VOL 13  NO 3

 Autumn 2002






In a complete surprise to GIRA Convention attendees, President Urban “Bud” Guntner proposed the disbandment of the Gallups Island Radio Association by year’s end or as soon as practicable. The decision was based upon a precipitous drop in membership from a high point of more than 1200 members to fewer that 500 now, and with membership still in a free-fall, our resources are shrinking to a point inadequate to provide a budget for sustaining operations.

Ironically only a few years ago at the last convention in San Francisco, a member spokesman worried about our bottom line being too high for non-profit status. Obviously that was a needless concern. In 1978 when our association was incorporated by Jim Buckley in Connecticut, the 20-dollar annual membership fee had the purchasing power equivalent to forty or fifty dollars of today. The search for Gallups Island alumni was a remarkable success thanks to James Kinkel and others’ ardent quest. Regrettably we haven’t been immune to the vicissitudes of time. While no one doubted our demise was inevitable some time, the news came as a resounding shock. Almost to a person, members and guests grasped at straws with ideas to keep the organization afloat. We were awash in suggestions to merge with others, but these groups too are close to grounding on that Distant Shore. Many wanted at least to keep a newsletter going, however, any sort of publication isn’t practicable without an organization to sustain it.

The motion to disband, made by Bill Wittkowski, passed almost unanimously—I couldn’t bring myself to vote “yea.”

Perennial Secretary and Treasurer, Homer Gibson, reports that somewhat fewer than 500 members responded to 2002 dues request. A follow-up mailing

to 300 elicited only six responses. He points out that

there’s no way of knowing how many are silent keys or if their memories simply have been dimmed by the villain “time.” The remaining amount in the treasury will provide for one or two more newsletters and any remaining funds (very little) will be donated to maritime museums, ie., the Liberty Ships: Brown, O’Brien, and the Lane Victory. Reportedly a T-2 tanker joining the WWII reserve fleet.

Gene Harp moved that Bud Guntner, our avuncular president for the past six years, be declared President Emeritus in perpetuity. Homer Gibson, our quintessential Secretary and Treasurer, gave an inspiring talk of past and present highs and lows of careers at sea and ashore. Gibson, recently hit with a double whammy (heart attack and stroke), has made remarkably good recovery progress, but must throttle back in his activities. Both Guntner and Gibson were given standing ovations. It was a gloomy group indeed that shuffled out of the tear-stained general meeting room afterwards.

I tossed and turned so much that night that the fitted sheet on the king size bed was only a tiny ball crumpled up in the middle of the mattress.  I suspect it was not an uncommon event among our group.

To be sure, GIRA isn’t the first American, non-sustaining veteran’s group to march (or sail) off into oblivion. The Order of Cincinnatus (the city of Cincinnati was named for them), Revolutionary War veterans including George Washington were the first. The Grand Army of the Republic (Civil War) had 400,000 members in 1890, but their ranks began to shrink at an ever-increasing pace a century ago, and their once huge annual encampments become ever smaller. But they held together, at least officially, until the last member, a bugle boy, died at the age of 105 (or so) in 1956. Their archives went to the Library of Congress and emblems and awards to the Smithsonian Institute.







2002 Convention                  Page 2

Attendee List                       Page 3

Hoffman Island Offer             Page 3

Lines of Ancient Mariner       Page 4

Associations Vital                Page 5

Photos                                Page 6

September Mourn                Page 24

SOS Korea 1950                  Page 24

Seattle Slew                        Page 24

Flotsam & Jetsam                Page 25

E-Mail                                 Page 26

In Harm’s Way                     Page 30

Capt Cook & Cat                  Page 31

PANAGRA                          Page 32

Letters                                Page 33

Unofficial Navy Certificates    Page 35

Youthful Appearance            Page 36

Rosie                                  Page 36

Liberty Ships                       Page 37

Stasche                              Page 38

Smashed Icon                     Page 38

Thanks for Leg-Up                Page 39




After what seemed an interminable wait, Carol and I set out eagerly from Phoenix for San Diego on the morning of October 3. Driving on the mostly arrow-straight I-8 is a modern day delight with perhaps the sparsest traffic left on any Interstate—until crossing the High Sierra and dropping into San Diego County and the city beyond. Building a freeway from below sea level in the Imperial Valley to almost 5000-feet MSL at the crest of the rugged Sierras was an engineering marvel. The en route and destination weather conditions were idyllic.

Convention host Ed Wilder had the arrangements fine-tuned. The Bayside Holiday Inn overlooks a yacht basin and the natural harbor beyond. Everything about the hotel was posh.

The Inn-sponsored poolside reception Thursday night was delightful with sumptuous food and drink including bottomless party bottles. Hawaii-like sea breezes wafted over the happy group still blissfully unaware of crushing news to come.

Convention hosts Ed and Delores Wilder had the spacious hospitality room well stocked with snacks and drink. Aside from Wilder, the first person we (Carol and I) met was Jim Smith, an R-19 classmate. Once again R-19 led all the other platoons in the number of attendees (six): Ed Wilder, Jim Smith, James “Scotty” Ferguson, John Sloan, Darrow Beaton, and John JJ Ward.

The ballroom was ideal for the 101 guests at the final banquet. It wasn’t huge and cavernous as sometimes happens nor too small. While we didn’t have a live band, the recorded music was beautiful (to our ears) with mostly popular tunes of the 1940s. You could close your eyes and “be” back at the old Buddies Club in the Boston Commons.  As usual, Bill Evans, who seems to have a different step or each musical note, led the dancers. Amid a forties melody there was a crisp and clear CW signal calling CQ with the MSG, “if you read this, stand up.” Almost everybody did.

But when you’re having fun, especially the nostalgic kind, time seems to sprint and GIRA’s last banquet faded into our pleasant memories.

The next morning we gathered in intimate groups for breakfast. Missing were Scotty Ferguson and Evelyn Ventola who couldn’t bear to say  “a final” goodbye. We all could readily identify with her feelings.

Host Ed Wilder agonized over the fact that the membership didn’t know that this was our “swan song” gathering, and many may have moved mountains to come had they known. But on the other hand, some faithful member attendees such as Al and Marian Hadad, Jim and Rose Jolly, Dr. Rion and Ann Dixon, Dr. Sam and Marjorie Hucke, and others, who could not attend for a insurmountable conflictions would have felt that much worse. The horns of dilemma are ubiquitous.



Attendees San Diego Reunion 2002

R-68                                 Adams, Al & Kay Esterer

R-19                                 Beaton, Darrow & Elinor

R-110                               Brainard, Robert & Jean

R-15                                 Brown, Marwin & May

R-07                                 Buckles, Nelson & Zelda

R-01                                 Calderwood, David

R-07                                 Clough, Robert & Elaine

R-112                               Cutler, Myron & Mary

R-41                                 Davies, David & Charline

R-7                                   Diehl, Lynn

R-100                               Donoghue, Jim

R-6                                   Dowdy, James

R-113                               Evans, Bill & Terry

R-19                                 Ferguson, Scotty & Evelyn Ventola

R-100                               Fipps, Don & Eva

R-80                                 Fogleman, Bill & Cathy

R-72                                 Geiselman, Patrick & Barbara

R-105/110                        George, Robert & Barbara

R-7i                                  Gercken, Chauncey & Delores

R-51                                 Gibson, Homer & Dotty

R-95                                 Gilmaker, Joe & Betty- Barrus

R-72                                 Guntner, Urban & Arby

R-77                                 Hackney, Glenn & Esther

R-91                                 Harp , Gene & Barbara

R-15                                 Hegge.  Verne & elsie

R-41                                 Helwic, John & Gladys

R-85                                 Hudson, Robert & Cecelia

R-41                                 Jangord, Arnold & Beverly

R-99                                 Jaworski, Bill,

R-103                               Kinkel, James & Elsie

R-30                                 Long, James E.

R-05                                 Maricle, Roscoe

R-40                                 Marrs, Clyde & Barbara

R-92                                 Maurstad, Ray & Family

R-61                                 Mayhew, Robert & Nina Lombardo

R-50                                 Moran, John & Mary Jo

R-50                                 Opalka, Bill & Lotte, Linda & Bill

R-65                                 Ozbun, Paul & Dorothy

R-14                                 Pollitt, Robert & friend June

R-49                                 Rudat, Walter & Jan

R-15                                 Schultz, Lee & Maxine

R-4 (01)                            Sherman, Robert & Carolyn

R-19                                 Sloan, John

R-19                                 Smith, James E.

R-20                                 Steffens, Robert & Robert Jeske

R-57                                 Thorton, Robert & Bess

R-35                                 Tozer,Gerald

R-43                                 Tutt, Roy

R-119                               Wallace, Keith & Lynne

R-19                                 Ward JJ & Carol Zimmerman

R-8 (A2)                          Warner, Jack & Julie

R-8                                   Weeks, Morris Craig

R-19                                 Wilder, Ed & Dolores

R-112                               Willis, Archie

R-48                                 Willner, Monroe John

R-35                                 Wittkowski, William & Opal

Hoffman Island Radio Association (HIRA)

Welcomes GIRA people as Associate Members.


