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
This month starts with the famous question, "Do you want the good news
or the bad news?"
In my continuing effort to always end these newsletters on a high
note, Iíll start with the bad news. It can be best summed up in a
memo I sent to the Trustees, volunteers and staff on January 4th:
Attention SLATER Trustees, volunteers and staff: The USS SLATER is experiencing a temporary financial setback. This fall, under the new State consolidated funding application program, the SLATER did not receive any funding. We made two applications, one for restoration support and one to continue work on the permanent mooring. To my surprise, both were rejected. This is the first time in a long time we have not received any State grant support. Also, due to State budget constraints, we are no longer receiving the State Legislative member item support we have received in previous years amounting to 15-25K which helped pay for operating expenses. Additionally, I anticipate the emphasis on the Hull Fund will cause a reduction in Winter Fund donations. This will leave our operating budget with a shortfall and we expect several very lean months ahead.
It's not all bad, but with the loss of state funding, we projected an operating fund decrease. The potential was there for running an operating deficit if we didn't act to reduce expenses.
On the positive side, the Hull Fund is doing very well. This is in large part to the initiative of our new Chairman Bartley "BJ" Costello. BJ made direct contact with Philadelphia-area philanthropist H. F. (Gerry) Lenfest who, among his other accomplishments, was a former Reserve Commanding Officer of USS COATES DE685. He assumed command of her in 1965 while she was in the Group II program by which the Reserve officer was the commanding officer. The regular Navy officer was responsible for maintaining the ship but was not the CO. The ship then had the lowest rating in the squadron. However, in three years the COATES won the USS ENGLAND trophy as the top Reserve DD/DE in the Atlantic Fleet because the crew felt the ship belonged to them. Mr. Lenfest's initial response was that he would not become a major donor to the Hull Fund, but would contribute something. He then sent BJ a check for $100,000, which to us is certainly a major donation. Thanks to Mr. Lenfest and all of you, the fund has raised over $700,000. We are working on the preliminary drydock work package and will begin contacting shipyards this spring to visit them and discuss the work on the SLATER. Right now, as so many yards have shut down, there are only three options available in the area, Staten Island, Brooklyn, and New London. The number increases if we consider Philadelphia or Boston, but that is a long and expensive tow. Also, your donations to the Winter Fund have now reached over $33,000 as of February 1. Without any State funding we have a tough year ahead, but all you donors are certainly stepping up to the plate.
While all of this fund raising goes on, the work aboard the ship continues. This is where I am in serious danger of repeating myself, as there are no adjectives I can use to describe the state of the ship right now that I haven't used before this time of year. Messy, filthy torn up and depressing might be a few. Part of the problem is that all the work this winter is happening right outside my office in the normally pristine forward area of the ship. Everything is coated with a layer of dust.
As you enter the ship by the door at the starboard breakwater, you realize some major work is going on. Just beyond the breakwater you encounter a temporary plywood and sheet plastic shelter that has enabled the work on the forward deckhouse to continue all winter. Doug Tanner, Tim Benner Dave Mardon, Gene Jackey and Chuck Teal have all been working on this one. This work has involved cutting out 15 inch of wasted metal and replacing it with 6 inch flatbar from the deck. The steel was rotted and leaking down to the messdecks through the stuffing tubes that carry the wiring for the forward ventilation fan controllers. The tubes were rotted, allowing water to pass through, right next to the live 440volt wiring. This necessitated running temporary power for the forward supply fan from the galley power panel in the main deck passageway so we could have heat this winter. All five stuffing tubes were cut out and replaced and all new armored cable run from the ventilation power panel located on the reefer deck, up through the messdecks, to the main deck controllers.
