This webpage is a tribute to my dad, Bob Bauer, who sailed on the USS Trathen between February 1958 and December 1960 as a PN2.

I wasn't born until 1962, but I spent over 40 years listening to Dad's stories of life aboard the Trathen. I figured it was time I recorded some of these and shared them with his old shipmates.



The USS TRATHEN began her Navy career in Bethlehem Steel Shipyard, San Francisco, California on 22 October 1942. She was cristened by Mrs. Young, widow of Captain Cassin Young, who was killed in the USS SAN FRANCISCO during a night of battle off Guadalcanal 1942.

The ship was named in honor of Lieutenant Commander James Trathen, who gained Civil War fame as Commanding Officer of the union steamer MOUNT VERNON.

After commissioning, the TRATHEN completed a fitting out and shake down period and joined the Pacific Fleet. Her first action came a short time later in August 1943, when she helped destroy a Japanese bomber near Baker Island. After this initiation, she repelled many enemy air attacks in her 32-month island-hopping campaign to the Japanese homeland. The score: 2 planes destroyed, several damaged, and 1 Japanese pilot captured. During one of these attacks, the 5" mount was hit, killing 3 men and wounding 21.

The ship's last assignment during World War II took her into the area between the Japanese home islands and Iwo Jima, during the seizure of the latter.

After the Japanese surrender, the TRATHEN proceeded to San Diego, California for inactivation. She hauled down her commission pennant on 18 January 1946 and entered the "Mothball Fleet."

With the outbreak of hostilities in Korea, the TRATHEN was called upon again. Back in commission once more, on 25 August 1951 she was ordered to her new home port of Norfolk, Virginia. After several training operations in the Atlantic, the TRATHEN was underway once again via the Panama Canal to her old cruising waters in the Far East.

The TRATHEN assisted in the Korean action by bombarding shore targets with her 5-inch guns. She became a full-fledged member of the "Train Busters Club" when she destroyed a railroad train on the night of 11 March 1953.

After operating in the Korean area, she left in the summer of 1953 for Norfolk, by the long way around -- through the Indian Ocean, Suez Canal, Mediterranean, then across the Atlantic to Norfolk, stopping at numerous ports along the way.

In January 1955, the TRATHEN was transferred once again to the Pacific Fleet, and assigned to Destroyer Squadron 19 in Long Beach, California. Since that time, she has completed three cruises to the Far East, spending a portion of the time patrolling off Formosa, and always enjoying the visits to the exotic oriental ports.

Engagements participated in:

Wake Island (October 1943)
Marshall Islands (February 1944)
New Guinea (May - August 1944)
Caroline Islands (October 1944)
Leyte Gulf (October - November 1944)
Luzon, Philippines (January 1945)
Iwo Jima (February - March 1945)
Okinawa (March - June 1945)
Korea (January - May 1953)


Unbeknownst to Dad at the time, aircraft carrier assignments are in high demand, relative to destroyers. Aircraft carriers are basically floating cities, with all the comforts of home (movie theaters, gourmet meals, etc.) with no sea sickness. Destroyers, by contrast, were "tin cans" which trailed the carrier, intercepted any torpedo intended for the carrier, bounced around violently in 50-foot swells, and were considered "arduous sea duty."

Asked if he had any preferences, Dad questioned the assignments officer, "Where can I learn the most?"

"Well, a sailor who really wants to learn will choose a small ship, say, a destroyer, over an aircraft carrier," the assignments officer explained.

My dad was impressed, "Do you think you can get me a spot on a destroyer?"

"I'll see what I can do," the assignments officer smiled.



Post card sent home read: "U.S. Naval Training Center, San Diego, California. Portion aerial view. San Diego's residential homes are in the foreground. Boat Channel and San Diego Bay are in the background." Dad labeled the photo side A, B, & C, then wrote on the back, "A is Nimitz. B is Preble Field where we will have our parade. Those white spots are companies graduating. C is where I went aboard a sub."