This is the final issue of the SPARK GAP, and it is with heavy heart that we transmit our last messages. However on a happier note, here are several ways we can keep in touch:


If you have e-mail capability,  carry on with Ralph Alber’s YahooGroup site: 



If you have internet access, Don Wagner's website can help pull the membership together.

Currently, the website is



If you are a ham, the GIRA Amateur Radio Net can help you stay in touch.  An informal group of Gallups Islanders meet each morning at 6:30 Eastern Time, except Sunday, on 3920 Khz  SSB.  K2LOT is usually net control.


Members of GIRA, and other interested individuals for that matter, can join HIRA as an Associate Member.  Dues are $12.50 per year for Associate Membership. Should a GIRA member also have attended schools on Hoffman Island in some capacity, he can join HIRA as a full member.  Dues are $25 per year.  Associate members have no voting power nor can they hold an office position.


Associates receive the newsletter “Tales of Hoffman”

(and, of course, your tales are also welcome) plus all the social functions. The next one is their annual reunion to be held in Las Vegas in May 7-8-9-10, 2003, with a low hotel room rate of $57 per day.


To join HIRA, contact Richard Waechter

159 Meadowood Road,

Indiana, PA  15701-3243.

Phone: (724) 465-7389.

E-mail address fritz@yourinter.net.


Carol and I have joined as Associate Members and plan

to attend HIRA’s convention in Las Vegas next May.

We hope to see you there.


HIRA treasurer Dick Waechter is a past president of HIRA and long-time GIRA member.  Dick is very grateful for the extended help that Jim Kinkel and others provided in helping HIRA get organized. Contact Dick promptly.








Glenn Hackney  (R-77)





Gallups and many of the other Boston Harbor islands were made part of a national park system thus saving them from greedy developers.


According to an article in Yankee Magazine, Scollay Square familiar buildings fell to the wrecking ball years ago to become part of a “modernized” business and commercial center. It likely made Scollay spin in his grave.


The Boston subway, begun in 1897, is the Nation’s first and oldest. It’s still doing well after more than a century.


Lines of the Ancient Mariner


By Glenn Hackney  (R-77)


We came from all over the nation, a motley array,

To train as Merchant Sailors at Sheepshead Bay.


We were farmers, 4-F's, too young or old for the Service,

Volunteering to do our part, but plenty nervous.


We traded our cherished civilian rags

For whites and blues and heavy sea bags.


We learned right was starboard, and left was port,

And rowing heavy lifeboats was in no way a sport.


Our full days were governed by GMT:

The clock read "fifteen hundred hours" instead of "three".


Remember weekend leave, and New York City dates?

And later, inspection by hard-faced Pharmacist Mates?


Movie stars came to cheer us, but their numbers were scanty,

Marines got girls and Bob Hope; we got Jimmy Durante!


Then came the news:  "ROs needed, and right away;

To train at Gallups Island, in Boston Bay."


So some of us followed this different road,

Learned about ship's radio, and copying code.


We visited Scollay Square, and the other hot spots,

Then back to Gallups Island for more dashes and dots.


Well, the weeks flew by at a fast-paced clip,

Suddenly we were "Sparks" on our first real ship.


We roamed the high seas, carrying the tools of war,

Felt torpedo's sullen boom, heard the gun's loud roar.


Now we old retired salts from the seven seas

Salute those who've sailed on, the Silent Keys.


But let the world know, we'd have it no other way:

It's been our privilege to serve the USA.











Associations seem to be vital humankind needs. Almost every school, philosophy, occupation, or groups with common interests and objectives seek to organize one or more associations.

Perhaps the most successful association ever is that of the U.S. Military Academy (USMA) at West Point. Although derisively referred to by cadets as DOGs (Disgruntled Old Grads) more than 90 per cent of West Pointers have belonged to it at one time or the other—most continuously.

Among many other attributes West Point graduates seem to have developed a remarkable propensity for marrying well (heiresses).

Robert E. Lee’s bride owned 3 plantations (one is now the Arlington National Cemetery) along with upwards of a thousand slaves.

World War One’s General John J. Pershing married the daughter of Wyoming’s richest citizen.

Both Mark Clark and Jonathan Wainright won well-endowed brides.

The first Mrs. Douglas McArthur was heir to 150 millions—a remarkable amount of money then, equivalent to billions today.

Maime Eisenhower had a dowry of more than two million dollars when she married Dwight.

Mrs. George S. Patton was so wealthy that Patton became the service’s richest man. Throughout his career, he contributed all his military pay to Army charities.

Obviously these famous generals could have retired and lived a gracious, leisurely life, which many critics say is what they did between wars.

George S. Patton is not buried in Arlington National Cemetery but in Luxembourg near where he was killed in a vehicle accident.

The West Point class of 1915 had the most stars fall upon it. Of 164 graduates, 59 became generals with a total of 111 stars. Most of this class fought in two world wars plus Korea, and they all joined the West Point association.

Almost as loyal as West Pointers were the 49er gold seekers in California. When gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill, California was a foreign country (Mexico). President Polk only brought it into the Union by war and cash the following year. Due to the time required for the news to reach the East and the long journey west, most of the “49ers” didn’t arrive there until 1850. The big winners were


not the miners but the merchants supplying the equipment (everything horribly expensive) to the prospectors. The carpenters building and selling the sluice boxes made more than the miners who used them mucking in the streams. Big winners were Levi Strauss, Leland Stanford (founder of the University named for him) and other merchants. But that didn’t stop the mostly failed miners from forming fraternal organizations. The men (and a few women) who

had gone to California, however temporary, before it was a state were eager to assert their kinship with the other survivors—many fell to disease and violence—as do veterans who survive wars. In 1890, some 84 members of the Society of California Pioneers of New England (Boston group) with 61 wives and friends set out in a chartered train of six Palace sleeping cares, two diners, a baggage car, and a “combination car” for California. They chose a posh, circuitous route for a convention in San Francisco and visit to the “gold fields,” by then unrecognizable to the former prospectors. Offshoots of these groups exist today. Recently I saw a vehicle in New River with a bumper sticker extolling GPAA (Gold Prospectors Association of America).



Still Available!

But get your order in SOON!

Try to get your order in before 31 Dec 2002


Beautiful Navy Blue Polo Shirt

Embroidered With 60th Anniversary Logo

Price  $22.00  (including shipping)

Also the GIRA Ball Cap for $10.00

Contact Homer Gibson


Or call 724-962-4213


Send Check Payable to GIRA

Mail to:


P.O. Box 1235

Hermitage, Pa  16148






All R-19

Darrow Beaton, John Sloan, Ed Wilder, Scotty Ferguson, JJ Ward, Jim Smith



Lee and Maxine Schultz  (R-15)



Robert Pollitt (R-14) and friend June



Nelson and Zelda Buckles  (R-07)



Cecilia and Robert Hudson  (R-85)





Robert Steffens (R-20) and friend Robert Jeske


Vern and Elsie Hegge  (R-15)



Jack Warner (R-8 A-2) and his daughter Julie



Delores and Chauncey Gercken  (R-71)



Marion and Ray Maurstad  (R-92)



Bob &Carolyn Sherman, Elaine Clough, Dolores Wilder




Arby Guntner


Cathy Fogleman


Lynn Diehl


Robert Mayhew  (R-61)


Bill Jaworski  (R-99)


Jim Smith  (R-19)





Jim Donoghue  (R-100)



Archie Willis  (R-112)



John Helwic  (R-41)



Monroe Willner  (R-48)





Robert and Elaine Clough  (R-7)


Clyde and Barbara Marrs  (R-40)



Homer and Dotty Gibson  (R-51)



Darrow and Elinor Beaton  (R-19)



Keith and Lynne Wallace  (R-119)



Robert and Bess Thornton  (R-57)





Vern Hegge, Robert Jeske, and Robert Steffens (R-20)

Photo by Monroe J. Willner  (R-48)



Cathy Fogleman,  Barbara Harp, and Bill Jaworski (R-99)

Photo by Monroe J. Willner  (R-48)



Scene at the Hospitality Suite

Photo by Monroe J. Willner  (R-48)



Robert and Cecilia Hudson  (R-85)

Photo by Monroe J. Willner  (R-48)



Mary Jo and John Moran  (R-50)

Photo by Monroe J. Willner  (R-48)



Glenn Hackney

photo by Monroe Willner




Don and Eva Fipps  (R-100)



Mary Cutler and Barbara Harp



Bill Fogleman (R-80)



Myron Cutler (R-112)





Al Adams (R-68) and his sister Kay Ester



Lynn Diehl, Elaine Clough, Dolores Wilder and Carol Z



David and Charline Davies (R-41)



John Sloan (R-19) Opal and William Wittkowski (R-35)

Photo by Homer Gibson (R-51)



Marwin and May Brown  (R-15)



Elaine& Bob Clough (R19) Lee Schultz (R15) Lotte Opalka





Barbara and Patrick Geiselman  (R-72)



Jack Warner  (R-8 A-2) Craig Weeks  (R-8)



Our avuncular leader, Bud Guntner



Jim Dowdy  (R-6)





