The Casemate which was the center of Operations. Radar, Sonar, Radio Shack etc.
There was another level above this which had a slit open to the outside through which traffic in the Strait of Juan De Fuca could be tracked.
Visual bearings could be taken on ships and plotted on a huge map of the area.
The Electonics Shop was where I worked and the Radio Shack was where I stood watches..
Harbor Defense Unit
Fort Worden, Port Townsend, WA
May 1955 - November 1956
ETSN Leroy Jones in the ET Shop at Port Townsend
The Commanding Officer was Captain De Forest, son of Lee De Forest - inventor of the triode amplifier tube and many other electronics inventions, above.
I would tune the TCS radio to music on a shortwave band when not using it to make the reports back to the main base. As it got close to Christmas the music got to me and I really wanted to take a little leave to go home for Christmas. I made my desires known in a muster/security report to Port Townsend. In a very short time there was a relief for me on site and when I got to Port Townsend I found that they had my leave papers ready, my sea bag packed, a bus ticket and ride ready to get me to Seattle. They appreciated my taking the full load duty in Neah Bay so much that they really took good care of me!
The bus ride home and back to Chicago and train ride to Seattle had a few little adventures but suffice it to say, I enjoyed Christmas at home and finally got back to Port Townsend and on to Neah Bay. I loved the experience of that winter. I was a Third Class ET and on my own for independent duty. It just didn't get any better than that.
Before I left Port Townsend Carolyn flew out and we were married just before I got my official orders to Guam. If she hadn't done that she would not have been able to join me on Guam. My shipmates threw a bachelors party in our flat' at the top of the apartment building we lived in. The next morning we were digging bodies out from every nook and cranny of the apartment and just made it to the base in more or less proper uniform for morning muster formation in front of the admin building. It was obvious there were more than a few three sheets to the wind. Following muster the XO dismissed all but the duty section for the day! I couldn't believe he did that. He was normally by the book right down the line. My respect for him grew that day.
We had our honeymoon by taking a compartment on a train for the trip across the country. That was a wonderful trip! Then on to my next duty station...
We had a variety of small craft. The largest one was an old Army Harbor Defense vessel called a Box L boat. Similar to the Net Tenders, it had a crane on the bow. The crane could be run out over the bow or retracted close to the pilot house. It was used to pull up the controller boxes that controlled mines on the bottom of the harbor so that individual mines could be detonated when a submarine was above it.
We used the Box L boat for a variety of duties. It had bunks and a galley so it was possible to live aboard it for short periods.
There were similar bunkers located along the edge of the cliff overlooking Strait for some distance towards the mouth of the Strait. These bunkers had a large bearing taking device and were connected to the plotting room at Fort Worden by sound powered phones. There was a large plot board with plotting arms pivoting on the location of each of these bunkers so that as readings came in the bearings from each spotting location could be plotted and the exact location of the targets could be determined. With the old Army system this information would have been relayed to the mortars and shells would have been sent high out over the Strait to come down on the target from almost directly overhead. With the Navy Harbor Defense system the information was coordinated with radar and sonar input and relayed to Navy vessels in the Straits.
Fred Doty and I had been in Boot Camp at the same time (different Companies) and in the same class of Basic Electronics School (ET-A School) and were both posted to Fort Worden. At ET-A School both of us had been on the Navy Judo Team. In Port Townsend we continued working out to keep our Judo fresh. Others of the crew would watch us work out and some thought they knew a little Judo from watching us. One of them got in a fight with a boy in Port Townsend and used the hip throw on him. He got the technique for the throw right to throw him but didn't realize that in any but a life and death fight the arm must be released or the elbow will be broken backwards. That boy's elbow was broken backwards and it is unlikely he ever had full use of that arm for the rest of his life! A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
The responsibilities of the ET repair shop included the Radio Shack, Radar and Antennas. There was a Chief Sonarman who maintained the Sonar equipment. One Friday morning we got an urgent call from the Radio Shack that all circuits were down. Everyone in the shop grabbed test equipment and ran for the Radio Shack. It was soon obvious what the problem was. They had a new Radioman striker and, of course, Friday morning is Field Day in preparation for the Friday Inspection. The new striker was given the job of cleaning the Radio Shack and really made the Radio Shack look spiffy... even to having all the knobs on the receivers turned in the same alignment. Furious tuning of receivers followed and all was back to normal shortly with the Radioman Striker a little wiser.
