Spells BEGOR




Official US Navy Photograph
Swapping Sea Stories on the Starboard Side

Table of Contents: Click on Chapter name for details
POST WWII—Transport Activity
VIETNAM—French Indochina Operation

——  AHOY THERE!  ——

Have any sea stories you'd like to see on this page? If so, please get in touch with the Webmaster by email at ussbegor@yahoo.com
You and he can then exchange information on the the best way to send them.

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The Real Deal

By John A. Harman, LCDR, XO & CO, 1944-46
Commanding Officer, LCDR John Harman
CO, LCDR John Harman
Here is a moment in Begor history I’ll never forget. In the spring of 1945, we were anchored in Hawaii having completed our final scheduled training exercises at UDT School, Maui. Since the majority of the crew was at sea for the first time, and an APD was a new type ship, a lot was accomplished. We had passed our final tests at Guantanamo Bay with flying colors and felt ready to go. We had secured from quarters that sunny day in Hawaii when we became aware of three destroyers being towed into the harbor. The area above the main deck on all ships was a mass of twisted and broken steel. They had been hit by Kamikazes. It reminded us that from now on we were playing for keeps.

John Harman is deceased. See his obituary on our Shipmates Memorial page.


Anchoring at Yokosuka, Japan in 1945

By John A. Harman, LCDR, XO, CO 1944-46
In reference to going alongside a dock at the Yokosuka Naval Base in late August 1945, I don’t remember going alongside, but we were certainly the first ship there. We had quite a problem with the Navy Captain who was on board as Unit Commander.

He insisted that we anchor with the ships bow facing the bay, rather than the beach, so we could get out quickly in case there was firing from the beach.

Captain Brooks explained that the wind was from the beach and BEGOR at anchor would head into the wind because of our topside construction, and also our best armament was the 5" 38 on the bow. Of course we lost the argument, so we struggled.

[Note: John Harman was the first XO and second CO.]


The Victors WERE the Spoiled!

By Bill Bowman, Quartermaster, 1944-45
Bill Bowman
Bill Bowman
Since BEGOR was one of the first US ships into Tokyo Bay, the crew had the opportunity to go ashore before Marine guards were sent in to prevent looting. One Seaman got a sword for Captain Brooks [the man alleged]. I took a rifle from a Japanese guard [inadmissible: coerced confession], but nothing else, as I was a new CPO and did not want to screw up. The officers were just as bad [objection! hearsay]. A few BEGOR motor mech’s got the suicide boats working, hence boat racing in the bay, including boat crash fun -- until the larger ships put a stop to it [killjoys!].

[Point of order: is there a Statute of Limitations on Pillaging?]

After serving on various ships, including submarines, memory mixes up crews. One sea memory has stayed with me for over 60 years. We left Okinawa to miss a typhoon. Instead we hit it head on. I thought we were going to roll over several times. After that experience, a rough sea never bothered me again. After meeting members of UDT TWENTY ONE, I wondered how they could mix with civilians after they were discharged. [If Tarzan the Apeman could, why not a few Frogmen?]

(Bill Bowman lives in Dedham, MA).


Focus on History

By Gerald Hammer, Radarman, 1944-45
I was a radar operator at the time we entered Tokyo Bay. As I recall, we went in alone and at battle stations. I believe we were considered to be expendable and were sent in alone just in case there were some Japanese who would rather die than surrender. There were no other Navy ships in sight as we went in. We were ordered to go directly to Yokosuka Naval Base with orders to destroy any weapons found. Our UDT would go out each morning and found many two-man submarines and suicide boats that were to be used against us, when and if Japan was invaded. The Japanese Battleship NAGATA, that was heavily damaged by skip-bomb attacks, and the Japanese Cruiser SAKAWA were moored nearby. When the USS MISSOURI entered the bay, she was moored not far from BEGOR and we could see, with the aid of binoculars, the signing of the Peace Treaty that took place on her deck.

"Jerry" Hammer is deceased. See his obituary on our Shipmates Memorial page.

USS Missouri, platform for the Japanese Surrender, which ended World War II in the Pacific, as seen from USS Begor in late August 1945, shortly before the surrender date, 2 September 1945. USS Begor (APD-127) was omitted in error from the Navy's list of ships present in Tokyo Bay on the day of the surrender signing (see list at http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq69-2.htm), an error which has still not been corrected.
(Photo by ENS Barry McCabe, UDT-21)
USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay


The USS BEGOR—UDT Connection

By Barry McCabe, Ensign, UDT-21, 1945
A platoon of UDT-21 aboard USS BEGOR, August 1945. Sea story author, Ensign Barry McCabe is at right with camera strap over his shoulder.
UDT 21 Platoon
As World War II closed, I was aboard USS BEGOR with Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) 21. My team was tasked with locating and destroying Japanese armament, suicide boats and miniature submarines in the area around Yokosuka, the main Japanese naval base on Tokyo Bay, in September 1945.

The suicide boats were about 20-feet long, with wooden hulls, and powered by gasoline engines, many by American-made Gray Marine six-cylinder engines of about 70-80 horsepower.  The boats did not have a reverse gear (for obvious reasons)!

Dozens of the boats were stored in caves on top of dollies that ran on railroad-type tracks, to enable the Japanese to quickly run them into the water.  We found none that were loaded with explosives, but, if the US invasion became imminent, explosives would have been loaded quickly. Each boat would have carried two depth charges, 260 pounds apiece, which were released by hand or on impact with their targets.  The boats were usually painted green. See related photos on the Photo Gallery page.

I and other UDT 21 officers were involved with supervising the teams in the destruction of these suicide weapons. We tried burning the boats in the caves, but they were so damp they wouldn't burn, even with gasoline being poured on them. Obviously, we tried to blow them up close to where we found them, but after doing it once, we decided it presented too much danger to the villages, because the boats were right where the people lived. We finally towed them out into the water and sometimes cut holes in their hulls with axes to sink them.

As for the midget subs, they had to be towed out and sunk.  As with the suicide boats, Japanese laborers provided most of the muscle for moving the boats from storage to the water, with UDT members supervising. I can't recall the subs’ length, but they were extremely small, as you can see from the related photos on the Photo Gallery page.  They were perhaps about 4' in diameter.

When people question the use of the atomic Bombs, which ended the war, I tell them even though it was catastrophic, I along with a million American troops probably wouldn't be alive today [had the war been fought to its conclusion through invasion and conventional warfare].  I was amazed that, once the Emperor told the people the war was over, they immediately gave up their arms and were remarkably friendly.  Otherwise, men, women and children would have fought to their deaths.

Barry McCage is deceased. See his obituary on our Shipmates Memorial page.

Comment on Barry McCabe's sea story by the BEGOR website team

We thank Barry for his story and the accompanying photos on the Photo Gallery page, all of which were taken by him. USS BEGOR’s  crewmembers are honored and privileged to have worked with the effective and courageous men of the Underwater Demolition Teams over the years. For more information on the history of UDT and that program's evolution into the Navy SEAL program, go to http://www.seal.navy.mil

Barry is not resting on his laurels. Here is a Spring 2005 email communication from him:

"FYI, for the past 10 years I've been working closely with a Captain in the SEAL Reserves in a very successful program physically testing and mentoring young SEAL candidates at the Merchant Marine Academy in NY. That's the primary reason my attention these days is more focused on the SEALs. To give you an idea of our program's success, of all the men across the country who enter the demanding 6-month program in Coronado, called BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition SEALs), about 80% fail. Of all the men we have tested and recommended for BUD/S, 70% make it and only 30% fail. It's truly rewarding working with these young men."

That is dedication! Our BEGOR ballcaps are off to you, Barry!


Going Home to Re-Tire

By GM3 Frank Wittman, 1945-46
Frank Wittman
Frank Wittman
During the war, I had a 1935 Dodge which used 6.000x16 tires. New tires were difficult to obtain due to rationing. You were required to have five riders in a car and rationing stamps. When my tires were beyond repair, I went to the Rensselaer County (NY) Courthouse to request stamps for new tires and was denied by the official there. While I was in his office, the official pulled out his desk drawer, and I saw it was jammed with rationing stamps!

Subsequently, I was drafted, served on the USS Begor, and was present when the Begor entered Tokyo Bay. At one point, I was assigned to supervise a group of native Japanese to help pull suicide boats out of caves. Some of the boats were on tracks; others were on trailers with rubber tires. As we pulled a trailer out into the light, I looked down, and there were two brand new 6.000x16 B. F. Goodrich tires!

After returning home at the end of the war, I read in the paper where the county official was being prosecuted for ration stamp fraud!

Front row, l-to-r: SKD1 Thomas O'Keefe, GM3 Robert Croft, WT3 Roderic Ross, and Coxswain Eugene Lang
Standing, l-to-r: GM3 Wm E. "Bill" Walsh, GM3 Frank Wittman (Sea Story author), FC2 Julian Lapinski, and SM2 George Masterson

[Editor's note: I want to make an example of author Frank Wittman, because, despite being one of our Association's older members, serving aboard Begor at her very beginnings, he has shown the desire and determination to contribute a charming anecdote for our Sea Stories collection, has dug out photos he took along the coast of Japan in 1945, verified the names of his shipmates in the group photo and made a plea to anyone who served with him to please get in touch. What a great example of energy and positive thinking for all of us! I hope his effort will inspire many more shipmates to pen their recollections of Begor Days! We have an active bunch of plank owners and other WWII vets supporting the Association and attending reunions, so I hope those who remember Frank will drop him a line. Here's his impressive biography, which concludes with his mailing address:

         After two years of service, I left the Navy in January 1946 as Gunners Mate 3rd Class. I returned to my hometown in upstate New York to my wife, Jane, and young daughter, Judith. After having a couple of temporary jobs, I obtained employment in a milk-bottling plant called Diamond Rock. I was employed there for 22 years. It was a well-paying, steady job which we were happy to have at the time. The plant closed in July 1967 and I went to work at Hudson Valley Community College and ultimately became the grounds superintendent there. I stayed for 15 years until retiring in 1982.
         I was married to Jane Bott for 64 years and we raised two daughters and a son. I have five grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. Jane passed away in 2004.
         After basic training, I was interviewed and when they found out that I had worked in the Watervliet Arsenal (the oldest military manufacturing arsenal in the US), they sent me to gunners mate school, because I was familiar with the construction of artillery. I was then assigned to the USS Begor. I was fortunate to be at the ship's commissioning ceremony. She was named after Navy doctor Fay Begor who was killed in New Guinea during World War II. I participated in the invasion of Okinawa and was within sight of the signing of the Japanese surrender aboard the battleship USS Missouri with General McArthur in Tokyo Bay.
         Serving in the Navy was a great life experience and I found many friends. I was only 24 years old, but that was older than most of the men and they looked at me like a father figure and depended on me to get them back to the ship "without incident" whenever we had liberty. I have many fond memories of my shipmates.

(Signed) Frank Wittman, GM3.] Editor's note:Frank Wittman is deceased.


Pick Your Fight!

By E. Glenn Boverie, SM3, 1945-46
Glenn Boverie
Glenn Boverie
On VJ day, I drew shore patrol duty in New Orleans. Just got off armed guard ship. Another gob and I walked down Canal Street and he went into a movie to see that there was no trouble. At least that's what he said: I think he just wanted to see the show.

All of a sudden I heard someone shout "FIGHT!" and I saw a couple of gobs whaling tar out of each other down an alley. I ran down to see the fight. Then I heard someone yell "Here comes the shore patrol!" and the fighters scattered. Suddenly I realized that "I" was the shore patrol they were running from!

Editor's note: Glenn Boverie is deceased.


Pick Your Fight! (II)

By E. Glenn Boverie, SM3, 1945-46
While in New Orleans, several of us shipmates from St. Louis went to the Lake Ponchatrain amusement park .We were shipping out the next day.

On the way back on the streetcar, we were sitting at the rear, which had a circular shaped seat. This was the last run from the park. At the next stop, a group of colored people got on and the conductor told us that we had to move to the front, because colored people had to sit at the rear. We refused. In St. Louis, we always sat at the rear and we got there first and it was easier for us to talk that way

The conductor refused to move on. About ten minutes later, a police car came looking for the streetcar and were told the problem by the conductor: "These sailors are trying to start a riot! They won't move to the front."

Just then, a Shore Patrol jeep showed up and the cops told them that we were breaking the law. The SP Lieutenant said, " They are not breaking any navy laws." We were at a stand-off. Then, one of the colored riders said: "We appreciate what you are doing but we just got off of work and want to get home."

"Okay," we said, and we then moved and everybody on the streetcar applauded us!

Editor's note: Glenn Boverie is deceased.

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Missing Out on History

By Mike Redmond, FC2 1945-46
I came on board BEGOR in November 1945. At the time BEGOR was moored at Broadway Pier in San Diego. I had returned from the Philippines on the USS SALAMAUA (CVE-96) and was attending fire control school at the Naval Repair Base.

The only trip we took while I was aboard (except for several up and down the west coast), was to Johnston Island and Hawaii to pick up 30 Army personnel who had been stationed on this small weather station for up to eighteen months. Most all were seasick on the way back to the States.

When we returned to the States we went into dry-dock at the Naval Repair Base in San Diego for a paint job. It is obvious I missed most of the interesting historical events of the ship.

(Mike Redmond is living in Federal Way, WA).


1945-46 Shipmates, Sound Off!

By Clayton Hicks, MM3 1945-46
I was assigned to BEGOR on 29 November 1945, four days after my 20th birthday. According to papers I have in my file, LCDR John Harman was CO, and LTJG Jerry Hoover was XO. As a machinist mate, I was assigned to the Engine Room.

We cruised from San Diego to Seattle, stopping off at San Francisco on the way. The ship was assigned duty taking military personnel to a point where they could complete their discharge. My tour on BEGOR was very short and I don’t remember much about the crew I served with. If there is anyone who served during the period November 1945 through April 1946, I would like to hear from them. I am now 79 years old and living in Franklin, TN

(clayton.hicks@comcast.net 615-791-5736)

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Pies Overboard!

By Ray Bartel, SK3 1946-47
Ray Bartel
Ray Bartel
In 1946, while steaming from Pearl Harbor to Bikini Atoll, the ship’s baker baked several apple pies and set them on the mess deck tables to cool. Some hungry crewmember stole one of the pies. In Caine Mutiny fashion, the Chief Stewburner attempted to find the guilty party. Having no success, the Chief gathered all the remaining pies and threw them overboard. The crew was very upset by the Chief’s action and hoped the Skipper would conduct a little disciplinary action on him. Much to their dismay, the Skipper backed the Chief.

