. We arrived at Staten Island, NYC on August 9, 1945 after 17 days at sea. My 30 days survivor leave was up on October 9, 1945. I wanted out of the Merchant Marine, and since I had more than enough time I expected no problem. I also resigned from the USN Reserve at the same time.

My wife and I moved to Easton, PA, and I enrolled as a sophomore at Lafayette College. Housing was extremely tight, but we had a room at the State Police barracks in Easton. Then, on February 21, 1945, I received my notice of classification to 1-A from my Draft Board, and shortly thereafter a notice to report for a physical examination. On March 5, 1945, I appeared before the Draft Board in Tenafly, NJ, and told them what I had been doing.

They asked that I put it all in a letter, so I dictated to my wife, and we typed it up right then and there. The board reviewed the letter, and the president said that they were proud of me, that I had served my country well, that I was a hero in their eyes, and that, of course, I would not be drafted. I graduated from Lafayette with an engineering degree in 1949.



Wow! What a grand finale to an exciting seagoing career! Many thanks to Bill for his very fascinating wartime memoirs. As classmates in R-19 on Gallups Island we went on a number of memorable weekend liberties together including one to his home in Tenafly, NJ visiting his gracious family.

Thanks to GIRA I was able to re-establish contact with Bill and a number of other R-19ers after a half-century. Regrettably so many others seemed to disappear into thin air. But time and space does that.

Bill pointed out that at the end of the story of his Fourth Wartime Voyage wherein he’d mentioned encountering Portuguese man-o-wars in the Sargasso Sea, and I’d confused them with “graceful sea birds.” As Bill points out, they are actually fierce jellyfish with numerous 10-feet long tentacles. That’s conservative according to Webster description: Oceanic Hydrozoans of the genus Physalia, having a sail-like crest buoying them up and tentacles with stinging cells that dangle from 40 to 165 feet. Sounds like something out of science fiction.

On my first ship while sailing through the Caribbean Sea, I pointed to a huge bird gliding effortlessly overhead and exclaimed, “look! An albatross!”

The bosun, an ancient mariner who seemed old enough in the eyes of an 18-year old to have crewed on Noah’s Ark, gave me a disdainful look and declared, “taint no such thing. That there’s a Portuguese man-o-war.”  Actually what I pointed out was a “ frigate bird” that is indeed a member of the albatross family, and is also called a “man-o-war” but without the Portuguese prefix that identifies the grotesque jellyfish described above. Giving a choice, I’d take the bird in a New York minute.






by JJ

Each spring the Arizona National Guard Association has a convention, usually alternating venues between Phoenix and Tucson. On Saturday morning while the various State Guard units held their general business meeting, there was a luncheon for the members’ wives. Then I came along, and they had to change it to “the Spouses’ Luncheon.” Usually it was attended by about 200 ladies and one (briefly there were two) male. General Smith, the Adjutant, often joked about changing positions with me for the day.

A decade or more ago the convention was in Phoenix at the Crescent Hotel wherein Senator McCain was to be the speaker at the business meeting, and Mrs. McCain, his wife, would address the Spouse’s Luncheon. As we were getting settled, Helen who managed the base exchange and always organized these activities, came over and said, “JJ, see that man sitting on the table in the hall outside the entrance?” When I nodded, she continued, “Go out and bring him in.”

The bewildered looking man turned out to be a Marine from the Air Base in Yuma on hand for some ceremony during the evening banquet. The luncheon tables were big enough to accommodate ten or twelve people each, and we joined a group near the center of the big room. After we got settled, somebody at an adjacent table said loudly, “Well at least we should get one of them.”

It sounded reasonable to me. Like the greener grass on the other side of the fence, the girls at the next table seem to look prettier. So I started to get up. The Marine grabbed me with a vice-like grip and in a low, firm voice, demanded. “JJ, don’t even think about leaving me here alone.”

Surprised, I said, “I didn’t think you marines were afraid of anything.”

“I’d rather charge a machinegun than be left here with them all by myself.”

While there may not have been any tens or even nines among them, there were a lot of sixes, sevens, and eights. “But they’re mostly pretty,” I pointed out.

“Well, yeah, but that makes it even worse,” he shot back without loosening his grip on my arm. So the seating arrangements remained unchanged.

Mrs. McCain failed to keep her speech engagement that morning inasmuch as her expected baby decided to arrive somewhat early. (Must be a teenager by now) The Senator did make the business meeting but a bit behind schedule.

So instead of a talk from Mrs. McCain, we got a substitute lady who discussed and demonstrated the best techniques for putting on makeup. During the


question and discussion period following, I foolishly wondered aloud why women didn’t burn their makeup kits along with their bras and save a lot of time in the morning and  tons of money on cosmetics. I pointed out that their beauty standings would remain virtually unchanged: The beautiful ones would still be beautiful, the pretty still pretty, and the plain, well plain. The suggestion wasn’t well received, and for a minute, I suspected that I might need the marine and some of his fellows for protection.

But all was forgiven when the moderator pointed out how lucky men were, not to be burdened with the daily chore of makeup application. But even this seems to be slowly changing today.



by JJ

In a speech to Western Diplomats in Moscow on November 18, 1956, Nikita Krushchev declared, “Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you.”   Today, of course, they couldn’t even come up with the shovels to get the job done.

Many Gallups Islanders made that awful trip one or more times around the top of the world to Murmansk and/or Archangel. The Germans were hurling everything they had—and it was a lot—to prevent the

convoys from getting through. Even without the enemy’s highly developed submarines, aircraft, and warships, the weather itself presented gargantuan problems especially to our merchant fleet consisting mostly of ancient vessels or new Liberties (an old design) built hurriedly by workers of limited experiences. Some of these succumbed to Mother Nature’s fury alone.

At its best Murmansk was frigid, dismal, dreary, and dull—as a liberty town, it ranked near the bottom. Today it is the most irradiated place on earth. Some 93 nuclear subs along with scores of nuclear-powered icebreakers and other surface vessels, lay rusting away and leaking radioactivity by ever increasing amounts. Geiger counters are displayed everywhere throughout the unlovely city.   What a waste!




“We Came From All Over, We Went Everywhere”,

a history of Gallups Island, is still available.  Call:

Turner Publishing Company

P.O. Box 3101

Paducah, KY  42002-3101






By John JJ Ward

*  We all know that Charles “Sparky” Schultz, the creator of the comic strip PEANUTS died recently. Schultz reportedly hated the name “Peanuts” but the title was forced upon him by the publishers. But did you that Howard “Hank” Clark of R-019 came up with the very successful idea of exporting the comic strip in Japanese and myriad other languages?  It became universally popular. The nickname “Sparky” is a mystery, apparently having nothing to do with marine radio.


*  Seven million U.S. pennies are thrown away each day

(Good news for the copper industry). Some 46 per cent of Americans ignore them lying on the ground. Most people pausing to pick them up do so because they’re supposed to bring good luck.


*  Florida’s tallest terrain is Britton Hill at an elevation of 345 feet.  The highest “peaks” in five states fall below 1000 feet. The other four are Rhode Island, Delaware, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Arizona’s highest is Mt. Humphery north of Flagstaff at 12,623 feet.


*  The combination "ough" can be pronounced in nine different ways.  The following sentence contains them all:  "A rough-coated, dough-faced, thoughtful ploughman strode through the streets of Scarborough; after falling into a slough, he coughed and hiccoughed."


*  “Not worth a farthing” was a common expression in the early part of this century meaning of little value or worthless. A farthing was 1/25th of an English (UK) penny. Arizona once had mils which were 1/10th of a U.S. penny. At one time they would actually bought something.  In 1863 a law was passed to standardize the U.S. currency. Before that, banks could, and routinely did, issue their own currency.


*  The French fought relentlessly for the Prime Meridian to pass through Paris, and the meeting of nations to vote on where it should be, stubbornly abstained.


*  When Bertram Russell was imprisoned for opposing Britain’s entry into the first World War (imagine being arrested for opposing that madness), the warden asked him his religion preference. Russell answered “agnostic” and at the warden’s request, he spelled it. Then the warden remarked, “well whatever our religion, I guess we all still worship the same God.”  Russell said this remark kept him laughing and in good spirits throughout his first week of confinement.


*  The shortest sentence in English is “I am”,

and the longest sentence is “I do”.


Answers to Nautical Terms Quiz  (from page 15)

1. One minute of arc (latitude) on the equator or one minute of arc (longitude) on any meridian

2. Steam ship. Motor ship. Motor vessel.

3. League

4. Draft

5. Royal Mail Ship

6. Deckhead

7. Fathom

8. The front

9. Bulkhead

10. Underway

11. Compass

12. Barometer

13. Beaufort scale

14. Ship’s log

15. Helm

16. Port

17. Midships

18. No change. The ship rises with the tide.

19. Greenwich/suburb of London.

20. Alaska. What is often referred to as Midway Island in Pacific are Sand Island (44 population) and Eastern Island (unoccupied).