While in training in San Diego, Dad and his buddies visited the zoo.


Dear Mom:

The two guys I am standing between are two of my best friends, Loren Scribner (on the end) and Bill Huff (in the middle). Both are going to aircraft carriers. The guy second from the left in the row in front of mine is Bob Novotny, also a good friend. He is going to a Communications Ship, which is the center in any amphibious landing and often carries a flag (admiral). Scribner is from Fort Wayne; Huff from Jett, Okla.; and Novotny from Minnesota.

The three men in front of us are Chief Beck on the left; Mr. Danaher, a Chief Warrant Officer; and Chief Jones on the right. Jones is a natural comedian, and does he have some hair-raising stories about the Second World War. He served on the Essex and the Saratoga, both aircraft carriers. Some of the stories about subs and kamakazis are really something to hear.

Well, I graduate Friday and will write you from the ship.

Love, Bob
(Received 2/15/58)




Dad worked in the ship's Personnel office, and is shown here with his first boss, "Tom" Thompson. However in General Quarters (GQ), which is a combat-ready position, Dad became the "Captain's Talker," responsible for conveying the Captain's orders over the microphone. Dad got the job because he was able to repeat, verbatim, every word the captain said.



Com 7th Fleet sent a message to all ships in the area, "Typhoon in area. Go north." Now, Captain Hoblitzel held a Masters Degree in Meteorology from the Naval War College in Monterrey, and had quite literally written the book on evasive action in response to sea storm patterns. (In fact, Dad typed this book for him.) Hoblitzel responded, "Typhoon will go north. Recommend ships go west." Com 7th Fleet came back, "No, typhoon will go west. Ships must go north." Hoblitzel finally defied instruction, "No. Typhoon will certainly go north. Trathen will head west." The Trathen then did go west, while all other ships in the fleet went north. As Hoblitzel predicted, the typhoon also went north, ensnaring all other ships. The Trathen, guided by Hoblitzel's expertise and instinct, remained in calm waters. Com 7th Fleet radioed Hoblitzel next time asking, "Typhoon in area. What is your recommendation?"

Dad encountered 12 out of 14 typhoons on the Trathen before Hoblitzel took command. Under Hoblitzel, the Trathen avoided every single typhoon. The Navy sent his typhoon avoidance book to every ship in the Pacific.



The ship's crest was designed by Captain Hoblitzel. I pulled this patch off Dad's moth-eaten pea-coat sometime in the late 70s.

Being of German descent, Hoblitzel also assigned the logo "Enfallen Gewien." I studied German for years, but was never able to confirm translation. Apparently, Hoblitzel's family was Pennsylvania Dutch, and this represents that particular dialect of German. According to Dad, "Captain Hoblitzel told me it means 'Attack and Conquer'."




The Trathen was supporting the Midway (aircraft carrier) on patrol around the Quomoy and Matsu Islands, just off the China coast in the Taiwan Straight. Dad had just started midwatch on bridge one night (from midnight to 4am), as Quartermaster of Watch. A jet fighter had missed two landing attempts and only had fuel left for a third. When he failed the third attempt, Dad watched the afterburners flare up to 2,000 feet, where the pilot ditched his plane and ejected. Given the destroyer's easier maneuverability, the Trathen had the job of finding the pilot and rescuing him. The ship went to modified GQ position, whereby Dad transferred midwatch duties and became Captain's Talker. Upon landing, the pilot immediately fired 3 of his 6 distress flares, and the Trathen headed in that direction. (Why had he fired 3 in rapid succession? Why didn't he fire any of the remaining 3 flares? Nobody knew.) For the next two hours, the Trathen went "darkened ship," and there was absolute silence.

The crew was so fixated on searching for the downed pilot, that no one noticed the massive Midway bearing down on the Trathen! Lt. Dennis Trone, a Naval Academy graduate and Officer of the Deck, gave the order to veer which saved the Trathen within yards of a cataclysmic collision.

