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
I sit here in this
same hot little ship’s office that so many of you yeoman sat in for
so many days. It’s 94 degrees out. The porthole and the weather
deck hatch are open, the little black fan is whirling, the
ventilators are running full bore, and the guides continue to joke
with the visitors about how much effort we go through to manufacture
the authentic heat and humidity so that our visitors can experience
the same tropical conditions that you Sailors endured. Some visitors
appreciate the humor, some don’t. It got so bad this afternoon, I
took a tour of the ship to see if I could find a cool spot to eat my
lunch. I went everywhere. I even went down to the lower deck plates
in the aft engineroom, and you know what. There was no cool spot.
By now or in the
near future all of you who get this by email should have received
your solicitation to contribute to the USS SLATER’s Hull
Preservation Fund. If I had known that fourteen years into this I
would not have found a “Sugar Daddy,” I would have sent off this
appeal a long time ago. But, all of us responsible for this program
do feel a sense of guilt at having to turn to you to fund this hull
preservation. You all have been so generous for so long. And, during
that time period, we have seen so many other projects funded, it
seemed inconceivable that our effort would be overlooked by the big
money funders, both private and governmental. But it has, and we feel
we have let you down by not bringing in the outside support we all
would have expected. So, now we turn to you again.
All the federal
programs that would have supported a project like drydocking SLATER
have dried up. Back in the nineties, several ships received
support under the Department of Transportation’s non-highway
enhancement program. We’ve made multiple applications through that
program with no success. We had high hopes for support through the
Save America’s Treasures Program, particularly with the word that
we should receive National Landmark Status next year. However,
funding for that program was cut completely this spring. Many ships
have received direct support through Congressional Appropriations. We
have continually tried that approach, but with no success. And, we’ve
worked all the major defense contractors and corporations that you
would think would be sympathetic to our effort, but without anyone on
the inside to plead our case, the answer is almost universally, “Your
project falls outside our parameters of support. Good luck in your
search for funding.”
The one group that
has continued to be there for us is the New York State Office of
Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation through their EPF Grant
Program. They have continued to support us annually with
restoration grants and the funding to get the new mooring dolphins.
Mayor Jerry Jennings, the one who gave SLATER a home, has been
there for us with all the help he is able to provide. Our local State
Legislators, Assemblymen Bob Reilly and Jack McEneny
and Senator Neil Breslin have continued to support us with
state legislative member items, but these funding sources don’t
come near the kind of money we need to do the bottom.
Part of the problem
is that from the start this has been an effort of the little guys.
From my days with the USS KIDD in Baton Rouge, the whole project
there was the brainchild of our local Congressman, Henson Moore.
He took ownership of the effort and was able to enlist the support of
the Governor and many powerful civic leaders and politicians. The
result was 1.5 million dollars to restore the ship and three million
dollars to build a shore side museum. SLATER has never had that kind
of Godfather. SLATER is the creation of a lot of unknown little guys
working together to obtain a common goal. If we’d been doing this
back in the seventies or eighties, things would have been different.
So many of your officers and skippers were sharp Ivy Leaguers who
rose to the highest ranks in business and government. Names that come
to mind include Charles Adams, CO of USS FOGG, DE57 and later
CEO of Raytheon Corp., Graham Claytor, CO of USS LEE FOX, USS
DOYLE and President of Southern Railway, Jim Scripps of USS
HALLORAN who was publisher and owner of Scripps Howard Publishing,
Franklin D Roosevelt Jr., CO of USS ULVERT M. MOORE, Senator
Ed Muskie, Chief Engineer of USS BRACKETT DE41, Sam
Gravely, the first African American Admiral and CO of FALGOUT
DER324, and many others. These were men who had the influence, energy
and motivation to get things done, much of which was in part a
product of their DE experience.
However, most of
your original officers and skippers are long gone. And, as with
most DE sailors, the most tangible part of their legacy is a little
ship in the Hudson River. In a sense, SLATER is a great equalizer,
because if you served on a DE, whether you rose to be CEO of a large
corporation, or worked in the stock room of that same corporation,
SLATER honors all of you.
It’s not all bad.
In a time of bloated budgets, deficit spending and bankruptcy, SLATER
has lived within her means. There is no debt on the project.
Getting to the shipyard is critical, but it is yet not a crisis.
There is no leakage anywhere. All the bilges are dry. Corrosion from
the inside has been minimalized. And we have a continuing program for
repainting interior voids and bilges progressing, albeit slowly. We
continue to find and deal with the worst corrosion. But we’ve
always tried to stay ahead of the problems, and that’s why the time
is now to try and address the hull issues.
maintenance crew is doing everything within their power to stabilize
SLATER and keep the rust at bay. To
that end, work continues in the aft machinery spaces, cleaning and
painting the bilges and overhauling valves to improve water tight
integrity. In addition, the engineers are repainting the high
pressure air compressor and preparing the two mains in B-3 for
painting. Topside, as I write, repainting of the portside and fantail
maindeck is nearly complete and the deck force is moving up the
starboard side. The boottop on the starboard side is complete. The
accommodation ladder has been completed and is hanging back in its
original location and ready to receive the whaleboat. We’ve put the
finishing touches on number six roller loader for the depth charge
projector. And three new displays have been installed. On the
Observation Deck we have a series of signs that show what the ship
looked like when she came over from Greece. In the classroom, Frank
McClatchie created a wonderful
exhibit on the successes of high frequency radio direction finding
against the U-boats during the Battle of the Atlantic. And down in
B-3 the engineers have created an exhibit that compares a lawnmower
piston to a car piston to one of SLATER’s pistons so visitors can
compare the relative sizes. We’re once again indebted to Herb
Dahlhaus who managed to come up with
the 268A piston and rod.
we put a lot of our energy into restoration and maintenance, the real
purpose of the ship is to educate.