To make the job more interesting, part of the repair was over the starboard fuel trunk creating the possibility of an explosion from residual oil fumes in the tank. Doug Tanner deftly handled that weld by inserting an air bag into the fuel trunk and pushing it beyond where the weld was. He inflated the bag. Once it was holding pressure and he had a seal, he inserted dry ice into the trunk and checked if it was explosive gas and oxygen content with a gas meter. When everything was safe, he welded up the seam over the fuel trunk. Of course all that work goes on at the base of the ladder right outside my office, so the dirt and the noise have been pretty annoying
As you cross over to the port side you see that the armory is undergoing modification. A rifle rack has been installed and we're making space to stow our flags and poles for the color guard. Throughout the passageway, ragged welds are being smoothed and holes plugged to dress up the space. Heading down to the messdecks, this space has been trashed. All the furnishings have been stripped out or covered with plastic and the tables have been covered with plywood. Grinding and chipping are going on as we get ready to repaint the space. The scullery looks like it puked. As we work to remove all the post-war modifications, the dishwashing machine, sink counter and post-war ventilation has been removed and is scattered about the messdecks. Super Dave Mardon,Bill Wetterau,Earl Herchenroder and Gene Jackey are replacing all the expanded metal and blanking over the post-war vent openings. The sink and counter were raised eight inches for some unknown reason, so that is coming back down to its original location. Over in the "cage" or pantry on the port side, a couple pieces of deteriorated interior bulkhead have been removed and are being replaced with new metal. Down below the messdecks, in our portside electronic shop and sonar equipment room, some major chipping is going on as we get ready to restore this space. Ron Mazure, Don Miller, and Walt Stuart have stayed engaged down there.
Continuing forward, forward berthing is full of all the furnishings, dishware and supplies that came off the messdecks. If you need a roll of toilet paper, this is the place to find it, but you gotta know where to look. We've fought a desperate battle to try and keep the watertight doors closed to limit the dirt and grime. Right down below there is the reefer deck where Gary Sheedy and Dave Jeffries have been working all winter. Gary is very close to putting up the gauge board and completing the space. Knowing how much I want to see the machinery space complete, Gary continues to torment me, now by moving his effort into the portside reefer where he has begun restoration of that space. He and Dave have removed all the cooling coils and are refinishing and polishing them. Up in the Chief's mess,Tommy Moore reinsulated the overhead and bulkhead under the chock we replaced last summer. The area has been repainted and we'll reinstall the bunks next week. But the compartment has remained habitable for coffee breaks and lunches
Down in the aft diesel space, B-3, the engineers have started on the cosmetic restoration of their first main engine, number 4. I say cosmetic, but they are also on the hunt for a complete gasket replacement set for a Cleveland 16-278A. I give you the model number so if you have a set, or know someone willing to donate a set, please get in touch with us. Who knows what those engineers have in mind. Between trips to the whaleboat, Rocky completed restoration of all the thermostats and the exhaust elbows. The rest of the crew, Gary Lubrano, Karl Herchenroder, Gus Negus, and Mike Dingmon have been gently needle-gunning the engine in preparation for painting. Above them,Barry Witte is nearing completion of the restoration of the main distribution board. All the panels are back in place and Barry has painstakingly reproduced all the missing labels after much research, and is installing the last of them.
That's about it, except that up in the radio room, just across the passageway from me, the saga of the TBL Generator continues. With help from Bob Kibbey and Mike Dingmon, the generator was uncoupled from the motor and the high voltage generator, set uprights, and the armature prepared for removal. It sits in this position, pending information on what our repair options are. The original manufacturer Bogue Electric is still in business, and Jerry Jones has been in touch with them to see how charitable they are and to see if they still have the capability of rewinding the low voltage section.
Speaking of charitable, we looked into the cost of purchasing three replacement water tight doors, one for the galley, one for the hedgehog locker and one for the deck gear locker. These are the most badly deterioriated doors. Most of our spares are cannibalized from old ships, but watertight doors is the one item that the Navy and Maritime Commission won't let us remove from ships that are about to be towed to the scrap yard. We contacted the Navy supplier of the doors and the price per door, less frame and dogs unpainted is $3967.50. Anybody feel really charitable? In the same vein, after spending countless hours rebuilding chocks, we found a source that is very close to the original style carried aboard DEs and the price per each is $851 plus shipping. We need six. Anybody want to buy us some chocks?
