Battleship Texas (BB 35)
America's Oldest Surviving Battleship

After 52 Years The Sailor Returns

These are his memories that flooded
back from that reunion.

My nickname was Sonny I was on the Texas from March 1943 to May 1945. I was in C.Div (radio communication), my battle station was the main radio, manning inter ship phones or coping Fox (A continuos radio station sending messages from Washington, San Francisco, or Guam depending on where the ship was at.) I saw combat in Normandy, Cherbourg, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

Standing at my station this is what I see:

If I was on the inter ship phones facing toward port, I would see to my right the hatchway to the code room, the main radio receiver, mills, (typewriters) and radiomen on different frequencies. In the middle of the room in front of the code rooms hatchway was a 40 mm elevator. Looking left along the bulkhead was a radioman decoding call letters and more receivers and mills manned by operators. Looking through the radio room at the end of port side was a hatchway dogged down. Turning around looking starboard was a hatchway dogged down.

If I was coping Fox the only thing I would see in front of me was the typewriter, radio receiver, paper, and to my right a sending key.

My primary duty station was standing radio watches in the radio room.

Berthing area aboard ship:

My berthing area had a bunk in the old coal bin three decks down, just as you came through the hatchway, second bunk from the bottom. Later on I got a top bunk in a different part of the room.

Details of things I can remember:

When you had to get a haircut on the ship it wasn't long before you realized to get a good haircut you slipped some coins into the barber's pocket.

Liberty was the highlight of a sailors life after being out to sea for three to six months. Most sailors had two dress uniforms: one was for inspection GI uniform, another was for liberty. This uniform was tailor made out of the best cloth that could be bought. The tailors on Sand street in Brooklyn, N.Y. made a fortune making uniforms for sailors. The Division was divided up into port and starboard liberty parties. It was possible to trade your liberty time with a sailor that was qualified to stand your watch and an OK from your chief, or you could purchase liberty from a qualified radioman.

Getting ready to go on liberty you showered and shaved, hair neat, uniform spotless, and put another spit shine on your shoes. Now you have to get past the officer of the deck. This was not to hard to do as most of them were junior officers. Most were good Joe's but once in awhile you got one who took himself to serious, and he would try to find something on you to go back and fix, or even deny you liberty. It seemed that this type of officer either shaped up or was shipped out.

The procedure was that you saluted the officer of the deck and asked permission to go on liberty. Permission was generally granted and you saluted the flag, and you walked off the ship.

We as sailors were treated very well at all the ports that I remember. New York was my favorite Port. When block parties were held in Brooklyn and Queens, no soldier or sailor could buy a drink, or not dance with a pretty girl. There were American's from all nationalities at these block parties. It was in New York that I met my wife.

At the end of liberty you would go back to the ship and up to the officer of the deck and ask permission to come aboard, salute the flag and go to your quarters.

Preparing for inspection:

Preparing for inspection was the same as preparing for liberty, except the G.I. Uniform was used. At wars end not many inspections were called and those that were the sailors seemed to get away with wearing tailor made.

Mail aboard ship:

Letters, mail, were taken to the post office on the ship. You wrote free on your envelope where the stamp normally went. If your ship was on the west coast your return address was:

Your name and rank
U.S.S. Texas Box 17
% Fleet Post Office
San Francisco Calif.

If the ship was on the east coast the address was:

Your name and rank
U.S.S. Texas Box 17
% Fleet Post Office
New York, New York

If you wanted your letter to go by airmail you put a six cent stamp on it. I never helped with the moving of the mail.

Fresh water for showers & washing clothes:

We took showers on board whenever we wanted to, mostly I took them every other day. I did not wash my own clothes, but when we got new dungarees, we would tie a line to the dungarees and throw them over the fantail. This softened them and made them more comfortable to wear.

Music & Reading:

When I try to remember the type of music aboard my recollections are that there were certain radio circuits that a few messages came through but they had to be manned at all times. Radiomen got so they could man these circuits with one ear, leaving the other ear for hearing the music from another receiver. So we were able to pick up music from all over the globe depending on where we were at. Axis Sally and Tokyo Rose played the hit songs from the United States.

As far as music being played over the public address system, that depended upon where we were at to whether the Captain would allow this. I believe the music was picked by Chaplain Moody.

As far as reading material aboard ship, all I can remember was some copies of Stars & Stripes, and of course the Navy Manual.

Relaxing and hanging out:

Out at sea when we had time off, there were always some card games going on someplace that you could get into. Some games we gambled for money, and others we did not. When in the Pacific and the weather was hot, there was a locker just forward of the smokestack, that sailors from different divisions would gather and shoot the bull. We sat on top of this locker and got the scuttlebutt from different divisions on the ship. Some time was spent practicing receiving and sending code and practicing with the bug (a faster way to send code than a key). You never knew when it might be possible to go up a rank. On the Texas sailors who wanted to advance would have to transfer. Only a few of my buddies transferred. There was a close bond with the people in the C division.

Recreation and exercise was the same as above. We played cards, checkers and gambled. As for exercise, I don't remember any except picking up my money when playing craps.

Just before we were called to general quarters for the Normandy invasion, we had been rolling dice for about an hour and a half. Little Brother was winning heavily, a couple hundred dollars, when the call came he picked up his money and said to me as we started to run to our battle stations: "Do you think I will go to hell because of all this money I won?". Because part of the money was mine I said, "Don't know Little Brother, just don't get killed." I knew we would play again and get a chance to win some of it back.

