USS SLC...Officer...William E. Wester, CSF
June 19th, 2006
Before Dec. 7th, 1941, the USS Salt Lake City was at sea on maneuvers and war games. Our planes were
launched for observation. when they came back in, landing in the ocean along side the ship and hoisted
aboard, their 30 caliber machine guns were removed from the planes and taken to the aviation ordnance
work shop to be checked and cleaned, which was in the 4th Division space aft.
I was working on the deck top side to finish the job I was working at. I needed some gear or a
different tool. At that time I was assigned to the 4th Div. and our gear locker where we kept our tools
and etc. were just forward and above the ordnance work shop. I climbed the ladder to the gear locker and
was standing on the steps reaching inside to find the gear I wanted. The Sailor working on the guns
aft, on the other side of the bulkhead, pulled slide back on one of the guns. The chamber had a round
of ammunition in it. When he let of of the slide the gun fired, drilling a hole through the 5/8 inch
steel bulkhead and the slug that came out of the bulkhead shattered into small pieces. I got steel
pieces in my face, belly and arms and one piece of steel about 1/4 inch long and 1/8 inch wide went 2
1/2 inches up my arm cutting a blood vessel. I left a trail of blood from the gear locker forward to
Days later after the maneuvers was over and we got back to Pearl Harbor, the piece of steel was removed
from my arm at the Naval Hospital.
They checked the place where I was standing and said the bullet had gone between my legs. If I had been
one step lower on the ladder the bullet would have gone through my groin or belly.
I feel like I'm one of the lucky sailors aboard the SLC. There were so many close calls that a few more
inches or feet could have cost me my life. I feel like a higher power was watching out for me. That it
wasn't my time to die.
Take the time a storm was coming up. I was outside the ship fitters shop in the passageway trying to
secure the loose acetylene and oxygen bottles. A huge rolling wave came across the wee deck and down
through the passageway, catching me and the bottles. The water completely filled the passageway from
deck to the overhead. As the wave rolled me head over heels through the passage way, I could feel these
bottles rolling with the water around me. The bottles went out to sea, but somehow, the life lines
around the side of the ship must have caught me and as the water passed over me, dropping me in the
gutter around the side of the ship.
As my lungs cleared and I could start breathing again, I realized where I was. From where I was laying
in the gutter, with one arm over the side, the other one on the deck and face down in the gutter, if the
water had rolled me one more time, I would have been out in the ocean, lost at sea.
At Okinawa, when the Marines landed there April 1st, the USS SLC was one of the many ships lined up off
the beach firing in shells over the heads of the Marines and soldiers landing there. One of the Marines
was my uncle, Henry Neil Wester. We spent three months there. I remember the Kamikazes suicide planes.
They would come in early in the mornings if they weren't shot down and crash on one of our ships.
One early morning I was checking the water tight and gas fitting in the after part of the ship's doors,
hatches and port holes to make sure they were all dogged down. I open a door on the starboard side aft
leading to the main deck to side. As I was closing the door, dogging it down, I looked aft and there
was this plane, somehow it had got through and flying low, right above the water between the Salt Lake
and the cruiser following behind us. As it came near the stern of our ship it seemed to be coming
straight at me and I thought it was going to crash the ship. It was almost at the stern when it went
straight up and in a circle upside down toward the ship following us, missing the starboard side on the
bridge, the plane crashed in a gun tub, starboard side aft of the bridge. From the impact of the crash I
could see what looked like bodies, arms and legs flying through the air around the gun tub.
William E. Wester
#7 in "R" Division, 1943
SLC Deck Logs Oct. 1943
Attended the following SLC Reunions: