Chuck Westermann enlisted in the Navy in 1943. "Since I was 17 and wasn't
drafted I could pick the Navy. I only weighed 120 pounds and I figured if
I get in the Army I couldn't march with a pack that weighed more than me.
Originally he was from Roseville, Michigan. His tool and die-maker
father died at 47 and Chuck went to work in a machine shop for 35 cents an
In October of 1943 he was sent to the Salt Lake City to be a passenger to
Pearl Harbor where he was to be stationed. By the time the ship got there
he had been drafted as a member of the crew and was in the "A" Division
where his machine shop experience could be used on the evaporators, in the
machine shop and boiler room.
Chuck remembers the invasion of Tarawa. He had been taking a shower when
the Japanese planes came over the Salt Lake City firing. He grabbed his
clothes and ran naked to his general quarters control station. When he got
there he put his clothes on.
A less fun incident happened when the ship was being refueled during the
Philippine actions. In the fire room a 15,000 gallon oil tank burst.
Chuck had been standing next to it and he would have been in serious
trouble if a Chief hadn't immediately raised the air pressure that took
the fumes into the boiler so it wouldn't back flash. It was a close call.
He almost had another serious problem when, after the war, the SLC rolled
47 degrees just before going up the Columbia River. Luckily Chuck managed
to grab on to some machinery.
He was offered first class to take the SLC to Bikini, but he decided he
wanted to go home. He tried college for a year but gave it up to start a
refuse business. He married a local 17 year old girl when he was 25. "I
had to marry a young girl, the older ones knew me," he jokes. They had
three daughters and three sons. One son was killed in an auto accident.
Recently Chuck and wife, Marian, went to the American Legion Hall to
discover they were being thrown a big surprise 50th wedding anniversary
party by their children with all their friends and relatives present.
They have eight grandchildren.
Chuck sold his refuse business and now does a lot of volunteer work.
Mostly he drives Veterans to the Veterans Hospital 40 miles away.
He has been to every reunion and since the one in Philadelphia, he has
been an important part of each one. He is in charge of the "Memorabilia
Room" and has to pack, unpack and display the thousands of items at each
reunion. If you want to thank Chuck for his hard work, just look for a
short guy with bright suspenders.
SLC Deck Log Oct. 1943
#7 in the picture with the "A" Division, 1944
Reunion Tidbits, June, 1996, from Gardnerville, NV. Newspaper