21. Alaska. The Aleutians (part of the state) cross the International Date Line making it the eastern-most and the westernmost state.



Dr Sam is being married to Marjorie Buckley on April 9th.  This is a great occasion, and we wish all the best to the soon-to-be newlyweds.  Here is a short bio on Sam:  Dr. Samuel T. Hucke, R-015, M0303 was born and lived in Shepherd, Montana, until WWII. After Gallups, Hucke first shipped out from San Francisco on the SS Baldhill. Following WWII he flew out of Westover Field, MA to Europe with the Air Transport Command. He then entered the Univ. of Arkansas as a pre-med student and continued at the U of A’s medical school with a year in residency in Tulsa. He was drafted during the Korean War for 26 months as a doctor. Following Korea, Hucke was resident in general at the VA Teaching Hospital in Memphis.

He spent the rest of his career in the VA hospital in Fayetteville, retiring in 1986. He also retired from the Air Force reserve after 29 years.  Hucke lost his wife some years ago. He has three children, two of whom are doctors. The third, a Social Anthropologist, is married to a doctor. While in college he worked as broadcast engineer and as radio officer in summers of ’47 and ’50.





By Jim Hester, R88

It was another voyage on the USNT Mission Dolores from San Pedro to Yokohama in post war Japan with a load of mogas. We had made this run so often we referred to it as the “milk run”. Our occupation forces seemed to have an unquenchable thirst for gasoline.

We were well along with our discharging, and now a small Japanese tanker was coming alongside to hasten the discharge. We would be discharging both on the pier side and the sea side. I knew this would be our last night, so I talked to the captain, R.W. Bender, before going ashore. We had started having these talks prior to my going ashore after an embarrassing incident of a few trips ago.

On that occasion I relied on the sign at the gang plank for the departure time. But when I returned to the pier the next morning there was no Mission Dolores. A call to our Yokohama agent brought some fast action. A car was dispatched for me and I was taken to another location where a launch was waiting, and we made a fast trip out in the harbor to where the Mission Dolores was anchored. When we came alongside, most of the crew was peering down with sheepish grins on their faces, and Captain Bender was glowering down from the bridge. I scurried up the Jacob’s ladder, and as soon as I was on board, Bender bellowed out “Mr. Hester, are you ready to go to sea?” I responded with a subdued “Aye, aye, Sir” and hurried to the radio shack to get my departure messages off.

When we were well at sea, the captain came down to the radio shack, and before he could get a word spoken, I said “The sign at the gang plank said we were not to depart until this afternoon.” He abruptly turned, and without saying a word to me, went down to the Chief Mate’s quarters. I could overhear parts of the chewing out about estimating and posting departure times. But after that, I also consulted personally with the skipper before going ashore.

On this occasion I advised the skipper of which geisha house I would be in, and assured him I would be back by the time he set, and get all the paper work and departure messages attended to. Then I went ashore and caught the train to downtown Yokohama and then a taxi to the Omarudani district where my favorite geisha house was located.

I had known Mamasan, Papasan, Yoko, Keiko, Kazuko, and several other Kos for a long time, so it was just like going home when I visited them.  I would usually take the girls out to a cinema, then a restaurant for dinner, and finally back to the geisha house for one of those steaming hot Japanese baths and a little sake. Afterwards, I would take my favorite to her room and “minister “ to her. At the time I did not know I was ministering to the girls. It was not until fifty years later when First Lady Hillary Clinton described President Clinton’s relationship with Monica Lewenski as “ministering to that poor, confused Jewish lady” did I realized that I had been ministering to them. In retrospect, the nine seafaring years of my youth were largely devoted to ministering to young ladies, and some not so young, on six continents and a dozen islands. And I am proud to attest that my ministry was nondenominational, embracing all ethnic groups.

I awoke refreshed the next morning as ready for sea as one can be. I had a few refreshments, and then made my always tearful departure from the geisha house.

When I arrived at my train stop, a Japanese man with a big grin on his face said “Mission  Dolores blow up.”  I was not sure I had heard him right, and assumed that his English was inadequate.  However, when I got a bit farther along, I noticed that once again there was no Mission Dolores at the end of the pier. However, I did see it off to the left at anchor.  And to the right, at a much greater distance was the completely burned out hulk of the Japanese tanker.

