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Archive for May, 2011

I happened to be traveling the mountains of West Virginia today on a motorcycle trip and passed through the small town of Phillipi.  It is a lovely small town and most would find it a very desirable place to live.  I crossed a beautifully restored covered bridge that has the distinction of being the only covered in the U.S. of carrying a US highway across a river.  I believe the bridge has been mentioned in the Chronicles sometime in the past, but I thought you might find the following interesting.

Covered Bridges are part of America’s history, artifacts of the craftsmanship of the past, and picturesque reminders of another way of life. Seventeen covered bridges are still in existence in West Virginia. Many of these bridges serve modern traffic.

The covered bridge concept originated in central Europe. It featured a roof and siding that protected the wooden truss structure and contributed to its longevity. Even after the introduction of iron into the bridge building process, covered wooden bridges were inexpensive solutions for spanning the many creeks and rivers in West Virginia.

Best known of the West Virginia covered bridges is the Philippi Covered Bridge, built in 1852, a vital link on the old Staunton-Pakersburg turnpike. Today the two-lane “double barrel” structure serves as well as US Route 250 traffic. It is the nation’s only covered bridge serving a federal highway.

The Philippi Covered Bridge dates back to 1852, when the General Assembly of Virginia authorized the construction of the Beverly to Fairmont Turnpike. The turnpike required construction of two bridges, one across the Tygart River at Philippi and the other across the West Fork River at Hunsakers Ferry.

The Philippi bridge contract was awarded to Lemuel Chenoweth, who had built numerous covered bridges for the turnpike system. Constructed of yellow poplar, the bridge was 26 feet wide and 285 feet long, larger than most bridges of this time.

A tollgate was placed at the east end to collect fares from users. A horse and rider was charged 10 cents; carriages with two horses, 35 cents; head of cattle, 1.5 cents; a score of sheep, 5 cents.

 The Philippi covered Bridge was the site of the first land battle of the Civil War. On June 3, 1861, Union troops led a surprise attack on Confederate troops under the command of Colonel George Porterfield. The attack caused the Confederate troops to retreat. Union troops took command of the bridge and used it as a barracks. The victory strengthened the Union position in western Virginia and discouraged secessionist movements.

The Philippi Covered Bridge has endured floods, fires, and structural modifications. Renovations to the bridge in 1938 replaced the wooden deck with concrete. On February 2, 1989, the bridge was severely damaged by fire. An extensive rdaddphp.4 million restoration project was begun by local preservationists with the goal of restoring the bridge to its original condition.

The two-year historical restoration project repaired the fire-damaged timbers and built new ones of West Virginia to its original appearance.

Today the Philippi Covered Bridge is an authentic representation of the bridge during the American Civil War, with a few additions to make it compatible with modern highway requirements. Traffic loads are supported on a reinforced concrete deck, which in turn is supported on steel girders. Modern additions (a smoke detector, sprinkler system, and lighting) have been discretely installed so as not to detract from the historic character.

Plans for the restoration of the bridge began immediately after the 1989 fire. With the support of Governor Gaston Caperton, a committee of local officials and citizens decided that the restoration project would return the bridge to its original appearance featured the rounded arch entrances, horizontal siding, and a roof of red wooden shingles.

Restoration work took place under a plastic “cocoon” which provided shelter and space for the preparation and repair of major structural elements using epoxy and other modern repair techniques. The historical restoration was directed by bridge historian and West Virginia University Professor Emory Kemp.

Members of the West Virginia Forestry Association, who had a special affection for the sturdy wooden bridge, furnished yellow poplar logs, 31/2 feet across, to replace structural members which could not be repaired. Because the logs were too large for modern sawmills, a special sawmill was set up in near by Belington to saw the logs into rough shapes and sizes. Local carpenters learned restoration techniques and 19th century carpentry methods for the project. Using hand tools, they fashioned the beams. Forestry Association members also contributed the horizontal poplar siding and poplar shingles for the roof.