Speaking further of needs, we have a volunteer billet to fill aboard. We desperately need to find someone local who can take over the thankless job of Machine Shop Storekeeper. Ideally we'd like a person who can work two days a week, Monday and Saturday, when most of the volunteers are here. Essentially, the job involves straightening up after the thirty or so Neanderthals who regularly use the shop, and bust their butts working until it's too late to clean up. The job would involve organizing all the hardware, sorting through fasteners and plumbing fittings and being able to find what we need when we need it. Basically someone to bring order to chaos. Said person better have the patience of a saint, a strong sense of humor, a love of organization and tidiness, and unflappable resolve.
We've had all kinds of new young blood around. Sixteen-year-old Thomas Scian and his father Robert have been making the two-hour drive from Monticello just about every week to help with various projects including chipping, electrical, grinding, Bondo (yes, a necessary evil) and whatever odd jobs happen to come up. Thomas is so impressed with the ship he is working on the arrangements to get a busload or two of his classmates here in the spring for a tour. University at Albany students Tin Udovicic, Dylan Cupolo and Mike Forstner have recently joined us as interns. Mike is Army ROTC; he's been involved in messdeck deconstruction and will graduate to construction before long. Tin has been working on fixing blemishes in the forward cross passageway and working with longtime volunteer Paul Guarnieri to refurbish our hedgehogs. Dylan is creating PowerPoint presentations as training aids for tour guides. The 15-minute presentations will cover such subjects as depth charges, guns, radio room and the pilot house.
I had a call from Don Koontz off USS WESSON DE184. Don has been a strong supporter for years and he expressed the same thought I'm sure many of you are having, "Who will care about SLATER when the DE sailors are gone?" I remain optimistic about our future because of the numbers. We estimate that 150,000 sailors served in DEs and APDs during World War II through the Cold War Years and Vietnam. Right now our membership and donor base is about 3,000 people and slowly growing. We're gaining new donors faster than we are losing them. This is because the sons, daughters, and grandkids all seem to understand that the future of the Museum is in their hands. Let the kids and grand kids know this is important to you. Trustee Ron Zarem told his kids, "I don't need any more ties for Christmas. Send the money to the SLATER." Let them know this is important to you. For our part we'll keep trying to recruit every visitor who comes over the gangway. That's 15,000 prospects a year.
It's time to start thinking about the spring work weeks. We're considering instituting a clean up weekend overnight to get the ship cleaned up for opening day. It would start on Saturday morning March 24 and end Sunday afternoon March 25. If you can help out with this, contact Tim Rizzuto at firstname.lastname@example.org The Michigan Field Week will be May 6 to 11. If you want to participate, email Ron Zarem at email@example.com The HUSE group will be aboard the following week May 13-16. If that week works out for you and you want to give us a hand contact George Amandola at Gamand@aol.com
We had some personnel losses this season. Long time volunteer Bill Coyle passed away after a long illness. Bill was a motormac on the USS WILEMAN DE22 and started many years ago working in B-3 with Bill Siebert. SLATER's flag flew at half mast in his honor. Our deepest sympathy goes out to Miriam and Bill's family. We also lost long time CAPDESA member Hank Rizzo off USS CHASE DE158/APD54. Hank always provided the flowers for our DE Day Memorial Services.
Finally, in another passing of sorts, one of our shipmates was caught lying about his age. We finally found out the truth about Clark Farnsworth. Clark is a retired Chief Shipfitter who served aboard LEYTE CV32 at the end of World War II. If you recall, last year I put Clark's age at 87. After many years of deception about his age and birth date, we heard a rumor that he was actually going to be ninety years old on January 10th. He had previously said he was only 88. We confronted him in the chow line and demanded to see his driver's license. Sure enough, he was born on January 10, 1922. Maybe we'll have to cut him a little more slack now. Clark, on behalf of all of us, you are amazing.
See you next month.