Donald A. Rholl, ARM2c
USS Salt Lake City CA25

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USS SLC...Enlisted Navy...Donald A. Rholl, ARM2c
US FLAG Donald A. Rholl passed away on July 15th, 2004

Dear Salt Lake City folks,

I am writing to inform you all that my father, Don Rholl, passed away this morning after a long battle with lung cancer. He so enjoyed his reunions with you and the website, and was always giving people the URL so they could read about the activities of your ship and crew. Please feel free to pass on the news to any others of your group.

Rhonda Quirmbach

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Feb. 13th, 2001

For the record I enlisted in the U. S. Navy in June 1940, completed boot camp at Great Lakes and was then assigned to aviation radioman school at North Island in San Diego. I finished school in February, was assigned to the SLC and reported aboard in March 1941 in Pearl Harbor. I remained aboard in "V" Division until May 1943. Though I complained, as did many of us, in retrospect those two plus years were a very important time of my life. I have some wonderful memories of the SLC and my shipmates and I made many lifetime friends. A few of my memories follow.

I remember the first time I was catapulted from the ship. It was almost my last time. Because of poor instructions or poor listening on my part, my head was not in the proper position and I received a jolt that gave me a stiff neck for a few days. I was afraid to tell anyone for fear they would think I was not fit for flying. Can you imagine a kid so green he couldn't find the smoking lamp flying for the first time ever, being catapulted and performing the recovery duties without incident. The 19 year old grew up a little that day.

I remember the trip to Australia in 1941. I had liberty four out of five days, shared in a rented car and had a great time. The first afternoon in Brisbane a man at a bar was helping us learn the value of each of the Australian coins and paper money. After chatting a little, we asked him if he could recommend a restaurant. He said he not only could do that but he could also take us there for that was where he was going. When we got there he told us he was the owner. His name was George and he saw to it that we got good food and service. We saw George each day we were in town and we became friends. Needless to say, we looked him up in 1942 and he continued to befriend us in many ways.

I remember on the way back to Pearl Harbor from Australia there was some confusion about who was entitled to flight pay. I was positive, of course, that I remembered an order stating how many radiomen were to get flight pay (and that included me) but no one else in V Division agreed with me and I could not prove it. On his own our yeoman went to ball-red-02 Deceased Charles A. "Chuck" Vasey, CY in the Executive office and he was able to find the right order from Washington in his chronological file. I never knew Chuck aboard ship but, as you can imagine, he was my best friend for helping me get the flight pay I was eligible for.

I remember W. Lenhart, Jr., AMM3c, one of the aviation mechanics, who operated the trip line during aircraft recovery. His job was to see that the heavy hook didn't crash into the plane which was especially crucial during heavy seas. As soon as a plane was secured on one side the crane was lifted up and swung around to the other side. On one recovery as the crane swung up Lenhart's foot got caught in a coil of the trip line. He was lifted ten or twelve feet above the flight deck and then swung out over the well deck. The crane operator didn't realize what had happened and poor Lenhart was hanging on for dear life. Just then the executive officer appeared on the well deck. Seeing Lenhart he said to get that man down from there because that's not safe. Yes sir, right away!

I remember December 7, 1941. ball-red-02 Deceased Lt. Edmond H. Katenkamp and I were catapulted off the ship in late morning and flew a four and one half hour patrol flight ending at Pearl Harbor. We flew around the harbor twice and could hardly believe what we were seeing. I have relived that scene a few times. At about five o'clock we were told where we could get a sandwich and coffee. By the time we were on our way back it was getting dark. At least a half dozen times we were challenged by someone with a rifle. Fortunately none of them were trigger happy. We were finally told by an officer to get back to the hangar and stay inside for the rest of the night

I remember ball-red-02 Deceased Captain Ellis M. Zacharias saying the uniform of the day from now on would be dungarees and the only bugle call used would be for general quarters. A few weeks later we tied up along side the Vincennes. The next morning the bugle sounded and we all rushed to our battle stations. The executive officer complimented us on our speed but then told us it was only the Vincennes blowing reveille.