The historic Philippi Covered Bridge was reopened for public use on September 16, 1991

 

 
 
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The below is self explanatory:

I just wanted to let you all know that a lady who was from the Fort Gay area has died.  Her name is Jerrie Savage.  I am not sure if you all knew her or recall who she is but I wanted to let someone know because her obituary has not been published as far as I can tell.  I think she had five children, three boys and two girls.  One of her sons is named Jack and he is near my age.  Jerrie and her sister Dorothy and her son Jack have lived in the Warner Robins, Georgia area for many years.  She was 97 years old.  For many years she led a prayer and Bible study program on the local public access television network here in this area.  According to her son, Jack, there will be a visitation at Young’s Funeral Home in Louisa sometime tomorrow, Thursday, but since the obit has not been published I am not sure of the time.

Bill Wellman

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Today’s weather forecast for my “neck of the woods” if for the possibilities of rain and perhaps the threat of severe storms.  Ho hum, that has been the forecast for the last several months.  We are ahead of the average monthly rainfall for May by 2 inches with a week to go.  We are ahead of the year to date average by 13 inches.  I am guessing that those figures are pretty much the norm for most of the Eastern U.S. and the Mississippi Valley.  Even with all of that rain, we have not had flooding problems where I live.  It seems that our rainfall has been at steady rates over a period of time which permits time for runoff at a slow rate, rather than all at once.  We do lift up in prayer those who are suffering the loss of homes and lives of loved ones up and down the Mississippi Valley.  We especially lift up those folks who are suffering due to the huge outbreak of tornadic activity in the west, mid-west, and the south-east.  I am sure there are those that  will read this that have been affected and we offer special prayers on your behalf. 

As mentioned in past posts, I grew up on a farm in the rural community of Queens Creek.  I don’t remember as a child of hearing about tornadoes in our area or areas even close to us.  Perhaps they did and those were not important enough news events to keep our attention.  I do remember an Uncle that grew up on a wheat farm in Kansas and he would tell us stories about the tornadoes that occurred there.  One story that remains in my memory of his talking about the tornado driving wheat straws into tree trunks with such force that  they could not be extracted without breaking the straw.  I had difficulty imagining that as a child but today I am sure it did happen.

I am assuming that everyone know what a foot log is or was.  If not, it was a log that was placed across a creek to permit ones crossing that creek at times of high water without danger of drowning or getting very wet.  I looked up the term “foot log” in that great provider of information, Google and Yahoo.  The only definition given was that it was a dimensioned timber, so they apparently had never heard of it.  Maybe it was a term only used on Queens Creek, and if so it is really nice to have something to claim as an exclusive.  The foot log was generally a log with one side hewn flat that permitted a narrow space to walk on while crossing a creek.  Some were two logs laid side by side with some short boards nailed across that provided a more expansive area for walking.  Some had hand rails attached and others did not which made for a fine balancing act while crossing a raging stream.

Queens Creek was a small stream of about 3 miles length, which had its headwaters in the Eli Workman property area,  that provided drainage for the surrounding hills and fields of the farm land situated there.  It was a pretty docile stream that contained no water holes to deeps to safely walk through.  It was fed by many small dry weather creeks coming out of the hollows or “hollers” as we called them back then.  I mentioned it as being docile but let an inch or two of rain fall over a short period of time and it became a raging deluge and “KATIE , BAR THE DOOR”, there went the foot logs.  Now, with the foot logs gone, obviously one couldn’t cross the creek, therefore, that meant no  school.  To say that we, as children, enjoyed that would be an understatement.  Sometimes though, our parents would hitch up a horse and ferry us across and our hopes of a vacation would be dashed.  It was great fun making paper boats, small wooden boats made from a flat piece of wood, crafting something from the pith in a cornstalk or a corncob, and launching it into the torrent never to be seen again.  You might crew it with a bug or some other small creature you had picked from the ground, all the time wishing you could be in its place on the small craft.

If the creek crossed the road near your property, it seemed that it was your turn to replace the foot log when it disappeared in the flood.  I only remember there being on bridge on Queens Creek and it was located at the intersection of our farm and the Walter Boys property.  It seemed so high and it was such a measure of you bravery and development when you finally “did the deed” and jumped off of it into the sand and gravel bar that was under the bridge.  It seemed so high at the time, but in reality was probably no more that six feet. 

