Memories from Francis D. Von Ruden
Feb. 3rd, 2000
I joined the US Navy on Sept. 26th, 1940 and went to
San Diego, CA. for boot camp. I was assigned to the SALT LAKE CITY CA25 on
December, 1940 while the SALT LAKE was in Mare Island. We went to Long
Beach from Mare Island and then to Pearl Harbor home base.
I was assigned to the 4th Division. The man in charge was
B. J. McGrath, 1st Lt..
I did not like chipping paint and painting, so I put in for a transfer to "E"
division. That changed my rate from Seaman 2nd Class to Fireman 2nd. and made
Fireman 1st Class & EM3c in 1941.
We made a great trip to Australia in 1941 and on the way we crossed the 180 longitude and all aboard that were not "Golden Dragons" were now "Golden Dragons". The day was July
26th, 1941. The Golden Dragon Ruler of the 180th Meridian was
George M. Peck, CQM.,
Commanding Officer was
E. M. Zacharias, Capt. USN; the Executive Officer was J. B. Noble, Commander
Prior to crossing the 180th Meridian we crossed the Equator and all aboard who were not "shellbacks"
were now "shellbacks". I remember one crew member who was a "pollywog" (someone who has never
crossed the equator) vowed he was not going to be initiated from the lowly rank of poly-wog to the higher order of "shellback" could not be located by the Royal Order of Shellbacks to go through the ritual
of initiation. If my memory serves me correctly, this "pollywog" was found hiding in one of the propeller
shaft alleys. He was brought topside and given the "ROYAL" treatment by the old and the new shellbacks. May I say this.... his skin would not have been near as "PINK" had he of just lined up with the rest of us and gone through the (????) of grease, tar, cotton filled water soaked canvas tubes. We all had fun.
About November 27th or 28th, 1941, we left Pearl Harbor and escorted the ENTERPRISE, along with other ships to Wake Island. The ENTERPRISE was carrying a Marine fighter group of E4F fighter planes that re-enforced the garrison at Wake Island. As we were steaming back to Pearl Harbor I remember we stood at G.Q. each AM and each PM, sunrise and sunset and GQ we stood 4 on and 4 off.
I also remember we had live ammo in all the 5" ready boxes. I also remember that word was passed that if we saw a surface ship or sub that was not US, we were to fire for effect upon that craft.
December 7th, 1941!! Back to Pearl Harbor....Almost!! Sunday 0755. I was sleeping in my sack and we were about 200 miles out. A shipmate shook me awake and was hollering in my face..."Sparky"... "Sparky"..get out of the sack--Pearl is under Japanese attack. At about the same time, GQ sounded. "All hands to battle stations". We were to battle stations in whites. That is white socks, white shorts or white long pants and white T-shirts. We, on topside, all wore WWII tin hats. That's all we had. We did not know any better. Four of us EM's and eight SK's were on the search light platform. I don't remember the names of the 8 SK's, but the EM's were C. C. Taylor, EM3c, A. H. Smith, EM2c,
Carl O. Matison, EM2c, and myself, Von Ruden.
I think we stayed on the search lights 4 on and 4 off after we secured from GQ till just about sunset. 4 on and 4 off all that night.
We stayed on GQ until we had entered Pearl Harbor which was about 1200. As we were coming into the channel to Pearl, we could see columns of smoke and downed aircraft. Off our port bow we saw the USS Nevada Battleship on the beach still with small fires going. Ahead was Ford Island. A total disaster!! On the west side of Ford Island we saw what looked like a carrier sunk. It wasn't, it was the "bottom" of the battleship, USS Utah. It was turned completely over and all we could see was the flat bottom and the keel.
On our starboard we saw the USS OGALLALA, mind layer ship, on its side. In one of the dry docks were three ships, the USS Pennsylvania BB, USS CASSIN, DD, and the USS DOWNES, DD. In front, a little off the starboard bow we could see the USS Arizona burning, the USS Tennessee, the USS West Virginia, USS Oklahoma, USS Maryland BB, USS Vestal, USS Raleigh light cruiser.
We tied up in the middle of the steam somewhere on the west or northwest side of Ford Island, took fuel tanker on one side and a supply ship on the opposite side and replenished our ships assets. We had a real scare about 1400 or 1500 that afternoon. We were alerted that another air attack was coming in. Back to GQ...False Alarm. Phew!!! I believe we took on all the fuel we needed first. The fuel tanker left and we continued taking supplies.