I remember our first liberty after the war started. I think it was on January 11. Frank H. Tolhurst, ARM1c and I were at the dock waiting for our boat when a sailor who had had too much to drink stretched out on the dock and asked if we would wake him when his ship's boat came in. He gave us his ship's name but I've long since forgotten it. Suddenly we heard his ship's name called and we woke him. By the time we got him fully awake we heard, from the far end of the dock, the last call. With that he got up and started running but the boat started to leave. Nothing else for him to do but jump. He missed by a couple of feet. He went down in a white uniform but came up with a black one from the fuel oil all over the harbor. They wouldn't let him in the boat like that so they proceeded across the harbor with him hanging on for dear life.

I remember watching Doolittle's planes take off from the USS Hornet. Each one dropped down after takeoff and it seemed, from my vantage point, the were falling into the sea. Then they reappeared one by one and we were very glad they all made it off the Hornet and completed the bombing of Japan.

I remember one of our planes being recovered at sea on the starboard side, missing the sea sled inboard, catching the wing tip float on the sea sled and then spinning into the screw guard. The plane capsized and the men were picked up by one of our Destroyers. I was scheduled for that flight but came down with a chest cold and W. R. "Bill" Burke, Jr., ARM3c took my place.

I remember John Ford, the movie director, being aboard with a camera crew. One day Lt. Katenkamp and I were being recovered at sea after a patrol flight. The sea was heavy and the swells rose high. On one attempt to hook on a heavy swell brought the plane up so fast the hook and line from the crane came within inches of going through the wing. On a later try I was ready to hook on when a big swell pitched me forward . The hook just missed my head and the eye, held in my right hand and the only thing I could hang on to, snapped back and hit me hard in the upper lip. I was shaken up and bleeding badly from the blow to my lip but I still had to hook on and get us aboard. Fortunately, there was a lull in the swells and I made the hook up. We climbed down from the plane and I believe to this day there seemed to be more concern for Lt. Katenkamp's trousers, which had my blood on them, than for my still bleeding mouth. A few years later I had to have a tooth removed because the hit had caused it to abscess. The navy would not pay for the dental work because I had no proof it happened the way I told them. Lt. Katenkamp, however, did get a new pair of trousers. By the way, during the episode Ford and a cameraman were out at the end of the catapult filming the whole thing. I've wondered if the footage ever made it into a training film as a how not to do it example.

I remember the trip to Australia in 1942. I had a great time except for the day we got lost on a patrol flight. When returning to shore a heavy fog had settled in and we couldn't see any landmarks. Thinking we were south of the river we flew north until our fuel got low, landed and tried to beach the plane for the night but ran aground on a sandbar. I waded across the sandbar to a dock, cut my feet on the barnacles climbing up, got to a phone in the village and contacted the ship. When I got back to the beach the plane was gone because the loss of my weight on the plane allowed it to float off the sandbar. The pilot got a fishing boat to take the plane in tow and we soon had it beached and tied down While we were having a bite to eat one of the villagers told me I had waded in water infested with four foot long sharks. A military unit put us up for the night and located some aviation fuel for us. Next morning we flew back and explained that we had indeed tried to contact the ship by radio. Unfortunately a C Division radioman lost a few days of liberty because he had been listening to states side radio instead of standing watch on our frequency.

I also remember ball-red-02 Deceased Edward "Reg" Howard, ARM1c, Frank Tolhurst, Unknown Miller, Unknown Taylor and me going out to a country club to play golf. We were treated royally by the pro and the members. They all came out to watch us tee off to see how good we were. Naturally we all dribbled our tee shots. When we finished playing the members treated us to a sandwich and drink. Such great hospitality!

I remember Reg Howard asking our friend George where he could buy some fine quality suit material made from top grade Australian wool. He bought some and sent it back to the states. When I saw Reg at the 1995 reunion I remembered that event and asked him if he ever had a suit made. He said he did and was married in it. Then he laughed and said, "Don, the suit lasted a lot longer than the marriage."

I remember leaving for New Zealand to pick up the Marines. Two days out as I was climbing from the plane after a patrol flight I heard Lt. Katenkamp telling ball-red-02 Percy G. Higgins, Jr., AMM1c the mechanic that the starboard wing seemed heavy and maybe he should check the wing tip float for water. When Higgins took the cap off a few minutes later he found four bottles of Johnny Walker scotch carefully protected with a large bath towel. What a party that turned out to be that night!