There were a few culverts, a pipe buried beneath the road to allow for the passage of a small stream without disrupting traffic in times of wet weather.  These would usually would get stopped up from leaves, limbs, and other debris and the water would overflow the road anyway.

Some of  the larger streams and communities would have swinging bridges to cross their streams.  Not such a luxury for us.  I am sure that it was impossible to find timber long enough to cross these streams thereby the need for the suspension walkways.  This mode of stream crossing is still popular throughout the rural areas of Appalachia.  I do  recall it being quite fun as a child to trap a couple of girls in the middle of a swinging bridge and begin to jump up and down on it.  It would do some pretty violent movements and illicit shrill screaming on the part of the girls.  I remember that after moving to Kentucky, I had an occasion to cross an automobile swinging bridge deep in Eastern Kentucky.  It was brought about by my taking a short cut to another area and when I came upon the swinging bridge it was simply to late to turn and go back another way.  If you ever thought foot bridges were fun, try an oversized on in an automobile. 

I mentioned motorcycles in the title of this post and you might wonder what connection it has to the rest.  Not much, actually.  I do remember seeing a motorcycle only once while growing up on “the creek”.  That happened when a couple of guys came up the creek to visit some girls.  Due to the rutted and uneven condition of the road, it would have been necessary to have literally walked the bike.  For you who rides motorcycles, walking a bike means that you simply put both feet down and travel a few feet at a time, all of the while maneuvering to keep the machine upright and avoiding objects.  It can really be tiring.  The same thing happens when riding in heavy traffic that is stop and go in which movement is a few feet and then stopping.  It gets very tiring and on a hot day really uncomfortable.  I don’t remember the young men ever coming back.  

Early on in this post I used the term, “Katie, bar the door.”  I have heard it used all of my life and you probably have also without giving it any thought.  It simply means, “look out, something is going to happen and it probably ain’t good” .  I decided to look up the origins of the saying and went again to the all-wise Google and  Yahoo.  There seems to be no agreement on where or how it originated but it seems to be widely used in the south and in Appalachia.  I am including below some of the things that I liked and perhaps you will also.  To wit:

This phrase is little used outside the USA. It may or may not have originated there. The first known use in print of Katy bar the door with the meaning of ‘trouble is in store‘ is in James Whitcomb Riley’s poem When Lide Married Him, 1894:

When Lide married him – w’y, she had to jes dee-fy
The whole poppilation! – But she never bat’ an eye!
Her parents begged, and threatened – she must give him up – that he
Wuz jes “a common drunkard!” – And he wuz, appearantly.
Swore they’d chase him off the place
Ef he ever showed his face
Long after she’d eloped with him and married him fer shore!
When Lide married him, it wuz “Katy, bar the door!”

Riley’s work can’t be the origin of the expression though as his readers would have had to have been familiar with it in order to make sense of the poem.

One suggestion as to the origin of the phrase is that it comes from the traditional Scottish folk-song ‘Get Up and Bar the Door‘. This was published by the Scottish song collector and editor David Herd, in his collection Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs, Heroic Ballads, etc., 1776. The basis of the song is the stubbornness of a husband and wife who disagree about who should lock the door to their house and make a pact that whoever speaks first should do it, thereby allowing ‘two gentlemen’ to enter the house uninvited:

It fell about the Martinmas time,
And a gay time it was then,
When our good wife got puddings to make,
And she’s boild them in the pan.

The wind sae cauld blew south and north,
And blew into the floor;
Quoth our goodman to our goodwife,
“Gae out and bar the door.”

Then by there came two gentlemen,
At twelve o’clock at night,
And they could neither see house nor hall,
Nor coal nor candle-light.

“Now whether is this a rich man’s house,
Or whether is it a poor?”
But neer a word wad ane o them speak,
For barring of the door.

And first they ate the white puddings,
And then they ate the black;
Tho muckle thought the goodwife to hersel,
Yet neer a word she spake.

Then said the one unto the other,
“Here, man, tak ye my knife;
Do ye tak aff the auld man’s beard,
And I’ll kiss the goodwife.”

“But there’s nae water in the house,
And what shall we do than?”
“What ails thee at the pudding-broo,
That boils into the pan?”

