The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.

AUGUST  2010

                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.






Yankee Devil Dogs

Bizarre, Fascinating, and Wacky World War I & ll Secrets.

by Cecil Owen

"Two torpedoes dead ahead!" the forward starboard lookout, Seaman First Class Jeddah "Jed" James shouted.

"That is impossible," Lieutenant Junior Grade Pauline Weaver replied, "the war has been over for several months."

Just then the Skipper, Captain Jeremiah "Jerry" Moon, comes into the wheel house from below. "Quickly," he also shouted, "reverse the starboard engine, and thirty degrees port  rudder."

His quick action has just saved the Warship by a "mermaid's whisker." The two torpedoes just pass harmlessly by the stern of the Warship. (This Warship just happens to be the best warship in the whole United States Navy, the USS George Destroyer Escort 697.)

Then, a submarine surfaced close by the USS George. It is the Imperial Japanese Submarine Number RO-105. The conning tower has been heavily damaged, and is barely seaworthy. The Skipper Captain Jerry beams out over the air waves, "Don't you know the war has been over for several months and you lost?!"

Cecil Owen

The hatch flew open and a small figure jumped out on the deck. "I am Captain Yukajima Jamahidechuchi Hasimoto, and I have been tracking your ship for several months. For me the war will never be over, because of you Yankee Devil Dogs! Remember, you Yankee Devil Dogs when you helped sink five of my fellow submarines off the coast of New Guinea? And you thought that my submarine, the RO-105 was sunk too! But we escaped and now it is my turn to sink you. I will not even waste any more torpedoes, but will sink you with our 3 inch deck gun. Prepare to meet your fate, you Yankee Devil Dogs of the Warship USS George!"

"Very well," Captain Moon replied. "Now hear this - Battle stations! Battle stations! Man your guns!"

The executive Officer First Lieutenant Mackelroy Ebenezer Bustard came into the wheel house. "It is about time you showed up 'Mac.' You take charge so I can have my first cup of coffee."

On board a Warship like the George, the crew is 200 sailors. And the Executive Officer usually runs the ship for the Captain. In the old days, he was called the First Mate.

Now, imagine the play on a name like that - Bustard. Many times we were called Burstard's Mustards, or worse. Of course, you can guess what that was? Some of the sailors resented him just because he was an officer. He was a farm boy back in Iowa, until the war started. Then, he went through some fast training and came out an officer. He was called by many a "ninety day wonder." I always thought he was a pretty good guy, for he always treated me fairly.

Now, the Skipper, Captain Jerry, was just the opposite. He had been in the Regular Navy for 35 years and still got sea sick; even in a mild storm at sea. He came from Memphis, Tennessee. He also had a friend in the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. This, of course, is where all the big wheels spin out our country's national defense. Because of this "friend," our Skipper, Captain Jerry did just about what he wanted to do. We got orders to go up in the Bering Sea, off the West Coast of Alaska. That is just scuttlebutt (hearsay), we are going to Hong Kong, China instead. These Destroyer Escorts have welded seams in the middle of the ship. Two of them have already been sent to Alaska, and the seams busted open. Both ships went to the bottom with a great loss of men. When we arrived in Hong Kong, the Skipper's "friend" had some new orders "cut" for us. We could only call him a special "friend" because Skipper Jerry would reveal no more about him. Our orders were Air-Sea Rescue Patrol along the entire coast of Eastern China. Three cities for our ports of call, Hong Kong for Southern China, Shanghai for Central China, and Tsing-Tao for Northern China.

So, here we are now 200 miles off the Port of Tsing-Tao, and it is the 13th day of October of 1946. Captain Moon bellows into the microphone again. "I repeat battle stations - man your guns!! We will blow that crazy Jap out of the water with our 5 inch guns!"

"But Skipper, sir, we do not have any battle stations at all. Just look out of the port holes. Our guns are frozen. They are completely covered with ice and snow! In fact, we are completely helpless!"

Suddenly, on board the Japanese Submarine RO-105, there is a tremendous explosion! The middle of the sub, just in back of the conning tower, blows apart! It plunges into a watery grave, in just a few seconds! All hands are taken down to "Davey Jones Locker" with the RO-105.

Davey Jones Locker is a navy term for a Burial at the Bottom of the Sea. There is only one survivor, and yes- you guessed who! The Jap Sub Captain Yukjima was the only one top side when the sub blew apart. He was blown on board the George, and landed into the lap of a Yankee Devil Dog, Seaman First Class "Jed" James. He was the forward starboard lookout who had reported the two torpedoes.