During our time at the Bikini Atoll, we were allowed to go on liberty on one of the deserted islands that had been converted into a recreational area. We always had a good supply of beer to take ashore. I was a supply petty officer and my duty was to guard the beer and distribute it to the crew.

Of the two bomb tests, the second was most spectacular. When the bomb went off you could see ships standing on end in the waterspout. It was a mass of water and fire. We were closest ship to the blast in both tests. Our UDT was responsible for sending out radio-controlled boats to take water samples to check for radiation.

Ray Bartel lived in Grand Prairie, TX. See his obituary on our Shipmates Memorial page.


Belle Bottoms, Perhaps?

By Donald Peirce, BT2, UDT THREE, 1946
Don Peirce
Don Peirce
I was a member of UDT THREE under the command of CDR Walter Cooper during Operation Crossroads. We boarded BEGOR at Oceanside, California, following Team efforts to retrieve Marine bodies lost during an amphibious training exercise. UDT THREE was re-commissioned onboard BEGOR while underway to Bikini.

One of my memories of BEGOR relates to the dungarees carried onboard and issued to us as replacement for our usual bell-bottomed issue. We were all convinced they were designed for use by WAVES with rather enlarged posteriors.

It was not unusual for us to have to strip “buck naked” aboard the LCPR Drones before being allowed to re-board the ship due to our radioactivity, sometimes as often as three times a day. I wondered how the ship was able to produce so much fresh water and mused at the source of the water. I was not, however, amused at being intimately inspected with Geiger counters in full view of ship’s company!

I did not return to San Diego aboard BEGOR, as I accompanied our picket boat onboard the APA SAINT CROIX, where they issued us "real-man dungarees."

(Don Peirce lived in Sudbury, MA).


I Remember Bikini

By George Kimmel
George Kimmel
George Kimmel
As a BM3 on Begor in July 1946 I participated in the two Atomic Bomb Tests known as Operation CROSSROADS.

I remember arriving at Bikini Atoll on June 5th with Underwater Demolition Team Three on board. We were designated the Control Ship for the drone boats used in collecting contaminated water samples following the two denotations.

Begor departed Bikini Lagoon at 0544 on July 1st to take up station for the first explosion, known as test ABLE, an air detonation approximately 518 feet above the target fleet. The detonation occurred at 0900 and we were about 10 miles from the target area.

Immediately following the detonation we guided the drone boats into the target area to take water samples. The drones were then directed back to Begor where the boats were washed down thoroughly with sea-water. After being declared safe to board, a UDT3 crew and a radiochemist boarded to transfer the collected water samples.

With the exception of a rehearsal exercise on July 18 and 19, Begor remained in Bikini Lagoon performing routine activities until July 25. At 0540 on July 25 Begor departed the lagoon to take up station for test BAKER. During test BAKER the bomb was exploded beneath the surface of the water. The explosion occurred at 0835.

At 0912 Begor began moving two drone boats toward the target area to retrieve water samples. Each drone boat collected ten water samples. These samples were delivered to the USS Albemarle. Two days later, July 27, four more drones collected water samples, which were delivered to the USS Haven.

Begor was one of the operating ships in CROSSROADS whose involvement caused it to be temporarily listed as radiologically suspect. This was largely caused by low level radioactive contamination of the lagoon waters following test BAKER, and was confined to the exterior hull at or below the waterline and the internal salt water piping systems. We were directed to scrape off marine growth near the waterline, plus a few other safety measures.

Begor departed Bikini Lagoon on August 3, en-route to Pearl Harbor, arriving on August 8.

[George Kimmel served in Begor during 1946-47. He is deceased having lived in Manasquan, NJ.]


Howard Hughes and his Spruce Goose

EMP3 Foerster on Begor's fantail in 1947, the year he witnessed History-in-the-Making
Tom Foerster, 1947
By Tom Foerster
World War II had ended, and I was stationed at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida. Not ready to return to civilian life, I decided to reenlist for another four years. In mid-1946, I was transferred to the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado, California. In June 1947, I ask for sea duty and found myself on board USS Begor.

On November 2, 1947 (a Sunday morning), Begor was in Long Beach undergoing some repairs. We were at anchor in Long Beach Harbor and the duty section was doing what the duty section does on a Sunday - nothing much.

The only flight of the Spruce Goose, with USS Begor (and the author) standing by (photo from History Channel video)
Spruce Goose and Begor
Hearing a loud noise, I ran topside to the fantail and observed the historical test flight of the Spruce Goose. I don't remember if she was in the air or still on the water as she went by. The roar of the eight engines was so loud I could feel it on my face and arms. Of course I didn't know it at the time, but Howard Hughes was at the controls and the Spruce Goose was airborne for about a mile, rising to a height of some eighty feet. Her flight path was very close to our anchorage and I got a great view of this historic plane. This was the only time the Spruce Goose was ever airborne.

Years later, the History Channel did a documentary on Hughes and in the background of one of the shots across the four starboard engines in flight was an APD. That APD was none other than the USS Begor APD-127. Had it been a close-up of Begor, you could have seen me standing near the stern. That photo has an honored place on my wall.

The author, Tom Foerster, and wife Bea, at home in Rockland County, New York
Tom and Bea Foerster

[The Spruce Goose never made it into production and was on display in Long Beach for many years, before being moved to the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Oregon. Tom Foerster joined the Navy in 1944 and was an EMP3 (electrician/power & light) while in Begor's crew (1947-48). When Begor deployed in 1948, Tom was a short-timer, and so stayed behind and spent a few months aboard an LSMR and an LST before his release from the Navy in '49. He returned to his pre-enlistment job as an installer at New York Telephone full-time and pursued a career with the phone company. He was recalled to active duty for the Korean War in '51 and spent 18 months in ship's company on a repair ship. Back at the phone company, Tom climbed the ladder to Test Bureau Foreman, retiring in 1985. He ran his own phone installation and repair business for a couple of years, then traded his truck for a golf cart! Tom and Bea, his wife of 55 years, live today in New City, New York.]

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China Goes Red and Korea Goes to War

By Richard L. Jones
BT3 Richard Jones
Richard Jones
I reported aboard Begor in January 1949, in time for the deployment to China. [If anyone aboard at that time remembers an accident aboard during the stop in Pearl Harbor -- in which Richard believes a sailor was killed when one of our landing craft came loose and fell on the boat below -- please provide details to the Webmaster or Historian. -Ed.] We were supposed to go into Mainland China, up the river to relieve USS Bass in support of the US Consulate. As we neared China, we were instructed to go to Okinawa and wait for Bass. The Communist forces were making it dangerous to remain up the river.

We were soon directed to steam to Hong Kong, and the Consulate moved there. While in H.K., a group of destroyers asked us if we would like to take a tour of the Philippines. I'm sure they wanted the use of our landing craft. We started at Zamboango, and a few of us decided to form a basketball team. At each stop, we were challenged to a game by the local team. We managed to win all the games. At the last stop, the locals held a big party for all five ships. Because some of our crewmembers had misbehaved by taking a jeep on a joyride, resulting in property damage and possibly injury in the village, no one from Begor was to go to the party. The Destroyer Group Commander wanted a good showing from all the ships, so he leaned on Begor's skipper to send the liberty party. Even though many went reluctantly, the party turned out to be a great one. [If anyone has any recollection of the incident Richard describes, please submit your version. -Ed.]

Our basketball team was invited to play a game. I thought I was tall, but these local kids were really big! To make a long story short, they beat us pretty badly. Their coach thanked us and asked if we knew who they were. When he replied, "This is our National Olympic Basketball Team," we didn't feel so badly!

When we arrived in Subic Bay, while approaching our pier, the ship became stuck in the muddy bottom. With a lot of rocking back and forth, we worked the ship loose and backed out into the main channel and made a clean approach to our assigned berth. [If anyone knows whether this was an official grounding, please let us know. -Ed.]

While in Subic, ten of us were selected to form a Landing Party and train with the Marines. We went into the jungle with a contingent and trained on the Marines' weapons. We were now prepared for any future need of a Landing Party.

This deployment had too many events to mention them all. I could write a book about our stay in Hong Kong alone! For instance, our Chief mentioned a place that would clean our watches for a great price. Everybody, including the Chief, gave their watches to the shopkeeper, who apparently "went north" with them. Eventually, the British caught the guy and we had to go to court to identify him. He was found guilty and sentenced to six months at hard labor in Calcutta. We were told that he would never be back.

When we arrived back in San Diego, I transferred to the Wantuck. While in Hong Kong, the Korean War started. We were at the Inchon landing, serving as Primary Control Vessel for that. We earned six battle stars for that. On the east coast, we helped British Commandoes blow up railroad bridges and tunnels, and we supported the Wonson landing. When we left Korea, it appeared that the war was over, but, boy! Did the Chinese screw that up and prove us wrong!

[Richard lives in Greeley, CO. He had written two books available on www.amazon.com: China Sunset and Tribulation and Last Days.
See his obituary on our Shipmates Memorial page.]


Begor Deployment, 1949

By LTJG Jim Smith, Supply Officer, 1949-50
Jim Smith then & now
Jim Smith
Early in 1949, Begor participated in a cold-weather operation in Alaska. En route we took the beautiful Inland Passage from Vancouver to Juneau and were treated to some of the most awesome sights that nature has to offer, such as snow-covered peaks and glaciers.

Later in the spring, we deployed to WestPac and en route were ordered to divert to Shanghai to assist in evacuating supplies and equipment from the US Embassy, as it was being closed due to the communist takeover of mainland China.

Included in embassy supplies were five 93-piece sets of Noritake china. We were allowed to buy the china for $25.00 per set. I purchased a set, sight-unseen, and lucked out with a very nice pattern. That china was what my bride and I started housekeeping with when we got married in February 1950. We still have the set.

Later we were ordered to Hong Kong as station ship. The whole crew was excited to have a few months in this great liberty port. "Street Girls" were plentiful and hotel rooms were cheap. As we entered the harbor we were just awe-struck at one of the most beautiful harbors in the world. Hong Kong means "beautiful lagoon*." A primary role of the station ship was to support the US Consulate with high-level classified radio communications with Washington.

A first impression on going ashore was how terribly crowded Hong Kong was. Thousands of Chinese families had fled Shanghai, Peking and other cities to escape the communist tyranny. Thousands were living on houseboats and in the streets.

A young female named Mary Soo came out to the ship to see me and offered her flotilla of girls to keep the ship sides painted in exchange for the garbage from the general mess. The ship provided the paint and we struck a deal. Mary's sampan crews picked up the garbage daily and took it ashore and sifted, washed and separated all vegetables. She took the cleaned vegetables to Wanchai, a lower class neighborhood, and sold them to the local cafes where many of the refugees ate. Begor's superstructure glistened while we were in Hong Kong.

The money exchange rate was six Hong Kong dollars for one US dollars. You could get the best dinner in the best restaurant for six Hong Kong dollars.

The late actor and movie star, William Holden, was in Hong Kong filming a movie and he frequented a local bar that I went to almost every day for Happy Hour. We became drinking buddies and friends. The high point of our visit was a ship's party at the old Hong Kong Hotel. I bought a tailor-made white linen suit to wear to the party. I had met a very affluent girl that had migrated from Shanghai and brought her to the party. She became quite upset when she realized she was socializing with "street girls," brought in by some of our sailors, so the party ended pretty early for us. I have many fond memories of that exotic city.

[Edited for publication by Gene Combs. *Website Editor's comment. I like Jim's translation of "Hong Kong," because it is, for many, one of the most beautiful cities or harbors in the world. Here's another viewpoint: In James Clavell's novel Tai-Pan: a Novel of Hong Kong, the author states that the English translation of "Hong Kong" is "fragrant harbor." The website AllExperts.com agrees with that, but adds another twist, and I paraphrase:

There are two meanings for "Hong Kong" in English. The meaning, in direct translation, is "a harbor which is fragrant." The paraphrase of "Hong Kong" in English is "a harbor which has joss sticks/ incense for sale."

Even though it may be the aroma of burning incense, noticeable at some distance outside the harbor, that gave Hong Kong its name, the natural beauty of Victoria Island, Kowloon and the New Territories draw far more visitors than do the fragrances!]

See Jim and his 1949 Supply Division HERE

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The Role of USS BEGOR (APD-127) in Clandestine Operations in North Korea, 1950–51

By Jack Cremeans

This is the first time that the Begor Association has published a work of this size or one that addresses a subject of such weight. And if size and weight were not enough to make this a Must Read, consider that this story is about your ship and her connection to the murky world of Special Operations; ops which were heavily classified when the Begor crew plied the North Korean coast by dark of night, launching and recovering American and Korean men who risked their lives to undermine the enemy. We who bring you the USS BEGOR Newsletter and Website are proud to present this historical work, told in the first person by an American like you, who went to war to protect his Nation, because that's what citizens do. You'll learn a little of Jack's beginnings in the Prologue and a little about Jack post-CIA in the Epilogue. Those of you attending the Baltimore Reunion (October, 2006) had the pleasure of meeting him at the Banquet and hearing his remarks after dinner. Everybody else can see photos of him mingling with the crew (see the Baltimore Reunion page update post-reunion)!
— The Editors.


The Big Blow At Hungnam

By Gene Combs, SK1, 1950-52
A less famous photograph of the Hungnam demolitions of Christmas Eve, 1950
Ship at Hungnam
Arriving on December 14, 1950, Begor spent ten days in Hungnam Harbor before Underwater Demolition Team (UDT)-THREE was ready to push the plunger from one of our LCVP’s, blowing up the dock facilities, an ammunition depot and an oil storage facility at the port of Hungnam, at approximately 1430 on 24 December 1950.

On the 22nd, Begor was relieved as control vessel by the USS Diachenko (APD-123) and shifted to an anchorage 1000 yards off Hungnam breakwater. Begor was now on station and ready for demolition duty.

During the night of 23-24 December Begor boats and working parties assisted UDT THREE personnel in transporting explosives to the beach and in planting demolition charges in the Hungnam Harbor area.

