USS SLC...Enlisted Navy...Rod van Ausdall, S1c
Feb. 3, 2000
I visited your site. Very well designed - beautiful page - it is
obvious you put a lot of work into it.
I don't mind at all if you add my experience/name to your web page. As I
was an "amphib sailor" during the war, my only distinction as regards to the
Salt Lake is as a member of her crew during her last operational voyage and,
sadly, present when she was targeted by the A-bomb Tests.
I wish you smooth sailing, fair weather, and following seas.
Like thousands of other 1940s teenagers in WW II, I served my country in
the Pacific Theater, and after participating in the invasions of Iwo
Jima and Okinawa, returned to the States (San Diego) on my ship, the LST
Rod van Ausdall & the LST 944 http://www.tamaroa.org/zuni02.htm
I went home on a wonderful thirty day leave and upon my return to San
Diego, I had a little time to serve before discharge to civilian life
and school, so I volunteered for Joint Task Force One and Operation
I returned to Pearl Harbor and was assigned to the cruiser SALT LAKE
CITY, bound for Bikini as a target ship. She was my first wooden decked
ship. Holy-stoning the main deck was a once-in-a-lifetime chore for a
steel deck sailor. The cruise to Bikini was pleasant with no wartime
light discipline or General Quarters calls - a welcome relief from the
activities of a few months before.
When we arrived off Bikini, we anchored the Salt Lake City in Bikini
lagoon, and the crew transferred. I drew assignment to the LST 861. The
LST 861 was then tasked to take aboard Bikini natives and transport them
to the island of Rongerik.
The preparation for the trip to Rongerik included the construction of
primitive toilet facilities on the main deck and little else. I don't
recall how or what the natives were fed but remember they were only
aboard one day and night. I'm not sure what was furnished for bedding,
if any, but I remember the natives were restricted to topside, forward
of the bridge deck area, for the trip to Rongerik. It was not a pleasant
experience for the crew, and, as the natives had suffered abuse by the
Japanese during the war, this resettlement by the American Navy must
have frightened and bewildered them.
Upon our return to Bikini we assumed our primary mission which was to
provide a floating Fleet Post Office for Joint Task Force One and
supporting elements. The tank deck of the LST 861 had been transformed
into a large post office and furnished mail service for every ship and
element of Joint Task Force One. I suppose every captains gig , duty
launch, LCVPs, and other small boats from the fleet came alongside each
day with Guard and personal mail. We opened the LST bow doors, creating
a dock, to make it easy to come alongside and enter the tank deck. There
were mountains of mail - incoming and outgoing !
My memories of the lagoon and target fleet have faded but I remember the
USS NEVADA had been painted red and was the ground zero target. We all
thought this was a shameful way to treat the NEVADA. I recall admiring
the German cruiser PRINZ EUGEN. With her long raked bow she was a
A unique aspect of the Fleet Post Office operation was the sacks of mail
we got from the philatelic community, all over the world, asking for
cancellations of stamps with the atom bomb test cancellation cachet.
Each collector sent 20-30 stamped envelopes to be hand canceled. Two
cachets were used - one for the Able shot and one for the Baker shot.
Sailors were assigned to "hand cancel" these letters with special hand
stamps in lieu of the machine cancellation (which may have smeared the
stamps). There must have been thousands of these letters. I recall no
limit to the outside (non-participants) number of requests for
cancellation but another post on this web page states the fleet
participants were allowed only four envelopes per man. They are probably
becoming hard to find now.
We were about 12-15 miles away during both tests and weren't in any
blast danger. We were underway at the time of each shot. We returned to
the lagoon after the shots. I thought it was strange some vessels
escaped damage and others close by were sunk or heavily damaged.
Scientists with Geiger counters came aboard and we were clicking "hot"
but didn't do anything about it, The Salt Lake City remained afloat
during both tests. I have since learned she was later sunk by the Navy
during a terrific air/sea bombardment off San Diego. It is sad to think
so many ships with glorious records were sunk without ceremony.
I recall , one night, after the tests, during the voyage back to Pearl
Harbor, I went into the galley and when I returned to the darkness of
the deck , my hand, which had flour on it, was glowing with light. After
washing my hand the glow disappeared. I don't know if this was due to
radiation but the glow appeared remarkably similar to the phosphorous
glow one sees streaming from porpoises when they play around the bow of
a ship underway.
When we arrived in Pearl Harbor we were again declared "hot" and all
hands transferred off the ship. I went aboard the USS Shangri-La for
travel to the US and return to civilian life. I later served in the
Korean War and am now 74 and feel great.
In 1984 I received a questionnaire from the Navy inquiring about my
health. I answered I was okay. Later I received a computer printout
stating I received a "calculated" exposure of Gamma (REM) 0.380, during
CROSSROADS, and this was not harmful. "The calculated dosage method was
necessary to reconstruct the dosage received as only 15% of participants
were badged. "
I personally believe there were too many variables and unreliable data
sources to properly evaluate and accurately determine individual doses.
Rod van Ausdall
Operation Crossroads Veterans
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