Next, a helmet was spotted bobbing in the water, and "Ding Dong" Bell was lowered over the side to fetch it. Only when Bell pulled the helmet up could anyone be sure there was no head or body attached to it, only straps. For his troubles, and to warm him back up, Bell was given a shot of whisky.

Finally at 2:05am, Pappy Pharr spotted the pilot. A small crew (including Ferranti the coxwain to steer, an engineer to run the motor, a bow hook, and a commander) took the gig out to bring him in. The swells were so high that it was necessary to tack the gig into the wave to avoid capsizing, which made the downed pilot believe he was being abandoned! The bow hook eventually extended his arm, to which the pilot latched a "dead man's grip," requiring the bow hook to walk the length of the gig before he could pull him in.

After daybreak, the pilot was hoisted back over to the Midway in a bosun's chair. The unpopular decision was made to decline the 50 gallons of ice cream traditionally payable as ransom by aircraft carriers in events such as this. (50 gallons is a fraction of one dessert for the Midway, but would have kept the Trathen happy for weeks!) The crew did find satisfaction in learning that that pilot had a family of five kids.


Dad and buddies rode the Peak Tram in Hong Kong. Mike Clancy is on the far left. Red China is in the background. They went to a penthouse jazz bar that evening called "The Paramount" and enjoyed the music of a talented black American pianist, Larry Allen, who worked a S.E. Asian circuit, including Tokyo, Manila, and Hong Kong.


"Only boats displaying the Servicemen's Guides emblem will be allowed to pick up passengers from Navy ships." Better make sure you're wearing a life vest before you get on this one.

Actually, going ashore was no joke, even stateside! Ding Dong Bell was a well-liked, career sailor aboard the Trathen who was clubbed to death while in San Diego.


 

This is my all-time favorite picture of Dad.

He's just finished sparring with a Japanese Kendo master in Sasebo, Kyushu (on the Japanese side of the Korean Straight, just north from Nagasaki). Kendo is the Japanese equivalent of fencing, except more spirited. See the samurai swords on the back wall?

I believe hearing stories of Dad's experiences in Japan over the years ultimately influenced my decisions to study Japanese at university, and marry a Japanese wife.

With this picture, I have my wife convinced Dad is an accomplished Kendo expert!

 

One trick a sailor used was to press a slice of white bread between his tray and the table in the mess hall, to keep his tray from sliding all around in rough waters. However, this trick was kept secret from new arrivals to the ship. Dad said, "New guys never could figure out why their tray was sliding all over the place, and everybody else's was staying put!"



Dad was in Tokyo on shore leave in April 1959, walking along the street near the Grand Palace, when Crown Prince Akihito and Princess Michiko's wedding entourage drove past. He asked someone what the occasion was, and they replied, "The Emperor just got married."

Nearly 35 years past, and I was in Japan visiting the inlaws at Obaasan's (Grandmother's) home. I told this story to the family. Obaasan, in her nineties, looked up and said, "Oh your father must have been a very important man." None of us could understand how she arrived at that conclusion. We soon realized she only heard every other word of the story, and believed Dad was invited to attend the wedding or reception at the Royal Palace. "No, Grandma! He happened to be there as a sailor in the street, when the wedding procession passed by!"



No prizes for guessing who the little guy is in these pictures! He was proud of me then, and I'm proud of him now. Dad was commissioned into the Army, so he could spend more time with his family. His military career earned him 13 promotions in 22 years. Well done, Dad. Thank you.


Here's a couple of bonus pics, guys! Dad always said Fremantle, Western Australia was a Navy man's favorite port. I now understand why. I took these pictures in the mid-90s while living in Cottesloe, a seaside suburb located between Perth and Fremantle. Whenever U.S. warships pull into port for R&R (rest and relaxation) after duty in the Indian Ocean, beautiful women simply come out of the woodwork. They even put their Australian boyfriends and husbands on ice for those few days! They actually hand party invitations to sailors as they walk down the brow. I ran these pics past a few of my Aussie mates, as they say. Their comment? "Those blokes are KEEN!" (Translation: "Those guys are spellbound!") It's enough to make a guy go enlist... or at least move to Australia!