Several other volunteers and I went ashore with the Team. In addition to carrying the explosives from Begor to the beach by boat, we were assigned various duties, from placing of the explosives to assisting in the tying of fuse lines. A UDT member showed me how to tie the lines, and watched while I attempted a couple of knots. After observing my lack of dexterity, he complimented me on being a six foot 220-pound crewmember and assigned me to the "mule" detail. For the next several hours, I carried eighty-pound packs of explosives all along the dock facilities, passing them to a Team member, who would properly place them in an already dug hole.

I remember one shipmate, Vincent McEntee, BT1, who was tying lines as a 2-star general, smoking a cigar, walked up and asked Vince how he was doing. Vince promptly jumped up, grabbed the cigar out of the general’s mouth and commenced to lecture the general on how stupid he was to be smoking a cigar in the vicinity of the explosives! The general took it in good stride, thanked Vince and turned around and walked off. [Vince, a great shipmate, passed away early this year.]

I remember it being "cold as a well-diggers butt in Idaho" that day, and Turkish infantrymen gave us hot coffee as they were being evacuated from the dock.

Upon completion of the job, we all left the dock for the trip back to the ship. I will never forget the sad look on the faces of hundreds of civilians gathered in the dock area, hoping to be evacuated, but time had run out for them.

After returning to the ship, there were several smaller explosions, apparently from an ammunition or fuel oil storage facility. We knew time was running out for us, too, as we observed gun flashes from the mountains behind the city as the Chinese were steadily approaching.

From a Begor LCVP, a member of the UDT-Team pushed the plunger, blowing up the whole area. I wondered what happened to the hundreds of Korean civilians still on the dock. A photographer from the flagship, USS Mt McKinley, took that famous [Official US Navy] photo of the destruction, with Begor appropriately centered in the photo. The rest literally is history, for that photo appeared on the cover of ALL HANDS, the Bureau of Naval Personnel magazine, in many US newspapers, and can now be found on our website’s homepage, on many other websites, and in the National Archives.

Of course, many of us snapped our own photos of the explosions at Hungnam Harbor. None matched the sheer drama of the most famous one, but they all take us back to that day when we made history aboard USS BEGOR.

(Gene Combs was commissioned in the Supply Corps, has retired from the US Navy and lives in Deltona, FL)


A Letter from Hungnam

by Charles Brady, PFC, USA, 1950
To USS Begor Shipmates:

PFC Charles Brady was Gunner on this Tank. Later, Squad Leader on another.
I recently discovered your ship's website. I have a story involving your ship...a vessel I remember with great fondness. On December 24, 1950, I was a Private First Class on an T-141 Tank (I manned the anti-aircraft artillery weapon, twin 40mm cannons in an open turret atop the tank). We were the last combat vehicle evacuated from Hungnam. Four of our weapons had been dug in at the Hungnam City Dump adjacent to the dock and the long train that had been rigged to explode. For several days, the Battleship Missouri had fired over our heads...at night, their huge shells glowing and looking about the size of VW Beetles. (We rummaged through that train...with its bombs and other explosives...to get warmer clothing and covering for ourselves; it was horribly cold that winter!) Originally, we were to blow up our vehicles and catch a Korean fishing boat out to a waiting LST, but at the last minute a tank recovery vessel arrived and took our tanks. The crews were taken out to the few remaining ships in the harbor. My crew was taken aboard your ship, where we were given clean clothes, showers and a wonderful hot Christmas dinner (with homemade ice cream)… our first real meal since September! An Army unit, we had been assigned to the Marines, landing with them at Inchon and then going to Iwon with them in the north. Our A Battery was with them at Chosin.

Anyhow, we stood on the ship at Hungnam and watched the explosion depicted on your website. We spent a couple days with your ship and then were transferred to another ship and sent back south to Pusan. I will never forget the kindnesses shown by everyone on the USS Begor and that wonderful Christmas of 1950.

I later received a battlefield commission but chose "ten to out," staying in the reserves. I was recalled to active duty for Vietnam and served until retirement in January 1974.

Happy reunions, USS Begor Shipmates!

/s/Charles Brady, Major, US Army (Retired)

(PS: I have been a school administrator and teacher since retirement, still teaching part time in San Francisco, and I make my permanent home in Pacific Grove, on Monterey Bay, California.)

[To all our Website visitors: It is a real pleasure to post stories from those who have rubbed elbows and shared a cup of Joe with us aboard USS Begor. If YOU have a story about our ship and crew, please share it with us, so we can relive the moment together! See instructions for submission in red text near the top of the Sea Stories Page!

Charles Brady has shared some additional details about his unit, their tanks and their service in Korea. I think this material provides great background on how one PFC came to ride Begor and to enjoy his visit so much (as he so beautifully expressed in his story above).]

PFC Charles Brady, USA, atop M19 Tank in Korea
QUOTE. Our "tank" was initially a "T141"...later it became an M-19 and then later still an M-42. It was nicknamed "The Duster". It was new when my unit, the 50th AAA AW Battalion - then at Fort Bliss, Texas - was alerted when the Korean War began. We were told to leave our antique half-tracks carrying quad fifty calibers and that we would pick up our T-141s in Japan...being shipped separately. We saw movies about the 40mms and vehicles during the two weeks before shipping out and on the Liberty Ship (taken out of mothballs for us) from Seattle to Japan. We trained for two weeks, then shipped from Sasebo, Japan.... transferred to LSTS and landed with the Marines. We were with them thru Seoul then up near the 38th...then back with them to catch LSTs for the invasion at IWON. When they started withdrawing from Chosin, my tank was sent out to cover them. After all US and South Korean personnel passed, we followed as rear-guards and became the ultimate rear-guard unit at the harbor shore, dug in (not really...the ground was frozen solid) on the Hungnam city dump. It was so cold that, when we heard about a nearby US supply train a couple hundred yards away, we sneaked…a few at a time...over to free up parkas, ponchos and canned food. We figured we'd need supplies since we were told that we would have to use thermite grenades on our guns and burn our tanks, then catch waiting fishing boats and SAIL out to catch waiting navy vessels! Of course, on the 24th of December, a tank recovery vessel picked us up. We went by a small boat to the Begor where we were given clothing, showers and that wonderful food I mentioned (since September, we had been eating C rations warmed by the exhaust of our twin-Cadillac engines on our tanks. I did not learn, so could not recall, the name of your ship, but remember it had a three-number designation ending in "7". I also know it was the Begor that we were on because, when we watched the explosions, there were no other vessels between us and the shore (as shown in the series of photos on your website). That Christmas remains special to me and I remain grateful to everyone aboard and attending your great ship.

Sincerely, Charles Brady ( brady150@aol.com.) UNQUOTE.]

I Think We Got an APD, Captain!

By Jeff Gallagher, EN2, 1949-51
While we were in Korea, the ship had taken a group of guerillas to an island just south of the Yalu River. The boats had been put in the water at about 2200 hours and did not return to the ship until 0500. The boat crews ate chow and hit the sack.

General Quarters sounded around 0700. We had just buttoned up in Damage Control 3, when the stern was given one helluva a jolt! The lights went out and we all thought we had taken a hit. We had three men stuck in the scuttle, trying to get out of the compartment.

Come to find out, the ship was in a minefield, and the skipper, LCDR William A. Walker, decided to knock loose with some depth charges. They were set to go off at 50 feet and the ship was only doing about 5 knots.

The first explosion lifted the stern out of the water and caused a breaker to open in the after engine room. Sure scared the living hell out of a few folks!

There’s Never a (Water) Taxi When You need It!

Paul Kelly, SN (YNCM-Ret), 1952-53
Paul Kelly
Paul Kelly
Frank Huffman and I had gone ashore in Sasebo and arrived at the Fleet Landing just as the last liberty boat was about 100 yards out. Using some good ole American ingenuity, we spotted an anchored Japanese fishing boat that had a small dinghy tied up at the stern. We duly claimed ownership of the dinghy, without the owner’s knowledge, of course, and pushed off before realizing there were no oars in the boat. Ripping apart a wooden grating, which consisted of slats, in the bottom of the boat, we commenced rowing at an extremely slow rate of speed. (The slats were about 1-1/2 inches wide!) When we finally made it to the ship, reveille had sounded and many laughing Begor sailors witnessed our not-so-clandestine boarding.

(Paul Kelly lived in San Diego, CA)


Give me Liberty...and a Boat to Get About In!

By Gene Combs, SK1, 1950-52
Gene Combs
Gene Combs
BEGOR had completed the Hungnam operation in late December 1950 and was anchored in Sasebo late in January, awaiting propeller/shaft repairs. Early in the morning hours, Seaman Clyde ________, was struck with an unbearable desire to go on liberty. The fact that the liberty boat had long before made the last trip to the beach did not deter Seaman Clyde. He merely climbed out the boat boom and jumped into one of the ship’s boats. Acting as coxwain, engineer and bow hook, he made his break for the beach. Several searches by our boat crews during the next two days failed to locate our wayward boat or Seaman Clyde.

On the third day, during morning quarters, here comes our missing boat and Seaman Clyde alongside. BMC Fred Kuhlman and his crew secured the boat, and Seaman Clyde came aboard amid cheers from the crew. During his AWOL status, he had run the boat into a sea wall, causing some minor damage. I don’t recall what happened next at Captain’s Mast, but I’m sure Skipper William A. Walker performed a little jurisprudence.

Some ten years later, I reported aboard USS PARICUTIN (AE-18) as Supply Officer and discovered that Seaman Clyde was a first division crewmember. He was wearing three red hash marks, but was still a seaman! He told me he didn’t remember his punishment on BEGOR, but he said whatever it was, two day’s use of an LCVP made it worthwhile.

(Note: I have not mentioned Seaman Clyde’s last name, but I’m sure many of you remember the incident and the seaman involved.)


Liberty Boat - What Liberty Boat?

By Gene Combs, SK1, 1950-52
Now that the statue of limitations for prosecution has hopefully expired, I will admit to a short period of bad judgment and stupidity while performing my official duty on board Begor back in 1951 while in San Diego.

The final evening liberty boat had just returned to the ship with two or three Cinderella liberty hounds. As a Petty Officer First Class, I was standing the in-port JOOD watch on the quarterdeck. While the boat was still secured to the accommodation ladder, the ship's Yeoman came running up hoping the boat was just loading for the final run.

I advised him the boat had already returned from it's final run and the next trip would not be until 0300 at which time they would be picking up the real sailors from their late liberty.

I owed the Yeoman a favor, (I'm not saying what for), and he reminded me the favor would be paid in full if I would have the boat crew make another quick trip so he could meet a hot date in San Diego.

To make a long story short, I authorized the crew to make an unofficial trip to accommodate this Yeoman. As they were departing, a towboat pulling a barge was steaming by. They ran right under the towline, just barely clearing the cable. Had they hit that cable my Navy career would have suddenly ended.

When the boat returned safely about fifteen minutes later, I swore never, ever to be so stupid again.


EntrepreneurShip BEGOR-Style

By John Camp, Supply Officer 1951-1952
John Camp
John Camp
First a little background: A ship's welfare and recreation activities are funded with profits from the ship's store. A percentage of those profits are remitted to the Navy Department for distribution to ships and stations lacking ship's store facilities to generate their own support for recreational programs.

During the summer of 1951, Begor often found herself moored in port, attached to a cluster of vessels all sharing the same buoy. Being the happy ship that she was, Begor hosted twilight movies on the fantail for everyone.

Two enterprising storekeepers, namely Gene Combs and Tom Gideon, saw an opportunity and seized it. Candy bars, cigarettes, and bottled Coke were sold before and during the movies to benefit the ship's store profit. There were no beverages other than Coke, and Coke was sold in bottles.

Venders required a deposit on the returnable Coke bottles. Our forward-thinking storekeepers surcharged the distributors' deposit charge to the ship with an additional 15 cents per bottle to encourage redemption after the movies and minimize collecting empty bottles stuck in every nook and cranny around the fantail.

Sailors being a carefree, spendthrift lot rarely redeemed their bottles. Pure profit resulted and, since the deposit procedure was outside the ship's store sales accounting, the surcharged deposit went entirely to the Begor welfare and recreation fund.

Since Begor was the only ship on the buoy to show nightly movies, the collections were often and substantial. Small wonder, with that kind of money to lavish on our own recreational activities, Begor was such a happy ship!

Now you know the rest of the story.

[Gene Combs' comment: Upon being reminded of this enterprise, I recall the dilemma of trying to cool the two hundred or so cases of warm coke. Ice, of course, was at a premium on this little 324-foot vessel, so we went to Rollin Schroeder, Chief Commissaryman, and asked permission to put the 200 cases of warm coke in his vegetable reefer where a temperature of about 45 degrees was normal. After about five hours, the temperature in the vegetable locker was suddenly around 68 degrees. And Chief Schroeder's temperature rose to well over 100 when he realized his celery was going limp!]

[John Camp still counts beans – and Coke bottles –, but now it's as our Association Treasurer. John lives in Cape Coral, Florida with his wife Joy.]


A Day In The Life Of A Begor Sailor - Early 1950's

By Gene Combs, SK1, 1950-52

You are a sailor in the US Navy, circa 1950-52, and your ship, USS Begor, is steaming in the Pacific. Your day could start out with a mid-watch on the port wing of the bridge. You had watched a black & white cowboy movie on the fantail until 2100 the previous evening, hitting the sack at about 2200. At 2330, you are awakened out of a sound sleep by the bridge messenger, who tells you it's time to relieve the 2000-2400 watch. After drinking hot, black coffee provided by the night cook for four hours, you are relieved at 0400. Hitting the sack again around 0415, hyped up from caffeine, you are unable to get to sleep, when: hark! The shrill sound of the bosun's call announces reveille at 0530.

You grab your ditty bag and rush for the head along with dozens of others. You wait your turn to sit on the bench above the trough of salt water always running, flushing your previous days meals down the drain directly into the beautiful blue Pacific Ocean. "Damn!" you think, "It must be nice to be an officer and not to have to perform these personal functions in full view of the public!" You try to sit at the high end of the trough to avoid the steady stream of human waste flowing beneath your bottom with the splashing salt water as you sit and think about the sea story told to you earlier by the local Navy recruiter. Obviously, he had never served in the Gator Navy!

Waiting for a vacant metal sink where you can shave and brush your teeth, you observe numerous naked bodies showering from the half dozen showerheads shooting out cold salt water. Looking around, you wonder if that bearded man from Illinois knew what he was taking about when he stated all men are created equal.