One of the watches I stood was in the Radio Shack after normal work hours. One person had to be in the Radio Shack or close by 24/7. The watch would sleep on a cot set up in the Radio Shack for the evenings and weekends. We had a key to the Coke machine so we could store any food we would need in the refrigeration of the Coke machine. We cooked on a hot plate. The main need for a watch was to receive weather reports of bad weather from Seattle. Occasionally there would be a crypto message.
The routine was Seattle would call on the phone to get the watch to turn on the TTY machine. Some who slept soundly had problems waking up to the phone. I made an unauthorized modification to the Model 19 TTY machine. I wired it so that when Seattle sent us a message the incoming signal would turn the machine on and sound a klaxon horn. That simplified the watch considerably. Even when in the restroom the message would be received and it was easy to hear the klaxon throughout the casemate. I was to make other unauthorized modifications to Navy equipment before my career was over. There were no complaints or reports of unauthorized modifications.
Another watch I stood was security at the main gate. Once when we had snow I was sitting in the little watch shack which was only big enough for a chair with a heater under it and just barely enough room to sit down. I saw a car approaching and as it pulled through the main gate I opened the door and stepped out of the shack. My legs had gone to sleep and I fell forward flat on my face in the snow. I lay there and waved them through. Embarrassing to say the least!
One of the duties of the main gate watch was to make sure none of the sheep that grazed on the huge area of the lower, unused portion of the old Army base got out.
One other duty I stood was Liberty Run driver. On one such run I was entering town when I drove past a bar with one man on the ground and three men kicking him. I did a quick U turn and headed back to the scene of the fight with absolutely no idea what I was going to do against three of them. Fortunately, before I got back to them they all four ran off. They may have thought I had a carryall full of sailors. After the incident was over my legs were shaking. It could have been a bad situation and probably was a foolish thing for me to do.
My work duties included working on antenna poles on top of the casemate. Apparently I was the only one who wasn't bothered working 90 feet up the antenna poles. We used telephone pole climbing spurs to climb the poles. I loved doing it. It afforded a beautiful view of the Strait of Juan De Fuca and I sometime spent more time aloft than necessary to accomplish the maintenance or repair work I had gone up there to do.
It wasn't until I reported to NCS Guam that I learned that I had been climbing poles wrong. I had been climbing with my feet on the sides of the pole instead of the directly under my body on the front of the pole. Using the spurs on the side of the pole allows the spurs to come out of the wood and you could end up riding down the pole on the safety belt, gathering splinters as you go. I was fortunate not to have that happen to me. Dumb luck is the appropriate term I believe. When I arrived on Guam one of the men in the ET Shop was in the infirmary getting splinters removed after sliding down the pole on the safety belt after doing just what I had done so many times in Port Townsend! Learning from other's mistakes is the best way to do it.
We also maintained the TCS radio sets on the small craft in the boat basin.
Occasionally we had Harbor Defense Exercises which included US Navy ships and Canadian Ships along with a submarine that would try to sneak past the base and around the turn towards Bremerton and Seattle.
As we set up for one such exercise we discovered there was no communications with the outlying observation posts. The FBI investigated and were able to determine quite a bit about those responsible. They could say that one was left handed, they knew they used mules to pull the cable out of the ground and much more. They found and arrested them in short order.
