USS Salamonie skipper has many yarns to spin in visit
For starters, he's had lunch with President Harry Truman, witnessed the surrender of the Japanese in the Pacific at the end of World War II, and commanded and retired the USS Hornet aircraft carrier responsible for the recovery of U.S. astro- nauts after the first two lunar landing missions of Apollo 11 and 12.
In addition, he commanded and retired the USS Salamonie, whose history is recorded at a new museum to be dedicated July 4 in its honor at the Knight-Bergman Center in Warren.
These are but a few of the accomplish- ments retired Rear Admiral Carl Seiberlich, 82, has to his credit during a stretch in the Merchant Marines and United States Navy that spanned more than 40 years.
Admiral Seiberlich was in Warren to preview the new museum with other former crew members, which included the unveiling of a painting of the USS Salamonie, his last command, as it appeared when it was a Standard Oil Company tanker named the Esso Columbia prior to being taken over by the United States Navy.
He also retired the USS Ticonderoga and the USS Mayo.
"Give me a command and I'll put it out of commission," he joked during an inter- view that took place the day before the preview.
The retired admiral currently resides in Haymarket, VA, with his wife, Trudy.
His long and rewarding life is filled with many achievements and honors, one of his most notable honors being named a recipient of the Harmon International Trophy for Achievement in Aeronautics from President Harry Truman, which he received from the president during ceremonies at the White house in 1952.
He has also been decorated with the Legion of Merit and the Air Medal.
The admiral is also proud of the fact that, as a onetime president of the Naval Uniform Board, he directed the develop- ment of the first maternity uniform for active and reserve personnel.
The admiral is also a designated naval aviator in lighter-than-air, heavier-than-air and helicopters, and was day and night qualified in all three classes of aircraft. In addition, he is qualified as a seaplane command pilot.
The admiral reflected on his early days when he decided upon the military as a career.
"Actually, in the beginning, I wanted to go into the naval academy," he recalls. "I had an appointment lined up and went to the Philadelphia Navy yard and took their physical. They flunked me because I had flat feet, so I wrote the Navy a letter and said I'd like to be a naval officer, and I got a letter back that said it was 'totally impossible' for me 'to ever be a naval officer. Signed Lieutenant Commander Joe Zilch.' I read that letter at my retirement in 1980."
Prior to the military, he attended the University of Pennsylvania to become a CPA, "only for one reason," he says. "They made a lot of money." That goal went by the wayside when he was dating a girl whose father was associated with transportation, who suggested he apply to a new academy called the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kingsport, NY, from which he eventually graduated with a Bachelor of Science in marine transportation.
As a young ensign, he was the first Merchant Marine officer sent to a destroyer, the USS Mayo, the rationale being that he could help the Navy with the merchant ships.
He served as navigator of the ship, "because that's what I knew how to do from the Merchant Marines," the admiral says.
The USS Mayo was in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, traveled through the canal to Okinawa and confronted kamikazes, the admiral recalls.
Soon after, the Mayo was off the coast of Japan getting ready for the invasion, "when President Truman dropped the two atom bombs, which as far as we were concerned, was the best thing that ever happened because it was going to be bloody."
He recalls the cease-fire with the Japanese that was declared on Aug. 15, 1945:
"Admiral Halsey sent the message out to the whole fleet," he says. "I saved a copy of it, but it burned in a barn fire I had at my farm, and what it said was, 'Cease-fire executed with Japs. If a Jap aircraft approaches your ship, shoot the bastard down in a friendly manner. Halsey."
While occupying Japan after the cease-fire, the admiral recalled an experience he had in the city of Akita, where he and
his crew were stationed in case of any resistance, of which there was none.
"I went ashore as a liaison between the Army and the Navy, "says the admiral, "and the first day you didn't see any Japanese at all. The second day they were kind of looking out the windows, sitting on the porches and there were a few in the streets. The third day they opened the stores. The soldiers didn't have dollars; they had occupation yen, and they went in and bought stuff in the stores."
The Japanese soon discovered that the soldiers weren't going to tear everything down and steal their merchandise, he adds.
"On the fourth day, they doubled the prices in all the stores."
Always interested in flying, his captain later sent him to flight training. He studied and trained at Lakehurst, where he learned to fly blimps because nothing else was available at the time.
"I went to Lakehurst and flew blimps and developed the world's first veritable depth-tone sonar," he says, for which he won the Harmon International Trophy.
"I feel very proud of the fact that all the sonars these ships are towing out there are all the grandchildren of mine."
