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NavSource Online: Service Ship Photo Archive

USS Griffin (AS-13)

Duty aboard Griffin (AS-13)

as told by Arthur S. Harrell USS Griffin

In early 1942, I was transferred from the U.S. Naval Air Station, Coco Solo, Canal Zone to the U.S.S. Griffin for duty. At the time, the Griffin was enroute to Brisbane, Australia as the flagship for SubRonFIVE which included only outmoded World War I submarines. We finally moored to a pier in Brisbane, Australia, named New Farm Wharf and began preparing our submarines for deployment. These submarines were old, but were crewed by some of the bravest men I’ve ever known, because some of their torpedoes were faulted and failed to explode when they struck the ship that they were aimed at and this would subject our submarine to extensive depth charge being dropped on their craft.

The Commanding Officer of the Griffin was CDR S.D. Jupp, as noted by you. He was rather elderly at that time, but ran a very tight ship, but still duty aboard the ship was also very pleasant. The Captain inspected one half of the ship, while at the same time, the Executive Officer inspected the other half,. As the First Lieutenant’s yeoman, I accompanied the Captain’s inspection party. Captain JUPP, was very thorough. Whatever part of the ship he inspected carefully inspected. For example, while he was inspecting the galley, he’d carefully open the door of each oven and along with the rest of the stove, check it for cleanliness, and whether or not it was in perfect operating order. He’d insure that the rest of the galley was spotlessly clean too. On one occasion, he noticed his Medical Officer was standing in front of a rotating electric fan that had no protecting guard around the whirling fan. He had me note “repair the fan”. Then, he told the Medical Officer, who had removed his hat, to be careful of that fan behind you. The Medical Officer said, “Yes Sir,”, then for some reason took a backward step and the fan blade struck his head, causing it to bleed.

The GRIFFIN was a large ship, that carried a large crew. It had a large Sickbay, with sufficient doctors and dentists to attend to a large crew aboard the GRIFFIN and all the submarines of SubRon FIVE. Keep in mind also that Brisbane, Australia was probably the most distant point from the United States at that time, so the option of obtaining and replacing damaged parts flown in from the United States, was not an option. The same held true for sickness or injuries to the crew. To make this system work, the U.S.S. GRIFFIN been assigned the most skilled crew and officers that I ever had the pleasure of serving with. The enlisted crew included patternmakers, molders, journeymen machinist’s mates and on and on. In my opinion, it would have been impossible to have assembled this crew, if there hadn’t been a draft, where these most knowledgeable craftsmen were drafted into the service.

The First Lieutenant of the GRIFFIN was an Lieutenant named H.P. Bacon. He was a former Merchant Marine Officer and was very conscientious. He was eternally checking out the ship and effecting repairs where needed. He very seldom if ever came to his office, so, I nicknamed him (without his knowledge, of course) the Phantom.

While I was attached to the crew of the GRIFFIN while in Australia, the crew of the ship was divided into three section. While one section was on liberty, the second section was on stand-by duty and the third section had the duty. Then, every day, the sections would rotate. In the mean time, the GRIFFIN’s Gunnery Officer was assigned to duty as the permanent Shore Patrol Officer. Therefore, I volunteered to serve as a Shore Patrol every time I had stand-by duty. Therefore, I was usually assigned to good Shore Patrol assignments. Sometimes, I was assigned to the office (which was in the downtown Brisbane, Police Station). Often, I was assigned to accompany the Army Military Police to check out both the off-limits and on-limits cat houses in Brisbane. As you can imagine, this was a very interesting assignment. The Off-Limit cat houses were put off-limits because the young ladies of the house, were white and preferred not to mingle with the numerous black sailors and soldiers. This was causing a morale problem for both the army and the navy as you can imagine. The shore patrol and military police (and me) inspected these places to see that no American servicemen were in the off-limit houses and to insure that there was no trouble in the on-limit houses. To my surprise, we were often requested to unstop plugged up sinks and commodes, which we always tried to do.

/s/ Arthur S. Harrell.

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