O up then started our goodman,
An angry man was he:
“Will ye kiss my wife before my een,
And scad me wi pudding-bree?”

Then up and started our goodwife,
Gied three skips on the floor:
“Goodman, you’ve spoken the foremost word,
Get up and bar the door.”

The points against this being the phrase’s origin are that it doesn’t mention Katy and it isn’t American, although the latter point could be explained by the emigration of many Scots to the USA. It does, however, correspond with the meaning of the phrase, i.e. it links the failure to bar the door with impending trouble.

Another suggestion is that the phrase originates with the story of Catherine Douglas and her attempt to save the Scottish King James I. He was attacked by discontented subjects in Perth in 1437. The room he was in had a door with a missing locking bar. The story goes that Catherine Douglas tries to save him by barring the door with her arm. Her her arm was broken and the mob murdered the King. The ‘lass that barred the door‘ – Catherine Douglas, was henceforth known as Catherine Barlass. The story, although in it is the full Sir Walter Scott romantic history style, is quite well documented from contemporary records and the descendants of Catherine Douglas still use the Barlass name.

The event was commemorated in Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s poem The King’s Tragedy, 1881. The full poem is 173 stanzas, but this selection shows the possible links with Katy bar the door:

Then the Queen cried, “Catherine, keep the door,
And I to this will suffice!”
At her word I rose all dazed to my feet,
And my heart was fire and ice.

Like iron felt my arm, as through
The staple I made it pass:-
Alack! it was flesh and bone – no more! 570
‘Twas Catherine Douglas sprang to the door,
But I fell back Kate Barlass.

Which, if either, of the above explanations is correct is uncertain. The Kate Barlass story appears to have the stronger claim.

Finally, referring back to motorcycles.  I am leaving tomorrow on a motorcycle trip to upstate WV to do a few days of regional riding, picture-taking, eating, and just plain relaxing.  Upon returning on  Tuesday, May 31st. I plan to travel to Tolsia High School to present the FGHS Memorial Scholarship to a lucky young graduating student.  In that we keep this as a surprise the name will not be revealed until after the award is made.  The Tolsia HS awards is a pleasant event to attend.  If you are in the area, the affair begins at 12 noon on Tuesday, May 31 in the gym of the high school .  You would be most welcome and I think you would find it rewarding to view the group toward which our scholarship efforts are directed.

TO ALL, HAVE A HAPPY AND SAFE MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND.  PRAYERS FOR TRAVEL MERCIES FOR THOSE WHO ARE OR WILL BE ON THE ROAD…..ABOVE ALL, PRAY FOR OUR BRAVE SOLDIERS, SAILORS, MARINES, AND AIRMEN WHO ARE LAYING THEIR LIVES ON THE LINE EACH DAY TO PROTECT OUR FREEDOM.  ESPECIALLY PRAY FOR THE FAMILYS WHOSE LOVED ONES HAVE MADE THE SUPREME SACRIFICE, NOT JUST IN THIS CURRENT CONFLICT, BUT IN  ALL OF THE  CONFLICTS THAT OCCURRED IN THE CAUSE OF FREEDOM.

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I received the below from Gary Huff, President of “The Paddle Creek Golf Club” who lives in Fishers.  IN.  This might have appeared some time earlier in the Viking Chronicles but if so, it is well worth repeating.  Gary begins below.

“I was doing some genealogy research and ran across this article.  I thought it might be interesting for the Viking Chronicles.  Enjoy.”

Wayne County News
October 27, 1927

HOW TUG FORK OF SANDY WAS NAMED, IS TOLD

Few people know the interesting story connected with the Tug Fork of Big Sandy River, which borders Wayne County for half the entire length of the county’s western boundary, says The Big Sandy News.

There are a few persons now living who have seen the gas burning on the waters of Tug as it came out of the bowels of the earth and up through the bed of the river near Kermit. The blaze was extinguished many years ago after it had burned for no one knows how long. But, few are the people, very few, who know that this “burning spring” played a prominent part in naming of the river which now separates the states of West Virginia and Kentucky.

