The Newsletter of the USS SLATER's Volunteers
By Timothy C. Rizzuto, Executive Director
Destroyer Escort Historical Museum
Phone (518) 431-1943, Fax 432-1123
The USS ALBANY Association held their 20th Anniversary Reunion here the first week of September, and the SLATER was honored to play a role. Wayne VanAmburgh coordinated the event that included a memorial service at the SLATER. It was one of the largest reunions we have held here at the SLATER. The group commemorated the five U.S. Navy ships named Albany. The first ALBANY, a 22-gun sloop-of-war, was commissioned in November 1846. She disappeared at sea in 1854. The second ALBANY was constructed in 1864. She was a 14-gun, power driven sloop-of-war. Originally christened USS CONTOOCOOK, her name was changed to ALBANY in 1869. She cruised mostly in the North Atlantic and West Indies and was placed out of commission in January 1870. The third ALBANY, a protected cruiser, was purchased by the United States in 1898. Two years later this ship was placed in commission as the third ALBANY. At the onset of World War I, ALBANY served as escort for the first Atlantic convoy under a United States command. During the war ALBANY escorted a total of eleven convoys to Europe, providing protection for 224 ships. She was to reach the venerable age of fifty before finally being stricken from the Navy list in 1929.
On the 11th we hosted our Patriot’s Day commemoration. Master of ceremonies Steve Long ordered the SLATER Color Guard under the direction of Ken Kaskoun to present colors as Jerry Jones played the National Anthem over the 1MC. Dick Walker did the Invocation, followed by a moment of silence. We were honored to have Mayor Jerry Jennings and Assemblyman Jack McEneny present, as well as Michelle LaRock, Deputy Director NYS Division of Veterans Affairs who read the Governor’s Proclamation. Erik Collin directed the 3" gun salute assisted by some very sharp looking RPI Midshipmen. Our own Katie Kuhl played TAPS.
Over the course of the month we hosted reunion groups that included the USS LEWIS DE535, USS OSTERHAUS DE164, USS BOWERS DE637, DESDIV 15 DEs and the USS SWEARER DE186. We also hosted guests from Smithsonian Magazine's Museum Day on Saturday the 25th. A big event for me was attending the Historic Naval Ships Annual convention in Baltimore. Needless to say, the crew is always suspicious of these annual "junkets" but it’s a chance to connect with other ships and share their problems. I was tapped to give two presentations, one on scrounging parts for historic naval ships, which the crew would agree that I have some knowledge of, and the other on creating the volunteer environment, with which, given the conditions they work under, leads my crew to wonder why anyone would think there was anything to learn from me. The fact was that after I sketched outlines, both presentations were put into PowerPoint by one of our volunteers, the ever dependable Paul Czesak.
While in Baltimore, I did see what a really well-run volunteer program could accomplish as we were taken out for a two-hour evening cruise on the restored Liberty ship JOHN W. BROWN. I was allowed to go into the engineroom while the engine was being slowly turned over, and to see those pistons going up and down was an awesome sight. My thanks to Captains Brian Hope and Mike Schneider for the access they gave me. I also noted that BROWN was the only ship that had the same Mark three-inch gun mounts SLATER carries with director control. BROWN acquired them from Crane in the nineties, so they were not original outfit. Now understand, we just recently found out that the designation of our mounts with the director control was a MK- 31, but no other information was available, even with the efforts of Chris Wright. I took the opportunity to ask who was the BROWN’S expert on three-inch guns and if, by chance, they had a manual. Well, I talked to one Joe Colgan, a Vice Chairman with Project Liberty Ship. Now these promises often have a way of evaporating, but a week later Joe called me in Albany and said he did have the manual in hand and would make me a copy. Two weeks later the copy arrived. Rosehn promptly made three copies of the valuable document, which now rests in our archives. The most enlightening seminar for me was presented on the underwater hull preservation presently being undertaken aboard the carrier MIDWAY. The conference was excellent. My only complaint was the more expensive the hotel, the fewer free amenities they offer. Internet access was like a dollar a minute, so I owe a great debt to Paul Cora who allowed me Internet access aboard the famed Coast Guard Cutter TANEY every morning at 0700 before breakfast, so I could keep in touch with the folks back home and not get too far behind.
A week after I got home the Fall Field Week Crew arrived on Sunday September 26 and went to work. It was a tough week for the crew as it showered every day but Wednesday. "Michigan" Dick Walker led Ron "I hate to paint, but I’ll needlegun forever" Mazure, Gary Headworth, Mike Marko, Jim Parker, Tom Horsfall, Laird Confer, Butch Warrender, Frank Heckart, Jim Ray, Gene Hermanson, Tom Skufca, Gary Dieckman, John Yocum, Ron Prest, Roy Brandon, Guy Huse, Larry Stiles and first-timer Stan Dickstein.