James Long  (R-30)



Bill Jaworski  (R-99)



Robert Jeske (friend) and Robert Steffens  (R-20)



Arnold and Beverly Jangord (R-41)





Ed and Dolores Wilder  (R-19)



Bill and Lotte Opalka  (R-50)



Bess and Robert Thornton  (R-57)



Evelyn Ventola and Scotty Ferguson (R-19)



Carolyn and Robert Sherman (R-4)



Walt and Jan Rudat (R-49





Joe Gilmaker (R-95) and Betty Barrus



Archie Willis  (R-112)


Chauncey and Delores Gercken  (R-71)



Nelson and Zelda Buckles  (R-7)



Al Adams (R-68) with his sister Kay Ester


Esther and Glenn Hackney  (R-77)





Paul and Dorothy Ozbun  (R-65)



John and Gladys Helwic (R-41)



Dotty and Homer Gibson  (R-51)  Arby and Bud Guntner  (R-72)



Linda and Bill Opalka  (son of Bill Opalka)



Bill and Lotte Opalka (R-50)




Barbara and Gene Harp  (R-91)



Barbara and Patrick Geiselman  (R72)


Robert and Carolyn Sherman (R-04)


Jean Brainard, Jan Jennings, Bob Brainard  (R-110)


Bill and Terry Evans  (R-113)



May and Marwin Brown  (R-15)




Arnold and Beverly Jangord  (R-41)

Photo by Homer Gibson (R-51)



Charline and David Davies  (R-41)


Mary and Myron Cutler  (R-112)


Kay Ester and Al Adams  (R-68)



Lynn Diehl



Chauncey and Delores Gercken  (R-71)





Dotty and Homer Gibson (R-51)



Arby and Bud Guntner  (R-72)



Homer Gibson, Bud Guntner, Patrick Geiselman



Barbara Geiselman, Arby Guntner, Dotty Gibson



Roscoe Maricle (R-5) and daughter Margie Sutphen



Margie and Bill Sutphen




Mary Jo and John Moran  (R-50)



Ed and Dolores Wilder  (R-19)



Carol Zimmerman and John Ward  (R-19)



Barbara and Pat Geiselman  (R-72)


Dorothy & Paul Ozbun R-65  Terry & Bill Evans  (R-113)



Homer and Dotty Gibson  (R-51)





Roy Tutt (R-43) behind Jan and Walt Rudat (R-49)



Geoffrey Allinson sings a song from “Don Quijote”



Del & Roy Merten (the couple on the right)

share a happy moment with friends



Geoffrey and Phyllis Allinson,

Daughter and son-in-law of Stan Jennings




September Mourn

Chet Klingensmith R-88


September arrived more suddenly this year,

And got well into it before the wistful pang hit.

I turned off the TV, sipped more coffee

And ran some memories across my personal screen.


On a long-past September morn, the first pale blue smoke

Curled lazily up into the crisp air hinting at the first frost.

Then the actual frost, seen through sculptured ice on a window,

As the rich aroma of waffles and bacon filled the room.


Brilliantly-colored leaves falling and creating

A red and yellow carpet ready for swishing.

Above the trees in perfect V's,

The ducks were heading south again.


The sound of a neighbor trying to coax an old LaSalle,

With battery grinding down to its last hurrah.

A steel mill "pouring" in the distance with accompanying

Clanging and screeching and whistles


Competing with the coal train chugging

Up the grade from the Harwick mine

With its whistle hooting a needless warning

As driving wheels lost traction and ran wild.


Not the time to mix in auburn curls and shy smile.

Just pick a favorite to reminisce.

Large orange pumpkins readying for their grins.

Tall brown corn shocks standing like scarecrows.


Apple pie apples--Northern Spy, Baldwin, Rambo,

Jonathan, Rome Beauty and Winesap.

And on this reflective "September morn"

My memory is strangely drawn to Algebra One.



GIRA HAMs meet on 75 Meters


An informal group of Gallups Islanders Meets each morning at 6:30 Eastern Time, except Sunday, on 3920 Khz  SSB.

K2LOT is usually net control.




The book: “SOS KOREA 1950”  by Raymond B. Maurstad is now available: 424 pages including 149 photographs.

Cost is $16.95 plus shipping and handling.*


Order via the internet:



Order by telephone, toll free 1-877-430-0044


Order by snail-mail from:

Midwest Bookhouse

3100 Pacific St. Minneapolis MN 55411


Call the 877 number first to establish correct $ amount of your check or money order.

*  Shipping and Handling charge depends on the method of shipment you choose.

First edition of 1000 will be printed in November.




Chet Klingensmith  R-88


Seattle Slew died today at age 28.

Most say this legend in his own time

Was the greatest race horse ever lived.

Triple Crown winner, and much more.


In noting his passing, 25 years to the day

That he won the Kentucky Derby,

I tried to imagine, if he could talk,

What he might have said 24 years ago.


That day he was retired from racing

And put out to green pastures.

“Now let me get this straight.

You’re telling me on this day


That I don’t have to have a saddle

And a screaming jockey on my back,

And get whipped as I run around a track

With all those other horses,


Risking breaking a leg or two

Or getting impaled on the rail,

And instead of that, from this day on,

I just graze in the pasture and do WHAT?”







·         Arguably the worst sea disaster in history was the torpedoing and destruction of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff by a Russian submarine in the Baltic Sea in January 1945. The ship had no military value and the outcome of the war was, by then, a foregone conclusion. Nevertheless, 9,343 (mostly  women and children) were lost trying to escape to western Germany, an area that was expected to be occupied by the Americans and British rather than the Russians.

·         The longest running show in the world in the Folies-Bergere that began in Paris in 1880. It has been in Las Vegas for well over a half-century and remains one of the most popular.

·         Planet Earth’s worst disaster (in recorded history) was the Krakatoa or Krakatau volcano eruption in what is now Indonesia killing untold thousands and encumbering the World’s skies with ash that brought a year without a summer on much of the planet with few or no crops growing. New England had snows in July and August.

·         The U.S. had no official currency until the early 1861. Prior to that there were gold coins foreign and domestic and currency was issued by banks and called banknotes. Our dollars are still often referred to as banknotes. The new paper money was immediately dubbed greenbacks. The initial one-dollar bills did not have a likeness of George Washington but that of Salmon P. Chase, Lincoln’s Secretary of the Treasury. Abraham Lincoln was on the original two-dollar bill.

·         If the World’s six billion people were shrunk to 100 individuals, six would control half the wealth. Two would qualify for Mensa (IQ of 135 or higher), two would be unable to focus (survive) alone, a third (Americans) would be overweight, one would have a college education, several would be recidivists, 80 would live in substandard housing, 70 would be illiterate and 50 malnourished.

·         The smallest “craft” to transit the Panama Canal was a swimmer. Richard Halliburton, a flamboyant traveler and writer, swam across the canal in the 1920s. Like all small craft he had to share the locks with a ship—they wouldn’t pump all that water for a small craft much less a swimmer.  Prices for passage through the canal’s enormous lock system is based upon weight so Halliburton was charged 36 cents, probably the lowest fee ever paid to transverse the world’s most famous canal.

·         Chicken Little was partly right. Getting off the liberty boat from Gallups Island we’ve all been carpet bombed by seagulls—one got me on the right ear, but these hits were minor compared to the fate of one unfortunate American woman. A migrating wild duck had a heart attack in flight and fell on her head knocking her silly. Only weeks later a heron flying overhead lost its grip on a halibut that hit the same woman squarely on the head revealing she knew more cuss words that most sailors.

·         Across the Grand Canyon the way a condor flies, if he’s maintains his QAH (altitude), it’s 12 miles, but 20 miles by hiking the Kaibab and north Bright Angel trails plus three miles to the Inn or the camp ground beyond. The north rim is 1800 feet higher than its southern counterpart—a lot when you’re doing 23 miles in a day. But to get from the south to the north rim by automobile it’s 200 miles via the reservations and rainbow bridge. The canyon is 277 miles long with an average width of 10 miles and a mile deep. When I was a young 62, I walked from rim-to-rim (23 miles) in one (long) day.

·         Canyon explorer John Wesley Powell, who had lost his right arm in the Civil War, was only 5 feet 6 inches tall but had a very big ego.  Late in life he bet his brain was bigger than a colleague’s. Eventually, autopsies showed that Powell’s was indeed the biggest.

·         Pear cacti growing in the Great Sonoran Desert, especially the huge tree-like ones, are called tuna. Tuna was the name of these cacti several hundred years before the fish was given the same name.

·         Cleopatra is the most popular brand of cigarettes in Egypt. There were actually seven queens (Cleopatras) of Egypt. Cleopatra VII was the famous one who was Julian Caesar and Mark Anthony’s mistress (presumably at different times). After defeat in the Battle of Actium, she committed suicide by having an asp (snake) bite her rather than being taken prisoner.

·         Both the wettest and driest places on earth are in South America. The wettest is Lloro, Colombia, with an average of 523.6 inches per year. The driest place is a bit farther south at Arica/Antafagosta, Chile. Antafagosta has gone for as long as 12 years without measurable rainfall.