Few have heard of the little band of soldiers sent out in the fall of 1757 to establish a fort at the mouth of the “Great Sandy,” how they camped one night at these “burning springs,” killed two buffaloes and hung their skins on a beech tree near the blazes from the water; how they were overtaken two days later by a messenger as they were within a few miles of their destination and ordered to return to Virginia; how they killed their pack horses in the middle of winter and ate them after their provisions had become exhausted and the proximity of Indians prevented their firing a gun or kindling a fire; how many of them perished from cold and hunger, and how, when they retraced their steps to return to Fort Dinwiddle, 300 miles away, and arriving again at the “burning springs,” the officers took down from the beech tree the two buffalo skins, now warmed by the gas flames, and cutting them into tugs gave each soldier a tug to last him as food until they arrived home. All this is condensed into the name of the north fork of Big Sandy–and perhaps more. Yet, it has all but been forgotten. A leatherbound book dimmed and faded by age, found in a group of discarded possessions, is perhaps all that has preserved this interesting history for the future generations which will inhabit the valley and flourish.
 

Gary A. Huff

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To quote a well known line from the movie “The Shining” he is back.  I speak, of course, of your humble writer of most of the material on this blog site.  I must appoligize for the two or three weeks  time span of no new postings of current events, funny stories, FGHS Alumni news, and “tall tales”, and all you ever wanted to know about Queens Creek, however, I have been very busy with tasks, chores, and all of the things that are needed to keep house, body, and soul together.  That being said I thought  that a new posting era might best begin with a little Monday morning humor.  The following was sent by Bill Wellman and is so true ,yet absolutely hilarous.  For those of you that have owned pets will know what I mean.  Another post later today will deal with some Fort Gay area history.  So come back often.

 

The Story of Adam & Eve’s Pets  

Adam and Eve said, ‘Lord, when we were in the garden, you walked with us every day.

 Now we do not see you any more. 

We are lonesome here, and it is difficult for us to remember how much you love us.’  

 And God said, I will create a companion for you that will be with you.

 This creature will be a reflection of my love for you, so that you will love me even when you cannot see me.

 Regardless of how selfish or childish or unlovable you may be, this new companion will accept you as you are and will love you as I do, in spite of yourselves.’  

And God created a new animal to be a companion for Adam and Eve. 

And it was a good animal and God was pleased.
  
And the new animal was pleased to be with Adam and Eve and he wagged his tail.  
And Adam said, ‘Lord, I have already named all the animals in the Kingdom 
and I cannot think of a name for this new animal.’
  

And God said, ‘I have created this new animal to be a reflection of my love for you, his name will be a reflection of my own name, and you will call him DOG.’ 

  
And Dog lived with Adam and Eve and was a companion to them and loved them.  

And they were comforted.  And God was pleased.  
And Dog was content and wagged his tail.   

After a while, it came to pass that an angel came to the Lord and said, 

‘Lord, Adam and Eve have become filled with pride. 

They strut and preen like peacocks and they believe they are worthy of adoration.

Dog has indeed taught them that they are loved, but perhaps too well.’  

And God said, I will create for them a companion who will be with them 
and who will see them as they are. 

The companion will remind them of their limitations, so they will know that they are not always worthy of adoration.’  

And God created CAT to be a companion to Adam and Eve.
  

And Cat would not obey them. And when Adam and Eve gazed into Cat’s eyes,


they were reminded that they were not the supreme beings.

And Adam and Eve learned humility.  

And they were greatly improved.   

And God was pleased..  And Dog was happy.
  

And the Cat . . .


  
Pretty much didn’t give a s##t one way or the other.

 

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 Having served in the U.S. Navy, I have an interest in anything Navy.  Although my service was all with the Navy “Sea Bees”, I have always had an interest in the ways war was waged by the Navy and the ships engaged in these operations.  The article listed below was something I ran onto that I thought some of you who have an interest in Naval history might enjoy.  Certainly it is something that most younger people ever heard of.  Enjoy as I did.

Welcome to Splinter Fleet devoted exclusively to the wooden SC Subchaser, the smallest commissioned warship of the U. S. Navy during World Wars I and II.