I could see the crew aboard the Mission Dolores, so I hired a bum boat to take me out to it.  The skipper briefly filled me in, and assigned me the task of writing up a complete report for the Navy, Coast Guard, shipping company, and other interested parties.

Apparently the fire was started when a leak developed in the hose or hose connection on the Japanese vessel. A spray hit a cargo lamp on the Japanese vessel which was not vapor proof.  This was of course a serious violation of regulations, and although it was on the other vessel, many felt that our crew was lax in not noticing it before starting discharging. 





Dear JJ:

I just received my Autumn issue of the SPARK GAP and do wish to thank you for the excellent work. I am the guy who wore the blues issued to us at Gallups (at the last reunion). Since I was in R-105, I cannot share any war experiences, but do enjoy the stories of those who preceded me.

Since I live in Central Missouri at the large recreation area of the Lake of the Ozarks and am only two hours from Branson, I came only for Saturday inasmuch as I have “been there and done that.” Our area is more tended toward luxury retirement with many top golf facilities and jazz music. The LAKE is the biggest in Missouri or Arkansas, and is not a Federal project. It was built by Union Electric, and is privately owned. Contrary to the Corps of Engineer lakes, residents own their own lake front properties.

Back to my reason for writing. As I was reading through the SPARK GAP, I was instantly attracted to the picture of the dance band sent by Joe Gilmaker of R-95. There I sat in the middle of the three trumpets. Ironically, I had this picture with me at Branson, and set it up with the other items in the Hospitality Room. But as always, we tend to be so busy that Joe and I failed to make contact. I needed to get back to my business so I’d arrived at 7 a.m. and left at 5 p.m.

The Mel Cromptons and Martin Clarkes were from R-105, and we had a good visit. Mel and Elbert Gibbs of Rhonert Park, California had visited me in 1997. I had been in contact closely with Gibbs over all these years, but found Crampton and James McIver of Boston in later years.

Anyway the evening I read the article, I called Joe who had some questions.

Not only did my mother save my uniforms, but also every letter I wrote to her from the entire time I was gone. Those letters comprise a four and a half-inch thick 3-ring binder. (I wish I still had those she wrote to me.) The letters have little things in them that jog my memory after more than a half century.

Here are a few brief extracts from a few that might be of interest to Joe, and other peers.

5 Jan 1945.  Arrive at Avalon, Catalina, Section 18 and assigned to the “Villa” behind Atwater Hotel with four to each cabin. Cool at night, pleasant during day.

9 January.  Got uniforms: two white, one blue, four work shirts and pants, three pairs of shoes, four T-shirts, four shorts, eight pairs of socks, one sweater, one pair of gloves, a pea coat, a rain coat, one kerchief and eight hankies, two long underwear and myriad other stuff.

19 January.  I’m playing in drum and bugle corps.

23 January. Got assigned to Stewards training due to 20/450 vision. Received new draft card

(2-B-F). Got pass for playing in D & B corps.

1 February. Took radio exam. They have a quota of 24 openings for the 67 who took exam.

12 February.  In Phoenix, Arizona en route to Boston with 24 for radio and 8 for purser school.

16 February.  Instead of one week of KP in mess hall, I worked in hospital, somewhat better duty.

25 February. We are measured for dress blues.

4 March.  Classes are from 0900-1200 and 1300-1600 with evening chow at 1730.

24 March.  Got uniforms that are “keen.” Asked my mom to send my cornet.

 9 April.  Make 100 on the 6th week test. Next week on vacuum tubes. Two guys get 10 hours extra duty for “scuffling”. Clean sheet day when we left bunks unmade until night to “air out.”

One student was “put back” to 107th making a total of 11 losses since classes began. One was de-enrolled for failing 3 tests. I got my cornet and am playing in “Dance Band” which gets me out of work detail and into early chow.

30 April.  My nineteenth (19) birthday. We played at the Buddy’s Club on Saturday night. Had another 100 percent week raising my average to 92.3. Two more classmates leave because of difficulty with morse code. This week is antennas and modulation.

25 May.  All of Gallups trainees go to Boston Common to celebrate Maritime Day. I play taps and tell my mother that the Commander personally congratulated me.

