These are my rough draft notes that I started to put together
many months before I got the website going. I will eventually edit them, move parts of them elsewhere, etc. but I will "park"
them here for a bit before I refine them. Some of this has already been essentially duplicated elsewhere on this site and
I will try to edit out of this page anything that is elsewhere on the website.
TWELVE MONTHS BEFORE THE MAST
1955 - March 1956
My Account of My Time on the
USNS BARRETT (T-AP 196)
I spent about twelve months
aboard the BARRETT. I would like to share a little history with you, some pictures, some memories and recollections, and
possibly provide a place for some of the old crew to check in and muster again. Perhaps some of you who were passengers will
recognize and remember some of us. Maybe I can even eventually post some of your recollections.
First a thumbnail
sketch of my own history. My name is Jon Lee Gateley. I was born in April of 1936 in Miami, Florida. I went to kindergarten
somewhere in that area, I can't remember now where. I went through the fourth grade at the old South Beach Elementary School.
In the summer of 1946 my family came to California. We stayed with relatives in the Dallas, TX area for a few months but then
decided to move farther West where we again moved in with relatives. I went to what we then called “grammar school” in Oceano,
California and went to as much high school as I could stand in Arroyo Grande, California. (I have posted so much stuff on
so many pages over the last five years or so that I forget what I have and where. I also posted a "bio" on the "Money Page"
that is a bit different).
On classmates.com I have posted a number of photo albums and some information on the
I joined the Navy in July of 1952 when I was 16 (maybe more about that later). My parents, my
high school, and the juvenile court judge all “certified” that I was born in 1935 so I could get out of the San Luis Obispo
County jail and get to boot camp. In those days the services would still take a chance on you even if you had a long juvenile
record. And the recruiter would still take you even if he knew you were 16 as long as he had enough paperwork to show that
you were 17. I fulfilled my enlistment and was honorably discharged April 5, 1956. I had 4.0 conduct marks throughout my time
in the Navy. The Navy brought about an instantaneous change in me. I went to boot camp in San Diego and my first duty station
was the Pacific Reserve Fleet at Hunter’s Point in San Francisco. While there I went to Yeoman “A” School in San Diego and
then Military Justice School in Newport, Rhode Island. The BARRETT was my second and last duty station. I went aboard on
13 MAR 55 and left about 15 MAR 56.
After the Navy, I went back to school and graduated from UC Berkeley in 1960
and the law school there (Boalt Hall) in 1963 and was admitted to the California State Bar in January of 1964.I practiced
law in Watsonville, CA for about five years with Wyckoff, Parker Boyle & Pope. Then I went to San Francisco to work in the
legal bureau of the Worker's Compensation Appeals Board doing appellate work before the California Supreme Court as well as
the appellate courts. I became a workmen’s compensation judge in February of 1972 and retired in December of 1985, the very
first day that I was eligible! After all that education and experience, I couldn't wait to get out of the law business!
address and telephone number have been the same for thirty years and I expect to be here for thirty more. But if I should
find that magic place that is still calling to me, you can probably always find me on the state bar’s web site or on the state’s
real estate web site since I also have a broker’s license. I’m a licensed pilot so I suppose I’m listed somewhere with the
FAA. I’ll also try to keep current on the websites that help you find people, telephone numbers, and email addresses. And,
of course, eventually, you will find me on the Social Security Death Index website.
I’d like to share my scrapbook
with you and give you as many of of the names as I can remember as well as as much information about the crew and ship as
I can recall. I’ll throw in more information along the way. Regrettably, I will also tell you about the BARRETT’s ignominious
end. I will tell you that she had later been fitted with deck guns, fought heroically in the last battle of the war with
Atlantis, went to the bottom of Iron Bottom Sound with her guns blazing, and was a key element in winning that war. But
that’s not what really happened.
You, too, can find voluminous information about the BARRETT on the internet just
by using “USNS BARRETT” as your search guide. I will acknowledge, with much gratitude, many of those sites and contributors
as I go along.
One of the first sites I visited was that of the MSTS Society (http://www.msts-society.com/history.html).