Completing the necessary morning hygiene chores, you wander up to the mess deck where you stand in line with a division or so of half-awake sailors, finally arriving at the food service line where mess-cooks spoon out your ration of baked beans, powered eggs and cornbread. You finally arrive at the spot where the junior mess-cook will give you one patty of butter, two patties if he likes you. For some unknown reason, the mess-cook serving the butter patties always had plenty of ship scuttlebutt to pass on. Sometimes he would start a rumor on the bow of the ship, then run back to the stern and time the rumor's arrival on the fantail.

Soon, following morning chow you hear the bosun again passing the word, "Turn-to! Commence ship's work!" With only a couple hours sleep, you go to your workstation. As you traverse about the ship you try to remember - up and forward to starboard, down and aft to port, and never take a shortcut in the wrong direction. The XO delighted in catching a "wrong way sailor," and it nearly always resulted in a short lecture, on the spot, about shipboard traffic patterns.

By 1000, General Quarters is sounded and all hands scurry to GQ stations dressed in life jackets and five-pound steel helmets. This is only a drill and we train our guns on a few sea gulls flying near the ship's stern waiting for the morning chow garbage to be dumped into the beautiful blue Pacific.

Chow down again about 1100, where we pass through the line, hoping to hear some new scuttlebutt from the mess-cook serving butter. Around 1300 the bosun passes the word to line up for payday on the mess decks. The Disbursing Officer and the Disbursing Clerk (DK) are at a table carrying side arms to protect the greenback from would-be robbers. We fill out our pay chits and present them to the DK for inspection. The DK notes a slight error on the pay slip and quickly tears the slip in two pieces without telling you what's wrong with it. You grudgingly fill out another and are told to go back to the end of the line. You swear, under your breath, "Someday, I am going to get that damn DK!" Nearby stands a "loan shark" with his hand out for those that recently borrowed five for seven or seven for ten, due on payday.

Back to your work station and another drill interrupts your work. This is a collision drill and we grab a few mattresses to shore up the pretended bulkhead rupture. These same mattresses have been used over and over for this type drill, but still look as good as the one I am sleeping on. In nearly three years our mattresses have never been cleaned, but from time to time they are folded over stanchion lines on the main deck for "airing out." The ship's corpsman tells us they are "clean and safe" since they are always enclosed in a mattress cover, known affectionately by the men as a "fart sack."

Evening chow goes down at 1700 with new stories from the butter-serving mess-cook. We go below to our compartment and find our laundry thrown on our bunks. We sort it out, fold it and place it in our 2x2x2-foot aluminum locker. A couple of undress blue work uniforms are included and we place them under our mattress for pressing. By then, it is movie time and we all head for the fantail to watch a black and white cowboy movie we have seen several times before.

The next day will be much of the same, but I loved it. I kept shipping over for 23 years!

[Gene retired in 1967, after serving 23 years in "the best Navy in the world."]

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Operation Passage To Freedom - My Story

By Roger Turk, Radarman, 1952-55

In the summer of 1954, I was on my second WestPac deployment. LCDR Zavin Mukhalian was commanding officer and LT Earl Marconnet, Jr. was XO. I knew this was not a routine deployment when we arrived in Yokosuka and were assigned a berth at a pier.

At 0200 an all hands working party was called away to load stores. At the same time a UDT detachment, along with their equipment came aboard, and said they were complying with verbal orders to report aboard Begor for transportation.

At 0500, on the third day after arriving in Yokosuka, the special sea and mooring detail was set and Begor got underway at flank speed. Among the various items we were carrying as we left Yokosuka was OpOrders for operation "Passage to Freedom". Speeding through the Paracel Islands at night, we rendezvoused off Touraine with the transports that would initially be involved in transporting refugees from Haiphong to Saigon.

After distributing the OpOrders to the transports, Begor proceeded independently to Haiphong. Embarking a French pilot off Haiphong, we proceeded up river and moored to a pair of mooring buoys, and became the first U.S. Navy ship to enter Haiphong Harbor.

We were moored to a pair of mooring buoys on the opposite side of the river from the city of Haiphong with our bow facing downstream. The tidal currents were tremendous. Flood- lights were rigged to illuminate the waters around the ship and additional watches were posted on the boat deck. From one hour before sunset to one hour after sunrise, an LCPR equipped with two 50 cal. machine guns, hand grenades, etc., patrolled around the ship.

Begor functioned as station ship, quartering and supporting the staff in charge of the evacuation, including the medical team headed by DR. THOMAS A. DOOLEY, who later devoted his short life to humanitarian efforts in southeast Asia.

After a month in Haiphong, we were relieved by a sister APD and departed for Saigon, which is located about 40 miles up a narrow twisting river. Arriving at the mouth of the river, a French river pilot came aboard and asked how fast we could go. When he was told "20 knots", he said "O.K.", and off we went at 20 knots.

Arriving in Saigon, we moored at a quay wall outboard of some French frigates. Daily, we would watch cooks emerge from below deck, go to the depth charge racks, pull back the canvas, and take the meal's wine from casks stored on the roller racks.

After a month in Saigon, we returned to the Haiphong area, anchoring in "Along Bay", where we stayed for a couple of weeks before returning again to Saigon.

On 17 November 1954, we dipped down across the equator and celebrated that occasion in the time-honored fashion. We spent only two nights in Singapore. On the second night we got orders to return to Saigon immediately. So we returned to Saigon, quickly loaded some special cargo and departed for Naha, Okinawa, where the cargo was offloaded. I don't know what we did, but we were later advised that we received a highly classified "Well done" for it.

[Note: Roger Turk served on Begor from 1952-1955 as a Radarman, retiring as a Commander, USNR in 1972. He was a Past Secretary of our Association and was influential in its success. Roger passed away in 2004.]


A Footnote to Operation Passage to Freedom

By Jerry Walden, SO1, 1952-55

The narrative by our deceased shipmate, Roger Turk, ended with him mentioning Begor's quick trip to Naha, Okinawa to off-load our "special cargo."

A footnote: after the cargo was off-loaded, it was determined that the forward bunking area and the bosun locker needed a good airing out. So, at dockside in Naha, the focs'le hatches were opened wide, letting hot, humid, fresh, tropical air into the crews' quarters.

The ship was alerted to a fast-developing tropical storm (typhoon?) headed directly for Naha. It was ordered to immediately set sail for open sea. Things happened so fast that we were already underway before the hatches were battened down.

Sonarman Bill Bauer took on the task of going on deck to secure the forward hatch. Unfortunately, a storm-generated wave hit Bill as he hugged the hatch. It did a real number on him.

The CO ordered Begor back to Naha so Bill could be treated at the medical facility there. We off-loaded our "special cargo" and then high-tailed it out to sea.

Things are a bit fuzzy after that, except Bill did catch up with us shortly thereafter and resumed his sonar shack duties.

(Jerry Walden now resides in Stone Mountain, GA)


Forever Wave

By Jerry Walden, SO1, 1952-55

Swabbing the deck
A photo I took of a couple of guys watching while a third swabs the roof of the bridge reminds me of an incident in which I was center stage.

Through the benevolence of the quartermasters and with our CO's okay, any interested sonarman was encouraged to practice and learn the quartermasters' visual signaling duties. Semaphore flags and blinker lights were the focus of my attention. I was having trouble with the flags, so more practice was required.

On one occasion, we were participating in a practice refueling operation with an oiler. At disconnect, I scrambled to the bridge roof with semaphores and a message form. I was going to practice! Standing boldly and confidently by the light standard, I put the message form under my toes, got the oiler's attention and started to wave away. I became so engrossed with my reading the message and correcting my errors I neglected to look up at the receivers until the oiler was about a quarter mile off our stern. They were giving me wild "goodbye" waves and hoots of laughter!

The quartermasters encouraged me to stick with pinging.


The Clefdwellers

By Jerry Walden, SO1 , 1952-55

Soon after Ensign Jim Ralston reported aboard Begor, it came to light that he had graduated from the University of Kansas with a major in music.

Whether during quarterdeck watches or bridge watches, the idea of forming a barbershop quartet surfaced. Quartermaster Billy Avery, Corpsman Richard Sifuentes, and I joined with Ensign Ralston to emulate the Four Freshmen. Unfortunately, Jim Ralston had only willing amateurs to work with and very scarce time and space in which to do that work.

Just like any new act, we thought we should hone our skills in less demanding environs before a big time opening in the U.S.! Darn good thing.
(Details in Photo Gallery page)
The Clefdwellers

But we did have fun singing in officers' clubs in Beppu (top photo) and Saigon, and a couple other places. Even sang for Sunday service (bottom photo) onboard the station ship in Saigon harbor for Task Force (?) Chaplain Barnes, during Operation Passage to Freedom.

We would have liked to keep it going, but we didn't. Don't remember ifi someone was transferred, we returned stateside or there was a gentlemen's agreement that we just weren't very good.

[Footnote: Prior to his retirement from The University of Kansas in 1994, James Ralston, LTJG aboard Begor and member of the Clefdwellers quartet, had been professor and director of choral activities for more than 30 years. The former USS Begor Clefdweller, who holds bachelor's, master's and Ph.D. degrees from KU, was the former chair of the Department of Music Ensembles and developed KU's master and doctoral programs in choral conducting. In 2003, Jim was the recipient of the Phoenix Award for achievement in musical arts, an honor bestowed by the Lawrence (Kansas) Arts Commission to members of the local creative community.]


I Kinda Felt Like Jonah!

By Russ Machen, RDSW3, 1952-55

RDSW3 Russ Machen
RDSW3 Russ Machen
As I am in my "later" years, my memory is in vast need of some "dry-dock" modification and repair. But, I do know this for certain: even though it may seem like this entire story was a dream, believe me it wasn't!

I was in charge of "guest space" when we had Underwater Demolition Teams / commandos / marine recon, etc., aboard. Marine Recon 1 was on board for a while and I became friends with a few of the "troops." They were to go on a "recon" (location classified) and I was invited to go ashore with them to do their thing. My duty was actually to go along as "ballast" and to hold the bow rope of the raft tight to keep us from taking on water.

We "hit the beach" and the group took off, leaving me with the raft. A while went by and they came running back, we turned the raft around and headed back to the ship (we thought). I took my place in the front of the raft and held tight to the bow rope so we would not get filled with water as we were going out against the breakers.

It was pitch black and you could not see your hand if it were held against your nose. The captain of the recon group was, in fact, the only one who knew which direction we were headed, as the rest of the group were stroking with the small oars to keep us going straight "to the ship." Right!

In the darkness of the pitch-black night, we struck a large black object in our path, and as if we were being "conducted" by an orchestra leader, we all shouted out load, "Oh my God! A (bleep-in') whale!"

It was, in fact, a nuclear submarine! And this was a classified rendezvous of which only the team leader was aware. He climbed up the "belly steps" on the side of the "boat," went inside for a short while and returned to the raft to again proceed back to Begor.

I have been in some very serious situations from 1935 to present, but when asked, "When were you the most frightened in your life," my answer is always:

"When I thought I was going to be Jonah and get swallowed by a whale!"

Marcy and Russ Machen
Marcy and Russ Machen
(Russell W. Machen served aboard USS Begor from September 1952 until September 1955. Russ left the Navy in March 1960. He lives in Mesa, Arizona (East Valley), with Marcy, his wife of seven years, of whom he states, "… best thing to ever happen to me!" They have two "children, both of the furry, four-legged variety." Besides "loving my wife and dogs," he says his activities are "raking my rocks and watering my cactus." Beats swabbing decks!)

[Editor's notes:

To see some of Russ Machen's extensive and creative web-work, go to our Additional Links page and click on the URLs for two of his web sites, listed in Part I, Begor-related sites. From those you can visit others.

Russ' whale tale was not just a fluke for Begor. To read more adventures of USS Begor supporting clandestine operations, see Jack Cremeans' Sea Story 49 of USS Begor, UDT and the CIA behind enemy lines in North Korea, 1951-52.]


Memories of Begor and "Passage to Freedom"

By Dave Shaver, Embarked Staff, Chaplain's Assistant 1954
YN3 Dave Shaver, Hong Kong '54
YN3 Dave Shaver
I was Chaplain’s Assistant to Chaplain Wendell Sullivan, who served LST Squadron FIVE. In October 1954, the flag command and complement were flown from San Diego to Saigon where we went on board BEGOR, which was moored at the French Naval Base there.

We were in Saigon until mid-November when the ship was released to sail to Singapore for R & R, first sailing south to cross the equator. Our visit to Singapore was cut short when orders came to return to Saigon.

I remember having Thanksgiving dinner on the ship, while boat people were alongside asking for the leftovers. We took aboard several Vietnamese individuals to transport to Subic Bay.

Saigon, '54
In Subic Bay the Chaplain and I transferred to LST-1159 in early December and that was the end of my brief experience on BEGOR. But, I will never forget it. Such occasions as:
  • the huge river fish one of the crew caught and strung over the 5" gun on the bow;
  • the time the French destroyer came in too fast and ran up on our stern cable. I was standing nearby at the time and watched the French captain running around in circles;
  • the young sailor who tried to kill himself when he got a "Dear John" letter from his wife;
  • the sad sight of the refugees as they gathered in the area by the ship after making the trip south;
  • and, of course, the initiation as Shellbacks when we crossed the equator (See Dave's Sea Story #51 about the Line Crossing Ceremony, immediately following this story).
Anyway, I thought I would just share these memories.

(Dave Shaver lives in Arcadia, CA).


Begor Enters The Realm Of Neptunus Rex

By Dave Shaver, YN3, Embarked Staff, Chaplains assistant 1954
In 1954, during Operation Passage to Freedom (the evacuation of refugees from North Vietnam to South Vietnam), Begor served as Station Ship for several months in Haiphong and Saigon. I was on board as a member of the flag complement of Commander, LanShipRon 5, serving as Chaplain's assistant. In mid-November, the ship left station in Saigon, sailing down the Saigon River into the South China Sea, for a cruise to Singapore, giving the crew a few days of R&R. The orders also allowed the captain to sail far enough south to cross the Equator.

"Pollywogs" under-go initiation, which will result in conversion to "Shellback" status
Equator crossing ceremony
On November 17, 1954, Begor approached the "imaginary" line known as the Equator, courtesy of a good navigator. While a few on the ship had, in the past, been duly initiated into the "Ancient Order of the Deep" there were many like myself who had not. For the initiates the "uniform of the day" was a pair of skivvies, just a pair of skivvies. The ceremony was to take place on the fantail and, as we stepped through the hatch onto the open deck, we were ordered to kiss the King's ring and the Royal Baby's belly. The ring was on one of the toes of the "King's" left foot, which belonged to a tall, lanky sailor. The Royal Baby was another sailor whose beer-belly was smeared with chocolate pudding. Each initiate, having duly performed this act of devotion, was led to the fantail, where we were told to lie down atop a table set up between the depth charge racks. At the command to "Open your mouth!" a mixture of quinine and vinegar was squirted in. This concoction had the ability to duplicate the effects of seas-sickness and proved to be quite effective.