Over 40,000 men served on subchasers in World War II, and in those days the word “Subchaser” was as familiar to the folks at home as the words “PT Boat,” “Tin Can Destroyer,” “Liberty Ship” and “Jeep Carrier.” Today only the people who lived during that time remember that subchasers existed and even many of these have forgotten about them. That’s because subchasers didn’t have the glamour of PT boats, the power and speed of destroyers, or the silent mystery of the submarines. Consequently they weren’t romanticized by the media and kept in the public eye.

Subchasers (also called “submarine chasers”) were built and launched in great haste at the outset of World War II because German U boats were roaming the Atlantic at will, unopposed, sinking merchant vessels with complete abandon with no regard for neutrality. They were doing this at an alarming rate. Tens of thousands of tons of valuable cargo were being sunk almost daily, some within sight of our shores. The Germans were so bold and aggressive their U boats even landed counteragents on beaches in Maine and in Florida. In the summer of 1942 U boats sank more ships and took more lives than were lost at Pearl Harbor. Most American citizens were unaware of the seriousness of our situation, but the navy knew, and the U boat menace became our navy’s #1 priority even at the cost of delaying our response to the Japanese aggression in the Pacific.

The U.S. navy had been virtually destroyed at Pearl Harbor. On the entire east coast we had only one bona fide antisubmarine vessel. Something had to be done quickly to stop the U boats. The big shipyards were backed up with contracts for building carriers, cruisers and destroyers and steel was allocated for these as well as tanks, guns and many other military devices.

SC 648 at Hollandia New Guinea 1944.SC 648 at Hollandia New Guinea 1944.

Subchasers could be built of wood in small boatyards on both coasts and the Great Lakes and Gulf regions. They could be built fairly quickly (60 to 120 days depending on availability of materials and components) by craftsmen who knew how to build wooden boats. Many of the boatyards were small, family-owned businesses, only a few of which exist today. The navy wasted no time letting out contracts to fifty such boat yards. By the time the war ended 438 wooden SC subchasers had been launched and commissioned.

At this stage of the war subchasers and aircraft patrols were the only means of defense against the U boats. But though they were sturdy and very seaworthy little vessels everyone knew from the beginning they were inadequate, both in size and armament, to effectively destroy the U boat scourge. When surfaced, a German submarine could go faster, and its 4″ guns had much longer range than the 3″ 50 or 40mm guns on the subchaser, so all the U boat had to do was get out of range and sink the subchaser with its cannon on its own terms. But the subchasers were a real nuisance to the U boats because the U boat was only effective (except at night when working in wolf packs) when it was below the surface at periscope depth sighting and aiming at an enemy ship at which to fire its torpedoes. So respectful were U boats of the potency of the subchaser one U boat commander circulated the following advice to fellow U boats:

‘The small subchasers are dangerous because of their silhouettes, which often don’t show up in the periscope. On the surface they can be detected by their wake but not by their shadow. If they would ever learn to patrol at slow speed, they would be fatal.’

Once a subchaser detected the presence of a U boat with its sonar equipment it had a big advantage. The subchaser could attack with depth charges. It could force the U boat to stay submerged and thus drain its batteries (for oxygen supply). In this situation the U boat would be unable to attack, thus rendering it powerless and allowing ships of a convoy to proceed unharmed.

When larger ships such as destroyers and destroyer-escorts became available the subchasers continued to escort and screen for submarines but they were no longer our first line of defense. The destroyers and DEs combined with naval airplanes to form killer groups that could search and destroy the U boats very effectively. It was in this way that the U boat threat was eliminated and the Battle of the Atlantic was won. Throughout the war nevertheless, the little subchasers provided antisubmarine escort for innumerable convoys of ships and continued to patrol harbor entrances while screening for enemy submarines.

When not engaged in escorting convoys or patrolling harbors the subchasers were used in a variety of ways in all theaters of the war. They were ideally suited for landing control work in hundreds of amphibious landings in the Mediterranean and the Pacific. Quiet in operation, maneuverable, and with their shallow draft, the SCs could get in close to the beaches and guide the waves of landing boats assaulting the beachhead, after which they served as a communication center for beachmasters and landing control officers. In the days following the landing they would patrol the area, lay smoke screens, rescue downed pilots, ferry personnel and perform other necessary duties. Some subchasers were equipped for shallow water mine sweeping and were called upon several times to perform this highly dangerous work prior to D-day.