After dark, while standing GQ, we were alerted that there could be "enemy" trying to come up on us, stern or side. We were really jittery and sure enough, you know what? URG!! When we left Pearl Harbor in late November to go to Wake Island, we left a boat and boat crew in Pearl Harbor. I believe that Carl O. Matison, EM2c was one of the crew and so was
Ralph Horton. Well, wouldn't you know.....here they came along the channel upon our stern. A look-out in the aft 30 cal machine gun challenged....no response!! Challenged again!!! No response. I could see the silhouette of the boat, and if my memory serves me right, it looked like our whale boat. I wanted to yell to them "Good Lord"... be recognized so you won't be filled with 30 or 50 cal. rounds.
All I could do was open my mouth---no crying out, no shouting. I did not know Ralph Horton, but Carl Matison was my shipmate. How many liberties did we make together?
I knew he was going to die!!! The Marine clicked the bolt....the machine gun was now loaded and cocked. Finally!!!! Finally one of the boat crew called out--- "Salt Lake City" whale boat. At the last moment the crew, my shipmate Carl and the boat....Saved. "Thank You Lord"!!!!
After the boat and crew were brought aboard we stayed in the middle of the stream till around midnight at which time we got underway and started back out to sea. As we rounded Ford Island and headed for the channel to leave Pearl Harbor we passed the battleship row to our starboard. The ships fires were still burning and sending out huge black clouds of smoke. From our GQ station on the search light platform we had an un-broken view of the terrible damage left behind by the infamous, cowardly, sneak attack by the Japanese.
The time is now somewhere around midnight and 0100 of Dec. 9, 1941. I know we were with the USS ENTERPRISE and other men of war but the other ships names are not coming back. We spent about ten or twelve days looking for the Japanese fleet in the waters north and northwest of Pearl Harbor but with "0" success.
We returned to Pearl Harbor and I believe we had some yard work performed on our radar system and our 1.1 pom pom guns installed. Could be wrong on these dates. Regardless of the modification dates we went out again, returned to Pearl Harbor and sometime in January of 1942 left for the (I believe) Marshall Islands. I don't remember the exact date we hit but our target was Wotje. We were able to inflict a great deal of damage to the installations, but of course the Japanese supply line was wide open to repair and replenish.
During the attack we were shelled repeatedly by the Japanese shore batteries. Believe me, I was one scared sailor. Those shells were going over our heads about white hat level or so it seemed. I had to scrub my skivvies three times before they came clean. After what seemed like eternity (we made several runs---port and starboard) we left the area and headed back to Pearl Harbor. Sometime that afternoon, about 1400 or 1500, we were attacked by Japanese bombers and fighter escort. One of the ships in our task group, USS CHICAGO CA was hit by a bomb from one of the Jap planes. I believe they took the hit in the fo'c's'le? forward of the bridge. There were casualties. I don't remember, but I believe five dead plus wounded. One of the bombers was hit and turned around and tried to hit the Carrier ENTERPRISE, but crashed into the water right at the ENTERPRISE port quarter water line. No damage to the Carrier. I know we suffered great loss in life of our fighting forces, sea, land and air, but can you imagine what our losses would have been if we had of been the aggressor?
Our Lord would have made us pay more dearly than we could know. We lost 292,191 dead in WWII. Had we have been the aggressor, we may have had in number of dead losses of ten times or more what are losses were.
After the brief skirmish with the Jap planes we continued on to Pearl Harbor. We were to pass by Wake Island and shell the Japs that had taken the Island from us. We came upon Wake Island and started shelling. Planes from the ENTERPRISE did some work on the Island also. We continued to Pearl Harbor.
In March, 1942, the SALT LAKE CITY supported air strikes on Marcus Island. We returned to Pearl Harbor and that was when I was given a transfer to the east coast of the good ol' US of A., to the good ship USS MASSACHUSETTS BB59. I missed the Doolittle raid, the Coral Sea, Midway and the battles of Cape Esperance & Komandorski. But that was OK.... we made up for that on Nov. 18, 19, & 20th on the USS MASSACHUSETTS BB59 supporting the N. African invasion. In that three days I got "all" caught up on and "in" the war.
Francis Von Ruden
Close call in the Aleutians