·         Why doesn’t Qantas, the Australian airline, have U after the Q? QANTAS is an acronym for Queensland and Northern Territories Air Service. It is the oldest continuously operating airline in the world.




Via E-Mail


Editor’s note:

We received many e-mails and phone calls from members who expressed sadness at the disbanding of GIRA.  We include a few of the e-mails in this last issue of Spark Gap.



Yes, we decided at San Diego to dissolve the Association.

I don't think anyone wants to see it happen, but we have to be realistic about it. We are all getting to that age where no one wants to take it on. It was inevitable and we decided to bow out gracefully. No one is more sad about it than I am!

I sent out between 800 & 900 dues notices and only received around 500 back with dues payments. I sent out another 300 to 400 to those that did not respond to the first notice and only received about six back.

People just stop paying dues or become Silent keys and very few bother to notify me, either way. It is hard to tell just how many of us are left.

If it is any conciliation, we are not the only WWII organization that is closing down. They figure that WWII vets are dying off at the rate of about 1500 per day.

Our group is unique in that we are more or less a specialty group, with no chance of any young blood coming into the organization, unlike Project Liberty Ship, which has a more diversified cross section of members.

Sad, but true Ralph.

73s     Homer




I am also sorry to hear about the end of GIRA. Although I haven't been active other than paying dues, took pride in belonging.  I appreciate all that has been done and especially want to thank Stan Jennings and his lovely wife  for the great work they have done publishing the Gallops Islander. also want to thank JJ Ward, the publisher

of the Spark Gap.

Will miss all.

James P. (Pat) Farrell    R-58





Although I haven't been active, I have read every one of the publications and enjoyed them very much. I want to be on the roll and my E-Mail name is WalkerDDS@AOL.com

Bruce Cooper R-77




As one of the founders of the Association, it is very painful for me to learn this [the demise of GIRA], at the same time, it is fully understandable.   But, we have the memories. Birdie and I were going to San Diego, then decided that next year would not be so distant!   Pretty distant!


I am shocked too.  I had hoped it would last a little longer and am pleased it lasted this long.  I intend to keep the GallupsIslanders@yahoogroups.com  as long as possible.

 I am owner of this Yahoo group.  If some one or ones would  like to be co-moderators, let me know and I can appoint you.  This would give you all privileges of owner except for disbanding the group.

Very best to you for your fine work.


Ralph Albers  (R-9)




I'm sorry to see GIRA go by the board, but all good things end sometime. Hope we have a long e-mail QSO for many years.

Dal Dreher






Sorry to hear of the end of GIRA. Would like to thank all those, who through the years, have been so active in keeping it going!  Will plan to hang in here for as long as possible.  Best wishes to every one.

Frank Jenne, R54-55




Hi GIRA gang,

I attended the meeting in San Diego, and was unhappy that our great organization is disbanding. But GIRA, it seems, must come to an end sometime.  The reunion was well attended, but some usual attendees were missing.  However, it was a great reunion and we had a wonderful time on the tours and at the banquet.

Thanks to Ralph Albers for setting-up the Yahoo Group, and keeping the Gallups Islanders group together.

73s,  Jack Warner,  W8FCP


…Continued on page 27



E-Mail  …Continued from page 26



The YahooGroup website is a great idea. Hope to hear from many of my classmates from R-6 and others who shared that wonderful experience on the magic isle

in Boston Harbor.   As many of you know I had some adventures in WWII. Most notable was as Ch. Radio Officer and a survivor from the SS Henry Bacon sinking on the Murmansk run. Then after the end of the war and a successful and rewarding career in Radio and TV which culminated in retiring as VP, Engineering at RFE/RL (Radio Free Europe) in Europe. Then  I came home to some exciting times getting back with some of my classmates and with survivors of the above mentioned ship.  Traveled to Norway twice to be with the Norwegians with whom I shared a lifeboat in 1945. Then helped the Norwegian TV company with a documentary of the Murmansk convoys. Also went to San Francisco recently to do the same with a Scottish company's filming of the Bacon story on location at the site of the Liberty ship there.  Was interviewed by the authors of the book," The Last Voyage Of the SS Henry Bacon", which is available on Amazon.com. This story resulted in both houses of US congress recently passing a resolution that recognizes the ship crew for their efforts in downing up to five torpedo planes and saving 19 Norwegian passengers while losing  almost  half the crew because of the weather and a shortage of lifeboats.    So I feel lucky to have had the Gallups Island experience and to still be active at age eighty here in Cullman Alabama where I play golf  four days a week and participate in many local civic activities along with my wife, Bea, of  57 years.    Some may have heard the story of my classmate from Alabama, Fred Digesu, who was struck on the head by an 18 pound lead shot as he lay in a little sunken place on the GI parade ground. Seems that Fred had gone to sleep after reading a book. Just happened to be the time that our class participated in the firing of the gun. That sunken place had been formed by the many hits of this gun. Well old Fred was a tough guy and survived the concussion and graduated from the Island school in a later class. Fred then went on to a career as an engineer with the Von Braun group at the Huntsville, Alabama space and rocket center. Wonder if anyone has had contact with Fred. I talked with him by phone some years ago but as far as I know he had not kept contact with our group. That little episode is now a bit comical although not so at the time. It was very serious and we feared for Fred's life.

Regards to all from Spud Campbell, R-6 spud@cneti.com



Just want to tell Spud Campbell that I contacted the Norwegian Govt. via the Internet and finally got a copy of THE MURMANSK CONVOYS video.  At age 19

I was Ch. Rdo Op on the Charles M. Schwab which was in the convoy Spud was in and we also had Norwegian passengers.  Consequently, I found the tape very interesting.  However, I find that the kids and grandkids think of it as ancient history.  In fact, I attended a dinner honoring WW-II Merchant Mariners sponsored by a Navy Auxiliary group and also got very little reaction when I mentioned it.  I must admit, though, that their high light of the evening was a talk and slide presentation by the crew and divers of the team that recovers the spent boosters from the shuttle launches and it was very fascinating.  Especially the rough seas recoveries.

Ray Starke, R-62, WB4LVX



Hi all you key/bug pounders,

Sorry to see GIRA screw down the key...but my personal thanks to all who kept it going for as long as they did...especially Homer Gibson!

73  -  Jerry Tallarico R-111




Hi - Sorry to hear of GIRA's closing.  Good luck in maintaining communication with your grads.  Our Hoffman Island (HIRA) group founded after GIRA.

The years do take a toll however.

73 - Andy Korinda




I enjoy receiving the E-Mail.   Thank you to Ralph Albers

R-9 cm-005 for job well done. Also would like to thank Thomas Gibson R-017 for all the work with the S/S John W. Brown docked in Baltimore. My son, Grandson, and I sailed on her Dec.7 2001 and enjoyed it very much.

Al Heimbach R-084 M789  maral@enter.net




I was in R-2 shipped out with Socony-Vacuum in October 1941. My e-mail address is xdea@aol.com

73's  -  Charles R. McDonald (Chuck) (K4CAN)



…Continued on page 28



E-Mail  …Continued from page 27



View from topside Hoffman's Swimming Pool!

The earth has taken a few turns and the tilting has begun to jog old man winter on his way again.  Snow is plentiful out west.  It can be a reminder to all of us that "when winter comes, Spring is not far behind."  That means we should be thinking of "re-creation" and Reunion again.  So, get ready for Las Vegas in '03!

Condolences to our "brother organization", Gallups Island Radio Association, which is about to disband at the end of December.  They were extremely helpful to Dick Waechter and our Charter Members when we started 12 years ago.  Evidently, age takes its toll, their board decided.

Hoffman should invite them now to join us as associate members for the time being – others who may have had Basic at Hoffman or those who came down for their lifeboat tickets, or some who came down after Gallups closed in Sept. '45 all qualify for membership under our by-laws.  At our AMMV meetings in Port Newark there are three or more Gallups grads - the editor of VWOA newsletter, our Legislative arm. and others. One took the American

Seaman up to Boston after Basic at Hoffman.  Some passed their FCC in NY after studying with the last four

classes at Hoffman. That was a time when they still needed some operators for home-bound troops. 

73 & Happy Holidays,  Andy K 

Hoffman Island Radio Association




I've been reading the mail since the group got going, but haven't communicated before.  I feel like a youngster, having been in R-93.

Quick summary: First ship in April '45, last one in August '55, with some breaks for college.  PhD in Math in '58, Professor and math researcher since then, now Prof Emeritus Univ of Wash, still doing some research and

As much mountain climbing and hiking as weather and time permit.  Active in local ARES.


Bob K7UW





Join the Gallups Island Yahoo Group to stay in touch with GIRA friends.  Please register in order to get full use of the Group.  Ralph Albers, R-9, is moderator.  Type the following into your URL to get set up!




Here is the step-by-step procedure.