Dad told a story of a shipmate who met an Australian woman while on shore leave there. He told her, "If you look me up when I get back to the States, I'll marry you." Imagine his surprise, when his ship arrived at San Diego, and she was standing at the end of the dock!




It was a real thrill to sit down in front of the computer with Dad in 2001, to do an Internet search on "USS Trathen." Up came Walt Cross' website, which features:

  • Ship's History
  • Crew List
  • Sea Stories
  • Snapshots

From there we found Ron Keeler, who's in command of:

USS Trathen Association
422 Boyd Street
Woodstock, VA 22664
Phone: (540) 459-7272

Ron publishes a monthly crewmember newsletter, is curator of a Trathen museum, coordinates reunions, and is shopkeeper for cool Trathen memorabilia (e.g. hats and patches).

Other links include:




On the topic of models, Kerry Provancha got in touch to share pics of his 1/96th scale model of the Trathen, built using original Fletcher Class destroyer drawings.  47 inches long, with over 25 LED lights for running lights and interior lights, radio-controlled and rotating air search radar.  "I started to build a Fletcher Class destroyer using the original drawings, and as the model progressed and my research photos came along, I liked the way that some of the luckier Fletchers were modernized... I found drawings in the Stoddard site showing Trathen as she had been modernized, and decided this would be the one."  Kerry also notes that his model still has 40mm Bofars, as he'd already made these, but he anticipates making 3" 50s eventually.  Additional detail work will include flags, etc.  He'd welcome any photos showing detail of changes as Trathen modernized.  Amazing work, Kerry!


UPDATE: 2005

A year has passed since my father's death.

I just received a DVD in the mail from Dad's shipmate, Jim Bleakley, converted from 8mm movies Jim shot aboard the Trathen back in 1959. This has prompted a long-awaited and long-overdue update to this webpage!


Courtesy of Jim Bleakley


"The shore bombardment sequence features your father, sure enough, as the Captain's phone talker," writes Jim.

It's a real thrill to see rolling film footage of Dad as a 20-year-old in his element aboard ship. The exercise took place 27 August 1959 off San Clemente Island. Particularly interesting is how Dad doesn't flinch as the huge cannons are fired! Hard to imagine... The only known motion picture footage of my father was shot at sea, on a 8mm movie camera, before I was born!


Update 2008: As promised ... Jim Bleakley's USS Trathen 1959-1962 footage!

Opening Credits
Anacada Island
Entering San Francisco, 18 July 1959
Second Division Rules!
Shore Bombardment, San Clemente Island, 27 August 1959
Bob Bauer
J.J. O'Connell
U.S.S. Midway CV-41
U.S.S. Wilkinson DL-5
Ernie Zion
The Snake Ranch
Captain Hoblitzell
John Manuel
(Flyovers)
(Launching weather balloon)
Torpedo Practice... Well Done!
George Garton
Lee O. Smith
Speed Run
Dependant Cruise

Moe Hannah
Bob Thomas
Spruce Goose Hangar - Long Beach Harbor
BM1 Lawson
U.S.S. Wilkinson DL-5
The signal that echoed across the Pacific - DPO-BZ
U.S.S. Jarvis DD-799
(Diving off ship)
Waikiki Beach
Jim Bleakley
Kaoshuing
Bob Berry
Hong Kong
Dick Buechsenschutz
Entering Kobe, Japan - Christmas Eve 1959
Blixa Claus
Midway Island
U.S.S. Black D-666, The Devil Ship
Big Bear, California (Skiing)
Closing Credits

(Note: Internet Explorer as your browser is required to view this film.)


Here are a couple additional pics I've uncovered, dated September 1958.