Eating aboard ship:

Part of the radiomen ate with the band in the band's compartment. A table was set up and food was brought in by the strikers, sailors who were learning to be radio operators. They got the food from the main galley and brought the pots and pans of food and we passed it around. When I was a striker I had to serve the food and set up the tables, take them down and stow them away when chow was over. Spam was the worst food and steak was the best. I never had to prepare the food, or clean dishes aboard the Texas.

It was during the long general quarters time spent in Okinawa, that I lost my taste for spam. For lunch the cooks would bring us spam sandwiches, (made with thick bread and an inch slice of spam), and a pitcher of joe. You got one sandwich, (and that's all you wanted as big as the slice of spam was!), and cup of joe, more joe if there was any left. Coffee was not a problem for the radio shack. I believe the cooks thought that they better keep those radiomen awake. They gave us a pitcher of old joe whenever we wanted it, which was all of the time. Sometimes during the general quarters we got K rations for supper.

There was a soda fountain which was opened only periodically. I remember using it only a few times. From the ship store/canteen I remember buying a few candy bars. The ships store was used mostly for buying cigars, chewing tobacco and cigarettes. A box of rumcrook cigars cost about $2.00. Bagpipe or beechnut chewing tobacco was 15 to 25 cents and cigarettes 50 cents a carton or 5 cents a pack. We also bought toothpaste, shaving cream and other toiletries at the store.

Racial tension:

I have been asked if there were any racial tensions aboard the Texas, and this is what I recollect concerning that. The black sailors aboard the Texas were stewards for the Officers. They made up a gun crew of their own. I think they manned forty mm antiaircraft guns. I never heard of any racial tension on our ship. Their living quarters were on the third deck on the portside next to the main radio.

Fights & conflicts:

There were some fights or conflicts aboard ship, but had nothing to do with racial tension as far as I know. I remember there were two sailors fighting about a question of embarrassment caused by the one in front of the other's girlfriend. The sailors in the compartment thought it should be fought out in a fair fight. So sailors were put in the corridor and in the hatchways as lookouts for the officers. Rings and bracelets were taken off the combatants and the fight began. Blood was flowing and the fight lasted about five minutes. No winner but both fighters seemed to be satisfied. I don't believe they ever became close friends but they never bothered each other either.

A typical non combat day:

On a typical, non combat day at sea radio watches had to be manned 24 hours so you had to alternate between night watch and day watch. Depending on which part of the world you were in, the manning of the number of frequencies were greater or smaller. The watches were broken up to four hour on and eight hours off or six on and six off or eight off and eight on with a sixteen off wherever possible. Sometimes you hit the bunk in the daytime and other times at night. If you had to relieve the watch at meal times, you went to an early chow to give the person you relieved a chance for the second chow. Your free time was spent in the bunk or shooting the bull with other sailors. At times we played cards or went topside to watch the ocean waves. If we were in a convoy we would spend time watching the ships, noticing that when loaded the merchant ships lay deep in the water. If there was room in the radio shack sometimes you would spend time practicing code receiving and signals.

Shipmates & Officers:

It's been 52 years since I left the Texas in the Philippines. I can see the faces of my shipmates as plain as they were in 1945 but names escape me. One reason I believe is because we used so many nicknames, like Little Brother, Flattop, Rags, Flash, etc.. The officers that I was familiar with I remember of course because their full name was always used.

Captain Roy Pfaff, Captain of the Ship

Captain Charles A. Baker, Captain of the Ship

Commander J. M. Cabanillas, Executive Officer

Lieutenant Forrest Drummond, Communicatons Officer

Lieutenant jg Knowles, part of the communications staff
Lieutenant Knowles was called "MaMa Knowles" by the enlisted radio men. He was liked by all and was like a mother hen with her chicks. When we were in port and part of the crew was on liberty, he would not hit the bunk until all sailors were back and accounted for.

Rear Admiral Carleton F. Bryant
Part of the time the Texas was his flag ship. During the Normandy invasion, while he was on his bridge, I heard him singing, "Three little fishes in a itty bitty pool". When Admiral Bryant came aboard he bought his own radioman with him.

Jake Taylor Chief Radioman
He took over when Chief Whitaker left because of sickness, I believe. Jack had a brother Ike who served on the Texas for a while as aviator radioman. Both brothers were on the Texas before WW II started.

Ollie Sawyer
One of the men who served on the Texas before WW II. He was a second class radioman and knew procedure real well. He stood watches generally as a supervisor.

I don't remember his rank but he was the radioman wounded on the bridge during the Cherbourg battle with the German shore gunners. His hands were in bad shape and he had other wounds. I sat on the deck with him just before they took him off to the hospital ship.

Favorite memories:

It's difficult to pick out a favorite memory of being on the Texas after 50 years. Any memory of the ship is a favorite one. The U.S.S.. Texas became home to most of us sailors. Some of us actually thought that serving on the Texas made us "adoptive sons of the state of Texas", the state where our heroes, the cowboys, roamed.

I do remember that during 1943 when we were doing convoy duty we had a English sailor who joined the Texas to stay with us for a crossing. He was there to show how to set up and operate a transmitter, that was used to jam radio bombs, that the Germans were using.


Now fifty years later, I realize that the Texas was not a first line ship like the Missouri, Wisconsin, New Jersey and Iowa. In those days to me she was the greatest ship that was! (Which every true sailor will believe his ship is the greatest.) The Texas seemed to have a guiding star following her wherever she went. Who knows it might have been the lone star of the state of Texas.

Along with the star a lot of credit has to go to the antiaircraft gunners for the safety of the old girl. She was right in the middle of the kamikazes strikes in the long battle of Okinawa. The conditions of Yellow, Red and Green were echoed through her decks day and night. It was these gunners that were responsible for the last echo to be green and that we all were alive and that no damage was done to the old girl of the sea.

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