The USS Elder AN-20 was involved in one of the exercises. Bud Harris served aboard the Elder about that time but had left her before that particular exercise. That was my first look at a Net Tender and it was a very strange looking ship to me. Little did I know that as a First Class ET I would serve on one, the USS Teaberry AN-34
My watch station during exercises was one of the plotting arms on the huge plotting board. I would try to calculate the next position bearing for each of the ships we were keeping track of. During one exercise a visiting officer rested his hand on the plotting board obstructing my plotting arm. After trying to get him to prop himself up somewhere else I finally swung the arm around clipping the tips of his fingers. He found somewhere else to rest his hand.
We were in a four watch section setup and four of us rented the top floor of an apartment building to be able to live off base. We were each in a different watch section so there were three home' each night. We bought a side of beef and rented a locker at the butcher shop with the meat packaged in three servings per package. Each night one would have cooking duties, another cleanup duties and one had the night off'. It worked perfectly.
I built a Hi Fi system with an engineer visiting from Big Jim Creek (the ultra low frequency transmitter whose antenna was strung between two mountain tops), giving me tips. When I completed the project he took the unit to Big Jim Creek and tested it finding it to be very successfully designed and built. Eventually I gave it to Fred, my older brother who has his degrees in music.
During the late Summer and Fall the base was engaged in cable laying operations across the mouth of the Strait of Juan De Fuca. We were laying overlapping submarine detection loops to be able to detect any submarines trying to enter the Strait submerged.
My daily duty consisted of being dropped of at the little rickety pier at Waada Island at the end of the breakwater for Neah Bay harbor. I took water and something to cook for lunch. My duty was to monitor the radio and if any of the many small craft had radio problems a nearby boat would call and alert me. I would meet them at the pier and repair the radio. Other than that I didn't have much to do. We had a makeshift antenna run up a pine tree which could reach the nearly 100 mile distance to the main base in Port Townsend. I knew that if I cleared the limbs around the antenna the reception would be better. So, I rigged a speaker to the radio run out to the edge of the slope down to the water and spent my time first clearing the limbs from the pine tree and then clearing trees between the antenna and the base. As the days passed I cleared more and more trees. Soon I had cleared all the trees between the huts where our plotting table and radio equipment was and the mouth of the Strait where we were laying loops. When Capt. De Forest was there to observe the cable laying operation he was most pleased to have an unobstructed view. That isn't what I was thinking of when I did it, I was just staying occupied.
We lived in the Crown Zellerbach Logging Company barracks, next to the wing where the Makah Indians lived who were the "toppers", the ones who climbed to the point where they would cut off the top of the tree, strap themselves to the tree and cut the top off. Just before the top was to fall they had to remove the safety strap and using their climbing wire/rope free fall yards down the trunk before the trunk split as the top broke off. Those were some really crazy Indians. After a weekend you couldn't walk on the floor of their wing of the barracks... it was covered by beer cans!
Neah Bay was a small village of Makah Indians. It was a Dry' reservation. It was dry in name only. Moonshine was plentiful and beer was bought off reservation and brought in. A bunch of us attended a High School dance and when at the home of one of the girls to pick her up we were offered a drink. The drinks were moonshine with a little Coke added. I had a water glass full of moonshine with a touch of Coke which I drained. I was thinking there was nothing to this drinking business. Then it came time to leave and I stood up... and fell over on my face! There was something to the drinking business after all! My first drink was moonshine. I was never much of a drinker after that.
As the weather got worse with the coming of winter all but a small group returned to Port Townsend. I stayed as the ET since the others in the ET shop were dating girls in Port Townsend or were married. I was engaged to Carolyn back in Columbus, GA. Soon everyone else was gone but me.
The Time I Put My Division Officer on Report
My Navy career included many interesting experiences. One of the most interesting is the occasion when I had to put my Division Officer (CWO Munser) on report. Few things could match that for stress.
The situation: Most of the base personnel had returned to Port Townsend for the winter season break from the laying of submarine detection loops across the mouth of the straights and only a few remained in Neah Bay. Later I would be there by myself but at this time there was a small group of us there.
Mr Munser came up to spend a weekend in Neah Bay. He was staying in a small trailer (I don't know why I didn't use that trailer instead of the little cabin when there alone). Friday night he and the First Class Boatswain's Mate took the pickup and went out to see what they could find to do in Neah Bay. No problem with that.