31 May.  Sent Cornet home last weekend. I am now seaman first class making $66 per month. Finish 13 weeks theory with 91.2 average. Out of 39, there are 14 with 90-plus averages. Seven in barracks take one guy and paint his balls with black liquid shoe polish for unspecified, but obviously for agitated reasons.

8 June.  Passed 19 WPM plain language and 16 WPM mixed code. Will go to FCC exam within a week.

…continued on page 25


Letters   … continued from page 24

21 June.  Bought gray “chino” uniform in Boston.

23 June.  Studying transmitter operation before going for exam. All 15 of us got Second Class licenses.

7 July.  Passed transmitters okay. R104 left yesterday.

24 July.  I’m in New York staying at the Seamen’s Hotel for $1.25 per day. Meet with Dick Haymes, Louie Jordon, and Stan Kenton for sightseeing.

16 August I’m in San Francisco for Victory celebrations

19 August. Berths for Second and Third operators open on Guatemala Victory. I flip with classmate James Douglas McIver for the job, and he won. The additional ten dollars per month probably inspired his Scotch blood. Cigarettes were 60 cents a carton—about what a single cigarette costs today.

I made my last cruise on 6 July 1948 on the SS Cape Possession, a fine C-1 ship carrying 12 passengers.  In my seagoing career, I sailed on 3 Liberties, one Victory, a C-1, and a “Hog Islander.”

I have all my U.S. Coast Guard certificates and discharges from all the voyages (14 trips.)  And I finally got a discharge in October, 1999.

My Welsh family always sang and played music, which, I suspect, made the rhythms of code easy for me.

This past Veterans Day, along with my two daughters, I took my 1943 jeep to spend the day at the Walmart Super Center. While making a display at the donation center for the WWII Monument, the girls wore boot-camp blouses and hats, and I was clad in Gallups Island dress blues. It attracts remarkable attention here in the mid-west where very few have ever heard of the Merchant Marine.

I recently found two complete copies of original Spark Gaps listing the band members, and our remarkably performed “Taps”.

The Branson reunion went smoothly with Bob Mitchell and the Branson Music Tours.  But Ray King is doing our 2000 reunion in Boston all by himself.  We should all appreciate him.

I recommend a microphone and amplifier to reach members in the back. Some voices don’t carry well, and most of us have hearing that isn’t at our peaks.  Inasmuch as August is a busy tourist month, I won’t be able to attend Boston.



Delmar D. Davis, R-105.




Delmar Davis




When Delmar Davis saw this photo, which we ran in the Autumn 1999 issue of Spark Gap, he recognized himself and other members of the band.

Included in his letter (which is reprinted here) was a copy of a 1945 issue of Spark Gap which identified members of the dance band:

Joe Gilmaker, Gilbert Oberstein, Robert Taylor, and Thomas, of R-095; Dodge, R-096; Robert Griffiths, Benson, and Hagedorn, of  R-100; Hurst, R-101; Manmino, R-102;  Miller, R-103;  Miller, R-108;

Delmar Davis, R-105; and Hartzell, R-109



More Letters

Dear JJ:

It was coincidental that about the time I received my Spark Gap an article in the paper reported that President Clinton had pardoned a black seaman for his refusal to unload ammunition at Port Chicago during or just after WWII. In the same issue there is a reprint of a speech given by Merchant Marine Captain George Duffy that was submitted by George W. Cushman of R15.

Mentioning Port Chicago and black seamen brought back memories of an incident when I was on the SS Temple Victory anchored in San Pedro Harbor (not California) between Leyte and Samar in the Philippines. Since we carried ammunition and had a hole in the ship’s bottom 190 feet long, we were near the mouth of the bay, well away from the other ships.

An LST, apparently seeking ammunition for the Okinawa campaign, pulled alongside and tied up to us. The Seventh Fleet Headquarters at Tacloban sent out a group of 16 black Seabees to transfer the ammunition from our hold to the LST. The group refused to work the cargo. After a period of about two hours and a half, the Captain ordered them off our ship. He then had four able bodied seamen (ABs) do the transfer that only required putting cables under the pallets and hook them onto the winch.

Interestingly we were sent back under our own power to Port Chicago where we were paid off. The war was over and the ship went into the bone yard there.

After reading about the explosion at Port Chicago, I can’t blame the blacks for refusing to work the cargo. It’s unclear why they refused—I was only 17 at the time. However, inasmuch as the incident prior to the Okinawa invasion was in wartime, I wondered why they weren’t shot.