Boatswain Mate First Class Bartholomew Bones rushed up and handcuffed the spluttering Jap Officer. None of us could understand Japanese, but he was really "cussing a blue streak."

Finally, Captain Yukjima calmed down some and spoke in perfect English. "I went to school at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts for two years before the war. I demand to see your Captain, as I need his permission to commit Hari-Kari to join my men in my submarine."

We called our Boatswain "Black Bart" for he was meaner than a skunk's hind leg. He had been turned down twice for a promotion to Chief Boatswain Mate. So he liked to take it out on us common sailors. He came into the wheel house, dragging the little Jap Captain behind him. "Sir, what should we do, for we are completely helpless?"

Captain Jerry scowled at him and said, "This is a United States Navy Warship, which is never completely helpless. Round up all of the chipping hammers and fire axes on board. Then, get a crew of deck apes to get rid of the snow and ice on the guns."

Deck apes are what the division of sailors in deck maintenance are affectionately called. We also hooked up three portable blowing heaters. Of course, Captain Yukjima was taken below deck and locked in the brig. He was very sad, because he was not permitted to join his ancestors by committing suicide Japanese style. In about an hour, the Executive Officer Lieutenant Bustard, went on deck to check on how the gobs were doing with the ice. Much to his surprise he saw one of the captains Mess Cooks. He was a black young man from Mobile, Alabama. His name is George Washington Andrew "Andy" Jones.

"Andy, what in the wide world are you doing up on this dangerous deck?"

"Sir, I am sitting here on this anchor chain, eating ice cream. I came up here to make us all some snow cream! It so enough, is real larruping good too!"

Now, Andy was kind of eccentric, on board ship he was quiet and peaceful. But on liberty on short, he was as wild as a Tasmanian Wolf. You probably wouldn't see one, unless you sailed to Tasmania, a small island off the southern tip of Australia.  He had just been ashore in Shanghai and had part of his left ear bit off in a brawl. However, Andy, Skipper Jerry and I were good friends because we liked to box. Andy and I made sparring partners for the Skipper. Now it was against regulations for a high ranking officer to be friendly with an enlisted sailor. But as usual, Captain Moon said as long as I am still Captain of this ship, we follow Captain Moon's regulations. Andy taught me some of the finer points of boxing, for he was a Golden Glove Champion. He had won several medals, but had trouble keeping his weight below 250 pounds and he did not like to fight as a big heavyweight.

Andy finally broke me away from my thoughts and said someone had better go up into the Pom-Pom Guns Crows Nest and bring Little Phillip down. "I see somehow he climbed up there and is stuck."

"I will go," I said, "that is my battle station anyway."

The Pom-Pom Guns are 40MM Anti-Craft guns that pump out bullets just a few seconds apart. They are all twin mounted and make that pom pom sound as they fire. The George has eight of these guns up on the gun deck; two on each side and four across the back. In the center of these is a Crow's Nest control tower. Two sailors are stationed there; one with ear phones and one with an electronic sight. All eight guns can be controlled from there or switched off, to be controlled singly.

Little Phillip was the Captain's other mess cook. Philippe Rodricous Gonzales Lopez Fernando Smith was his full name. That is why we called him Little Phil. He was 4ft. 6in. tall and came from Manila, Philippine Islands. He had climbed up into the crow's nest to look around. But I had turned on one of the electric heaters, so it melted most of the ice. This left Little Phil in about a foot of water and he was then too short  to climb out by himself.

As we were climbing down off the gun deck, a dark figure jumped out behind us and shouted, "You Yankee Devil Dogs! I will send you to your graves."

Somehow, Captain Yukjima Had escaped the brig and here he was, attacking Little Phil and me with two big cooking forks. Little Phil gave him a swift kick that landed you know where. The crazy Jap Captain turned and jumped overboard. He was still handcuffed, and never even came to the surface.

We figured a torpedo had malfunctioned and sunk his submarine. Now, his wish was fulfilled; he had joined his crew.

As you reflect back over your life there are golden moments that you cherish. Most of the sailors that I sailed with are gone. My dear old ship, The USS George is gone - cut up for scrap. Even the Port of Call Tsing-Tao is gone. The Chinese Communist have changed its name. But those golden memories remain! AH! Those are part of the Good Ol' Days!

Sources:Memoirs of several special seamen, Yankee Devil Dogs, who declined to be identified!