Barni Chapman helped identify shipmates on the left:

"I was looking at info about the Trathen and when I scrolled through the article about your dad. (I was aboard with him all thru 1957 and 1959.) I recognized myself in one of your pictures. It's the one where 5 of us are watching a refueling. Left to right is; Jim Fritz ET2, Rod Trinley RD1, unknown, [Barni Chapman] RDSN, and Ron McCarthy RD3. I knew your Dad, in fact he was the one that typed up my orders when I left the ship. Really a nice guy. I reminisced about the stories you wrote about and of course remember them all. The Trathen was a terrific ship, and I have no bad memories."



U.S.S. TRATHEN (DD530)

1 November 1959

KAOSHUING GUIDE

1. TAIWAN, GENERAL.

Taiwan is an island 240 miles long and averaging 85 miles wide. It lies about 100 miles off the coast of Red China and covers an area of 13,886 square miles. The climate is subtropical. Down the backbone of this island runs a massive range of mountains, with many of the peaks being over 10,000 feet high. On the east coast this maountin range drops sheer into the Pacific, but on the west coast it ranges from flat to hilly. These mountains are jungle-covered, many sections being extremely primitive. The population of Taiwan is over 10 million people. Taipei, the capital city, is located near the northern end of the island, and has a population of about 830,000. There are two primary seaports -- Keelung, located on the northern tip of Taiwan, and Kaoshuing, located on the southwestern coast of Taiwan.

2. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND .

The name "Formosa" means "Beautiful Island" and was given by Portugese seamen who passed it but did not stop. The name "Taiwan" is preferred by Chinese and is supposed to mean "Terraced Bay." The original inhabitants of Taiwan were non-Chinese who came from the Philippines and Malaya about the time of Christ. Their decendents still exist on Taiwan. These aborinines had the head-hunting habit and did not give it up completely.

During the sixteenth century, Taiwan became the playground and battlefield of pirates, Chinese and Japanese. Within a hundred years, the island was invaded and fought over by the Spanish, the Dutch, and the Manchus from the mainland of China.

While the Dutch and Spanish were getting toeholds on Taiwan, the Manchus were driving southward, and thousands of Chinese refugees were escaping across the Formosa Straits. Among the Chinese who came to Taiwan was one of China's most interesting characters. His name was Chang Ch'eng-Kung, better known as Koxinga.

Koxinga's father was named Iquan, a partner of a famous trader named Captain China. When Captain China died, Iquan took over his fleet and bacame one of the world's greatest pirates. With a fleet of over a thousand ships, Iquan attacked shipping from the China coast to Japan. Iquan acquired a huge fortune and became a nobleman in the Ming Dynasty. When it appeared the Ming Emperor was doomed, Iquan went over to the Manchus. He figured wrong, and after fourteen years in prison he was beheaded. Iquan's Japanese wife bore him a son, Koxinga.

Koxinga became a noted Confucian scholar and a mandarin. He remained loyal to the Ming Dynasty, which made him an earl at the age of 22, a marquis at 24, and at 31, a full prince. He bacame a soldier and an admiral. After beating the Manchu armies at Canton, he was given control of the China Coast and China Sea.

In 1661, at the age of 36, he sailed with his fleet of 7,000 ships to establish a Chinese empire on Taiwan. He captured Taiwan and established himself as King of Formosa. However, he died mysteriously, and his successor could not hold out against the Manchus.

Conflict continued to swirl about Taiwan's shores. American warships came twice during the 1800's to demand release of American sailors captured by Taiwanese pirates. It is interesting to note that the first permanent foreign trader on the island was an American who set up shop in 1855.

In 1895, Taiwan was ceded to Japan as a consequence of the Sino-Japanese War. The Japanese governed efficiently but ruthlessly. They developed Taiwan until it became a valuable part of the Japanese empire. At the end of World War II, Thailand reverted to Chinese control and became a provionce of China. The Communist conquest of China drove thousands of refugees to Taiwan. In 1949, the Nationalist government left China and reestablished itself on Taiwan.