I remember flying over Wellington for an hour and a half at 12000 feet. We were just going back and forth to give our gun crews a little tracking practice. It was cold at that altitude in the winter and I hadn't dressed warmly enough. After the flight as I was climbing from the plane I heard Lt. Katenkamp telling the mechanic about a loud noise he kept hearing during the flight. He then asked me if I had heard it and I said no. As he described the intermittent noise I realized what he had heard. I told him I had made the noise by stomping my feet on the metal deck trying to get some circulation going.

I remember ball-red-02 Deceased Russell P. Morse, Lieut being washed overboard in not so calm seas. Fortunately he was spotted by the bridge and kept in sight while the ship circled to pick him up. I have often wondered what went through his mind while battling each wave and swell and watching the ship moving away. I wondered too if the ship would have tried to rescue anyone falling overboard but I never had the desire to test the Captain on it.

I remember taking on some of the Wasp survivors. As each one came aboard he was assigned to one of us for help. The guy I got was bandaged from above his elbow to his fingertips. He couldn't take a shower so while he held his head under the sink faucet I washed his head for him. Also he had me take him to the storekeeper so he could leave his money belt. He said he had been in a poker game the night before. The storekeeper counted out just over $4,000 in the belt!

I remember Cape Esperance. Four of us in V Division with no night battle stations were leaning on the crane watching the battle off to starboard. Suddenly, we were hit hard in the back. Fortunately we were wearing kapok life jackets. We retreated aft and examined each other for shrapnel but found no damage to the life jacket or to us. Cautiously, we went back to the crane and discovered we had been whipped across our backs by an antenna severed near the bridge. We watched the Boise catch fire and pull out of line. Earlier we watched our plane launched, catch fire and go down. That story is told elsewhere by ball-red-02 Claude Morgan, ARM1c who lived through the crash.

I remember the Komandorskis. I was issued fleece lined flight gear including boots, gloves, pants, helmet and jacket. I wore them to bed every night we were in Alaska. During the battle I stood a phone watch on the flight deck. At about eleven a shell hit just under the starboard plane and a piece of the shrapnel hit me. ball-red-02 Deceased Ernie Porterfield and one other ball-red-02 [ Arch McGougan, Jr., S2c] carried me down to the wardroom to the battle aid station. I spent the rest of the battle in the wardroom listening to Deceased James "Jim" David, F2c dying while ball-red-02 Deceased Chaplain Richard Hodge gave him last rites. After the battle three of us who were wounded were taken to Captain Rodgers cabin where we stayed until we reached Mare Island. Each morning he came in and asked how we were.

I remember being transferred to Mare Island Hospital in early May. I didn't realize it at the time but that was my last day aboard the SLC. My wound would not allow me to carry out my duties and I was not allowed to stay aboard while I recovered.

I remember a great ship and great shipmates and great times.

Don received the Purple Heart for wounds he received during the Battle of the Komandorski Islands
1995 USS SLC Reunion Group Picture
#8 in Victor Division, May 30th, 1942
#1 in picture from the collection of ball-red-02 Deceased Joseph R. "Devil Dog" Shannon, AMM1c

Return to Battle of the Komandorski Island Index

Tidbits of Info.

Deceased Lt. Commander Dennis Crowley was the senior pilot when Don Rholl came aboard in March of 1943 and thus was the officer in charge of V Division.

The Zacharias Zombie was made on the SLC by Crowley and the aviation ordinance gang. They started with a practice bomb which was made out of sheet metal and filled with water for practice use. For this purpose it was filled with kapok and fuel oil and dropped on either Wotje or Marcus to see if it would start a fire. It started many fires, all to small to do any damage, because the impact and resulting explosion scattered the contents too far.

Donald A. Rholl

List of Injured on March 26th, 1943
1995 SLC Reunion Group Picture
Tidbit from ball-red-02 Deceased E. C. "Buddy" Porterfield
SLC Deck Logs May 1942  Jun. 1942  Sep. 1942  May 1943

More Contributions

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Don attended the following SLC Reunions:   1991  1993  1995  1997  1999  2001  2002

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Donald A. Rholl slc5-rholl-09

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