Shellbacks received wallet cards and certificates to prove their status and spare them future agony "Shellback" status
Equator crossing card
Following this treatment, we were ordered to crawl through a canvas tunnel that had been diligently prepared by the galley staff. Leftover creamed corn and other vegetables of the same consistency had been dumped on the floor of this tunnel. The quinine-vinegar drink went to work then, as each of us crawled through, and we contributed the contents of our stomachs to the whole mix. Encouraged by the fact that this was all in the name of mariners' tradition, observed for centuries, we gladly endured.

Fire hoses had been set up so that upon exiting the tunnel we were able to stand up again and take a seawater shower. We were now Trusty Shellbacks in the Realm of Neptunus Rex, with all the benefits of bragging to friends, family and grandchildren. The Begor then turned north and sailed toward Singapore for the anticipated visit.

Dave and Barbara Shaver kiss across the Equator
Equator revisited
It would be almost 43 years before I again had the chance to visit the Equator, but this time it was on land. In July 1997, my wife Barbara and I were on tour visiting the work of a mission organization in Ecuador. We boarded a bus in Quito, the capital city, for a 15-mile ride north to a site where the Equator had been made visible by a red line on a large concrete court. After happily hopping back and forth between hemispheres, we had our picture taken as we kissed - Barbara in the Southern Hemisphere and I in the Northern Hemisphere. That made my second trip to the Equator more pleasurable than, and almost as memorable as, the first.

[Biographical notes from the author: "After release from the Navy in August 1955, I entered college, graduating from Azusa College (now Azusa Pacific University), Azusa, California in 1959 with a BA in Biblical Literature and Theology. In 1961, I joined the staff of CLC International in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania where I served in various positions in the publishing program. In 1980, I and my wife Delores (whom I met and married in 1962) and our two boys moved to Pasadena, California and I became general manager of William Carey Library Publishers, a small Christian publisher specializing in scholarly works for training missionaries. I served in this position for 17 years until I retired in December 1997. In 1992, my wife died from leukemia. I met my present wife, Barbara, in 1994 and we were married that same year. We now live in Arcadia, California."]

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My Kind of Town, The BEGOR Was!

By Francis (Frank) Kleber, LCDR, CO, 1958-59
I want to say command of the BEGOR was the highlight of my naval career. It was my second ship command, and later on, I had command of a division of 4 LST’s followed by a squadron command of 8 LST’s. During my year of command of BEGOR, I developed a new and fuller appreciation for the enlisted sailor.

I came to realize that anything that I accomplished with the ship was due, in no small measure, to the performance of the crew. I learned to appreciate that I depended on them and I was nothing without their cooperation and their successful efforts. We operated independently for almost four and a half months in the western Pacific. During the six-month deployment we were in the company of PHIBRON THREE for only the transit to WestPac and return to San Diego.

It was very gratifying to carry out all our assignments on time and with distinction. It was extremely satisfying to be on independent duty for practically the entire deployment, and I was proud of the officers and crew. I enjoyed the challenges of being the "Mayor of a Town" of 165 men.

(Frank Kleber lived in San Diego, CA. See his obituary on our Shipmates Memorial page).


The Best Reference You Can Get!

By Francis (Frank) Kleber, LCDR, CO, 1958-59
LCDR Frank Kleber assumes command
LCDR Frank Kleber assumes command
My mother and father attended the Change of Command ceremony on August 23, 1958, at San Diego, CA, when I relieved LCDR Phil Koehler as CO, USS BEGOR. Afterwards, during the wardroom reception, my mother was talking to LTJG Bob Lawrence, the ship's Operations Officer. She was proudly telling him what a good boy I had been growing up. Then she ended this motherly boasting sounding quite serious and looking him straight in the eye, saying, "And he has never given us a bit of trouble!" I was standing within earshot, looking for a place to hide, when I heard the "family press agent" make that statement.

Bob, being quick with the repartee replied, "Well, we hope he doesn't give us any trouble either!"

(Frank Kleber lived in San Diego, CA).


How Was My First Day, You Ask?

By Francis (Frank) Kleber, LCDR, CO, 1958-59
I assumed command of BEGOR on or about 23 August 1958. LT Edward Rosendahl was my XO. The change of command was on a Friday and BEGOR was still in refresher training under Fleet Training Command at San Diego. Monday, as part of our operational readiness inspection and training, we got underway to demonstrate our ability to tow a large ship, in this case an "AE".

During the exercise, in attempting to position BEGOR ahead of the AE and pick up their towing cable, the cable got wrapped around our port screw. My XO, LT Rosendahl, was in charge on the fantail, communicating with the bridge talker via the fantail sound-powered telephone talker.

The XO advised the bridge, "Do not use the port screw" " Do not use the port screw!" Finally, in desperation as he saw the tow wire starting to get closer to the screw, he began screaming as loud as he could "Do not use the port screw!!" Later on, during the investigation conducted by COMPHIBRON THREE, it was determined that the fantail talker had “frozen up” and had not relayed any of Ed’s recommendations to the bridge before the situation became critical.

The exercise was terminated, and one of the deck hands with diving experience went over the side to see if he could cut the cable, which he did. So there I was, on my first day at sea, in my second ship command, limping back to port on one screw.

"My Hero!"   "Who? Me?"

By Andrew Dexter, PNSN, with CO, LCDR Frank Kleber, both 1958-59

[Editor's note: This has got to be one of the most interesting Sea Stories developed to date, in part because it is presented in a conversational style, with one party telling his memories of an adventure aboard USS Begor and another party responding with a conflicting version. If they were a pair of "running mates," spinning yarns while sipping beers, this would not be unusual at all: just another "he said, he said" story and you could believe one, the other or something in between…maybe neither! But this is seaman, a PN striker, and…oops! The Captain! But: not to worry. No blows have been thrown and it's not even a "War of Words," rather some differences on the details, sort of "dueling memories." In fact, what I see coming through the give-and-take is a very healthy mutual admiration, which was clear to me back when the two were "in the moment." It is pleasing to see that this warm feeling survives to this day! They needed each other then and they like and respect each other still.
Andrew Dexter provides the main thread of the story and Frank Kleber (FTK) comments in brackets within the text.]

PNSN Andrew Dexter, 1959
PN3 Andrew Dexter, 1959
Our skipper, LCDR Francis T. Kleber, recalling the WestPac Cruise of l958-59 [Sea Story: "My Kind of Town, the Begor Was"], brought back my own memories. The cruise was exciting, trying, and scary at times and interspersed with a lot of fun. My memories are tainted by the fact that I retired as a Master Chief with a lot of duty stations and I look back with a different perspective than I had as a Personnelman Seaman (PNSN). I would like to comment on a couple of the Begor Officers who particularly impressed me.

Our Recreation Officer, Ensign Stu Huntington, was very perceptive and caring. He arranged to have tours set up in most of our ports to acquaint the crew with the culture, sights, food and entertainment. In Yokohama, we were taken on a ride through the countryside, attended the Kabuki Theater and were introduced to a nice Japanese style dinner including formal Geisha Girls serving the food, dancing and playing music for us.

In Subic Bay, Ensign, now Captain (retired) Huntington set up a tour of the Philippine countryside, where we saw the volcano and a chapel with a bamboo organ. The one thing that stands out in my memory of that tour was that every place we went, especially Sari Sari Stores, had a picture of General of the Armies McArthur in it. At that time, Americans and especially General McArthur were heroes.

LCDR Kleber, Begor's Skipper, in my opinion, saved the lives of some Marines. Begor was ordered to off-load Marines into landing craft during very heavy seas. We tried and so did the Marines. Recognizing how dangerous the operation was, Captain Kleber cancelled the operation.

[FTK comment: A little dramatic, I think. The only embarked marines I recall might have been Philippine Marines, and I am not positive that we had them aboard. I think they met us when we were assigned with our embarked UDT team to train the P. Marines for 3 weeks at Corregidor.]

I'm sure had we continued we would have suffered some serious casualties. That was a good decision by our Skipper, and later we successfully off-loaded the marines when the seas had calmed down.

[FTK comment: You can bet your boots that any CO would think twice about endangering the lives of any person under his command; if a casualty occurred, who do you think would be holding the sack? It's nice of Andrew to think that I was heroic, but I don't think this incident would be deemed or recognized as "heroic" by the casual reader.]

Another time, I think it was the same cruise and LCDR Kleber was the Skipper. We were re-fueling from an aircraft carrier and, as seemed normal, they put us at a re-fueling station mid-ships of the carrier.

[FTK comment: I am not so sure it was a carrier. I cannot recall operating with a carrier during our entire 6-month deployment. More likely, it was an APA, troop transport, or an AKA, amphibious cargo ship. When I was XO of USS Arnold J. Isbell (DD869) and we operated with the fast carrier task force, TF 77, off the east coast of Korea, we had a lot of experience in going alongside a carrier or other large ship for refueling and replenishment. At that time, our skipper, CDR Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., was a bold and audacious ship handler, so I received some excellent instruction and experience in the fine art of going alongside a "heavy" for replenishment. I learned there to rely on the inherent speed of a destroyer type ship, in the event of a potential collision situation.]

This position next to the carrier made steering extremely difficult because the water being pushed away from the carrier as it plunged through the water made our helm hard to control. The four-inch fuel hose was across and oil was being pumped. My job, as replenishment recorder during that operation, was to hold a Plexiglas board and record with a grease pencil the last engines/screws rpm, course and rudder angle Captain Kleber had ordered. He would look over my shoulder, making sure I got down the last order, and then make very small changes as he thought necessary to stay in position with respect to the carrier. If the carrier made any changes in speed or direction, it would adversely affect Begor. I think back and believe the Skipper must have been sweating bullets, as was our best Helmsman, keeping Begor parallel with that big carrier. Fate drew the Begor closer to the carrier and the Skipper ordered a change and still we got closer. The Skipper knew if he made too large of a change we would rapidly pull away from the carrier, but then we would probably have to make an emergency break-away with only 120 feet of hose. The BM3 called out the distance between the two ships to the radio talker on the bridge who reported to the Skipper. The numbers kept getting lower as we got closer to the Carrier. Still we got closer, until the Skipper ordered all personnel away from the starboard side (next to the carrier). I looked down from the wing and saw the deck personnel leaving. In an emergency, the BM3 at the re-fueling station had an axe he would use in an emergency breakaway, to cut the manila line tying the four-inch hose to the Begor. The BM3 leaned his axe against the bulkhead and took over handling the distance line, a line that has the number of feet between ships marked on it. The sag in the middle of the hose fell nearer to the water as our distance to the carrier kept closing and the carrier sailors pulled hard on their line to shorten the hose. I sensed the OOD and starboard lookout leave the wing of the bridge. I turned and started up the three steps to the flying bridge when I heard the Captain calmly say, "Not you, Dexter. The Boats, you and I stay. If we go, we go together."

[FTK comment: Okay, Dexter, if you say so. I must have been thinking to myself, "Now, what would John Wayne say if he were in this position?"]

I returned to my position just inboard and immediately in front of the Captain. The bright sunlight stopped and I looked up, expecting to see a big white fluffy cloud. Instead, I looked up at the underside of a bulkhead-gray elevator on the carrier we were re-fueling from. I remember thinking, "If Begor rides a wave crest up and the carrier follows a trough down, we are dead!" The skipper must have been thinking the same thing, because he said low enough that only he and I could hear, "Both ships are riding the same waves."

[FTK comment: Again, I plead nolo contendere! Am I missing the point here? Yep, they're riding the same waves, and they're in the same water, same ocean...
Editor's comment: I do understand Andrew's fear that Begor could be raised under the elevator platform, crushing all exposed Begor personnel, and I'm willing to bet that the Skipper sensed that fear and tried to quell it. We all know that "the tide raises all boats," but out to sea, wave crests and troughs can treat boats or ships differently. The Skipper's remark may have been intended to point out that both ships were heading across the wave front together, the only way to assure that they pitched up and down in unison and did not roll from side to side out of synch and possibly get thrown together.]

I thought if we got much closer I would reach out and touch the carrier's side. The phone talker was calling off descending numbers then stabilized at about eleven feet. All of a sudden it was twelve then fourteen, and the skipper started reversing his previous orders and ordered all personnel back to their re-fueling stations and "prepare for an emergency break-away!" The numbers grew more rapidly and we only had enough hose for about 120 feet. The seamen on the carrier were rapidly letting out the hose as we pulled away. Begor straightened out at about ninety feet. I looked up at the Skipper and he gave me that all-knowing, confident smile that a Commanding Officer gives a crew to build confidence, and he did.

[FTK comment: I was probably just as relieved as he was. But, I like his story writing ability.]

CTCM Andrew Dexter
CTCM Andrew Dexter
Forgive me if my memory fades here and there, and that I took a writer's right to embellish the story a little bit. This incident will most likely be included in my next FICTION book, which is based on my Navy Career.

Well done, Skipper!

[Captain's closing comment: Thanks, Andrew, for a great Tale of the Sea! I am happy to be the hero of your story, though I fear that part is the "possible embellishment" of which you spoke!
I really do not specifically remember the heroics to which Andrew refers. I do not doubt him. I have a pretty good memory, but I am sorry that those details were not cemented in my dome. I do remember Dexter as being our PN in the ship's office and a willing hand, wherever he was assigned! I'm pleased to hear that he made Master Chief and is fulfilling his urge to write.
Editor's final comment: Since Vern (Andrew) and I worked closely on Begor's administration (i.e., paperwork), I am especially pleased that he is now writing Sea Stories for us!
Andrew Dexter is a retired Master Chief Cryptologic Technician who lives and writes in Napa, still the heart of California's premier Wine Country! He has already published some full-length fiction books and we look forward to reading and reviewing his forthcoming book based on his Navy experience.
Frank Kleber is a retired Commander and Fermi Labs engineer living in San Diego. One of Frank Kleber's comments on Andrew's story was about another "hairy" Begor encounter with an aircraft carrier. It was Sea Story material all by itself, so we posted it separately. Please read that story, too. You can jump directly to: "Clear the Flight Deck! Begor Landing!" ].


