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NavSource Online: Service Ship Photo Archive

AP-22 Mount Vernon

Cruise Book 1941 to 1946
Page 4

Contributed by Robert E. Houle, CM2c, SSMT1c

All images in this section are taken from the cruise book. Narrative has been transposed and added to the photos where appropriate.

Click on Thumbnail Image to See Enlarged Picture

"One of the men met a British Flyer, and had an air view of the area. He came down shaking at the knees, having had a few pot shots come his way while over Vichy French territory.

The last night in port Aden an incredibly large moon slipped up over the horizon. A ship was in the process of coaling. Natives carrying baskets of coal on their heads chanted as they worked. Softly their voices floated over the water.

Through the Red Sea there was only one subject for scuttlebutt. 'Through the Suez Canal, and back home?' Mail had not been received for two months, and news from the States was scarce. Didn't the British show surprise when they saw the 'Mount Vernon' in Aden? Hadn't reports been broadcast the Japs had sunk the Might Mount?

But the ship stopped just at the south tip of the Canal and embarked troops. There was no chance to get ashore, but the shore came to the ship. Native vendors came with cheap trinkets, mostly leather goods to barter with the 'Yanks'. The favorite method of trade was to see the article, haggle for the price, send a bucket over and get the article, then send the money over. Woe to the merchant that cheated! There was a two and one-half inch hose in readiness with pressure to turn the dealer's boat over.

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The ship looked with great respect when the towering Aussies came aboard. After several years of bearing the brunt of the fighting in the Mediterranean area, the boys were finally enroute home. The several thousand 'Diggers' were soon taken to heart by the Yanks. Most of them towered head and shoulders over the crew. And soon officers and men of both nations were bartering for souvenirs from both the States and the Holy Land. The Aussies attached themselves to the sailor or a group of sailors they liked and followed them about like St. Bernards.

Down through the Red Sea the ship made her way again, only to be stopped by a plane out of Aden. Orders were to turn back. Scuttlebutt raged again among both the Aussies and the crew. Upon returning to Aden, however, the orders were discovered to be a mistake.

The next port was Columbo, Ceylon, one of the most famous jewel markets of the world. The crew were soon proudly showing their purchases. Each one make a better bargain than the rest. By this time all hands were seasoned in the art of trade and settled down to sensible bargaining. Tours were made by rickshaw along the Cinnamon scented byways. A stop was necessary at the Buddhist Temple, where boys were waiting to remove the visitors shoes--for a tip--and to offer for sale such things as Sanskrit texts on palm leaf scrolls, and, of course the gift for the priest.

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The officers were pleased with the reception at the Galle Face Hotel on the sea walk. The enlisted men took over the Oriental Hotel. At first the Aussies, too, had liberty, but due to their failure to report back to the ship, they received orders to remain aboard. It was their first time off in two or three years, but some of the town had to be kept intact.

Shortage of fresh water brought about the securing of the shower water, even though the weather was insufferably hot. Late one night a rainstorm came, and crew, officers, and passengers alike stripped and went on deck to wash down in the rain.

Loaded with tea, jewelry, and souvenirs, the ship got under way for Australia. A few days out of port the ship's radio intercepted a distress call from a supply ship pursued by enemy subs, headed for our destination and on our course to Fremantle. Battle condition Two was set, and all hands arrived in port completely worn out. Half the crew went ashore in Fremantle, the port of Perth.

The troops debarked in Adelaide. None of the crew were allowed off the ship, but with a railroad Kiosk nearby, everyone agreed that Australian ice cream was nearest to the Stateside confection.

Survivors from the Philippines and from American ships sunk in the Macassar Straits Battle came aboard. Such a mixture of uniforms as the survivors and refugees were had never before been seen!. A U.S. Navy Captain in his blue uniform coat, army pants, Aussie shirt and yellow high-top shoes was a typical example.

A number of civilians were brought aboard as well as Naval survivors. Among them was Mrs. E.E. Sayre, wife of the Philippine High Commissioner. It was the first time in her Navy career that the ship carried woman passengers.

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Captain Cook first set foot on New Zealand in Wellington, and while its climate is one of the healthiest in the world, when the ship arrived there the crew was much more excited in the reception given by the townspeople. Everyone was welcome! The 'Mount Vernon' was the first American vessel in the port since war had been declared, and the first Navy ship since the middle thirties. The crew explored every restaurant and milk bar in the city. James McCracken drove one waitress to distraction by asking for chocolate sauce, strawberries, and marshmallow put over ice cream, delicately balanced on two banana halves. She threw up he hands and walked away with the comment. 'These Yanks, They'll eat anything!'

Souvenirs consisted of greenstone or wood Maori Tickies, and Para shell articles. The men were excited to see a whole town full of white women in modern clothes--women who were friendly. It was nice too, to see men in pants, instead of table cloth Lava Lavas trailing below men's conventional suit coats.

While everyone enjoyed Wellington, they were overjoyed when the ship pulled out. This time she was headed for the States. Passengers and ship's company alike were in a jovial talkative mood. Even Captain Beary, usually a grave quiet man, chatted freely with anyone who came his way. Rope yarn Sundays were not necessary to keep up the morale.

Tuesday, 31 March 1942, five months after she had left Boston on the voyage which was to take her around the world, the ship sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge. She was home!"

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