Today, the Nationalists, with U.S. aid, have brought further stability and progress to Taiwan. The Nationalist Government of the Republic of China (NGRC) is the only Chinese government recognized by the U.S., although a number of other governments look upon NGRC as the "other China," the NGRC remains the rallying point for those Chinese who oppose the Communists.

3. KAOSHUING, GENERAL . Kaoshuing is Taiwan's second biggest city, and a major seaport for the southern part of Taiwan. The port of Kaoshuing was developed by the Japanese who dredged out a marshland and blasted an entrance through a cliff to make its entrance. By our standards, Kaoshuing may seem to be a pretty "different" place. However, it should be borne in mind that normal Oriental standards of cleanliness are not as high as in the U.S. Coupled with this in fact that the Communist conquest of China and the resultant influx of refugees has placed a huge strain on the island's economy. Taiwan is at war. The Chinese on Taiwan are proud of their accomplishments in the face of overwhelming odds. They are our allies in these troubled times. Every man going ashore should never forget that he is a representative of the U.S. Your conduct, the things you say, how you say it, reflect not only on you, but on your ship, your Navy, and your government. Conduct yourself as the "ambassador of goodwill" that you are.

4. CURRENCY. MPC is not used on Taiwan by U.S. forces. U.S. currency only can be taken ashore. The Taiwan currency is called "NT" dollar ("New Taiwan" dollar). The normal rate of exchange is about 36 "NT" for 1 U.S. dollar. Authorized exchange agencies are the Enlisted Men's Club, the Kaoshuing Recreation Center (KRC), and the Grand Hotel. The Bank of Taiwan maintains a currency exchange booth just across the railroad tracks, on the left side of the street, as you leave Navy Landing at Pier 3. All hands are cautioned about taking a large amount of money ashore and flashing a "roll." It's a sure way to lose it.

5. SABOTAGE. Taiwan is at war, and the possibility of saboteurs trying to damage the ship is ever present. Safety of the ship becomes everyone's task. Sentries must be constantly alert. All small craft approaching the ship shall be illuminated, identified, and warned away of coming close.

6. LIBERTY. Due to the state of war and the need for protecting the security of the ship at all times, liberty in Kaoshuing will be run on a "port and starboard" basis. Liberty will expire on Navy Landing (Pier 3)as follows:

Officers and CPO's ------- 0030
Other Enlisted ------------- 2400

It should be notyed that Kaushuing observes a strict curfew from 0100 to 0500. During the curfew, the streets are patrolled by Chinese soldiers in battle dress. Failure to observe the curfew for any reason could end with a bullet or the point of a bayonet.

Personnel taken into custody by the Shore Patrol will be returned to the Ship immediately and not permitted to return to shore again the same day.

7. CAMERAS. The taking of pictures ashore of the harbor area and military installations is prohibited. Otherwise, cameras may be taken ashore and used.

8. DANGEROUS WEAPONS. The carrying of firearms, knives, etc., while on liberty is prohibited. Likewise, the purchase or use of firecrackers in the Kaoshuing area by USN personnel is prohibited.

9. PROSTITUTION. All house of prostitution are "Out of Bounds." All hands are warned that venereal disease is rampant in in Kaoshuing. Last cruise, all cases of chancroid on board were contracted at Kaoshuing. There is no such thing as a "clean prostitute" in Kaoshuing.

10. EATING ASHORE. The number of approved eating places in Kaoshuing is extremely limited. Sandwiches may be obtained at the EM Club. The Grand Hotel serves dinners at a price slightly less than Stateside cost. All other places should be avoided due to unsanitary conditions. The water of Kaoshuing is unfit to drink unless boiled and should be avoided except at the EM Club or Grand Hotel when ashore.

11. ENLISTED MEN'S CLUB. The club is located on the main street, Che Shien Road, about 10 blocks north of Pier 3. It's the "best bet" for liberty.