Clear the Flight Deck! BEGOR Landing!

By Francis T. Kleber, CDR, USN, Ret., Commanding Officer, 1958-59
Andrew Dexter's sea story about a "hairy refueling operation" made me think of a close call and near-collision, which occurred when I was CO, BEGOR. I think the "hairiest" ship-handling situation I experienced during my entire tour was when we were docking at the port of Yokosuka, Japan in the fall of 1958. We had just arrived from San Diego after our Pacific Ocean transit in company with PHIBRON THREE and were assigned a berth in the inner harbor.

From the chart, the prevailing wind and the existing weather, it appeared as if docking would be a "snap". As we eased along, I remembered my days with CDR Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., then CO of USS ANOLD J. ISBELL (DD869) and later the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) in command of the entire U.S. Navy. I was his Exec aboard ISBELL. He and the other skippers in our destroyer squadron considered the use of tugs when docking under normal conditions to be for the less-than-bold and a crutch which might reflect adversely upon one's ship-handling skills. With this in mind, as we approached the inner harbor and were asked by the Yokosuka Port Control, "Do you require a tug or pilot for docking assistance?" I answered smugly, "No, thanks. None required"…. After all, I was a Zumwalt-trained man.

As we got close enough to view the location of the assigned berth, my level of concern began to rise, and my confidence waned somewhat. The wind had changed. Our berth was at the head of a pier just forward of a very large aircraft carrier moored port side to. The empty space between the carrier's bow and the beginning of the pier looked really small. I didn't need such a challenge. As we entered the slip and began to slowly pass the carrier, I realized we had a stronger-than-expected wind blowing us towards the carrier. Not a good sign. We were inching our way along, and the distance between our port yardarm and the overhang of the carrier's sloped side was decreasing much too rapidly and getting bothersome. A collision appeared likely unless I made some drastic changes. The small berthing space available ahead of the carrier would limit the amount of speed I could use in my approach to the pier to offset the wind nudging us towards the carrier. The distance between our port yardarm and the huge ship kept getting smaller… and prayers would not solve the problem….

I increased the ship's speed to full and applied right full rudder for a few seconds to throw the bow away from the monster looming above us. Then, when it appeared we would not collide and would clear the carrier, I ordered, "Left full rudder. All engines back full!" for a moment or two before stopping the engines as the wind helped push us towards the pier.

After getting alongside safely, I turned around and looked up at the bulging carrier above and behind us. With my heart in my mouth, I couldn't believe how close our yardarm had come to the carrier's side. Somehow, the gods were smiling, and we managed to get alongside without any damage. I heaved a sigh of relief and some wonderment; because that situation, with the unexpected wind and my "No thanks, I'm so good. I don't need a tug" attitude had "Board of Investigation" written all over it with my name as the "Interested Party". Needless to say, after that painful "lesson" in seamanship, I did not hesitate to ask for a tug or pilot on future occasions as any prudent mariner might do!

[Please see CDR Kleber's other sea stories: My Kind of Town, The BEGOR Was and How Was My First Day, You Ask? A Navy photo of Frank Kleber taken while CO, USS BEGOR can be viewed along with his biography on the Commanding Officers Page]


The Short Tour of Mickey Mouse

By Bill Cofer, MM3, 1955
This doesn’t qualify as a "war story," but at the time we thought it was pretty funny. It was sometime in 1955 or 56 and we had both a new skipper and XO reporting on board. The crew had the impression they must have thought BEGOR was a battleship, because new uniform regulations were posted that required the crew to chow down in undress blues, no dungarees on the mess deck. We also had to wear our whitehats instead of the ball cap while working.

Well, four enterprising young sailors went ashore, rented a typewriter, and wrote a letter to the XO, voicing their displeasure with the new regulations and offered some suggestions.

When the letter came on board, one of the authors saw it and headed around to the porthole to watch the XO open it. He read it then crumpled it up, throwing it into the trashcan. He then thought better of his action and retrieved it, smoothing it out.

The next morning at quarters, the skipper read the letter to the crew. He said the only problem was the letter wasn’t signed and he didn’t know whom to give credit for the letter. No one claimed credit, but in short order some of the "battleship regs" were rescinded and the crew went back to their old ways.

(Bill Cofer lives in Pampa, TX).


The Esther Williams Photo and Pennant

A Sea Story with "legs"

By Morys "Peaches" Hines, SO2, 1955-58
It all started about 1957 when Esther Williams visited an Aircraft Carrier in Japan. She posed for several photos while on board and one ended up being displayed on the wardroom bulkhead. At that time someone created an Esther Williams Pennant that could be flown from the yardarm.

In short order the fun began. A visiting officer from another ship stole the photo. Some carrier officers paid a visit to the offending ship to retrieve the photo. A brief scuffle ensued and the carrier officers were forced off the ship. So the tradition began.

According to the rules, the photo was to stay in the Far East and it was established as an "officer thing". Any officer could steal the photo and keep it on his ship, and the pennant had to be taken down and handed over to the thieving officers. The photo had to hang in the wardroom for all to see and the ship’s officers guarded it with their lives—or so it seemed.

Partial USS Begor Wardroom of the Esther Williams Era. 1 LCDR Phil Koehler, CO, 2 LTJG Bob Lawrence, Comm Officer, 3 ENS Brookes Treidler, 4 LTJG Walt Doucette, Eng Off, 5 LTJG Ed Birkenshaw, 1st LT, 6 ENS Al Lutz, Gunnery Off, 7 LT A.C. "Ace" Lassiter, XO
Esther Williams with the Wardroom
I don’t know how they did it, but some BEGOR officers stole the photo. My understanding was there was a good fight on the other ship while getting the photo. I heard some officers were thrown off the destroyer during the process. I also heard that the First Lieutenant and the XO were a part of it, but, of course, I wasn’t there. We kept it for a full week. The only reason we had it so long is because we went to sea for a week!

Upon our return from sea, we went into dry-dock in Yokosuka for some repairs. As luck would have it, I was on duty as JOOD with a seaman to run errands, etc. Since we were in a secured shipyard, most everyone coming and going was cleared to be in the yard. But this would be a day etched in my memory.

During my watch, many workers came on board with the proper passes. At one time several Japanese construction workers, with "Supervisor" printed on their hard hats, came on board. Guess what? The photo of Esther Williams was taken from the wardroom that day. And to top if off, which officers got it? Oh, the shame! The Hooligans (sailors’ slang for Coast Guard)!

It was great for our officers to participate in this Far East tradition. It was an honor for them to have the photo and pennant. I wonder if this tradition is still carried on in today’s Navy.

("Peaches" Hines lives in Albuquerque, NM)

Comment on the Esther Williams Affair by E. Brookes Treidler, ENS, ’57-58
Co-Defender of Esther Williams Trophies and Co-Defendant of Bob Lawrence, had he been charged and indicted (see below)
ENS Brooks Treidler with Esther Williams pennant
I was a direct participant in the adventure of "The Esther Williams Pennant" as featured in Volume 16 No. 1 USS Begor Newsletter.  Here's my version, based on my limited memory of the summer of 1957.

The photo seemed to be a publicity photograph of Esther in a swimsuit, posed somewhat like the famous Marilyn Monroe nude.  It was encased between two pieces of plastic with flotation material around the outside.   The wardroom game around this photo was quite well known throughout the Western Pacific.  Once a ship had "captured" Esther, the ship that had had the photo would turn over a logbook and a flag.  Each ship with the photo would enter its experiences in the log for posterity.  The flag, as I recall it, had a yellow background with a black silhouette of Esther diving.  The flag was to be flown from the yardarm, which of course made that ship a sitting duck.

My memory is that one of our officers had made a legitimate business visit to the ship that had the photo and was left alone with it.  He simply grabbed it and left.

We were then in Yokosuka and a sister APD was docked nearby.  Rather than engage in subterfuge, the officers of that ship boarded the Begor at noontime and attacked us in the wardroom.  At the time, I was barely out of UCLA and "Amphib" school at Coronado.  I looked like I was about sixteen years old, but I weighed a solid 180 pounds and I was especially strong in the legs.  In those days I could punt a football 50 to 60 yards. Although their biggest man came at me, I had little trouble keeping him away from the photo.  They were clearly no match for the Begor officers, and they eventually retreated.  It was a real donnybrook and I well remember the shouts of crewmembers watching through the portholes.

We had the photo for a few more days, but it was causing an extreme loss of sleep.  When another ship's officer of Asian descent came aboard dressed as a Japanese workman, he had no difficulty removing it from the wardroom.  It was probably several hours before we even noticed that Esther was gone. It had been an adventure, but we were glad that it had ended.

  (Brookes Treidler was CIC Officer in 1957-58 and now resides in Pasadena, CA)

Comment on the Esther Williams Story By Bob Lawrence, Communications Officer at the time of the Esther Williams "acquisition:"
Confessed thief of Esther Williams photo and pennant, with the pennant, LTJG Bob Lawrence
LTJG Bob Lawrence with Esther Williams pennant
I confess! I was the stealthy sailor who brought Esther to the Begor. Lest you think that this was an act of bravery you should know that it was done without a tussle.  I had business on the ship holding the trophy (I've forgotten both the ship and the business).  While alone in the wardroom, I hid Esther amongst my stack of papers and walked off the Quarterdeck with a jaunty "Permission to leave the ship, Sir." No derring-do here!

Keeping the trophy was another matter.  One attempt at liberating Esther from the Begor's wardroom was unsuccessful and resulted in LTJG Ed Birkinshaw shaking the miscreants off the bow line into the harbor as they were doing a midnight hand-over-hand toward the Begor's gunnels.   I never knew what ever happened to the poor wet lads.  I don't remember the Balduck dustup but the final attempt was successful and my memory follows the narrative above.

(Bob was Begor’s Ops Officer in 1958-59. He lives in Placerville, CA and is Webmaster for www.ussbegor.org .)

Comment on the Esther Williams Story By Gene Combs, SK1, 1950-52, USS BEGOR (APD-127) Association Newsletter Editor
Begor shipmate "Peaches" Hines wrote an article in the January Newsletter under the title "The Esther Williams Pennant".  When I received the story my first reaction was to ask "Peaches" how much of the story was fiction/imagination and how much was factual.  His reply was "the whole damn story is true".  So I published the story hoping to get some feedback from the crew, and feedback I got.

Our Association Secretary, Raoul Seré, did a little sleuthing of his own, making some very interesting and intriguing discoveries about the "Esther Williams Photo/Pennant."  Turns out "Peaches" story was factual, but there is more to the story

The story dates back to 1943 and involves two young Royal Australian Navy Lieutenants, Lindsay Brand and David Stevenson (who later went on to become Chief of Staff), on board an R.A.N. N-class Destroyer attached to the British Eastern Fleet.

During a night out at the Stardust nightclub, they met an appealing young lady who caught the attention of them both.  Unfortunately for Brand, he was romantically out-maneuvered by Stevenson.  However, to ease Brand's loss, Stevenson presented him with a framed photo of Esther Williams.  Before giving Brand the photo, Stevenson inscribed the photo with the words, "to my own Georgie [Brand's first name], with all my love and a passionate kiss, Esther".

Brand hung the picture in his cabin until one day it disappeared.  He heard that the photo had been stolen by another officer and set out getting it back.  Once back with Brand, the original thief set about stealing it again, only to have it stolen again by another ship.  This started the ball rolling and before too long the "Esther Williams Trophy" had become a sought-after prize between wardrooms.  Over the years, the trophy was fought over by US, British and Canadian ships and is believed to have been held by more than 200 vessels.  In 1957, "Esther" was retired by the US Navy and sent to the Naval Historical Collection at Spectacle Island in Sydney.

Apparently BEGOR was one of the last ships to hold the trophy,

[Note: It's not over yet, Mick De Jong, an Australian filmmaker hopes to develop the story into a documentary, due out in 2006.  BEGOR must play a part in the documentary!  Raoul is working diligently to get the whole story and see that BEGOR is not overlooked.  We will keep you posted.]


Left Full Rudder! (An Underway Refueling Incident)

By Hines-Birkinshaw-Challans and Others

[Editor: This sea story was written from the recollections of several of our shipmates who were involved in the incident. Contributors are identified in the Editors' notes at the end of the story.]

It was September 1957. President Eisenhower had announced a two-year suspension of nuclear testing, the Mackinac Bridge was opened to traffic between Michigan's two peninsulas, and USS Begor was en route from Japan to San Diego.

The sea was extremely rough and Begor was running low on bunker fuel. LCDR Phil Koehler, a former UDT Officer, was in command. Second in command was Executive Officer (XO) LT A.C. "Ace" Lassiter. A decision was made to refuel underway from USS Pickaway (APA-222), a troop transport, despite the high seas. As all fuel transferring ships do, Pickaway would set and maintain a course and speed and Begor would come along her port side and maintain station relative to her at approximately 120 feet off, during the entire refueling process. It was Begor's responsibility to make any small course and speed changes to stay on station, so the ships, once "tethered" by the suspended fuel line, would neither come so close together as to risk a collision nor get so far apart as to risk parting the fuel line. On a smooth sea, this maneuver takes good ship-handling skills: on a rough sea, a very high skill level is essential to ship safety.

The skipper decided to turn over ship control (the "conn") to the First Lieutenant/Gunnery Officer, LTJG Ed Birkinshaw, as a means of honing Ed's ship-handling skills. The CO and XO remained on the starboard wing of the open bridge with Ed, where all could eye-ball the water gap between ships.* Others there included ENS Bob Lawrence, Junior Officer of the Deck and, on the ship-to-ship phone circuit, as "command-to-command" talker, was SO3 "Peaches" Hines. In the Pilot House nearby was an experienced helmsman, whose identity has yet to be established, but whose reputation was that of an experienced wheel-handler, with QM2 Bob Challans looking over his shoulder. In situations as tight as this, it was important to ensure that helm and lee-helm (who relayed commands to the engine Room via the engine-order-telegraph) heard and executed commands from the conn quickly and correctly. At the fueling station, where the hose from Pickaway was connected to the fuel trunk on Begor, was an experienced crew, supervised by a Chief Boatswain Mate. A member of that crew was BM3 Walter Johnson.

