goodies. After everyone was through eating, Mess Cooks had to semi-wash the dishes and silverware. Then they were racked and taken to the dishwasher in the galley. Next the tables were folded and hung along the side of the bulkhead. Finally, the deck area was swept and swabbed down. Another duty of the mess cook was to "tote" up supplies from the Dry Stores Division and this was three decks below the main deck topside. (There are six lower decks on most battleships.) A Mess Cook was expected to carry 100 pounds of flour, 100 pounds of spuds (potatoes) and 50 pounds of onions. This was back-breaking work taking these heavy items up a ladder. The Galley was one deck up and the Bakery was two decks up. Besides serving the meals and hauling dry stores, a Mess Cook also worked in the Galley. A typical Mess Cook would spend a week serving tables, a week carrying dry stores and a week helping the butchers. The next week would be spent peeling spuds for the cooks. Because the USS Arizona had at least 1,500 sailors on board, a whole big bunch of spuds had to be peeled. But thankfully, mess cooking usually lasted only about three months. After first having duty as a "Deck Swabbie" and then being a "Mess Cook," a sailor could "Strike for a Rate" (Learn a trade).
Gunner's Mate was a choice rate as you could be assigned to one of the four big gun turrets. The USS Arizona had twelve 14"/45 caliber guns, mounted three guns per turret. The Navy calls a big gun like this a "Rifle." Each turret requires around 35 men to operate the guns and 85 powder men. The black powder bags weighed 60 pounds each and it required up to four bags per bullet. Two bags for short range and four bags for long distance. The bullet (Navy for shell) was almost six feet tall and weighed between 2,500 and 3,000 pounds. That is what you would call a big, big bullet. The powder men started handling the black powder bags deep down in the powder magazine. The powder was encased in silk and sealed tightly in metal cans. The magazine held almost one million pounds of black powder and at least one thousand big bullets. When the bags finally reached the turret by ramps, powder man number one, two and three would load gun one, three, and then gun two after the bullet was loaded. The rammer then came down and pushed the power into the guns. Next, the breach man would close and lock the breach block (this was the end of the gun behind the barrel).
After the guns were fired, the breach man had to check the barrels to make sure no pieces of burning silk was left inside. For this would cause a "Flareback" (small explosion) that would kill everyone in the turret. This happened in the number two gun turret onboard the battleship USS Iowa BB61 in 1989. Forty-seven sailors were killed by the explosion. The gun crew had their bunks inside the turret. This is where they actually lived.
Back then none of the battleships had radar. The Arizona had two "Spotter" seaplanes. They were launched by catapult and picked up later by crane. The pilots would radio back information to the gun control director in the ship's control room. He would pass the coordinates along to the turret gunners. The Pointer sat in the left hand seat to raise and lower the three guns. While the Trainer sat in the right hand seat, he turned the guns horizontally. When the big guns were not being fired, they had to be oiled and cleaned constantly. What were called "Pigs" were hooked up to a very long rope. These pigs were a series of brushes that were pulled by hand. They followed the rifling grooves in the barrels. Then the smallest Gunner's Mate had to shimmy all the way through the gun barrel which was 52 ft 5 inches long with an emery cloth to clean the bore.
All the guns from turrets 2,3 and 4 were salvaged and set up in shore batteries to defend Honolulu. However, Gun Turret #1 is still intact, with all three 14"/45 caliber guns. And after sixty four years on the ocean bottom, the gallant gun crew are still there. They are forever on silent sentry duty against an unseen enemy. Every thirty seconds a drop or two of fuel oil escapes from the huge storage tanks below deck. When it pops to the surface, it blends into a kaleidoscope of colors, as if paying homage to the dead. Some say it is the blood of the 1,177 fallen sailors and marines, while others say it is their tears. But the sentimental have spawned a legend that the oil, #6 fuel oil, will stop flowing .... when the last of the crew of the USS Arizona BB39 has passed away.