12. KAOSHUING RECREATION CENTER. Available to Chief and First Class Petty Officers.

13. GENERAL.

1. SHORE PATROL. We will normally be the only U.S. ship in port. We will provide the Shore Patrol and the Beach Guard. Give them your cooperation while ashore.

2. BARS. The 26 bars of Kaoshuing are located on the main road. Don't wander off the main road alone. It can be highly dangerous.

3. PEDICABS. Some pedicabs are "gypers." Set the cost before you climb in, and don't let him take you down the side-streets, especially if the y are poorly lighted. Stay alert.

4. SANPANS. The use of sanpans for any reason is prohibited. This rule bacame necessary due to the number of sailors who climbed into them to be taken back to their ship and ended up robbed and/or murdered.

5. BUMBOATS. The purchase of anything from bumboats is prohibited. Sentries will keep them well clear of the ship. Bumboats will try to approach the ship during the night selling "booze" and women. The facts speak for themselves. The "booze" is cheap whiskey, regardless of the bottle it's in, and has frequently ended in blindness for the man who drinks it. Last year, a man climbed down into a bumboat from the WILKINSON (with the aid of the sentry) to have himself a woman. He was next heard of 3 days later when he was found floating in the harbor -- dead.

6. ARGUMENTS. Avoid any and all arguments with Chinese or other strangers ashore. There are agents of Communist China who would like nothing better than to get an "incident" going. Remember the Taipei riots of a couple years ago when the U.S. Embassy and other U.S. agency offices were sacked and burned.

DON'T FOUL UP. THE BEST
LIBERTY PORTS ARE STILL
TO COME.



Ron Keeler recently emailed some pictures from Bill Rugg, from their time together in Korea. They were taken between 16 February and 13 March 1953, prior to Dad's tenure onboard, but the views would be familiar to him.

Quarters for entering port .  
   
Ice on forecastle. Ice on on Mt 51.  Korean coast in background
   
Chaho, North Korean peninsula. Package 4.
   

Highline transfer.  Stores coming aboard Trathen.

 
   
Market day at sea.  Looks like a DD or DDE. Bow , first day out of Japan on the way home.
Fire control plotting room. Ltjg Bill Bridges, LCDR Bob McKellar (XO), Ltjg Bill Rugg.
Triple Transfer. 
USS Picking (DD-685) coming up on port side of USS Boxer (CV-21).
Coming alongside USS Boxer for highline and fuel.
   
Jane Russell Hill. Back to Big Empty and Task Force 77.

I received a call from my stepmother in early August 2004, notifying me Dad was in ICU in a Bangkok hospital. Dad was dying. I boarded the very next plane and was at his bedside within a day. Dad lapsed in and out of consciousness over the next several days before passing. During that time, I checked his mailbox at JUSMAGTHAI, where the July edition of Ron Keeler's USS Trathen Association newsletter awaited. The newsletter's front page featured the very story which Dad had told me many times over my life, from early childhood onward. In fact, Ron's article mentioned both Dad and me by name! I read Ron's article to Dad with great excitement.





July 15, 2004

Dear Shipmates:

The USS Midway CV41 is now open as a museum at Navy Pier in San Diego, about two miles from the Holiday Inn Bayside, our reunion hotel. The Trathen operated with the Midway during the WESTPAC cruises. Bob Bauer was PN2 1958-1962. His son John set up a USS Trathen website as a tribute to his service. This incident with Midway is from that site.

The Trathen was supporting the Midway on patrol around the Quomoy and Matsu Islands just off the China Coast in the Taiwan Straight. Just after midnight, a jet fighter had missed two landing attempts and had only enough fuel for a third. After faining the third attempt, the pilot went up to 2,000 feet, ditched his plane, and ejected. Trathen was sent to rescue him and went to modified GQ. Upon landing in the water, the pilot fired three of his six distress flares in rapid succession, and the Trathen headed toward him for search and rescue. No one knows why he never fired any of the remaining three. The next two hours, Trathen went to "darkened ship," and there was absolute silence.