The most important billet was filled by one of our regulars, Chief Smith. Smitty volunteered to cook for the crew, three meals a day, all week long. He was supported by Larry Stiles who kept the messdeck squared away and helped with the shopping and food prep, and a rotating series of messcooks who served for one meal each, regardless of rate or rank.
The big job was getting the TBL transmitter and motor generator aboard. If you’ve missed the story, when we got the SLATER there was not one piece of WWII radio gear aboard. Through begging, borrowing and theft, we obtained all the proper equipment with one exception. We did not have the right radio transmitter, the refrigerator-sized 800-pound TBL. Instead we substituted a refrigerator-sized 700-pound TAJ transmitter we obtained from the USS GAGE. In 2006 we located the proper TBL transmitter on the USS CLAMP in the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet in California. USS PAMPANITO volunteers Tom Horsfall, Rich Pekelney, Aaron Washington and Jim Adams determined that we needed to have the proper transmitter on the SLATER and removed it for restoration. Ashore, Tom Horsfall spent two years restoring the unit to operational condition. In case you missed the link, Tom documented the restoration on Youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3oHLykhQVuU
This summer we shipped the TBL and motor generator east, and stored it temporarily in Hal Hatfield’s fabrication shop. Two weeks prior to the arrival of the out-of-towners, Doug Tanner, Dave Mardon, Tim Benner, Mike McEnteggart, Jerry Jones, Joe Breyer, and anyone else who stumbled by during the operation, successfully extricated the TAJ transmitter and motor generator from the radio room and dollied the units to the 01 level aft where they sat under cover for two weeks. In the meantime, Trustee Hal Hatfield used his resources at Maximum Security Products to load the crated TBL transmitter and motor generator aboard his crane truck and we offloaded them to the wharf here in Albany. Tom flew in from California for the Field Week, and on Sunday the 26th we uncrated the units and Tom got together with Doug Tanner and Jerry Jones and they ironed out a plan to get it aboard. And you know what they say about opinions.
The next morning the crane arrived on the pier and we offloaded the TAJ transmitter and its motor generator unit, and hoisted the TBL and associated MG set aboard. We tipped the TBL onto a furniture dolly and rolled it forward to the first obstruction, the amidships 20mm ready service lockers. At this point Doug had to leave but he left all the rigging tools to do the job. Using jacks and cribbing made from the TBL crating, Laird Confer, Tom Skufca, Tom Horsfall, Butch Warrender and several other passers-by jacked the TBL up 21 inches above the deck so it cleared the 20mm ammo locker supports and the stack base, and just squeezed between the stack and the 20mm gun tubs. After getting through that choke point, rolling into the radio room hatch was easy.
The next morning Tanner showed up to rig it into the radio room. Rather than pat us on the back for all the work we had done in his absence, his comment was, "You’ve got the wrong end in the doorway." Since it was still on the dolly, turning it was no problem, and the rest of the morning involved jacks, slings and chain falls as Doug carefully lifted the 800 pounds through the two doors into the radio room and its final location. They crew then moved aft and hauled the motor generator set forward, which, after moving the transmitter, was the proverbial ‘Piece of cake.’
While all that was going on the painters prepped their areas working through intermittent rain. Gary Dieckman, Ron Prest, Roy Brandon, Ron Mazure and John Yocum worked on the portside amidships prepping and priming the waterway and the freeboard between the mooring dolphins. Up on gun two, Frank Heckart worked with Gene Hermanson and Jim Ray on lubrication of the train and elevation systems and preparing the gun for painting.
Up on the flying bridge our lead Firecontrolman Dick Walker supervised the installation of new supports for the platform on the MK-52 director which had rotted away. Working with Gary Headworth, Jim Parker and Tom Skufca, they cut new pipe supports and welded them to the platform. They made the platform removable so they could maintain the deck underneath in the future. Down below in B-4 Guy Huse and Stan Dickstein worked on the reassembly of the fire and bulge pump. When they got it all back together, they tested the motor and found the bearings were very bad. With support from the rest of the crew they hoisted the motor out of B-4, disassembled it and removed the bearings. We then called on Karl Herchenroder to pick up new bearings, which he had aboard by 0900 the next morning. By the end of the week the motor was back together and running smoothly.