However, each morning I was required to call the main base on the radio and make a muster report for all those in Neah Bay. I couldn't find the pickup, Mr. Munser or the Boatswain's Mate. I delayed making the report while I sent someone into town to see if they could find the pickup, Mr. Munser or the Boatswain's Mate but they were not to be found.
Finally, I made the muster report and reported them missing. Capt. DeForest came to the base and got on the radio. He had me get the Coast Guard to send their Mail truck to Port Angeles looking along the way for any sign of them and he sent someone from Port Townsend to meet the Coast Guard Mail truck. Late in the day they met and still there was no sign of them.
Later someone came in and told me they had just pulled in and gone in the trailer with a case of beer. I reported to the Capt. that they were there. He wanted Mr. Munser on the radio - Immediately!
I went to the trailer and told Mr. Munser the Capt. wanted to talk to him on the radio and all the way from the trailer to the Crown Zellerbach logging barracks (where we were living at that time) he was mumbling different stories trying to find one he could use talking with the Capt. He was in big trouble and I expected I was too... with Mr. Munser. But, Mr. Munser understood fully the responsibilities I had and that had I reported them "present" and it turned out they were dead in an accident or anything else had happened to them I would have been guilty of making a false muster report. He and I enjoyed a good relationship and I learned a lot about electronics from him. I don't recall what repercussions there were for Mr. Munser. Soon everyone returned to Port Townsend except me.
At that point I moved into a small cabin (shack) behind the Coast Guard Lifeboat Station. I could have had arrangements made for me to live at the Lifeboat Station but I wanted to be on my own and to rough it. I was living "... high on the hog..." as my dad would say. The cabin had two bunks, a picnic table and a pot belly stove for heat and to cook on. Water was supplied from the Lifeboat Station by way of a garden hose with an iron bar welded to the spigot at the end and stuck in the ground. For restroom facilities I used the heads in the Crown Zellerbach barracks.
As the weather got colder I didn't want to take a shower at the Logging barracks in freezing water with the room temperature below freezing so I would break the ice on a shallow pond behind the cabin and sit in the pond to take a bath. Then dash into the cabin to get warm and dry in front of the pot belly stove. I loved it!
My duties were to make a "muster radio call" at 0800 each morning and sometime during each day to make the rounds of the boat pier to check the condition of the boats, to use one of the boats and check the two barges anchored in the middle of the harbor and go to Waada Island at the end of the breakwater to check the two Quonset huts where we had our gear stored. Other than that my time was my own.
I had to go into town for shopping and would often do that on the night the little theater (building with folding chairs) showed the movie (one showing on one night each week). The grocery store open during the winter was all the way at the other end of the little town. I would shop and on my way back to the cabin stop at the theater and put my groceries in a chair next to me and watch the movie. Then continue my way "home". Sometimes, I would make a grocery run while I was out in the a boat making my security rounds. I would just make a call at the grocery store by boat.
It was an idyllic life! I spent time with photography, hiking and doing correspondence courses. I did processing of the film and some printing in the little cabin using a make shift lab setup. Holding the film and prints under the faucet in freezing weather resulted in less than the hour of washing required for stable film and prints. What lack of permanence resulted from that practice was finally finished off in a house fire much later when all my negatives and prints were destroyed.
The Time a Correspondence Course Saved My Life... Literally!
I normally went to bed about 2200 in the evening but one evening I was interested in the section of a course I was working on and stayed up later. About midnight I became aware that it was difficult to see the book. Then I realized that the cabin was filling with smoke. The wall behind the pot belly stove was on fire! I put the fire out and the next day found a piece of metal to install on the wall. I didn't report the incident. It dawned on me that if I had gone to bed at my usual time I would have died of smoke inhalation. Even awake the smoke didn't catch my attention due to my concentration on my work. Had I been asleep I would have simply died without becoming aware of the danger!