1.  Go to http//groups.yahoo.com

2.  Find    "New User",  "Sign here to Register"

3.  Click on  "Sign here to Register"

4.  Make up a personal ID for yourself. Something you will remember.

5.  Make up a password.  All small letters is ok, but  be sure to remember if you use any capitals.

6.  Fill out the table with personal registration info.  Some things are optional.

7.  At the bottom there will be a special security verification secret word. Again, type something you will remember.

8.  Type that word in the space provided.

9.  Find "Submit form" at bottom of page.

10. Click on it.


Once you are registered, bookmark the site:



Your email address is already in the Gallups Islander list, so you can still send and receive messages to the group even if you are not registered.   You can send to   GallupsIslanders@yahoogroups.com and all will get your message.


Ralph Albers, R-9, Moderator









…Continued on page 29



E-Mail  …Continued from page 28



Looks like the service provider who was hosting the GIRA website went belly-up, and pulled the plug without notice.  The alternate website is still up at:


A friend contacted me, and offered to sponsor the GIRA web page with 100 MB of free space.  Currently, the web site is piggybacked on another friend's Japanese swords web site, hasn't been updated in a long, long, time, and there isn't enough space provided to post any more pictures.  When this gets going, I would like to turn the GIRA web site into a nice photo gallery of the history of Gallups Island and the radio operators who trained there. I think the Yahoo site does a far better job of informing people of coming events and such.  When this happens will depend on when I get set up again with a PC at home with editing software.  In the meantime, please know that I haven't forgotten about all of you.

Regards - Don Wagner (son of Joe Wagner R-37)





You can order replacements WWII ribbons at http://www.lesterco.com/catribbons.htm

For 70 cents apiece.

Regards - Don Wagner



Hi all,

Recently, I received a beautiful Honorable Discharge Certificate from the US Army!  It was from my service on the US Army Hospital Ship "Wisteria" in 1945/46

I had applied long ago and forgotten that I had done so.  Even got a DD214.

If you served in the Army Transportation Service, you may be eligible for same.  Write to:

Department of the Army

1 Reserve Way

St. Louis, MO 63132-5200


Attention:  Veterans Support Branch/GC

                 Personnel Services Division


Ask for information regarding Discharge from Army Transportation Corps.  Give name(s) of USATS ships served on, if possible.

Ralph Albers  R-9



To All

I went to the Internet to get the latest info on Form DD2168 and the supporting Instructions. The web site is as follows:




There is a new address shown for sending in your application. I made copies of the form DD2168 and the Instructions and sent them in.

Note : When applying for the sea service period between August 16, 1945 and Dec 31, 1945 ; there is now a $ 30 processing fee . There appears to be no charge for the earlier period.

The new mailing address shown at the above

referenced web site is as follows :


    WWII Merchant Mariner Qualification

    Highland Community Bank

    P.O. Box 804118

    Chicago , IL 60601-4118


Walt Miller  K3FKO



Hi All:

Our AMMV chapter member Leon Wortman has written a most interesting story of his experience as a "Sparks" and simultaneously an OSS agent during WWII.

The book is just now being released, entitled "To Catch a Shadow", a Wartime Tale of Espionage and Intrigue from Africa to North Russia.

Leon has allowed us to publish three chapters in our Silicon Valley Mariners newsletter and we enjoyed them. For those of you who have access to the web, the book may be ordered online from Amazon, BooksAMillion, etc. for 16 to 20 dollars a copy. It’s in paperback, 330 pages.

I recommend it.

Al Hadad, R-013




Go to the following website for info on the WWII Memorial:





Lightning strikes the earth 100 times per second. That’s 8.6 million per day and 3 billion each year. Life on earth could not exist without it.



                                         NEW BOOK ON USS INDIANAPOLIS DISASTER

IN HARM’S WAY by Doug Stanton ISBN 0-8050-6632-2 retells the story of the USS Indianapolis CA35 after the cruiser delivered to Tinian (in the Mariana Islands) from San Francisco “Little Boy” the atomic bomb destined for Hiroshima. Stanton interviewed dozens of Indianapolis survivors still living and contains information recently released by the Navy.

The USS Pensacola was initially chosen to deliver “Little Boy” , but it failed sea trials after repairs, so the urgent job went to the Indianapolis. When the heavy cruiser Indianapolis departed San Francisco with its secret cargo, it had implicit orders not to be diverted for any reason.

The voyage to Tinian Island was uneventful, however, after delivering Little Boy the USS Indianapolis made a brief stop at Guam then departing at 2300Z July 29 for Leyte in the Philippines, nothing went right for the cruiser. Dispatches of Indianapolis’s orders failed to reach the various naval commands. 

Four minutes after midnight on July 30 at approximately 12 north and 135E, Commander Mochitsura Hashimoto of the Japanese submarine I-58 (one of only six remaining operational Japanese subs) couldn’t believe his luck when he spotted a major warship approaching. Hashimoto subsequently fired six of his 19 torpedoes while eager volunteers stood by in Kaitens (manned torpedoes).  The Kaitens weren’t needed, however, as two of the six torpedoes struck the Indianapolis almost cutting her in two. It was Hashimoto’s first and last kill of the war.

The USS Indianapolis was commissioned in 1932 and served as President Roosevelt’s transport on his “Goodwill” tour of South America in 1936. It was also Admiral Spruence’s task force flagship for a time. Although the Indianapolis was 13 years old, it had been upgraded and modernized several times.

The two explosions (Japanese torpedoes were superior to America’s for most of the war) made gaping holes in the forward and mid-ship section of the cruiser and knocked out the number one (main) radio room. The number two radio shack, located farther aft, was still operational and ROs managed to get out (reportedly two) cryptic SOS messages. When unable to contact the Indianapolis for confirmation, naval authorities disregarded them inasmuch as the Japanese routinely used this tactic to confuse the U.S. Navy at that point in the war.

Of the Indianapolis’s 1196 crewmembers an estimated 900 survived the torpedoes and managed to abandon ship most by jumping off. Many of them were wounded, some were without clothing or even lifejackets. Thus, their four and a half-day ordeal in the water began. By a series of faux pas, the Indianapolis’s non-arrival in Leyte caused no great concern to navy commanders. Captain McVay, on a rope life raft, assured his men that the likelihood of their being spotted by aircraft was good, and certainly their non-arrival at Leyte would cause the launching of a vigorous search and rescue operation. They watched as high-flying aircraft failed to spot them. Each hour in the water took its horrible toll and shark attacks occurred daily at dusk. All the men were oil-covered which fortunately served as a fairly good sun screen. Wide variations in day and night temperatures (over 20 degrees) caused widespread hypothermia among their ever mounting problems.

On August 3, Naval Lt. Chuck Gwinn departed in a twin-engine PV-1 for a routine patrol. In his entire naval career Gwinn had never sighted an enemy ship nor anything else very interesting. But upon detecting an oil slick, he thought he might be onto something and followed the slick northward. Flying at 900 feet and spotting vigorous thrashing in the water, he gasped, “what in the hell was that.” It was men waving and splashing the water frantically. Thus launched one of the largest U.S. Navy sea rescue operations in history. Aircraft and surface vessels working together plucked hundreds out of the water—many dead and many others near death. Of the 1196 ship’s complement, 321 survivors were picked up, but four subsequently died. 

The navy had to blame somebody so they overlooked the high brass and went after Captain McVay charging him with failing to zig-zag and untimely abandonment of ship. The latter charge was dropped.

Admirals Nimitz and Spruance recommended only a reprimand, but Admiral King insisted on a court marshal.


…continued on page 31



In Harms’ Way, continued from page 30


EPILOG: Captain McVay was court marshaled in Washington, DC, in December 1945. The prosecution brought in Hashimato, despite objections from Congress. It backfired. Hashimato testified that zig-zaging  would have made no difference. He was backed up by American submariners who confirmed that zig zaging was of questionable value. Nevertheless Captain McVay was convicted of “hazarding ship by failing to zig zag.” (He did zigzag during daylight hours)  McVay became the only U.S. Naval commander to be charged and convicted for losing his ship due to wartime enemy action.

Captain McVay was subsequently promoted to rear-admiral but never again commanded a ship. The surviving crewmembers continued to petition the navy for McVay’s exoneration to no avail. Each time the navy responded: “The conclusion reached is that Captain McVay’s court marshal was legally sound, no injustice has been done, a remedial action is not warranted.”

McVay continued to receive hate mail from victims’ relatives especially during holidays. As another Christmas approached, retired Admiral McVay shot himself on his front porch in November 1968.

Hashimoto, who became a Shinto priest, died at age 91 on Oct 25, 2000 in Koyoto. The rapidly diminishing crew survivors continue to seek McVay’s posthumous exoneration, the success of which now seems highly unlikely.

The book’s author was strong on research but weak on knowledge of the sea and ships. He continuously called the Indianapolis crewmembers “boys.” Indeed some were only 18 and 19 years old, but most were in their twenties and many in 30s or more. He had much of sailors jargon wrong. After saying that radio room 2 was for receiving only, he then described the transmitters as black (they were likely gray) about the size of a refrigerator with “hundreds of foot-long vacuum tubes.” He may be forgiven inasmuch as the Indianapolis is now on the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the deepest (36201 feet) of any ocean.

 Had the Indianapolis been sunk en route to Tinian, as was certainly possible, it would have affected the war’s end to some unknown degree.

