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Story #16 Volume VIII Norman Reed-USS Waxsaw AN-91
The 15 newest Net Tenders in the Cohoes class AN-78 through AN-92 were commissioned between March and May 1945, too late for World II action. However 7 of these ships did have duty in the Pacific
Most of the crew members were reservists, in for the duration. As a result many men probably only served a few months aboard these ships before they were eligible for discharge at the end of World War II.
One of these men was Norman Reed 234 West Vine Street, Fleetwood, PA19522.
Norman is now 89 years old. He read Leroy Jones’s ad in The American Legion magazine about the reunion and his memory probably brought him back to his service on the Net Tender USS Waxsaw AN-91. After Leroy suggested that Norman submit a story about his time on Waxsaw he graciously did so.
Here is Norman’s story.
Early in July 1944 I volunteered for immediate induction into the U.S. Navy at the age of 23. I had 12 weeks of Boot Camp at Bainbridge, MD. During my boot leave, I married my wife on September 26, 1944. On September 26, 2010, we will be married 66 years and we both thank the Lord we are still together in our own home. After boot leave in 1944, I was sent to Gulfport, Mississippi for 8 weeks of Basic Engineering School with a rating of Seaman 2/C. This was followed at Gulfport with 4 weeks of Diesel School with a rate of Fireman1/C.
I was then sent to General Motors Advanced Diesel School in Cleveland, Ohio for training on G.M. engines (16 cylinders-278) Diesel Electric used for main propulsion. I enjoyed the factory school very much. We had Commissioned Officers and enlisted men in the same classes. From there, I was sent to the Naval Depot at Melville, Rhode Island which is near Newport, Rhode Island. At Melville we trained for a few weeks on a wooden hull Net Tender, the Chinaberry AN-61. This training included working with nets and gunnery practices. The next big thing at Melville was forming a new crew for assignment to our new ship-the Waxsaw AN-91 which was being constructed at Duluth, Minnesota. Launched, 15 September 1944, Commissioned Waxsaw (AN-91), 6 May 1945, Lt Kearny R. Garrison, USNR, in command. I was aboard at the commissioning at the rating MoMM3C.
Waxsaw left Duluth, Minnesota at the western tip of Lake Superior May 11, 1945. Lakes shipping season typically shut down with heavy ice from mid-January to mid-March, but we did encounter flows of ice on the Great Lakes. From Lake Superior we went through the large locks at Sault Saint Marie which connects Lake Huron. Then through the Welland Ship Canal, which was 27 miles long. The Welland Ship Canal connects Lake Erie to Lake Ontario and contains 7 locks. We then entered the St Lawrence Seaway which was nice sailing because we tied up every night which allowed liberty for half of the crew…that was great! While on the seaway, we ran aground. I was in the after steering compartment at the time, and what a noise that made when the prop was picking up the rocks etc.
When we arrived at Boston, the new ship was put into dry dock for extensive repairs. This gave the crew extra liberty. I am sure the Skipper had some explaining to do! The St Lawrence Seaway ends at Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia and enters the Atlantic Ocean. We were 8 miles east of Nova Scotia at about 2 am when General Quarters sounded, so the crew headed for their battle stations. This was the first for a new ship and crew. We learned later that a German sub had torpedoed a ship 7 miles from our location. We had one more stop at Melville, Rhode Island at the Net Depot to load nets and deliver them to the west coast. Enroute we stopped at Key West, Florida and we went through the Panama Canal. We went through the locks with a Liberty ship that took about 8 hours. We had liberty at Colon and Balboa.
We sailed on, stopping at San Pedro, California, on to San Francisco under the Golden Gate Bridge to the Net Depot at Tiburon.
The war ended and I had enough points to be discharged, so I left the Waxsaw and traveled by train to Bainbridge, MD to the Separation Center in Maryland. For the most part my experience was a pleasant one, giving me knowledge and experience.
After discharge I immediately went back to my former job with a major steel company as a Machinist and Tool maker I had 46 good years with the company I retired with a good pension..and this year of 2010, I’ve been retired 23 years. The Lord has been good to my wife and myself during our 66 years of marriage. We have been blessed with three children, 7 grandchildren and three great grandsons.
Norman L. Reed
Note: After Norman left the ship USS Waxsaw remained in service close to 15 years, removing WWII nets from San Francisco Bay, returned to the East Coast laying moorings for the Reserve Fleet at Green Cove Springs, Florida, during Korean Conflict laid nets at Hampton Roads, towed targets and participated in various training exercises. For the next 9 years Waxsaw operated with the Atlantic Fleet in various locations from Nova Scotia to Key West.
Waxsaw was decommissioned 23 March 1960 and transferred under the Mutual Defense Assistance Program to Venezuela in October 1963.
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