Gunnery Department - Watch, Quarter &
By Gordon Cook - 42-43
Looking through the papers and artifacts in my old sea chest in the basement, I found a Record Book that brought back many names to memory..
This was a handwritten copy of the Watch, Quarter and Station Bill for Battle Stations at all of the Guns. It is not dated but with relation to other records in the same book, it must have been between January and July 1943. No doubt, many of the men listed on this
WQ&S bill were engaged later in the Leyte Gulf battles described by other contributors.
Salamonie's original main battery included three 3"23 cal and one 5" 51 cal. but plans called for new, very effective dual-purpose gun protection. Salamonie went to Norfolk for the installation.
Her new battery of four 5"/38 cal guns in closed mounts, two 1.1" 4-barrel and twelve single-barrel 20mm guns were installed in April 1942. This was the same type and number of guns that were being installed on the newest destroyers. Probably because of a clerical error in the yard office, Salamonie was also equipped with two Depth Charge
launchers. Somebody in BuShips must have thought AO-26 was a destroyer.
Installation of a gun director was delayed until just prior to Salamonie's joining the
Pacific Fleet, where the director proved its worth against Japanese air attacks.
While in the yard, many transfers of experienced personnel were made from Sal, and they were replaced by graduates of Great Lakes, 'A' Schools, and newly commissioned Reserve officers. We returned to sea duty with many of our officers and crew at sea for
the first time, or working at higher job levels, so we had a long period of training and shakedown to go through to
regain our previous sea-going efficiency. I was a good example of this situation. After only 4 months training, and 3 months at sea as Division Officer and standing sea watches only on #4 gun crew, I was suddenly moved up to
Department Head and Officer of the Deck underway. With the huge numbers of new construction ships being added to the Fleet, experience in all levels was minimal. Somehow we managed. Most credit for that success is due to the Commanding Officers and Executive Officers, who in most large ships, were experienced graduates of the US
Naval Academy or held Merchant Marine licenses as Masters and Mates.
Lt.jg Nelson had been ship's Gunnery Officer from date of the ship's commissioning. He was transferred now to Lighter-Than-Air (Blimp) training. I was ordered to Gunnery Schools on the USS Arkansas BB-33 and at Dam Neck, to replace Mr. Nelson in May
1942. Many of our crew were ordered to Dam Neck for training in maintenance and firing of 5" 38, 20 mm and 1.1" guns. Most of the firing was anti-aircraft type, with sleeve targets towed by airplane. Each man was given a variety of gun stations so that each man would understand the whole operation and could fill in at any position.
Maintenance was learned by clearing jams, taking guns down into their component pieces, cleaning, lubricating and rebuilding them. The take-downs of 20mm and 45 cal
pistols was done blindfolded for advanced training. The 1.1." 75 cal, 4-barrel AA guns were noted for being "cranky". One particular piece underneath the loading mechanism
jammed frequently. It could be cleared easily, but the mechanism was out of sight and it had to be cleared by feel. My next ship had two 1.1" guns. My ability to clear those jams made an immediate good impression on my new Skipper.