I was on a T-2 tanker within a couple of  hundred miles from the Indianapolis when it was torpedoed. We had delivered a cargo (120,000 barrels, 6 million gallons) of AVGAS to Tinian and Saipan the previous trip and were now bound for Manila on essentially the same track as the Indy. Although it was en route to Leyte, we both would have used the San Bernando Pass through the archipelago.

There’s no way to confirm it, to be sure, but I suspect AVGAS used by the Enola Gay was some that we delivered. I celebrated VJ day in Manila with the gunnery officer friend from my previous ship, the Alcibiades renamed USS Andre Dorio when the navy took it over in Australia the year before.




My mother would describe a small room or area as “not big enough to whip a cat in.” When I asked why anybody would want to whip a cat, she allowed she didn’t know, but it was just an old saying. She was close but not quite correct. It should be “not big enough to swing a cat in.” And they weren’t talking about a kitty cat but a cat o’ nine tails used to punish recalcitrant sailors. Captain Cook once had a crewmember flogged for cheating a south sea native. When the sailor complained it wasn’t wrong to take advantage of a savage, he got more lashes. While Cook was not a cruel skipper he ran a taut ship—necessary to accomplish what he managed with ships of that era. Harnessing something as fickle as the wind was no picnic.

Cook, a brilliant man with almost no formal education, was more than six feet tall, unusual in those days.  His quarters were only 6 by 4 so he slept in hammock wherever there was room for it. While exploring the Pacific and sailing around the Antarctic he sought food(s) that would prevent scurvy, rickets, and other health problems. Sauerkraut helped but nothing really worked until lime juice was discovered somewhat later. Cook was one of the first captains equipped with a chronometer that permitted an accurate determination of longitude—a method for determining latitude had been worked out long before.

Recent volunteers for the replicate of the Endeavor learned what a chore manning such a ship was—even without worrying about the cat o’ nine tails.

No ship chandlers existed in Cook’s era and he essentially had to live off the land (and sea). Ironically the Captain, who insisted upon fair treatment of natives everywhere, was killed and dismembered by the natives in the Sandwich (Hawaiian) Islands, who were among the most generous and gentle people in the world.





PANAGRA (Pan American-Grace Airways) with headquarters in Lima served South American countries from Panama to Argentina from the 1930s to 1950s. Many of their FROs (flight radio officers) were Gallups Islanders. In some remote areas in Bolivia and Brazil even communicating with the “tower” was in CW. In retrospect, it seems absurd having to get permission to land or takeoff at places with only two or three flights each week.

By the 1950s competition from a growing number of subsidized national airlines and resulting restrictions on carrying passengers proved too much. Braniff Airline bought out Panagra and a few years later it also went bankrupt thus ending an era of U.S. dominance of the skies over South America’s west coast countries.

In the photograph of PANAGRA crewmembers the pencil-thin grinning member third from the right is the Spark Gap editor. Removal of tonsils ended the thinness. When fighting excessive poundage later, I often wished I’d have saved them to put back in.

The arrow points to a Panagra, Equadorian purser named Beltran who supported his mother and siblings. He moonlighted as an announcer for a popular Quito radio station owned by the country’s major newspaper. The station, copying Orson Welles’s hoax  of 1937 of “an invasion from Mars,” scared the local population out of their wits. The army, which was also the police, headed out to engage the Martians reportedly approaching Quito from the north.

Realizing they had terrified the entire population, the station admitted it was all in fun, just a harmless hoax. However, the locals were not amused. They stormed and torched the radio station/newspaper building that, now, had no policemen to protect it. Beltran , and others trying to escape, were chased back into the building by the maddened mob. He was burned severely losing both hands and other parts.

The photo of donkey loaded with firewood with Anita Siefard on one side and me on the other are standing on the equator at an elevation of 9300 feet. Each morning on our way to the airport we met long lines of donkeys with firewood, or bamboo, and bricks for construction projects bound for the Capital.

Cotopaxi, south of Quito, is the highest (19612 feet) active volcano in the World. It continues to smolder after more than a half century. Because of a bulge in the Earth along the Equator, Mt. Chimborazo (20,702 ft above mean sea level), measured from the center of the earth is the highest mountain on Earth. Aconcagua (23081 ft) in Argentina near the Chilean border is the highest peak (above mean sea level) in the Western Hemisphere.

The Andes Mountains, that we flew over, through, and between, is the second highest range in the world albeit a mile less lofty than the Himalayas.

In early December Carol and I are off from Ft. Lauderdale on a Norwegian Line ship through the Canal and a nostalgic cruise down the southern continent’s west coast to Valparaiso and back by air from Santiago. Regrettably we won’t be able to fly back on Panagra. Santiago, Chile, is on the same southern latitude as New River is on the north (33.5 degrees).









Ed and Dolores. JJ and Carol:

Again, Ed I thank you for your planning, coordination and success of the GIRA reunion in San Diego. Certainly the whole hearted support by Delores was a significant factor in the outstanding Reunion results.

Based on our telcall, logically and realistically it was only a matter of time before GIRA ran out of bodies to continue a viable organization. My High School class suspended reunions after the 55th for similar reasons. The unit I was with for the Korean experience quit reunions in 1991. Of 480 men in the unit activated and shipped out in August 1950 there were only 11 of us left and 8 were in VA Hospitals waiting to leave life. Sad but it comes around inevitably.

After our conversation I pulled out my copy of GALLUPS ISLAND RADIO ASSOCIATION Historical book and spent time reading the memos and the chronological history of GIRA. (For some reason, I have always believed that several thousand men went through Gallups but measuring the roster columns in the back of the volume, I only came up with approximately 1000 Graduates). In any event, Gallups was quite an experience for me.

JJ and Carol: I thank you for the work and professionalism in putting together and getting the SPARK GAP out to us. It is always welcomed both by Connie and myself. From my conversation with Ed it seems like Carol came up with a possible way to keep something going, at least for the Westerners. If you do, please count on my donating dues.

To respond to a couple of questions that came up during our conversations: “Whatever happened to that short guy that you palled around with?” I’m assuming you mean the one we referred to as ‘Frenchie.’ I’ve forgotten his name, but he was from a French Canadian and Old New England Families. I spent Thanksgiving with his very extended Family. His family, (Father, Mother and younger sister) lived in Merrimac, Massachusetts. His father worked in the Portsmouth, N.H. Naval shipyard and his mother was a high school teacher. There were over a hundred relatives there for Thanksgiving. From all up and down the New England Coast from Boston to Halifax. I think I was the attraction for most of them. Some one that actually spoke English and was from west of the Hudson River. Initially I was tempted to exaggerate a bit, but I soon sensed they really didn’t have much of a clue about the West. Two of the elderly Aunts asked “Were there Indians where we lived and did we have



to carry guns?” Yes there were Indians around the Ranch. The Reservations and Headquarters were on the western side of the Ranch, and we did carry saddle guns when out ridding fence lines and BLM range. The guns were to handle mountain lions and coyotes that tended to kill stock.” Not sure they were completely satisfied that we were civilized. They were super people, and I thoroughly enjoyed my two visits to Merrimac.

He left Gallups because he was more at home in small coastal vessels. The last I heard from the family in 1945, he was a Warrant Officer in the US Army Transport and was skipper of a large tug boat. Over the years, I’ve sent cards at Christmas to the address that I had, and they have either come back or disappeared into the Post Office.

JJ I believe I saw Tikken (Olsen) at either Tinian or Guam. I did not get ashore on Saipan, but I attended a meeting on Tinian, and I managed to get ashore on the topside of the Orote Pennisula on Guam. Not sure where I ran into Tikken, but it had to be either Tinian or Guam.

At this point, we are not certain what the next step in our Medical journey is for Connie. The Medical fraternity are talking about more Hospital time and Surgery. After the previous two sessions, Connie is vehemently against any more surgery. Can’t say that I blame her. I’ve told my Quack that under NO CIRCUMSTANCES was he going to go back into my hip and knee joints. I don’t want any replacements and leave the Chinese fragments alone.

Again. I thank you all for your contributions in keeping GIRAs informed and for the privilege of having known you. Please keep in touch.

All the best to you and yours, Jim and Connie (Smith)


See editor’s note, next page




If you have e-mail capability, you can messages to fellow Gallups Islanders any time by sending to:



The Gallups Island home page is:





The Statue of Liberty, packed in crates, arrived in New York harbor in 1885.




Jim Smith  …Continued from page 33


Jim Smith was an R-19 classmate who grew up on a ranch near Grand Junction, Colorado on the west slope of the Rocky Mountains. By a bizarre twist of fickle fate, Jim, an army reservist, was sent to Korea where he was wounded three times thus the reference to“ Chinese fragments” (of shrapnel).

Tikken Olsen was also a R-19 classmate from Skagway, Alaska. Although doing well at Gallups, Tikken resigned and joined the Marine Corps to become a high speed CW operator. Several years ago I was in Skagway on a cruise ship. After asking people up and down the main street about him, the telephone office referred me to Barbara Kalen who owned a photo/jewelry store. Barbara had been in Tikken’s high school class. She said he had gone to Kodiak after the war as a crab boat operator. I finally managed to contact him by phone, but, sadly, his memory was shot. Although he sounded the same, he didn’t remember me or ever having been to Gallups Island.. 

