What a memory. Pat Monteleone can keep a listener interested for hours
with his World War II Navy stories and memories.
Born in 1921 in Los Angeles and raised in Venice, Calif., Monteleone had
one brother and two sisters. In his youth he worked at a ranch market for
the huge sum of 25 cents a day, then at Goldman's Salvage for 35 cents a
day. Once he did some extra work and was paid a dollar.
"I ran all the way home to tell my parents," he laughed.
After high school, when Monteleone was working at a local amusement park,
he met his wife Mable, flipping burgers at the hamburger stand when she
was only 14.
They dated off and on until they married in 1943. Meanwhile, in 1940,
Monteleone joined the Navy.
"All my friends were joining and we lived near the beach. I guess I had
salt water in my blood," he quipped.
"It was one year and two months before World War II began. My brother,
Vito, joined two months after I did and my
cousin, Rocky, joined also.
We were all assigned to the same ship, the USS Salt Lake City.:
Monteleone explained that battleships were named after states, heavy
cruisers after capital cities, light cruisers after secondary cities,
submarines after fish, destroyers after men and aircraft carriers after
He went to boot camp in San Diego. He said it was neither bad nor good,
just something that had to be done. The sailors took the train to Vallejo,
Calif., where they got on board the ship.
After boot camp Monteleone was a seaman 2nd class, but later took an exam
and became a seaman 1st class. After preparing the ship for war, they
sailed directly to Pearl Harbor.
"I loved to go to sea," he said, eyes shining.
Monteleone described his Navy duties. "All the duties were dirty work----
scrubbing decks, chipping paint. The U.S. Navy is the cleanest in the
world. All we did was clean, clean, clean."
After they scraped the paint off a ship, they put on rust preventative
then painted the ship battleship gray. Later, when the war began they
switched to a darker gray which couldn't be seen as readily.
Monteleone carried ammunition from a dock or barge. "My shoulders were
sore," he said. He also had duty as what they called a "mess cook."
Although he didn't really cook, he carried big pots of food from the
galley and served it on tables in the compartment where the sailors ate.
Later, after conversion, they went through chow lines and were served food
on metal trays from steam tables.
"The food wasn't too bad. We made pie ala-mode from pastries and canned
milk. We had rice with canned milk and sugar for a treat."
Before the conversion, men slept in hammocks, but then they changed to
more comfortable bunks.
"I remember those wooden decks. We had what they called a 'holey' stone
or pumice stone, about the size of half a brick. We took a mop handle and
moved the stone around on the deck. A bunch of us worked together in a
certain section, then we washed and swabbed.
"On Dec. 3, 1941 we had taken a load of planes to Wake Island. On our way
back the war broke out when we were one day out of Pearl Harbor. What a
mess. The Arizona was still smoking."
The ship went in to refuel and left immediately on patrol.
"Sometimes I had duty in the steering aft. I crawled down and couldn't
stand up. It was so hot and there was no ventilation, but we had to oil
it every so often. Then there was the fire control station where we
controlled the firing of guns when in battle. One duty was on the
foretop---the highest place on the ship. I looked down and all I could
see was the water. My last duty was on the search light battle station."
Many battles were fought by the USS Salt Lake City including Wake Island,
Guadalcanal, Aleutian Islands, Kiska, Wotje and Okinawa. The Battle of
Komandorskis, off Russia, was a three and a half hour battle where the
USS Salt Lake City's men were outnumbered two to one.
Monteleone left the ship in 1943 to work on new construction. However, on
D Day, 1945, the ship continued bombardment of Iwo Jima. USS Salt Lake
City War Cruise Log stated, "Marines landed at 0900, rugged going. Red
alert at 1930, secured at 2115."
Then, "Oct. 12, 1945 Homeward Bound. Tied up at Astoria, Oregon; removed
hospital patients and damaged plane. Moored to Pier 1 in Portland at
The Salt Lake was contaminated during the Bikini Atomic Bomb Test, so had
to be sunk.
"It took eight torpedoes to sink her," explained Monteleone. "Can you
imagine we only lost 20 guys in the entire war?"
After he was discharged from the navy in 1946, Monteleone and Mable lived
in Hawthorne and Redondo Beach, Calif., Idaho, and finally landed in
Carson Valley. He worked at various jobs and now is an associate at
Office Depot in Carson City.
They have a son, Patrick, who lives in Texas and is in oil exploration.
He has two sons. Their daughter, Sharon, lives in Woodland, Wash., and
has a daughter and a son.
Now, years later, Monteleone's Naval duties have changed. He was
contacted on e-mail by Sandra Eskew, the daughter of a man who was
stationed on the USS Salt Lake City. She wanted to know if he knew
her dad. He didn't know the man, but Monteleone became involved in her
Website where they make changes almost daily. Eskew wanted input from
him and other shipmates to do a history on the USS Salt Lake City.
Every two years the men from the USS Salt Lake City hold a reunion.
Monteleone is now the president of the group, elected in an unusual way
having to do with the reunion site the members choose. The president is
in total charge of the reunion held during his term.
Monteleone was president when the 13th reunion was held in Las Vegas and
there were close to 300 people there. The 14th was in Texas and now the
15th will be in Reno, with Monteleone as president again. He holds a
mini-reunion in Minden for anyone who wants to attend.
A true navy man, Monteleone declared, "I loved the Navy. If I was able
to go back now I really would."