The crew was so fixated on searching for the downed pilot that no one noticed the massive Midway bearing down on the Trathen. Lt. Dennis Trone, Officer of the Deck, gave the order to veer, which saved the Trathen, by yards, from a cataclysmic collision.

Finally, at 0205, Pappy Pharr spotted the pilot, and a small crew took the gig out to bring him in. The swells were so high that it made it necessary to tack the gig into a wave to avoid capsizing, which made the downed pilot believe he was being abandoned. The bow hook eventually extended his arm, to which the pilot latched a "dead man's grip," requiring the bow hook to walk the length of the gig before he could pull him in.

After daybreak, the pilot was hoisted back over to the Midway in a bosun's chair. The offer of 50 gallons of ice cream was declined, but the crew did find satisfaction in learning the pilot had a family of five kids.

During Commander J.J. Hoblitzel's tenure as Commanding Officer, COM 7th Fleet sent a message to all ships in the area, "Typhoon in area. Go north." Now, Captain Hoblitzel held a Master's degree in meterology from the Naval War College in Monterey and had quite literally written the book on evasive action in response to sea storm patterns. In fact, Bob Bauer typed the book for him. Captain Hoblitzel responded, "Typhoon will go north. Recommend ships go west." COM 7th Fleet replied, "No, typhoon will go west. Ships must go north." The CO finally defied instruction. "No, typhoon will certainly go north. Trathen will head west." The Trathen did go west while the other ships went north. As Hoblitzel predicted, the typhoon also went north, ensnaring all other ships. The Trathen, guided by Hoblitzel's expertise and instinct, remained in calm waters. COM 7th Fleet radioed Hoblitzel next time asking, "Typhoon in area. What is your recommendation?"

Bob Bauer encountered 12 out of 14 typhoons on the Trathen before Hoblitzel took command. Under Hoblitzel, the Trathen avoided every single typhoon. The Navy sent his typhoon avoidance book to every ship in the Pacific.


Upon return, I emailed Ron:

You just can't imagine how much it meant to me, to share that article with Dad on his deathbed. "Hey Dad, look at this, you and I made the front page of the Trathen newsletter!" The timing of the publication, my arrival in Bangkok then checking his mailbox days prior to his death to find the newsletter, being able to share it with him while he was still responsive... it all came together very fortuitously.

Although I was born a couple years after Dad finished duty on the Trathen, I spent the next 4 decades hearing about his adventures aboard. Having grown up listening intently to sea stories, wearing old sailor caps in the summertime, seeing hanging in the closet the moth-eaten pea-coat with the Enfallen Gewien patch on the shoulder (which I later salvaged and have today, long ago discarding the coat), building the Fletcher Class destroyer plastic scale model and carefully applying the 530 decal on each side, travelling and living extensively abroad and ultimately marrying a Japanese girl... I feel I was there.

As late as Spring 2001 when Dad last visited me here in Virginia, he was telling simply awesome stories on the balcony. I told him I needed to record some of this, so I brought him into my computer and then hashed out the first draft of his webpage. After he departed back for Thailand, I finished the effort with scans of various photos and documents, then added my own commentary, and there you have it... a webpage that has attracted thousands of visitors.

I want Dad's shipmates to know the deep impact their service and their ship left on Dad, and in turn on me as his son. From before I was born, until the final hours of his life, the Trathen played a prominent role in Dad's experiences and memories. Must have been quite a ship! Please feel free to share my comments in your newsletter, since I expect fellow crewmen had similar impacts upon their own sons (possibly without knowing it).



What finally happened to the Trathen? Some time after decommissioning in 1972, the ship was towed off the coast of Southern California, used as target practice, and sunk. Certainly a sad and ignominious end to the life of a fine warship... but having provided valuable life experiences not otherwise possible, she lives on in the hearts of those who sailed her.