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In our last story I took you aboard USS Anaqua AN-40 for a tour of the ship, that may have brought back memories, especially to anyone who had served aboard a wooden Net Tender. In this story Eddie Pinson takes you aboard USS Butternut AN-9 that may bring back memories to anyone who served aboard a steel Net Tender. Here’s Eddies story:
I remember going aboard USS Butternut AN-9 on 24 Jan 1957. Myself and another boot camp shipmate received orders to the BUTTERNUT AN-9. We both went home at Christmas and had just graduated from Recruit Training and had the same reporting date. His name was LEATHERMAN. He became a BM and I was a YN. I made SN two or three times but made YN3 before he made BM3. It was a good thing. It was called Mess Cooks and all the other nasty little jobs for the non-rated.
ANYHOW, we both arrived at the Long Beach, CA. Main Gate at the same time. We also went down the Port Side but the ladder going down to the Deck Apes Quarters was located on the STBD side. We had two hatches going into the Mess Decks (PORT/STBD). The Enlisted Head was off the Mess Decks. We had a very large Stewards mate that made darn sure the lowly Deck Apes took a shower each and every working day. The after quarters was for the Deck Force ratings and we had a quarters forward that was for the Engine room folks. I always took a TOP RACK myself. There were no foot prints and my bunk was not used for a storage place like the two below it. We had an after steering all the way aft through our compartment. It was manned by a Snipe (Engineman type) when at Sea Detail. What a racket it made in there while the screw was turning. We all had nice lockers in the after quarters but any excess clothing was put in a Sea Bag and hung up in the Forward Hold. Well, it came inspection time a little later on and off to the fwd hold to get me a new pair of shoes. They were gone. However, there was a BM2 by the name of LIPPINCOTT. He had on a new pair of shoes - my new shoes. And he ended up in the Navy Stockade for steeling funds from a Signalman I never did get my shoes back. Earl GARNER knows this story well.
Back up on the Mess Decks we had a ladder on the STBD side going down into an Electrical Repair shop of some kind. I remember we kept the movies and projector down there. ALSO, this is where the Alcohol that was drinkable was kept - need I say more - NO. Naturally, the movies were never rewound and had to be checked before taking them topside for showing on the weekends. OH - in the Mess Decks we had a TV - yep we had real live Television and at 1600 every afternoon - on would come American Band Stand. The Liberty sections hit the beach and we watched TV right after the shower. Had a 2nd Class ET we (Earl GARNER) called Suitcase. He was tall and thin and kept the TV working FOREVER. It never went down. His real name was SIMPSON from Ogden, UT. He has never made a reunion. We live close - I should stop and see him one of these days. We had the three tables that were in the overhead and had to be taken up and down for each meal. Only a very large person could do it by himself, however, it was a challenge at sea at times. We also had coffee 24/7 and a nice stainless steel refrigerator that was well stocked and very well known by CWO-4 BOS'N ED BALLENTINE. He would eat in the Officer's Mess and 20 minutes later he would be making himself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich out of the Enlisted Mess. OH - we had great Mid Rats for the Mid Watch. There was always hot soup and it would hit the spot on a cool night. You might wonder why we had Mid Rats for the BUTTERNUT during peace time. Well, we were working with the Polaris Missile Project and we always - well not always but a lot of time got underway at night because they would load the Missile on the Forecastle and away we would go. Later on we towed it in a tube and didn't need the sea traffic going in and out of the Long Beach harbor. It was a challenge getting the Ship's Diary off the ship before sailing each and every time. I would get it to a civilian employee (Yard Bird) and hope that he would mail it for us. The Ship's Diary is a story in and of itself.