Then and now, I have the utmost respect and admiration for the SeeBees (or CBs. The Army also had a similar group that gave just as good an account of themselves). They did a great job in myriad construction projects and often under enemy fire.  But we can never know all the circumstances leading to the incident.


Gene Harp, R-091


During the War in the Pacific, reports continued to surface about a case or cases of merchant seamen refusing to unload cargo. As we all know merchant crews assisted in working cargo, but stevedores (civil or military depending on who was available) were required to do the bulk of it.

Even Admiral King, who was certainly no champion of merchant mariners, dismissed such reports as nonsense. Ed.


Dear JJ:

March 14th, Virginia and I (Bob Mitchell) had a day-long visit from Dr. Sam Hucke and his bride to be, Marjorie Buckley.  The visit was very enjoyable, and we have been honored to asked to the wedding and reception.  We agreed to go, but only after Marjorie tells us that Sam has bought a NEW suit. (It is NOT true that one of Sam’s favorite suits once belonged to Calvin Coolidge).  Virginia told me she rates Marjorie as a “lovely lady”, and so do I.  We wish them both a world of happiness.  I believe that the future Mrs Hucke may receive a new Chrysler Concorde for a wedding gift.  We both agree that there will be big changes coming up in Dr. Sam’s future.  More later (maybe even a picture).


Bob Mitchell, R-034


 Dear JJ,

Charles Schultz died recently, and with him Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, and Snoopy all left this planet.

I think I told you before that I was responsible for the distribution of the Peanuts books internationally for many years and talked to Schultz about it many times.  He was always amazed that I could arrange a German or French or Japanese edition in addition to selling our own English edition.  Early-on I was amused that his nickname was Sparky.  All his family and friends called him that.  You can imagine what I thought during those years when we had almost forgotten that we were ever called “Sparks” or “Sparky”, to find a guy called Sparky who had nothing to do with our business.  But he was a good guy, and the cartoon was marvelous.


Hank Clark, R-019



*  The first scheduled air passenger flights began in 1924 between Tampa and St. Petersburg, Florida.


*  Alaska has the greatest number of pilots and light aircraft in the U.S. Six times as many pilots and 12 times as many aircraft per capita as compared to the rest of the U.S.


*  Japan closed its last marine radiotelegraph station on February 1, 2000 outlasting those in the U.S .


*  The largest Alaskan gold nugget was found near Nome on September 29, 1901. It was 7 inches long, 4 inches wide and two inches thick weighting in at 107 ounces and 2 pennyweight.


*  The first automobile speeding ticket was issued to Jacob German on May 20, 1899 in New York City.

Jacob was zipping along in his electric taxicab at 12 MPH.  New York City’s speed limit at the time was 8 miles per hour on the straightaway and 8 MPH while cornering.  The amount of the speeding fine is unknown, but was certainly less than my last one of $80.  The first license plates were required on New York cars two years later in 1901.


*  Alaska has 25 species of mosquitoes. Only the females bite. They are abroad from April to September. None carry diseases.


*  The trans-Alaska pipeline is the most expensive privately funded construction project in history. It is 800 miles long and 48 inches (4 feet) in diameter. About half is buried and the rest is on stilts.


Check out these websites:



It is a mariners e-mail network.



Explore this site to find pictures of ships you may have served on.



Interesting Titanic radio story.



Latest photos from the Hubble space telescope.



Search the Navy Log


Lost Contact:


Editor’s note:  The following messages were received via e-mail.  Any help you can offer will be much appreciated.


I am looking for GIRA members who were on ships calling at Korean ports during the period Oct 1949 thru Sept 1953. Name of ship, Name of Shipping Company, Port(s), Dates and any details. I am already aware of the list of ships in the USMM website, but need above details. I may include in book I am writing.


Does anyone know the whereabouts of Captain John Welch ?  He sailed for Texaco for many years. His age is about 75.  Last known home in Texas.


I am trying to identify a woman R/O and the name of her ship from 1956.  She was one of the ship ops who responded to the SOS from the Andrea Doria and the XXX from the Stockholm after they collided.  Her ship was too far off to be of assistance although they did eventually make it to the scene. Her last name may have been O'Donnell.


Thanks for any help

Ray Maurstad R-092 CM008 W3HUV


12082 Goldenrod St NW

Coon Rapids, MN 55448tel

(612) 755 7182


Richard Ashmore Stickney (R-038) is looking for classmates who might remember him.