According to LTJG Birkinshaw, all went fine until the high seas caused Begor to begin to yaw away from the APA. He gave the command to come right, but apparently the helmsman misunderstood and went left, which aggravated the situation. Birkenshaw again gave a command to come right, but Begor was slow to respond, owing to the rough sea. He then gave a command to cast off the lines and to cut the fuel hose. The axe was apparently dull and bounced off the fuel line. Another crewmember then used a large knife and cut the fuel hose.

During these actions at the fueling station, BM3 Johnson was caught in the bight of a running line, which broke his leg, but fortunately did not pull him overboard.

In the meantime, Pickaway's captain decided to make a course change, which brought him toward Begor as she was beginning to respond to the right rudder. Noticing this, Birkinshaw ordered left full rudder - and then all engines back full. Begor was almost stopped when the ships grazed each other, causing Begor's starboard anchor to part from its chain, fly into the air and sink to the bottom of the sea. As a result of cutting the hose, black bunker fuel spewed all over the area of the fueling station as well as all over crewmembers in the general area including the starboard wing of the bridge!

An ensuing inquiry determined that Begor had done all possible to avoid the collision, but the skipper of the USS Pickaway was admonished for failure to maintain a steady course.

Begor was running dangerously low on fuel and was ordered into Midway Island for emergency refueling. The seas remained very rough and Begor took on a pilot to enter the harbor. The pilot rammed the pier and captain Koehler promptly relieved him and brought the ship alongside.

[In the Navy, underway refueling has been a common practice since the 1930's. Used extensively since the 1940s, UNREP is an exacting but dangerous maneuver, especially during rough seas. The weather was a factor in this UNREP and it was prudent to stop the maneuver and put into Midway Island to top off our bunkers. All Begor personnel did a fabulous job in recovering from a mishap that could have been much more serious. The fact that the finding of an official inquiry placed the blame on the delivering ship for failing to maintain a predetermined course speaks well for Begor personnel.

This story was compiled and edited by Stu Huntington and Gene Combs from written and oral recollections of Morys "Peaches" Hines, Ed Birkinshaw and Bob Challans, whom we thank for their generous inputs. Special thanks go to Peaches for suggesting the story and sending us a first draft, which formed the heart of the story.

If you have a story for the Newsletter or Website, but can't remember all the details, send us what you remember, as Peaches did, and we'll cross-check it with shipmates who were there and publish, crediting all.

*How far away is that other ship anyway? When ships are a mile or more apart, as when steaming in formation, radar can be used to determine distances between ships, as can optical range-finders. In close quarters, the best gauge of distance is the "Mark One Mod One Eyeball," connected to a decent, experienced brain! However, when ships are connected by a highline or fuel line, distance markers are attached to the line to add precision.]


Where’s My Relief?

By Bill Meeker, LTJG, Supply Officer, 1958-59
Bill Meeker
Bill Meeker
I relieved Johne Brooks as Supply Officer, while BEGOR was in San Diego, in the spring of 1958. Later that year, we went to Long Beach Shipyard to prepare for WestPac.

Highlight of yard work was when the “sounding mallets” went through the hull in several spots! I guess the highlights of the trip to Hawaii, as we steamed to WestPac, were seven “engineering casualties” in seven days of steaming, from loss of rudder control, to loss of radar, loss of sonar, and even a ruptured water line shooting water through a hole into the mess deck.

There were any number of highlights to the WestPac tour: Thanksgiving in the Philippines, Christmas in Yokosuka, New Year in Hong Kong, underwater demolitions in Okinawa, sailing into the jellyfish infested harbor of Jesselton, British North Borneo, a beer party on the beach there, visiting the fortifications of Corregidor.

Another highlight for me was flying to Clark AFB in the Philippines to make sure that I had my hands on my relief, Duane Furan, and got him back to BEGOR in Subic Bay, the day before the ship left to return to San Diego. No shore patrol personnel were required to assist! At the reunion in San Antonio, Duane reminded me about the fog being so thick on the flight that we couldn’t see the ground.

(Bill Meeker lives in Strasburg, VA)


Face Forward or Face the Music!

By Stu Huntington, Ensign, 1958-59
Stu Huntington and Bob Sloan
Stu Huntington and Bob Sloan
I was in training for my "OOD, Independent Steaming" qualification, on the long trip to Westpac in Fall, 1958 and back to CONUS in Spring, 1959, and all times in between. I felt lucky then, and still do, because I had one of the best OODs in the business as my instructor-mentor. That was LTJG Al Lutz, from Philadelphia.

Al liked to have a good laugh in the Wardroom, but, on the Bridge, he was one serious dude! Whenever he could do so without being distracted from his primary duty, which was keeping the ship and crew safe, Al would instruct and quiz me.

I’ll never forget the night I was facing Al as we spoke in the Pilot House. He was looking directly forward along the ship’s intended track, and I was standing just to one side of his line-of-sight, looking right at him. I had the con. It was Lesson Time!

"When you have the con, you must keep your eyes forward while the ship is going forward! You are your own best Lookout; the only person you can completely depend on to be vigilant! Even if everybody else is looking out for the ship, you are one more pair of trained eyes, but, most important, you are the one most responsible for the ship’s safety, next to the Captain, and he ain’t here right now!"

I was a little embarrassed, but I knew Al was right and I immediately corrected my behavior and made a mental note: henceforth, my nose would be like the needle of a compass, attracted to the ship’s line of motion, be it forward or back!

You can imagine my shock when I caught Al Lutz doing exactly what he had chided me for! There he was, OOD and conning the ship and he was facing aft, looking at and talking to me as I faced forward, the way we were steaming!

"Mr. Lutz," I tried to interrupt him. Then I saw it was too late for him to correct the situation! We were headed right toward the pier, going about 10 knots, and we were no more than 50 yards from impact! I tried to shout, but couldn’t! The words would not come out!

Then I heard, "Stu, are you OK? I think you were having a nightmare, Buddy!"

I blinked and looked around. It was black as tar, but I was calmed by the familiar voice of roommate Bob Sloan. "Go back to sleep, Stu. You have the mid-watch in an hour."

(Stu lived in Murrieta, California. See his obituary on our Shipmates Memorial page.)


Smokes for Floats

by Stu Huntington, Ensign, 1958-59
Stu Huntington
Stu Huntington
During our six-month deployment to WestPac, from October 1958 until March 1959, we steamed independently from port to port, covering much of the Western Pacific Ocean between Yokosuka, Japan and Jesselton, North Borneo. As we were transiting the South China Sea during one of these voyages, we came upon a Chinese fishing boat, which lay dead in the water. The crew was very much alive and animated, as they called and waved to get our attention.

Our Skipper, LCDR Frank Kleber, had the OOD pull the ship along the windward side of the distressed smaller vessel and, mostly through sign language, we ascertained that the fishermen had run out of fuel. The captain said "Yes," we could provide enough fuel to get the little boat safely to port, some 100 to 250 miles away. Once it was established that the Chinese crew would sup at home that evening, they became very high-spirited, laughing and smiling at us. I don't recall any blown kisses, but that was the mood they were in.

While the engineers of both ships worked their way through a modest fuel transfer, the non-busy members of both crews smiled and waved at each other, until one of the fishermen thought of the tremendous resource that sat a few yards off their starboard side. He performed a hand-and-mouth gesture toward us: the international sign for "Got smokes?" Immediately, his comrades took up the gesture, as if to help their friend communicate. Together, it was like a chorus of "Got smokes?"-- "Got smokes?"

As our crewmembers started to show understanding by nodding or returning the gesture, some entrepreneurial fisherman lifted a green glass ball about 15" across and encased in rope netting. Someone said, "He's offering a fishnet float for cigarettes!" Soon packs of cigarettes were flying from Begor to fishing boat, accompanied by the occasional cigar. The return volley was a carefully aimed fusillade of green glass balls, all of them caught in mid-air by eager-Begor-ites, me included. Mostly those who were interested in such souvenirs got one and only one float before it was time to shove off. One of my fellow officers managed to haul in three. I asked him for one, and a few days later, when he started giving me the international gesture for "Got smokes," I described a small globe with my hands: the international sign for "Got fishnet float?" I had my second float! Three years later, I showed those floats to my new bride and told her of my plan to incorporate them into the décor of our bar. She assured me that we were not likely to ever have a bar and that the floats were therefore unnecessary. That was the end of the honeymoon! The lesson here is not that one should never marry, but that there is always a responsibility for a ship at sea to perform a humanitarian act, when the opportunity arises. I was very proud to be a member of the Begor crew the day we saved those fishermen, and I have my fishnet floats (in the garage somewhere) to remind me.

(Stu was our www.ussbegor.org Website Development Project Leader)


Hollywood's Hong Kong

by Stu Huntington, Ensign, 1958-59
Those of you who were aboard in 1958 should remember that the movie
"Love is a Many Splendored Thing," starring William Holden and Jennifer Jones, was in theatres that year and the title song, recorded by the Four Aces, was very popular. The Foreign Correspondent's Club of Hong Kong invited PacFleet officers to use their facilities, so Bob Sloan and I took a cab up there one weekend afternoon. To our amazement, we recognized the building's exterior as the "hospital" where Han Su Yin (Jennifer Jones' character) worked in the movie! And over on the other side of the parking lot was the flight of stairs the two lead characters took to get to the "high and windy hill," on which they "made out" and professed their undying love! Bob and I ran to the stairs, anxious to climb to the top and see Hong Kong Harbor from that lofty perch! But, alas, the rest was Pure Hollywood! The stairs led only to a small platform, with a very high mountain beyond, and many other roads and buildings between that point and the summit. And there was no path upward beyond the top of the stairs. The view of the harbor from that point was good, but not nearly as nice as from the edge of the parking lot below! Hollywood, you fooled us once again! We did a little movie making of our own -8mm- then moved inside to examine the "hospital" in greater depth. Much to our pleasure, the hospital interior was filmed somewhere else (probably on a hill overlooking California's San Fernando Valley), so we were able to join the foreign correspondents at their bar!

[Epilogue: I loved Hong Kong from that first visit, so I was fortunate to be able to return three times while stationed in Japan in the 1975-78 period. I was also able to bring my wife and daughter there on those vacations from Japan. They, too, found it a many splendored place, and they liked the shopping most of all! -- Stu Huntington]


WESPAC Cruisin'

By Steve Spence, SA, SN & HMSN, 1958-59
A Begor sailor on TAD with Corregidor Navy.
Credit —  Steve Spence
Photo ID: 043a
Let me start by stating that this story is based purely upon recollections of occurrences of over 48 years ago!

It was the summer of 1958, when I was assigned to USS Begor, APD-127, as part of the ship's complement before overseas deployment. I was a seaman apprentice "Deck Ape," under the tutelage of both BM3 Walter Johnson and BM3 Ray Beckett. My main duties were to get a "clean sweep-down, fore and aft!" and chip and paint all surfaces with Red Oxide and Navy Haze Gray, oil-base paint. Even to this day, I hate RUST! I loaded supplies, such as food and ammo, manned oil refueling lines, and performed other required duties.

The ship had just come out of dry-dock, and was ordered to go to sea, for "Sea Trials," prior to overseas deployment. After a few "bugs" were taken care of, we shoved off for Hawaii. As you all know, you can only go as fast as the slowest ship, which was a top speed of 13 Knots. So it takes over a week to get to Pearl Harbor, with PHIBRON 3: five LSTs, two LSDs and APAs and AKAs, such as TULARE, AKA-112. I forgot many of the ships' names, but I can look them up. The ships carried the regular complement of men plus two teams of UDT personnel, Team 12 and 13.

After a 3-month period, I was fortunate enough to become a Hospital Corpsman Striker, under HM1 Richard Henderson. He was a great mentor and instructor, as I later graduated #2 in Corps School. As you know, Sickbay was located mid-ship, next to the laundry and supply division berthing area. Just aft was the engineering berthing, consisting of machinist mates, enginemen and firemen.

It was a great way to meet many friends, and it was while at sea that I met PN3 Dexter, who typed out the P.O.D. (Plan of the Day). We were in the Supply Division under LTJG William Meeker, who also acted as the Morale Officer. I later found out that he and ENS Stu Huntington were the guys who provided touring and recreation activities through which the men of the Begor would have options, opportunities and information, to enjoy and reap many fabulous adventures. So, instead of sitting in a bar on liberty, we could take advantage of the many side trips, both sightseeing and historical, to enrich and enhance this great opportunity, to travel to the Far East. Not that I didn't frequent many bars, such as the E.M. Club in Pearl Harbor, Club Alliance, in Yokosuka, or Repulse Bay, Tai Pak Restaurant in Hong Kong, or those countless "coffee houses" throughout the Far East: it's just sort of a waste of valuable time. And, what the hell, we were given the CHOICE! While in Yokosuka, ENS Huntington made many reservations to tour the area, set up skating party, bowling party, Supply Division Party and many other sightseeing locations to visit.

As far as Yokosuka, it was my first choice or pick of duty station, out of Corps School. Only two of us received orders to report for duty at USNH #3923, out of a class of 67. So that's what you can get from the "Dream Sheet" request. While on shore duty in Japan, I was able to climb to the summit of Mt. Fuji, or the 10th Gate, snow ski up in Nikko National Park, walk the grounds of the Imperial Palace, see the Emperor with his wife and practice the "People to People" program sponsored by President Eisenhower. Sorry, I'm digressing: back to ship's voyage of '58-'59.

The Philippine Odyssey continues with Subic Bay, Corregidor, and Manila. Subic Bay is strictly a Navy base: Olongapo, a town outside the base, full of bars, and not much else except crabs and VD. However, the base had great facilities in which to enjoy your liberty time. Now comes Corregidor, with its famous history. The POD had four selections to choose from: see the UDT personnel detonate leftover ammo, go into the small village for unusual trinkets, swim along the beach, or climb to the summit to check out the 16" gun emplacements. I chose the swim and go to the top. The beach (see picture) was not too swift. No sand, just rocks and one dugout canoe. Up to the top we went. The Bataan Peninsula is north of the island of Corregidor [which sits in the entrance channel to Manila Bay]. Just got there, and a runner requested my immediate presence to address a problem down at the ammo dock. I carried the first aid bag given to me by HM1 Louis R. Trujillo (UDT Team 12). I still have possession of that same bag. Four members lay out cold on the deck of an LCVP. [See picture of LCVP at Corregidor pier. This is a purely "representative" picture of a "typical liberty party," as neither names nor photos of the four "victims" exist.] The four men were returned to the ship, administered first aid, and recovered the following day with a large hangover. That was the end of our Corregidor explorations!
Corregidor Liberty Boat
1. Unknown, 2. Unknown, 3. BM3 Ray Becker, 4. HM1 Richard Henderson, 5. Unknown, 6. HM1 Louis Trujillo, 7. FN Patte, 8. BM3 Walter Johnson, 9. Unknown, 10. SN George Parry, 11. Unknown, 12. Unknown
Credit —  Steve Spence
Photo ID: 043b

Now Manila. The Port of Manila was deep enough for us to dock, so we did. Two city blocks away was the Hotel Manila and a large USO Office and dance hall. From there, ENS Stu Huntington made arrangements for sightseeing trips to the Unknown Soldier Memorial, Japanese gun emplacements along the shore line, St. Thomas University, University of Manila [Steve's photos of these PI points of interest are on the Photo Gallery page, under the Peacetime Operations heading.] and Sangley Point Naval Air Station, next to Caviti City. I believe we spent Christmas in Manila and New Years in Hong Kong.