The sun finally came out on Wednesday, and all hands turned to painting. We accomplished everything we had hoped to accomplish including painting the portside amidships, the waterways on the portside, and gun two in its entirety. The rains were back for Thursday, so John Yocum and Ron Mazure went to work scaling the propulsion generators in B-4, and Ron Prest went into the bilge priming the areas on the portside that had previously been prepped by the Navy students from the Nuclear Power Training Unit. Jim Ray went into the anchor windlass room and spent two days cleaning there where he said he was happy to be alone. Mike Marko and Dick Walker, rained off the flying bridge, spent the two days doing touch up work and cleaning in the forward head, which is now operational. I am not at liberty to say who christened it at the end of this five- year project. The most miserable job was rigging the spring wires. The new mooring dolphins have a provision for mounting spring lines to a floating steel collar on top of the fenders. Laird Confer, Butch Warrender, Jim Parker and Mike Marko rigged four ¾" steel wires from the collars to the main deck, with Roy Brandon and Ron Prest on the paint float, making the hook ups down below, spending a lot of time waiting in the rain. Fortunately, it was warm rain. There were a couple other notable accomplishments. Jim Parker got a new faucet installed on the deep sink in the aft head, and Tom Skufca rebuilt the firing solenoid box for gun two which had completely rotted out. There’s probably more, but they don’t tell me everything they do.
Meanwhile, the regulars are maintaining as before. Rocky found some additional dry rot in an athwartships bulkhead in the motor whale boat and spent the month replacing that wood. The shipfitters Gene Jackey, Dave Mardon, Clark Farnsworth, and Chris Fedden have been continuing the work on depth charge projector roller load number six and that is finally nearing completion. Boats Haggart, Mike McEnteggart and Paul Guarneri have been replacing lifelines. New volunteer Bill Wetterau has been hitting it two days a week painting for Erik Collin with Walt Stuart and Don Miller. Dick Walker runs supplies, Angelo Bracco keeps sewing flags and canvas, Jim Gelston keeps the clocks wound, Nelson weaves his rope fenders between tours, Frank Peter sifts through the archives, Sheedy listens to Elvis on the reefer deck, and Bob Callender keeps track of everyone’s hours.
Down in the engineroom, Gus Negus, Gary Lubrano, Larry Williams, Ken Kaskoun and Mike Dingmon have continued work on the lower level in B-3, and have spent most of their time spiffing up the 8-cylinder ships service generator. In the same space Barry Witte has continued his progress on the restoration of the B-3 main electrical distribution board, and that project is nearing completion, with the board looking like it did on commissioning day.
Ever with an eye to the future, the Education crew is simply developing several new ideas. With the help of Jim Kuba, Glenn Harrison, Jerry Jones, Tom "Stretch" McLaughlin, and Linda Wruck, we’re working out a way the many Scouting groups can earn merit badges and hold ceremonies, such as Crossing Over, at the SLATER. The history of the USS SLATER is a tangible example of civic responsibility and we are ready to help the Scouts meet their ongoing challenge of earning new badges and celebrate their organization.
This past month nearly 1,500 visitors crossed the gangway, stepping into July 1945. Our tour guides have fun with visitors on the observation deck before they board the SLATER for a tour. Among the unsung heroes who haven’t been mentioned elsewhere are the faithful guides Les Beauchaine, Jack Madden, Bob Bull, Bill Scharoun, Floyd Hunt, Joe Burke, Leo Baehler, Alan Fox, Bob Dawson, Russ Ferrer, Grant Hack, Gordon Lattey, Chuck Marshall and Chuck Teal and we have several new faces including Herb Marlow, Carly Crewell, Chris Lecce and Tony Pazzolas.
Thanks also to Dennis Nagi who installed a very tall flagpole; we now have a new addition to the lineup of deck activities. Visitors will learn about flag etiquette from their guide and the significance behind each of the 13 ceremonious folds of the American flag, when colors are retired for the day, as well as rules and manners when handling Old Glory.
Jack Madden and Linda are creating a traveling presentation on the Battle of the Atlantic and the SLATER. The goal is to introduce the public to the SLATER’s mission and recruit new volunteers. The presentation will also talk about the priceless camaraderie enjoyed by all on the observation deck between tours and chipping paint. Our new Education webpage is growing by leaps and bounds! The public will now have easy access to our education collection of museum artifacts and documents as Linda is happily scanning many objects and images to create digital versions of the Museum in a Bag series. Links to all of our resources will surely provide teachers and families with a menu of choices for all of their needs. Anyone who wishes to learn more about the forthcoming availability of materials can send a message to Linda through the new email address, Education@ussslater.org
Finally, it’s already October 4th, and not too early to be planning for winter. Doug Tanner took the day off from work to come down and improve the insulation on the fresh water line running under the shoreside observation deck to the shore head. This is of vital importance to Rosehn and Linda, who enjoy the comfort of a working head in the winter. Last year, Rosehn hauled water from home for two months. Of course, this repair involved Doug crawling under the cramped deck and rolling around in the dirt while he reinsulated the line, supported by his ever- present buddy Super Dave, who got through the project barely getting his hands dirty. When I went to check on him Doug’s only comment was, "Another dirty job that will get overlooked in SIGNALS." How do I live with such guilt?
See you next month
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