On February 22nd, 1942, a tanker came along side of the Salt Lake City. I
was below deck at the ship's laundry, picking up bake shop laundry. I
returned top side at quarter deck at the entrance to the officer's mess.
I did not hear the word that a line gun was to be fired. Line guns were
aimed at a 45 degree angle, so even if I knew, I would not have been
worried. As I stepped out of the hatch onto the main deck, I heard a gun
fire. It came from the left side and I turned my head in that direction.
Immediately, a 45 caliber projectile hit me on the left side of my nose.
It went completely through my head with about eight feet of cotton line.
I was knocked out and came to temporarily blinded.
At first, I thought I was hit by a monkey fist. A monkey fist is the
large braided rope end of a heaving line that is thrown from ship to shore
on docking. When I reached where it hurt, I felt the cotton line and
realized it was the line gun projectile that hit me. The projectile was
11 inches long, 7/16 inches in diameter tapering to 5/16 inches on the back
1/3 of its length and weighed a half pound. I entered on the left side of
my nose and exited behind my left ear. The projectile was behind me with
line going through my head. Hundreds of feet of line were between my face
and the other ship. That scared me because if they pulled the line back
to the other ship, I may be pulled overboard. I stood up and pulled back
on the line, to hold off that action if I could.
A Warrent Officer,
David D. Hawkins,
Comdr, came out of the officers mess, pulled out his knife and cut
the line. After he cut the line, I reached back and pulled the rest of it
through my head. I ran down two decks to sick bay, bleeding heavily. I
looked at a shaving mirror in sick bay. Each time my heart beat, the
mirror would be covered with blood. The ship's dentist
C. H. Frame, Lt. Comdr. arrived and
shot me with a good load of morphine. I felt as if I was on a "cheap drunk."
They did surgery on the ship, cleaning the wounds and tying off arteries.
They treated me with sulfa drugs, no penicillin aboard ship in those days.
We returned to port twenty-two days later and I went to the hospital ship
At the time of the accident, "Life Magazine" photographer Bob Landry was
aboard our ship, covering the first offensive action of the war. He took
photographs of me that I still have. The accident was not reported in
"Life" because the Navy would be embarrassed by one sailor shooting
another, even though it was an accident. Also on board was
Robert J. "Bob"
Casey, a reporter from the Chicago Daily News. He later wrote a
book "TORPEDO JUNCTION", about the war
from Pearl Harbor to the battle of Midway. In his book, he wrote about
my accident on five different pages, keeping up on my recovery. The book
was published by Bobbs-Merrill. [corrections on the Torpedo Juction link
were made by Bernard Godde himself, See Link below
The attending physician,
Comdr. James F. Hayes also wrote a clinical account of my accident in
the United States Naval Medical Bulletin of July 1943.
I missed the Doolittle Raid on Japan while in the hospital. I was picked
up upon their return. Our ship went south again. We went through many
operations around Guadalcanal. We picked up the First Marine Division at
Wellington, New Zealand. The convoy took them to the August 7th landing
on Guadalcanal. We were next to the carrier Wasp when it was torpedoes
and sunk. About October 11 to 15 there was a night battle. The Salt Lake
City & cruiser Boise took hits. The ship returned to Pearl Harbor for
repairs and I received orders back to the States.
On Nov. 30th, 1942, while I was on a 30 day leave, Ginny and I married.
We went to Chicago by train on our honeymoon. Gas rationing began Dec.
1st. From our corner hotel room, we could look for miles down State
Street and Madison Street. Not a car was seen on either street until
later in the day. People had to be very careful about using gasoline.
There were no joy rides.
After my leave was over, I returned to San Francisco and reported to sick
bay on Treasure Island. I had been experiencing light-headedness and
fainting type spells. They sent me to Oaknoll Naval Hospital for a few
months. Then I was sent to the Naval Hospital at Santa Cruz, CA. for
discharge on August 14th, 1943.
After discharge, I went back to Battle Creek, Michigan. I wanted to go
to Law school, but my dad wouldn't hear of that. He insisted I was to
take over his small chain of bakeries and short order restaurants in
southern Michigan. I found the flour dust in the air was not filtered
from my lungs because of the injury to my sinuses in the accident. I
finally talked my wife into moving to Florida for my health in 1952.
I worked for 20 years for the Borden's Dairy and Land O Sun Dairy as a
retail house to house milk man. The outdoor work saved my life, as I
was no longer inhaling flour dust. I worked 7 years for Ellies' Book &
Stationery Store selling office supplies and equipment. We raised a son
and daughter in Florida. My son went to work for American Airlines in
Tulsa, OK. and we would visit him at his home in Claremore. In 1981, we
moved to Claremore because we like small towns. I worked for 16 years at
Precision Fitting & Gauge as the shipping clerk. I retired at age 74.
On Oct. 18th, 1997, we moved back to Sarasota. We bought a house next
door to our daughter. My son now lives in Palm Harbor, FL so we are near
both of our children. We return to Tulsa area each year to attend a
picnic with the members of the Last Man's Club.
Read section from Robert Casey's "TORPEDO JUNCTION"