Jim, your estimates of thousands of Gallups graduates is correct. There were 125 or so platoons. Even if only 10 from each class graduates, there would have been 1250. But there must have been 30 or 40 or perhaps more thus totaling  several thousand.

In addition to his Merchant and Army wartime service, Jim Smith had a long career with IBM. When interviewing prospective engineers and finding two or more with near identical qualifications, Jim would always pick the one who was an Eagle Scout. My son, also named Jim, is an IBM engineer who was an Eagle Scout. We don’t know if Jim Smith interviewed him.

Smith’s first job—not counting ranch chores—was with a small business in Grand Junction for an hourly wage of 5 cents. He still has the pay slips to prove it.


Good luck, good friend and hang in there.




Dear Islanders:

Adieu good friends, Adieu. I will no longer be seeing you. Attending the last National Reunion in San Diego was both sad and delightful. It was sad because it was the last one and delightful because of the camaraderie, warmth, compassion and just generally good feelings being with my kind of people. Barb and I got to visit with good friends we had spent Reunions with previously and even got to visit with two Gallups Islanders who were attending their first Reunion. They were really enjoying themselves.

In the summer of 1993, I received a letter from James Kinkle telling me about GIRA and the first Reunion in New Orleans. Barb and I went and really had a wonderful time. We attended eight Reunions after that. The Reunions really enriched our lives. We had a good run! I looked for James Kinkle at the San Diego Reunion but didn’t see him. He was signed up. Wherever you are James, my wife and I want to give you a great big hug and many thanks for organizing GIRA and letting us participate in the good times.  I am 74 years old. In my life the most significant event that pointed me in the direction that I have followed was joining the Maritime Service and going through Gallups Island Radio School. I shipped out of Portland, Oregon. On the seven month-long voyage my roommate was an Ensign in the Navy. He was an Ensign because he was a college graduate. He was the cargo officer. He was a nice guy but not the smartest I ever met. When it was time to work his cargo, one of his seaman/2 class and I did the math. The Armed Guard Officer had taught at the University of Southern California for nine years. I loved to talk to him any time I could get him cornered. At that time I decided that I was going to get a college degree…And I did! I was 17 years old and had not graduated from high school. I returned home, graduated from high school, did a hitch in the army, got my Bachelors degree and then my Masters Degree. Because of that experience I became a school teacher for 34 years and am now retired. I will never forget my Merchant Marine experience!

What a world we live in!  As we get older it seems that we don’t see people who we have spent a good deal of our lives with very often except at Memorial Services. I guess getting older is better than the alternative.

I will really miss the Reunions. As Bob Mitchell says, “The only people who attend the Reunions are WOOPES." (Well off Old People). The Reunions have really been a pleasure! Well, as Omar Khayan says, “The moving finger writes…and having writ then moves on!” and so must we. (Yes, I know…I have used this quote before). Many thanks to all those people whose diligence and efforts on our behalf made GIRA work!

Eternally Yours,  Eugene Harp R91, Region 8 Director.



List of Unofficial US Navy Certificates


Through the years, the wish to mark seagoing milestones has given birth to certificates for all kinds of distinctions. Most of them are variations on the shellback theme; they document, typically in salty language, passing certain places for the first time. Some of these time-honored traditions that have come to light include:


Blue Nose

Crossing of the Arctic Circle (66-32 North latitude).


Caterpillar Club

Anyone who had made an unscheduled parachute jump from a disabled plane. Caterpillar denotes use of a silkworm's product in parachute construction. Club members wear a gold caterpillar on civies only, the color of the caterpillar's jeweled eyes is determined by the circumstances, i.e. ruby eyes show that the wearer has survived a midair collision.


Century Club

Pilots who have completed their 100th carrier landing. Also applicable to hurricane hunters who have flown through winds of 100 miles per hour or more.


Emerald Shellback

Crossing of the Equator at the Greenwich Meridian.


Golden Dragon

Crossing of the 180th Meridian (International Date Line).


Golden Shellback

Crossing of the Equator at the 180th Meridian.


Goldfish Club

Those who ditch and take to a life raft. If they spend more than 24 hours on the raft, they become "Sea Squatters."


Great Lakes

Cruising the St. Lawrence Seaway and Great Lakes.


Icelandic Domain

Commemorating service in Iceland.



Traversing around Cape Horn.


Order of the Square Rigger

Service on any square rigger ship.


Order of Magellan

Going around the World.


Order of the Ditch

Transiting the Panama Canal.


Order of the Rock

Transit through the Straits of Gibraltar.


Order of the Square Rigger

Service on any square rigger ship.


Persian Excursion

Persian Gulf service



Member who has not previously "crossed the Line" (Equator).


Realm of the Czars

Cruising the Black Sea.


Red Nose

Member who has crossed the Antarctic Circle (66-32 South latitude).


Safari to Suez

Transiting the Suez Canal.


Sea Squatters

Member who takes to the water and spend more than 24 hours on a life raft.



Crossing the Equator. Special Gold Shellback title for crossing at the International Date Line, special Emerald Shellback title for crossing at the Greenwich Meridian.


Spanish Main

Cruising the Caribbean.








It was August of 1945 and although it was only a few months past my seventeenth birthday, I was on my second voyage as Chief Radio Operator on the T2 tanker SS Pocket Canyon, commanded by Captain Sydney White. I had endured quite a bit of kidding about my youth, but I had hoped that it was all behind me now that I had proved myself by giving a few people, including my First Assistant, boxing lessons.  Captain White's only comment on the matter was that I was too young to be out there and he was too old.

We had discharged our cargo of bunkers in Ulithi and were headed for Curacao and Aruba via the Panama Canal for another load. That trip across the Pacific is one of the longest, most monotonous runs on the globe. The radio was usually silent except for the BAMS broadcasts which we diligently monitored. One day it happened. Our call letters WQUU were on the BAMS list. It happened on the Second Assistant's watch, but I was immediately notified and rechecked the broadcast for accuracy.

I decoded the message, and it decoded without any blurbs. We were diverted to Pearl Harbor. It did not make a whole lot of sense for an empty tanker to go to Pearl Harbor, but who were we to question the wisdom of the Admiralty?

As soon as we arrived in Pearl, some Navy Brass boarded the ship and demanded to know what we were doing in Pearl Harbor. The Captain, our Gunnery Officer Lt. Naulty, the Navy Brass and myself retired to the Captain's quarters to discuss the matter. They demanded all the details of the message we received and were obviously skeptical because of my youthful appearance. Fortunately for me, after about half an hour of palaver, the Third Mate stuck his head in the door and said, "Captain, the Hanging Rock just arrived."

The Hanging Rock was a sister ship that was in Ulithi at the same time we were. When Captain White heard this, he abruptly terminated the meeting and suggested that the Navy check out their end of the matter. We weighed anchor and resumed our trip to Panama. However, we noticed the Navy Brass went over and boarded the SS Hanging Rock. I was wondering if their Chief Radio Operator had a bit more of a beard than I.

We made it to Cuaracao in time for VJ Day. The Dutch residents in Curacao were ecstatically celebrating VJ Day and entertained us royally. My youthful appearance did not deter them from buying me drinks and embracing me.





It was in 1950 when one of the voyages of the USNS Mission Dolores took it to Olangapoo in Subic Bay of the Philippine Islands. Captain James W. Reed was commanding and I was the Radio Officer who also doubled in brass as the Purser. The entire crew was eager for a little shore leave after a long, monotonous voyage, and we hastened ashore at the first opportunity.  We were very disappointed when we found that due to rebel Huk activity the Navy Shore Patrol had closed down all the "gin mills" and other places of entertainment that served alcoholic beverages.

I was wandering the streets when a young lady caught my eye. We started talking and she said her name was Rosie. After a little coaxing, she consented to provide me with wine, women and song. We took off down the back alleys, which were elevated boards on pilings to keep them well above the muck and mud underneath.  We went through many twists and turns and finally arrived at a house with a large front room that was enclosed with a huge mosquito net.

In short order we procured gin, beer and music. Rosie took me to a barbecue on the outskirts of Olangapoo. She did the cooking, and I remember that the main course was wild boar. The meat when served was black, but it was delicious.

By and by the Chief Mate arrived. He had somehow managed to track me down to tell me when the ship was due to depart. He said we still had a day or two, but the Captain was interested in where I might be. The next day I had to say farewell to Rosie since the ship was leaving. She asked me to stay, but of course, I couldn’t.  There have been a few times of sadness in my life since then, when I wondered, just for a while, whether or not I made the right choice.







Liberty ships played a big part in lives of Bob Richelson, R-16 (left), and Hal Siek in WWII.  They and their wives were dining and shore excursion companions on recent MS Deutschland cruise.  Photo was taken in Stockholm.



The biggest passenger ship in the world at the outbreak of WWII was the French liner SS Normandy. We all saw it lying on its side at a dock in Manhattan after catching fire and capsizing while being converted to a troop transport. It never sailed again. At the end of the war as compensation the U.S. gave France 20 Liberty ships.