At this time we were steaming independently, so we could go at a faster pace. We had a beach party outside of Jesselton, British North Borneo, with a few beers. It was beautiful there (sorry no pictures, forgot camera). Have some nice memories of that location. Onward to Hong Kong!

The colony of Hong Kong was unique at that time. Still under British Government Rule, as a British Crown Colony on the mainland of China and an island just off the coast. No major taxes or duties made it a shopping mall extreme! Prices were lower than anywhere we had been. So, many of the guys set out to have clothing such as suits, shirts, and uniforms custom made, and found bargains in jade, ivory jewelry, and watches. My watch lasted twenty-four hours and crashed! It's lying on the bottom of Hong Kong Harbor. So much for bargains! I went to Tiger Balm Gardens, Repulse Bay, Victoria Peak, The China Fleet Club, a few Tattoo Parlors (free beer served), and the famous Tai Pak Floating Restaurant for a 16-course meal. The village of Aberdeen and the Main Prison on the island were included.

Pay was in Hong Kong dollars, which were three times larger than a U.S. dollar. Normally we got MPC money, which was Military Currency or "scrip," much smaller in size. I'm not sure of the exchange rate, but it bought many gifts to share with loved ones back home. I was able to enter Kowloon province, on the mainland of China (but still part of Hong Kong, B.C.C). Was unsure of the situation over there, so we came back to the ship after a few beers. Had ship duty on New Years Eve, so with no more money to spend, stayed aboard till cast off, back to Yokosuka, to meet up with ship convoy group, for the return home.

The trip was uneventful, until we left Hawaii for the mainland. Two days out at about 19:45, while watching a Bob Hope movie, Mayor of New York, on the fantail, a slight leak was occurring down below in the engine room. The XO, LT Ed Rosendahl, ordered the men available to lay to the engine compartment to bail out water till the pumps were established and in control of the water level. Two days later, we entered the Home Port of San Diego, Calif.

Following his naval service, which ended in 1961, Steve Spence went to work for with the Chicago Fire Department. He retired with 30 years service and still lives in Chicago.


Begor Days and Begor Knights

by Stu Huntington, Ensign, 1958-59
The Official Begor Patch
The USS Begor Patch
Which came first, the USS Begor's softball team, the Knights, or the ship's insignia, a red-winged knight in shining armor, carrying a large black lance, astride a green seahorse rampant on a white background with minimal wave-chop? (See picture.) Those of you who were aboard in 1958-59 should remember both the team and the ship's new insignia, which was approved around that time. Obviously, there was a connection between team name and ship insignia, but which one fostered the other is open to discussion among the crew. All I remember for certain is that our XO, Ed Rosendahl, was the creative and driving force behind the design and execution of the ship's insignia, from the twinkle in his eye through approval by higher authority and manufacture. Exactly when the first small batch of ship's plaques was made by the tender, using a sand-cast method, and when we got the first large (6") and small (3") ship's cloth patches for the ship's store are matters other shipmates will have to weigh in on. If we get more details through shipmates' comments, we'll post them on the website with this story.

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The Brief Second Life of USS Begor

By Chris Fowler, RM3 1961-62
I have nothing but good memories of that little ship. I came off (LST-848) to put BEGOR back in commission in 1961. Nine months later we put her back to rest in mothballs. (APD-127) had a fine history and I was proud to have got to know her.

(Chris Fowler lives in Palmer, AK).


Reporting Ready for Sea. Or Not!

By George Vandervoort, LTJG (Engineering Officer), 1961-62
LTJG George Vandervoort
George Vandervoort
In August 1961 BEGOR was towed to San Pedro Shipyard, Terminal Island, CA. The ship required extensive repairs to the hull and all systems including the boilers and steam turbines. Westinghouse had a representative on site in immaculate white coveralls who was paid the princely sum of $100.00 per day. One day a crewman was scraping rust inside the hull when he poked his screwdriver through the hull!

In addition to some training and administrative work, the officers and crew did morning exercises on the dock at San Pedro. The USS WEISS (APD-135) was being re-commissioned at the same shipyard, so, on 20 November, both ships held their commissioning ceremony. LCDR Sumner Gurney, a 1947 NROTC graduate of Georgia School of Technology, took command of BEGOR.

BEGOR steamed to her homeport of San Diego on 21 November 1961. The crew passed Underway Training and carried out several exercises with PHIBGROUP ONE off the coast of California, until she was de-commissioned, for the second time, in August 1962.

(George Vandervoort lives in Wilmette, IL).


Where Does this Jacuzzi Go?

By Edward Kobs, EM2, 1961-62
During the re-commissioning of BEGOR, our time was pretty well wrapped up in restoring all electrical equipment and getting the LCVP’s back in running order. We had to check all ship’s wiring with a "megger," looking for weak insulation. One of the big projects was replacing the incandescent lamps with fluorescent lights and old WW2 vintage battle lanterns with the new yellow plastic model. I had some civilian welding experience so I got to drag welding cable through the ship, welding buttons in place, for the lights and brackets.

(Ed Kobs lives in Woodstock,GA)


The Plaid Ghost of the California Coast

By Ed Kobs, EM2, ‘61-62.
One of the strangest experiences occurred while steaming off of San Clemente.  We were participating in some kind of exercises and had a UDT team aboard.  I had the midwatch that night and after being relieved came up on deck to smoke a cigarette.  It was dark and a thick fog was on the water.  All of a sudden, I heard  bagpipe music!  I looked around and didn't see anything, when all of a sudden there was a piper walking on the water a few yards away!  

Now, I was completely sober at the time and was about to shout when I saw the piper was actually walking on the deck of a submarine standing off our port side.  This was all a part of the UDT exercise, but I tell you, it sure did make me rub my eyeballs and look twice!

He Did It His Way

By George Vandervoort, LTJG, Engineering Officer, 1961-62  
George Vandervoort
George Vandervoort
Captain Gurney (final commanding officer of BEGOR) was a fine officer, and I was proud to serve under him.  He was good at instilling pride in the ship's company and keeping up morale. As Engineering Officer, I liked to steam with a light brown haze coming from the stack, indicating that we were getting good combustion of the heavy oil. Captain Gurney liked to steam with a clear stack, which looked good environmentally, but required lots of excess air, resulting in inefficient combustion.  He had a strong, independent streak, but he was a very likeable person.

  I remember one time when we were off the coast of California with our Amphibious Squadron and the commodore told us to steam independently through the night.  The next morning, we were to form up and steam back to San Diego as a squadron.  Captain Gurney decided to anchor off an island that night and give the crew a break.  We were in an unauthorized anchorage, full of seaweed, which fouled the condenser tubes on the port engine overnight.  (The starboard engine was off line). 

  That morning we could not draw a vacuum on the port condenser.  We started steaming on the starboard engine, but were moving too slow to catch up with our squadron.  Our chief machinist had the condenser inlet and discharge valves isolated and the crew did a fine, expeditious job of cleaning the condenser tubes and buttoning the condenser back up, in time for us to catch the squadron.

[Note: George was the Chairman of our 2004 Reunion in Chicago.]


Hair Trigger Response

By Ted Driggers, LTJG, Operations Officer, 1961-62
During the short time BEGOR was in commission (1961-62), we accomplished a lot under Captain Gurney's leadership.  Once all the hard work of putting the ship back together was accomplished, the task of training the crew began in earnest.  We did well on refresher training, including the amphibious aspects as primary control ship anchored at the line of departure.

Captain Gurney was a real professional.  He was open to suggestions, but always made his own decisions and I believe they were right (except perhaps the stack gasses policy described by engineering officer George Vandervoort. I remember one incident when I was conning the ship when coming alongside a pier at 32nd street in a very strong wind (we were usually stuck at a buoy in San Diego Bay).  I had just given a command to back the outboard engine full, when Captain Gurney took the con and finished the docking.

I was really upset until he told me after we docked that the seaman on the engine order telegraph had rung “Back Full” on the wrong engine! His alertness saved what would have probably been a nasty collision with the pier.

(Ted Driggers lives in Olga, WA.)


Six Weeks Hard Labor

By Steven Durham, SA, May/June 1962
Steven Durham
Steven Durham, SA 62
I was assigned to Begor right out of boot camp, as she was going through final decommissioning in San Diego. My orders indicated I should report to LT J. E. White on 19 May 1962. We were berthed on another ship, a submarine repair ship, I believe, just a short distance away. I don't recall any of ship's company sleeping onboard Begor. As a non-designated E-2 I did slave labor in the engineering spaces. One of my jobs was to clean the soot out of the ducts that fed the main boiler. My equipment consisted of a whisk-broom, a dustpan and a few five-gallon buckets. A few hours of this and I began to bleed from my nostrils, ending up in sickbay on the base.

Another of my jobs was to paint the inside of the feed water boiler tank. We used zinc chromate and eventually the fumes overcame me and I had to be pulled from the tank. Most of the time I worked with several Navy prisoners.

The ship was being gutted and all the storerooms were being cleaned out. The ship's barbershop was still open and I remember getting a haircut by a ship serviceman barber who was from the Philippines. While in the barbershop, a couple of crewmembers came in with a container of canned octopus. The barber opened the can and began eating the tentacles and everyone thought he was crazy.

I also recall the gunners putting a cap over the 5-inch gun and pumping it full of nitrogen to keep it dry. In addition to my regular duties I stood a few fire watches while on board.

[ The Editors regret to learn, from this Sea Story, that slavery was still being practiced in naval shipyards as late as 1962, but we are happy to see that toxic fumes and small particle contamination, both potentially debilitating and lethal, have not affected Steven's intelligence nor his sense of humor! He provided the following epilogue to his story:

"I left Begor late in June and was assigned to an aircraft carrier, the USS Kitty Hawk (CVA-63). After four years, I left the Navy and recently retired in Portland, Oregon from HVAC contracting. I just started a new project of building a VW-powered Trike to ride all over the country. I am a member of the Brothers of the Third Wheel, an association of about 6,500 members worldwide.

I am looking forward to receiving a copy of the Association Newsletter as well as reading the entire history of Begor. I see she earned a good service record and her place in Naval History."

We hope that Steven will include a stop at the USS Begor reunion on his tour of the US!]

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Hot Rod Race (Navy Style)

A Navy Poem (Traditional): Author Unknown
Submitted by Jack Pate, LTJG, SC, 1955-57
Now me and a buddy and a guy named Joe
    took off on a can from Sasebo,
The chow was poor and the fuel was low,
    but that doggone can could really go.

Now along about the middle of the night,
    we were steaming along with all our might,
When a cruiser behind us blinked his lights,
    blew his whistle and pulled into sight.

We had twin screws on that little old can,
    which might have you think we were in a jam,
But to you swabbies who don’t dig that jive
    that’s 16 boilers and an overdrive.

Now we were men who likely knew
    we could race all night until something blew.
That fantail was deep from the turn of the screws,
    but through the waves we flew and flew.

Over the ocean we did glide,
    flying along with the throttles wide.
The skipper screamed and the crew they cried,
    but we and that cruiser stayed side by side.

We looked o’er the fantail ‘cause we heard something coming:
    sounded like a jet the way it was humming.
It was coming along at a terrible pace,
    and we knew right then it was the end of the race.

As it streaked by our side, we looked the other way,
    but, the crew of the cruiser had nothing to say.
For there going by was a Reserve JG,
    pushing a hopped up LST !

Begor's Bard

by Stu Huntington, Ensign, 1958-59
While I served as Begor's collateral-duty Public Information Officer, I enjoyed writing stories about the ship, in hopes of seeing them or at least the accompanying photographs published in Navy Times or PhibPac's newspaper, The Amphibian. Every year, Navy Times had a contest to determine which ship's New Year's Eve midwatch log, written in verse, was the best. I submitted one for the midwatch on January 1, 1959, while we were in Hong Kong.

Either the Navy Times editors did not receive my submission in time, or they didn't care for it. So, I brushed it off in March and sent it to the Amphibian, as part of a Begor challenge to other ships in PhibPac. Once again, no joy! Now, 45 years later, this poetic work is thrust upon an unsuspecting public over the Internet. (And now, sad to say, rejection is but a mouse-click away.)

This is not the entire article submitted to The Amphibian: just the New Year's log, as first submitted to Navy Times.

Give me Liberty or the Zero-Zero to Zero-Four

Here we sit off Hong Kong's shore,
Moored to Buoy number Four,
With anchor chain 4 fathoms length,
Holding Begor with its strength.
For purposes of auxiliary power,
We keep the plant on hour after hour:
Number 2 Boiler steams through the night,
While the Number 2 Generator makes our light.
USS Firm (MSO 444)
Takes some of our juice, same as before.
She's moored alongside, starboard side to,
Her side's being painted by our friend Mary Soo.
Other ships present in the harbor today
Include PacFleet units of the USA.
UN vessels and merchants can also be found,
And small harbor sam pans really abound.
SOPA was changed to Bayfield's CO
By a message received twelve hours ago.
This Senior Officer Present Afloat
Just passed our ship in a liberty boat.
Suddenly hearing a shout in the night,
I looked toward the beach and saw a great light.
As fireworks lighted the heavens, I said,
"Why can't I be at that party instead?"
The messenger, hearing me growing so moody,
Answered me, saying," 'Cause you've got the duty…Sir!"
The COLORS and NOISES caused my heart to sing:
"Liberty! Yes, Liberty… is a many-splendored thing!"

Page Last Updated: 06/29/14

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USS BEGOR (APD-127).  Call sign N-U-E-A.
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