Leave the Mess Decks and go fwd - the Galley was on the STBD side and the entrance to the Engine room was on the PORT side. Just a few feet more and on the PORT side was the Officer's Mess and one Officer's Stateroom - on the PORT side with the ladder going down into the fwd compartment and the door to the Captain's Cabin. Down the ladder on the STBD side was storage for ship's company pantry (food). The on the PORT side was the hatch going into the Snipes Quarters. Go fwd and you were into the Chief's Quarters on the PORT side and the Ship's Office on the STBD side. Go a little further and the Shipfitter Shop was on the STBD side right next to the Ship's Office. May a time fumes from the Shipfitter Shop would burn the nose of the Yeoman. The room fwd of this held Diving Gear and lots of it. Below this deck was lots of old time junk and my Sea Bag.
Back up on the main deck just past the two Officer Staterooms was a hatch going out to the Big Winches and on either side we could set up the Quarter Deck Watch while in port. We had the ship's Bell and l-MC for passing the Word. The Forecastle was rather large and we also had the Paint Locker all the way forward on the Port side. We had a young fellow by the name of Mickey Dean DUKE who was killed during one of our Ship's Parties as the result of a car accident. ANYHOW, he had the worst case of claustrophobia I have ever seen. He flat out refused to go down there period. Well, one day he just had to go down after something. One of us other Seaman, probably me, watched him go below and ran up and closed the hatch on him. Well, he sounded like a tin can inside a 55 gals drum trying to get out of there. He would sleep on the Mess Decks at night because he didn't want to go below to his bunk. Don't know how he got into the Navy! Anyhow, it was short lived. That's another story. I was what was called the Leading Seaman at the time and was chosen to escort his remains home to Indio, CA. Chief Yeoman GARNER cut my orders and I have them today as we speak.
Now up to the OH-1 level. The ladder I remember was on the STBD side. Get to the top and right there was the Washing Machine that worked good. Most of the guys were married so the few that were left aboard had free rein to the Washing Machine. There was an empty Gun Tub facing aft and on the PORT side was the Whale Boat that was a dandy. It was taken on and off on a regular basis at San Clemente Island. From the OH-1 level on the PORT side took you into the Radio Shack and the up and very short ladder into the Bridge Area. The Radio Shack always had a bucket in there - I wonder why? There was a short ladder on the STBD side that took us to the STBD bridge lookout. There were repeaters on both sides. On the Bridge amidships was the Helmsman and Engine Order Telegraph. Terrell my wife got to steer the BUTTERNUT a time or two while we did Dependents Cruises. It was either the SM or QM that ran the Engine Order Telegraph. I don't think it was the Helmsman. The QM's had a chart table of sorts on the PORT side in the Bridge area and the STBD side was open to stand and look out one of the Port holes. OH - I almost forgot we had a 3" 50 on the OH-1 level just fwd of the Bridge. It would only shoot PORT or STBD like the rest of them. The hungry BOS'N had ours taken off because it was extra topside weight and we didn't need it anymore. He thought it would cut back on the rock and roll at sea. The SM's had their Flag Bags in that area. They had more room. The Bridge was always a busy place and there was no playing around PERIOD. Believe it or not - CPO's on the BUTTERNUT were taught and allowed to stand OOD Underway Watches. I believe it was LT Mike J. TRENS, USN, that started that. He, LT TRENS, retired and was killed in a boating accident shortly after retirement in HAWAII - that's another story. What a super smart Mustang shipmate.
We also had a flying Bridge for lookouts. It had a hand rail and canvas to help keep out the cold but it didn't work all that well. We also had a huge search light and one had to know how to light. We didn't just flick a switch. The hungry BOS'N would be the first one to chew someone out who didn't report something before he saw it. I remember at Captain's Mast one time - he told the Old Man - PINSON thinks he is running the Navy instead of the Navy running him - Captain Bust the SOB. Seems to me that's about the time Chief Yeoman GARNER came into my LIFE.
Fantail - just outside either hatch from the Mess Decks would take you to the Fantail. We had a Deep Sink on the PORT side then the Deep Sea Diving Chamber (decompression for the divers that got the Bends) and the aft Winches that would pull your sox off sat amidships. The Fantail was just large enough to sit around and tell Sea Stories in Port our under way. Lots of Scuttlebutt went on here.