Eight subchasers were converted to PGM gunboats and used to advantage in the liberation of the Philippines. Four gunboats were sent up the Mindanao River to Fort Pikit, which they captured. It was the first time since the Civil War that commissioned naval vessels operated behind enemy lines.

In the entire war only one subchaser received official credit for sinking an enemy submarine, despite numerous depth charge attacks made by SCs throughout the war against underwater objects. On 12 July 1943 SC 669 sank Japanese submarine RO 107 off Kolombangara Island in the central Solomons.

SC 648 plows into heavy seas.SC 648 plows into heavy seas.

Sometimes when I ask people if they know what a subchaser was they’ll hesitate, then ask, “Wasn’t it something like a PT boat?” The answer of course, is an emphatic “No!” SCs were 110′ long while PT boats were only 80′ long. Subchasers were not high speed vessels as their name implies. Their normal cruising speed was 12 knots and their flank speed seldom could get up to 20 knots, whereas a PT boat could do 40 knots or better. SCs were designed to search and destroy underwater submarines while PT boats were designed for high speed surface warfare. Finally, as stated earlier, SCs were individually commissioned warships of the navy. PT boats were not commissioned individually but collectively in squadrons.

The normal complement on a subchaser was 3 officers and 24 enlisted men. The officers and enlisted men who served aboard SCs were mostly reservists, unaccustomed to the rigid ways of the navy and lacking the finer points of ship discipline and formality. Many of the officers were recent college graduates, with only 90 days of basic training and an additional 60 days of specialized training at SCTC (Subchaser Training Center, Miami.) The “Ninety-day Wonders” and their free-wheeling, often scruffy-looking crews ignored many of the ways of the regulation navy and settled for their own set of rules. They were sometimes called the “Donald Duck Navy” but most subchaser men didn’t mind. They were a proud lot and many an ex-subchaser sailor who saw service on other ships says he is most proud of his subchaser days.

At sea the subchasers were rough-riding bucking broncos. Their narrow beam and shallow draft produced a constant roll – even in protected waters – which could cause queasiness for many experienced sailors. In heavy seas the tendency to roll combined with a violent pitching motion, causing the ship to corkscrew, precluding any chance for real rest or sleeping. Seasickness was common among subchaser sailors, particularly on the first day out after being in port several days.

Having served on U.S.S. SC 648 for two years in the Southwest Pacific during World War II (the last nine months of that service as her commanding officer), and having authored two books about the 110′ SC wooden subchasers of WWII, I welcome letters and email from anyone with a story about a particular subchaser or about someone who served aboard a subchaser. But please don’t ask how to locate shipmates, service records, diaries or logbooks. Instead, use the links on the Subchaser Information Sources page. Thanks.

 

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I think we all have moments in our lives when an event happens and it is of the magnitude that it  forever sears  the memory of what we were doing at that one moment in time in our memory for the rest of our lives. Examples of such would be where were you and what were you doing at the moment in time when the tragedy of Pearl Harbor was announced?  Another would have to be the surrender of Japan, thus ending a war brought on by the greed of an evil empire bent on forcing its will on democratic countries.  Certainly the attacks by militant muslims resulting in the death of some 3,000 Americans and citizens of other countries on September 11, 2000.

I awoke this morning to read of another event that will probably remain in the minds of all for the rest of their lives, the killing of Osama Bin Laden.  I think most people, if not all, had given up all hopes of catching him or surmised that he was already dead.  But not those who are charged with keeping you, me, and all of our citizens safe.  I speak of the American military and intelligence forces, not the politicians, but those young men and women who lay their lives on the line 24/7 on our behalf.  It truly was a great morning to awaken and glory in the fact that you were an American.

I received the following message and newspaper picture from Bill Wellman and I think it says it all in a few short sentences.  May God Bless America.

I just wanted others to know that I am grateful that one world menace has been eliminated.  The head of the evil octopus can no longer direct his evil terrorism against any more innocent people.  Now we must concentrate on the many tentacles of the evil beast.  I am thankful for the US Navy SEALS and each and every other component of the United States Military.

Bill Wellman

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