I’ve said before, SLATER is not a concrete and granite memorial
designed by powerful people close to the seat of power. It is a
creation of the veterans themselves, a living breathing ship. That
life has been reaffirmed this summer by all the tourists who continue
to visit the ship. Upon entering our Ship’s Store, visitors sign
the log book, which becomes a geographic chronicle of those who now
cross the gangway in search of a connection with the past. Many come
far and wide from places like Denmark, Tokyo, Berlin, and Rome, while
others cross the border from Canada or the Hudson River from East
most visitors come to us, we also bring USS SLATER to the classroom.
For teachers who would like the SLATER experience and first hand
stories in your school or organization, all you need to do is call.
We will bring our Traveling
Classroom program right to you! You
might not smell lunch wafting from our galley, but we can assure you
that the Traveling Classroom
is an unforgettable experience. You may call Linda
Wruck at 518-431-1943 to schedule.
We’ll bring you the veterans among our volunteer crew who are
living characters. Aboard the ship or in the classroom, these
veterans chat with you, demonstrate how to tie a bowline, or share
the meaning behind the thirteen folds of the American flag. Radio
operators, electrician’s mates, sonarmen, bosun’s mates, and
submariners not only perform maintenance according to their rates on
the ship, but several cross into the world of education, as tour
guides. If you’re lucky, you’ll end up on a tour that is led by
a guide who is a bit dirty from his day’s work onboard ship.
Visitors even get to see the galley in use as weekly chow is prepared
for the entire crew.
volunteers are an eclectic group. As
you would expect, the core group is old DE sailors and retired
Chiefs. But we have many who never served on DEs including Coast
Guardsmen, Army Vets and many who have never served including
homemakers who want to be part of the SLATER story. The boys who
were seventeen and eighteen years of age when they joined the Navy
have aged a bit, but their enthusiasm and dedication has not
diminished one bit. These young men fast became the seasoned
veterans who now, nearly seven decades later, teach the rest of us
kids about the meaning of dedication and duty. Their duty included
placing themselves in harms way, aware of the risks involved with
antisubmarine warfare. Our veterans of all wars are living history;
the rest of us are quite fortunate to continue each day to absorb
their experiences and lessons.
example of this passing of the torch is long time SLATER Trustee and
volunteer tour guide, Alan Fox. The
son of Sam Fox
of the USS HAYTER a representative of our younger generation of
volunteers, Alan says he is “enthusiastic to be an ambassador of
the past. This is an important story. This is a story that not many
know.” Alan’s sentiment and dedication are representative of the
SLATER volunteer crew. I thank my good fortune every day that SLATER
has such a dedicated, dynamic and multifaceted crew of volunteers.
you want to become part of this crew here’s your opportunity.
The Michigan Fall Work Week is scheduled for September 25-30, 2011.
The event is for working sailors, male and female, who want to
participate in SLATER’s restoration. This fall we anticipate
scaling and repainting the portside boottop of the paint float,
continuing to scale the starboard side main deck, and working in the
bilges in the aft machinery spaces. You’ll live, work and eat
aboard the ship just like you were back in service. If you’re
interested in participating, contact me here at the ship at
518-431-1943, email email@example.com
or “Michigan” Dick Walker,
phone (616) 676-1392, email firstname.lastname@example.org
You’ll be part of the Tin Can tradition of taking care of
The Tin Can Navy has
always been at the bottom of the heap when it comes to recognition,
funding and supplies. There’s a wonderful passage at the end of
Theodore Roscoe’s epic “United States Destroyer Operations in
World War II.” In it Roscoe quotes an unnamed submarine Admiral who
recalled the plight of the DD sailors in the early days of the war.
“Poor devils. The destroyermen certainly took it on the chin. They
grabbed their grub on the fly, and they picked up their repairs where
they could find them. Things were tough for submarines in the early
days of the Pacific War, but there was usually free beer and
entertainment waiting for our boys when they came in from patrol.
When the destroyers came in there was no one on hand to meet the
crews with tickets for a ball game or transportation to a rest camp.
Like as not, they had no time for leave and liberty, and would turn
right around and go out again. They put up a rugged battle in the
North Atlantic and in the South Pacific.”
And that’s the
spirit that drives SLATER to this day. But it all depends on the
funding to keep SLATER sound and in good condition so we can pass her
on to the next generation. She is the little ship that has overcome
the odds to make good. Let’s keep that spirit going. Please
contribute to the SLATER HULL FUND through the
home page of our website. It’s a
tradition of the Tin Can Navy. Nobody is going to do it for us. It’s
up to us to take care of our ship.
See you next month