You can contact him at:

Richard Ashmore Stickney

409 N. Broadway St.

Bells, Texas 75414

Tel 903-965-4084











at Sheraton Braintee Hotel, 37 Forbes Road, Braintree, MA 02184

Thursday, August 10, 2000 to Sunday, August 13, 2000



                      Member's Name:                                                                                                            


                      City:                                            State:                                       Zip:                             

                      Home Phone (include area code):                                            G.I. Platoon:                      

                      Amateur Call Sign, if any:                                          Arrival Date:                                    

                      Guest:                                                       Relationship:                                                 


REGISTRATION FEE                                                                       $10.00  x             persons  = $       

Optional Reunion Tours:


                     Thursday, August 10, 2000 (all day tours)


                                 1.      Plimouth Plantation                                $30.00 x             persons  = $        

                                 2.      Boston Tour                                           $25.00 x             persons  = $        


                     Friday,  August 11, 2000 (all day tours)


                                 1.      Boston, Lexington and Concord Tour       $30.00 x             persons  = $        

                                 2.      Boston Tour                                           $25.00 x             persons  = $        


                     Saturday,  August 12, 2000 (afternoon tours only)


                                 1.      Gallups Island                                        $15.00 x             persons  = $        

                                 2.      Kennedy Library Museum                       $20.00 x             persons  = $        

                                 3.      City of Quincy                                        $20.00 x             persons  = $        


                     Sunday,  August 13, 2000 (half day/morning)


                                 World’s End Walk                                           $10.00 x             persons  = $        


REUNION DINNER/DANCE (Saturday evening, August 12,2000),

Price includes tax and gratuities                                                        $32.00 x             persons  = $        


                                                                                                                     TOTAL:            $           

Dinner Selections (insert number):  Chicken                   Scrod                    


All tours include transportation from the hotel and return.  Bus departure times will be posted at the reunion.  Buses will be provided by Brush Hill Tours and are air-conditioned and toilet equipped.


Make hotel reservations directly by calling the hotel at 1-800-325-3535.  Identify yourself as GIRA.

Call by August 1, 2000.


Cancellation Policy: Cancellations must be in writing and received by August 1, 2000.

No refunds after August 1, 2000 unless there are exceptional circumstances.


Please make check payable to GIRA REUNION and mail THIS form with the check to:

GIRA REUNION, c/o Ray King, 108 Great Hill Drive, Weymouth, MA 02191-1938






Back of Form







Anthony, Norman I.




Baxter, Jack




Boissonneau, Joseph H




Boyd, Gerald D.




Calvelage, Robert




Carpenter, Archie H.




Carpenter, P.L.




Currier, Arthur A.




Czesnowski, Walter M.




Davie, George R.




De Meis, Thomas B.




Dippold, Charles S.




Doughty, William N.




Dunne, Patrick, Jr.




Eppler, Donald B.




Erps, Mac E.


R-001 (A1)


Fenney, Martin




Ficsher, Reinhold




Fisher, James V., Sr.




Glazer, Melvin H.




Gosch, Vernon




Hackenberger, Richard B.




Hayden, Ed




Hollisian, Charles H.


R-005 (B2)


Hutchinson, Robert F.




Jennings, Norman L.




Jones, James M.




Langlois, Edward




Marshall, George H., Sr




Masi, Charles R.




McKee, Claude L.




Miller, Robert J.


R-001 (A1)


Newton, Herbert


R-006 (C-1)


Pallazolla, Dominic




Peters, Albert




Purkiss, Frank E.




Reddick, Roy McGregor




Riedel, William


R-005 (B2)


Rule, David




Scott, Stephen Russell




Sharkey, Richard




Stallings, George C.




Travers, John L.




Van Gelder, Robert E.




Watson, James A.




Williams, Glen F.




Zikmund, Floyd D.




Zollinger, George L.















Post Office Box 83

Black Canyon City, AZ 85324


John (JJ) Ward, Editor

49220 North 26 Avenue

New River, AZ 85087-8080

(623) 465-9256



Urban A. Guntner, President

(410) 377-5316


Raymond E. King, Vice-President

(781) 331-6154


Homer  N. Gibson, Secretary-Treasurer

(724) 962-4213


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

Association members and other 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.




Day after day, day after day,

We stuck, nor breath, nor motion;

As idle as a painted ship

Upon a painted ocean


Water, water everywhere,

And all the boards did shrink,

Water, water everywhere.

Nor any drop to drink.


From “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

By Samuel Taylor Coleridge