Earlier I mentioned a door and ladder going down into the Engine room just outside the Officer's Mess. Well, it was noisy down there big time underway. Two large Diesel Engines and one 6.71 Jimmy Diesel. The EM's and EN's worked this area. The EM's would answer orders from the Engine Order Telegraph on the Bridge. They had a little wheel that they turned and it determined how many turns the screw (prop) would make. Gary JENSEN was an EM and he would get so Sea Sick - I felt sorry for him. Those 4 hours watches underway would just about kill him. He was hit by lightning as a kid and was shaky to begin with. Well, that too is another story. We were close friend - he was from Utah. He, Suitcase and I would go home on leave together in Suitcase's black go fast Studebaker. Gary and I are still friends today. He was a Railroad guy like Glenn PAULSON. His wife still does a little Real Estate in Salt Lake City, Ut.
We had a crew of about 3 or 4 Officers. And about 40 - 45 Enlisted. As a rule we all got along together as I recall. There were times we worked 24/7 as they say now days and then again we had some great liberty. OH - speaking of liberty - we had a BM1 by the name of CUMBY. This guy was a "BM" if you know what I mean. We went down to San Diego for something and I was in the Liberty Section - well CUMBY comes up to me and said "PINSON" we have to change your Duty Section and you will have duty in San Diego. He wanted to go on liberty with a buddy and I got you know what. ANYHOW, he got his in the end. GMG1 Kenneth L. SMITH did a number on him one day. I guess it's called what goes around comes back around. Ken made it to the 2000 reunion in Jackson, Ca. and passed away the day after he got home. Now this was a great shipmate. No one messed with Ken. Several years later I ran into him on San Clemente Island - and that is another story. OH - what the heck - I was stationed on San Clemente Island - that's where the BUTTERNUT and the Polaris Missile Project took place back in the 50's and it was now 1973. ANYHOW, one afternoon I could hear the Old Man, LCDR TRUAX and now LT Kenneth L. SMITH coming in the office. Ken had a voice that could never be forgotten. He stuttered just a little bit and could be heard for miles around. When I saw him we shook hands and hugged and kissed like kids. Well, LCDR TRUAX went spastic. He went in and sat down in his office while Ken and I made up for lost time. Come to find out we were neighbors in the Long Beach area and stayed friend to the end. He ended up in St. Helens, Or. and Earl and I would drive up and see him while he was ill with Cancer. Captain James WILMOTH - then Ensign WILMOTH on the BUTTERNUT would call me on the phone and have me meet him at the Boise, Idaho, airport and we would fly up to Portland, rent a car and visit with Ken also while he was ill. Net Tender Shipmate's are forever and ever.
On about 13 Oct 1960, I departed the USS BUTTERNUT AN-9 for the Long Beach, Ca. Naval Receiving Station and was transferred to the Naval Reserves. I was discharged on 19 Oct 1960 - I was on a kitty cruise. Got out the day before my 21 st Birthday. Went to the Naval Reserve Training Center in San Jose, CA. and shipped over for 6 years and never looked back. I was a squared away YN from then on because Chief Yeoman GARNER taught me that way. I couldn't tell you now but back then the Chief's ran the Navy. In the end Earl and I would stop in and see the BOS'N in Portland, Or. on our way up to Ken SMITH's. His wife had died and he was living in the basement of the home he owned and renting out the upstairs to a former son-in-law. He had BUTTERNUT and Navy memorabilia all over the place.
The food on the BUTTERNUT was just awesome. The cooks would make sweet rolls and all kinds of goodies for the mid morning break. Don't ever recall having a bad meal. OH - on duty nights and on weekends it was not uncommon to have girl friends, especially mine, aboard for dinner and watch a movie. And yes it seems just like yesterday but it has been 55 years for me. Well, spell check probably didn't do that well with all the Navy talk. Lets hear from someone else now. Eddie............................bt
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