Charles W. Stephens, FCO2c
USS Salt Lake City CA25
USS SLC...Enlisted Navy...Charles W. Stephens, FCO2c
Charles W. Stephens passed away at the age of 93 on May 31st, 2015. Information from his son Terry.
Feb. 18th, 2005
Letter from Charles W. Stephens
I was a single 20 year old living in Kansas City, MO. when I joined the Navy. I had received my draft notice to report for duty, but I went down and joined the Navy and didn't tell the draft board. They were VERY unhappy.
I went to Great Lakes Naval Training Station on July 25th, 1942. They were bringing in 500 men a day, so for three or four nights I slept in a new canvas hammock with only two blankets and a pillow. I finally got a mattress and slept in the hammock until the end of boot camp, August 31st, 1942. I had KP duty until Sept. 28th when I started a 16 week Fire Control School. I was in a barracks with bunk beds by then.
On Jan. 13th, 1943 I left Great Lakes along with 40 or so other sailors in two Pullman train cars heading for San Francisco, stopping at Fred Harvey's for every meal. We arrived on Jan. 17th..... one bunch of dirty sailors. No showers, no change of clothes and no money. We were at Treasure Island Receiving Station for 3 weeks. One night was work detail at the Fleet Post Office, the next night, liberty. So our first liberty night we went to the shipyards and worked chipping paint because they paid us each night. the next night Fleet Post Office, next, liberty to a show...etc. There were 5 of us from the Fire Control School and little did we know we all were headed for the USS SALT LAKE CITY.
We left San Francisco on Feb. 8th, 1943 on the SS TYLER loaded with servicemen...unescorted, doing a zig-zag course to Pearl Harbor, arriving on Feb. 16th and then boarded the SLC on Feb. 20th, 1943. Serving on her for 2 years and 7 months.
I was a S1c when I went aboard and was assigned to the Fox Division as a Fire Controlman "O" (Optical) Striker. I was a Fire Controlman (FCO2c) when I was discharged.
I went swimming off the ship while anchored in a large harbor with James P. King. The waves were taking us away from the ship, so the shark patrol boat had to pick us up.
There was the Komandorski. I was range finder trainer for Range Three, giving the range reading to Range Plot. Range 3 and 4 were doing most of the reading and after 3 hours and 30 men looking into the range finder, my eyes were strained to the point I was blinded for an hour or two.
On Sept. 10th, 1943, off Kiska in the Aleutians, we ran into a "Will of the Wisp" storm and took a 36 degree roll. I went for 3 days without sitting down to eat. You could see all four screws from the cruiser ahead of us out of the water... and we were doing the same because when the screws (propeller) went back into the water, the vibration would really shake the old Salt Lake.
On Sept. 9th, 1945, they came out with a point system for qualifying to be discharges. 1/2 point for each year of age; 1/2 point for each month of service; 1/2 point for each month of overseas service; 1 point for each engagement star; 10 points for each dependent; 55 points required and I had 60 1/2. So in Aomori, Japan, on Sept. 14th, 1945, I left the USS SLC.
The Salt Lake was the only ship I served on during my service days. I was, however, on the USS MANILA BAY CVE#61 (Carrier Escort) from Japan to Pearl Harbor. I got to sleep in the hammock on that trip. Then on the USS FANSHAW BAY CVE#70 from Pearl Harbor to San Francisco. They had taken all the planes off and had rows of bunks six high on the hanger deck.
I was discharged at Lambert Field, St. Louis, MO. on Oct. 13th, 1945. After 3 years, 2 months, 17 days and 19 hours.
With my sealegs in good shape, I started riding the trains as a Railway Mail Clerk... standing up, sorting, catching and dispatching mail for 500 mines in a swaying Railway Post Office from Kansas City to Texarkana on the K.C. Southern Railroad.
When the Post Office took mail service off the trains (I made my last trip in the RPO on Jan. 8th, 1968), I ended up in the Post Office at Harrisonville, MO. and retired in Feb. 1979.
I was married in May of 1944 while we were in Mare Island Naval Base for a six week overhaul. I took my wife, Mardell, back to Mare Island with me and we lived in a quonset hut for three weeks there on the base.
We have a daughter, Nancy, and she has 3 sons and 4 grandsons. We have a son, Terry, who has one son and one daughter.
For our 50th Anniversary, our kids gave us a 3-week trip. One week in Australia, one week in New Zealand and one week in Hawaii. For our 60th, we just went fishing.
After fifteen years of retirement, I got tired of doing volunteer work, so started driving cars for a car rental company and a car dealership... and I'm still driving... but no longer doing the long runs. I have driven from California to Maine and fron Canada to the Gulf.
SLC Deck Log Feb. 1943
Charles William Stephens, 93, of Raytown, MO passed away May 31, 2015 surrounded by his loving family. Visitation will be at Ivanhoe United Church of Christ in Raytown at 10:00 AM Saturday, June 6, 2015, with a memorial service following at 11:00 AM. Memorial contributions may be made to Ivanhoe United Church of Christ.
Charles was born December 13, 1921 in Cass County, MO. He was a WWII Navy Veteran, a Fire Controlman 2ndClass on the USS Salt Lake City. Charles retired from the US Postal Service as a Railway Mail Clerk. He remained active in the Railway Mail Association and was instrumental in having a plaque of recognition on display at Union Station.
He was a faithful and dedicated member of Ivanhoe Church of Christ for 79 years. He cherished his family and prioritized time with them camping, playing card games, and mushroom hunting.
Charles was preceded in death by Mardell, his wife and love of 69 years, his parents and four siblings. He is survived by his daughter Nancy (Frank) Stockman, Fayette, IA; son, Terry (Jeanne) Stephens, Overland Park, KS; 8 grandchildren, 9 great grandchildren, his sister Florence (Chuck) Roseberry, and several very special nieces and nephews.
Clair S. Tritt, FCO1c & Charles Stephens
Charles, wife Mardell|
dau. Nancy & son Terry
Dec. 26th, 2009
Charles Stephens, 2004|
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