Currently the world’s largest passenger (cruise) liners are the Explorer of the Seas and sister ship Voyager of the Seas both at 142,000 tons. But not for long!

The now a-building Queen Mary-2 of 150,000 tons will go into service next year (2003). The QM-2 will be 1,132 feet long, have 5 swimming pools, and carry 2,620 passengers. Seventy-five percent of staterooms will have balconies. It will be propelled by four screws.




Tales of Liberty Ships


Bob Richelson, R-16, and his wife Eileen recently were passengers aboard MS Deutschland., a classic German cruise ship patterned after vessels of the Edwardian era and the Roaring Twenties.  Their journey took them to Russia, Poland, Latvia and the Scandinavian countries.  Their companions at dinner and on all shore excursions were Sophie and Hal Siek of St. Charles, IL.

     Bob and Hal quickly realized what they had in common: Liberty Ships.    In 1944, Siek, then an  18-year--old German paratrooper, was captured by U.S. troops north of Florence, Italy on Sept. 19.  A month later he and 400 other German prisoners were packed aboard a Liberty ship in Livorno, taken to the U.S., then transported to a P.O.W. camp outside Harrisburg, PA , where they were interned for three years.

     At about the same time Bob was aboard another Liberty, the William H. Wilmer, on a similar mission:  delivering some 500 members of Germany's crack Africa Corps to the U.S. for similar internment.

     The combination of events made for interesting table conversation from different perspectives.  More importantly, it bonded a lasting friendship.  The Sieks are now U.S. citizens and proud of it.

     Siek has forgotten the name of the Liberty that brought him to the U.S.  Based on the foregoing information, if anyone has a clue to the ship's identity send it to Bob Richelson at 20837 Chaparral Circle, Penn Valley, CA 95946 or phone or fax him at  (530) 432-2347.



Members of GIRA can join HIRA as Associate Members.  Dues are $12.50 per year for Associate Membership.

Their next reunion will be in Las Vegas May 7-8-9, 2003, with a low hotel room rate of $57 per day.


To join HIRA, contact Richard Waechter

159 Meadowood Road,

Indiana, PA  15701-3243.

Phone: (724) 465-7389.

E-mail address  fritz@yourinter.net.





Chet Klingensmith


“Your worst fears never happen”, is what Hugh Dukes used to tell me.

Hugh was a co-worker, a University of Florida Graduate,

And Glider Pilot in the ETO in WWII.

He explained that he was driving with a U. of F. professor

In a large orange grove on a one lane sand road

When a large truck approached menacingly,

Threatening to crowd them off into a sandy trap.

As the truck made a right turn off the road, the Professor said,

“Hugh, always remember, Your Worst Fears Never Happen.”

I remembered this as I stuffed my 15 year-old Tuxedo Cat

Headfirst into an upturned pet carrier, as advised.

What I had feared most about putting down Stasche,

Turned out to be the easiest phase of parting.

He howled as I backed the car to the street,

I assured him I would bring him back

But I didn’t tell him it would be in a sealed box.

A scene from the movie “Castaway” leaped to mind.

When the soccer ball swept from the raft

And Tom Hanks was unable to retrieve it,

And he lay on the raft sobbing, “Wilson, I’m sorry.”

The young assistant was understanding and empathetic,

And when it was over, the Vet handed me the sealed box

And said, “You drive home carefully, ya hear?”

Arriving home, I promptly lowered Stasche

Into a space beside Casey, my son’s cat, and his brother.

I toasted him with my Vodka and Seven,

Told him I’d never forget the 15 years together.

It took just two hours to remove the litter boxes,

Dishes, cat food, scoopers, cat food and litter

Vacuum up the litter, cat hair and un-eaten treats,

And Voila, it was as if a cat never lived here.

And I thought to myself, at age 75, Is this the way it will be with me?



Or at least scratched!


In school we were taught that President Lincoln scribbled the famous Gettysburg address on the back of an envelope while en route on a train to the battlefield. Not so! claim a growing number of historians. They believe that the speech was most likely written by John Hay, Lincoln’s secretary. Hay was a graduate of Brown University and a talented poet. Lincoln was quoted as often saying, “I need to read Hay’s speeches beforehand so that I won’t stumble over any of the big words that he inserts into them.” Whoever wrote the Gettysburg Address, it was tinkered with and not the same version we study in history books—a reporter on the scene had a copy of the original.

Much later Hay was Secretary of State under President McKinley. The Vice President had died in office so Secretary Hay was next in line to be president for the rest of McKinley’s first term. Theodore Roosevelt was chosen as VP in the next election and became president when McKinley was shot shortly after being reelected. Again there was no VP thus once more making Hay first in line if something happened to TR.


TR and most of the politicians of day capitalized shamelessly on the “Splendid Little War” with Spain. As in all other wars, America found itself with inadequate shipping and Roosevelt’s “Rough Riders” had to leave their horses behind in Florida. So the force that outnumbered Spain’s soldiers as much as a half dozen to one had to charge up San Juan Hill afoot.


Alice Roosevelt, TR’s outspoken oldest daughter, visited Havana some years later and was totally unimpressed. “Well I’ve been to the top of San Juan Hill,” she exclaimed. “It’s absolutely nothing. I looked for the jungle. The hill’s a bump, and there is no jungle. All that fuss about so little! Well they gave us something called a daiquiri made with rum. After that, I remember nothing.”






JJ Ward

Upon graduating from high school in the West Virginia hills as a top student (a moderate fish in a tiny pond), I didn’t have bus fare to the nearest college. After the worst depression in history we were facing the most horrible war ever. In our impoverished village of four or five hundred people, there were perhaps two telephones on the walls of marginal businesses wherein you placed a nickel, turned a crank, and got an operator at the county seat. I had never used one. In fact, I had no idea into which end you talked into a regular phone—sometimes I’ve wished I’d never learned.

By happenstance I came upon an ad in a ten-cent pulp magazine seeking Merchant Marine recruits for King’s Point. However, prospects needed two or three hundred dollars to purchase uniforms—probably designed to keep riff-raff like me out. As far as I was concerned it may as well have been a million. However, there was no such requirement for Gallups Island Radio School. Although I had no background in radio—my HS didn’t even teach physics—I was accepted. The Germans were sinking five allied ships a day at that time and apparently people weren’t waiting in line to volunteer. I managed to get up enough money for train fare to the nearest MM recruiting office in Cincinnati. I walked downtown from the railroad station to save the 10-cent bus fare. Getting an upper berth in a Pullman car and chits for meals in the diner were pure luxuries. This was a rare example wherein not having money proved an advantage. Clearly the radio officer had the best job on a ship.

I sailed mostly on tankers until 1946 then was off to Lima, Peru, with Panagra (Pan American-Grace Awys) as an FRO (flight radio officer). I later flew with TWA across the Atlantic to Europe and beyond in the same capacity.

Taking a break from college to recoup finances (no GI Bill), I was on a Navy tanker when the Korean War broke out, and being reclassified as 1-A, I continued sailing mostly between the Persian Gulf and the Far East, a soul-shriveling run, throughout that conflict. Years later, I used accumulated vacation time to make a voyage to Viet Nam. Due to snail-pace unloading the C-3, the normal 6-week trip took almost twice that much time. Needless to say, my agency was more than somewhat unhappy.

So technically I sailed as radio officer in three wars and worked as FRO for two international airlines before settling down as a federal bureaucrat, not nearly as interesting. I only learned about GIRA after applying for veteran status and got contacted by Jim Kinkle. By then GIRA was middle aged, and I had missed times that could never be recouped. Happily, I was able to attend most of the remaining conventions and to resume friendships with a number of R-19 classmates whom I never expected to see again as well as making friends with many from other platoons. But regrettably, all good things must come to an end.


So schoolmates, comrades and friends, to borrow once again, this time from the Bard: The only answer that I can make, is thanks, thanks, and again thanks.

Best wishes and Bon voyage. JJ and Carol










PERMIT # 201



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


Carol Ann Zimmerman

Copy Editor



Urban A. “Bud” Guntner, President

123 Furlong Way

Red Lion, Pennsylvania 17356-8777

(717) 246-6067


Robert E. Thorton, Vice President

3003 Castlewood

Houston, Texas  77025

(713) 665-1276


Homer N. Gibson, Secretary-Treasurer

P. O. Box 1235

Hermitage, PA 16148

(724) 962-4213


The Spark Gap is published by The Gallups Island Radio Association (GIRA), a non-profit organization.  Basic circulation is confined to Association members, Gallups Island Radio School graduates, instructors, and administrative personnel during World War II, and friends of GIRA.  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 Radio School. Contributions of personal experiences, seagoing and otherwise, of general interest are always sought. It’s time to share your life’s adventures. Manuscripts may be edited for length, clarity, and redundancy.  Photographs will be returned upon request, otherwise shall be filed for possible future use.  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.



This slightly modified poem by Stockhalsns says it all very well:


Into my heart a breeze that thrills

From yon far country blows

What are those warm remembered hills?

What shores, what ports are those?

That is the land of lost content,

I see it shining plain;

The happy seaways where we went

But can never go again.