He was also the first airship pilot to make a night landing of a blimp on an aircraft carrier.
He recalled the Harmon Award presented to him by President Truman the afternoon he visited the White House.
"We got over there and went in the Oval Office with my mother, my wife and her parents, and President Truman said, 'I'm gonna get in trouble for this, but I want to get acquainted with your family,' so he took us in a room off to the side.
"So we were sitting there, and my mother, sitting next to President Truman, said, 'Mr. President, on behalf of the families, particularly the children of the Mayo crew, we were so worried when they were up there with the kamikazes, and on their behalf I want to thank you for ending the war so quickly.'
"President Truman, without hesitation, said to my mother, 'Mrs. Seiberlich, the older I get the more I realize it was the only course of action I could have taken.'
"At that point, an aide comes in says we've got to get out to the Rose Garden and get this thing going, so we all stood up and Truman turned to my mother and said, 'I know how you feel; I'm a father.'"
The admiral commented on some of the negative media coverage during the 199550th anniversary of the atom bombs dropped on Japan: "Everybody was saying Truman regretted doing it. Well, he didn't sound that way to me!" he says.
Admiral Seiberlich remembers driving his car out to the West Coast after getting transferred, and was carrying a photograph of himself pictured with Truman. He stopped off at the president's library in Independence, MO, to leave the picture for the president to sign and forward on to him.
While there, "his secretary went on into his office," he says, "and he came out and said to me, 'I'm going to have a sandwich; will you come in and join me?' So I sat down and had a very niceconversation with him and he signed the thing and gave it to me.
"I'm kind of a fan of Harry Truman," he adds.
The admiral also recalled what he calls "a quick sea story" with the late President Richard Nixon, who was on board the USS Hornet during an Apollo recovery.
"I saw the president walking toward the door and I said, 'Mr. President, where are you going?' and he said, 'I'm going down to shake hands with the astronauts when they get out of the helicopter.'
"And I said, 'Sir, if you do that and get contaminated with the moon germs I'm going to be in a world of trouble.' And he said, 'I wouldn't want that to happen to you. What do you want me to do?' I said, 'Stay up here, sir, until we get them in the quarantine facility and we kill all the moon germs."
In fact, his duty as commander of the USS Hornet during the Apollo 12 recovery was his proudest moment, for which he recalled a Newsweek magazine write-up that recorded the recovery of Apollo 12 as an even more flawless operation than Apollo 11.
Had he to do it all over again he'd still be a Navy man, he says, recalling that when the Army came to him, they said, "Join the Army kid, and you get to eat out of your helmet; and the Navy came to me and said, join the Navy, kid, and you get to set at a table."
"I told them, 'I'll be one of them!'"
And for more than 40 rewarding years, he was.
Since May 12, 2004, you are visitor number:
Rear Adm. Carl Seiberlich (Ret.)
Photo courtesy of The TAB
Old newspaper article describes source of USS Salamonie's naming
The USS Salamonie, which retired Rear Admiral Carl Seiberlich commanded and put out of commission, was named for the river that flows through the southern part of Huntington County, "through what was once a great oil-producing territory," according to an early 1940's newspaper article that appeared in a Warren newspaper, which ran under a headline that read, "New Naval Vessel to be Named for Salamonie."
Built originally as a tanker named the Esso Columbia, it was one of the largest of its kind afloat. Almost immediately after it was built to haul oil for the Standard Oil Co., the United States Government commissioned it for use in World War II as an armed supply tanker for other vessels.
The tanker "will be of 11,500 tons burden, 532 feet long, with 35,000 horsepower engine and have a speed of 16 1/4 knots per hour," the article read.
It is customary to name the Navy's oil tankers "from some river, and particularly from rivers which have at one time or another been associated with the oil industry," the article continued.
"The name 'Salamonie' was chosen by the Secretary of the Navy at the suggestion of Captain Howard H. Good, who was anxious to do honor to the little stream along whose banks he spent many a happy hour as a boy," read the article.
Captain Good was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Frank J. Good of Warren. Born in Warren, he graduated from Warren High School.
He received an appointment to Annapolis by George Rauch, the article noted, who at that time represented the "old Eleventh District in Congress."
Only two other vessels in the United States Navy were connected by name with Indiana. At the time, the battleship USS Indiana was under construction, and the USS Indianapolis was described as "a heavier cruiser with the fleet."
"Battleships," read the conclusion of the article, "are named from states, and cruisers from cities." - RICK BEEMER
NOTE: RADM (Ret.) Seiberlich passed away on March 24, 2006