Miracle on board the SLC


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, ball-red-02 Deceased 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 ball-red-02 Deceased 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 for X-rays.

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"


Notice hole beside nose

Hole in back of head


11" long 45 Caliber Projectile
That went through Bernard Godde's Head


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