They have some great information there and some links to a video that is available along with some photos from that video
that you can enlarge. (4 MAY 07: Unfortunately this site has been completely gone for quite some time now. I would imagine
that it will never be back. So many of these sites are one or two man sites, like mine, and when the "webmaster" is gone,
the site goes also) There was a paragraph there that struck me when I first read it but that continued to grow in significance
as I searched more and remembered more. The paragraph is:
“Just as was the case for those who sailed in the era
of the trans-oceanic passenger liners, the millions of military personnel and dependents who were associated, albeit briefly,
in most cases perhaps for a few weeks, with these ships will nevertheless long remember them, for those associations invariably
occurred during important junctures in their lives. Distances seemed greater, traveling time much longer, good-byes perhaps
I think this statement will gain greater and greater meaning for you as you contemplate the “B’s” history
and the criss-crossing of lives that centered around her. She even is found in the annals of infamy in the Warren Commission
Report. (http://www.jfk-assassination.de/WCR/app13.html) None other than Lee Harvey Oswald, as a young marine, returned from
Japan to San Francisco on the “B” in November of 1958 on his way to infamy. At the time, Kennedy was a U.S. Senator from
Massachusetts. Undoubtedly, neither of them was aware of even the existence of the other.
Since the demise of
the MSTS Society website I have decided to copy as much material as possible (photos, text, etc) just in case more of these
sites go down. Now I don't use the stuff but I do have it in case there is no place else to find it. I regret that I did
not copy from the MSTS Society site but I just figured that it would be around "forever"! Wrong again! If I live long enough
I may not be so dumb. UPDATE 28 JAN 08: The MSTS Society is BACK with a slight change of URL and content. It is now http://www.msts-history.org/.
I'll put it back on the LINKS page.
The responsibility for actually running the ship was not ours. It was
run by civilian merchant marines. They had their own crew quarters and we didn’t really mix a whole lot although I remember
being occasionally in their quarters area. I was pretty much all over that ship but as I was reading about her engines on
one web site it dawned on me that I don’t think I ever was in the engine room. I think I looked in the door one time and
that was the closest I came to the engine room. Nor do I think I was on the bridge more than once, if that.
We were called the Military Department and our responsibility was for the passengers, those on the upper decks (cabin class)
and those on the lower deck in the troop compartments. Cabin class were officers, women and children, and civilian federal
employees being transferred. In actuality we had very little, if any, responsibility for the troops. They had their own commissioned
and non-commissioned officers. As I recall, we didn’t even check them on and off. They did all that themselves and ran their
own mess hall. We ran a ship’s store and soda fountain in the troop class and in the cabin class. I guess our medical personnel
tended to the troops needs but I was not part of that and never did know exactly what they did or when. We did have a troop
deck sickbay but I never saw anyone in there except for a MilDep person taking a nap when they didn’t want to be found in
We wore “Military Department” badges that were three to four inches in diameter, sort of gold and
black in color, I think they had the MSTS logo on them, and in black they said “Military Department”. I did keep one as a
souvenir but I haven’t seen it in the last 25 years or so but I’ll bet I do still have it somewhere. Most of us did wear
them and you will see some of these badges being worn in the photos.
During my twelve months on the “B” the ship
pretty much made the same trip over and over. Left San Francisco from Fort Mason for Hawaii. Then anchored briefly at Kwajalein.
Then Guam. Then Manila in the Philippines. Then Subic Bay for a few hours or maybe overnight. Then back home the same way.
The round trip was roughly thirty days. We were usually overnight in Oahu, sometimes overnight in Guam, and usually two to
three days in Manila.
Time has had an odd effect on my memory. Some things I can remember plainly, others, not
at all. In between are things I sort of remember and can remember them better when someone or something refreshes my memory.
Our officer complement was six, as I recall. Commanding Officer, Executive Officer, a billet called a Division Officer, Doctor,
Nurse and Chaplain. I’ll list as many of the enlisted complement as I can remember from pictures and other information and
then see if I can get a count.
The C.O. when I went aboard was Lieutenant Commander (Lcdr) A. H. Terry, a “mustang”
officer. Paul Johnson told me that LCDR TERRY had been interned in the Philippines by the Japanese during WWII when the Philippines
fell and he was an enlisted man then. He was replaced (retired, I believe) sometime during my cruise with Lcdr “Bob” Bidwell.
A “mustang”, as I remember, was an officer who had risen through the enlisted ranks to become an officer. For most of them
there was the glass ceiling of Lieutenant Commander. Of course there were exceptions like Chuck Yaeger who wound up with
stars but the Yaeger's were rare and really had to be quite exceptional.
The X.O. when I went aboard was Lieutenant
(Lt) Prickett. His first name was "Ben", (probably Benjamin). He was also a “mustang” as I recall. Remember that in the
Navy then we called people by their last name or their nickname. Many of the crew’s names are only partially remembered by
me. When I list them, if I don’t know that part of their name, I will just put two small “x’s”, i.e. xx Jones or I’ll just
refer to them as “Jones” or by their nicknames. Lt Prickett was replaced (also retired, I think) during my twelve months by
a much younger officer Lt or Ltjg (a Lieutenant, junior grade) named Sharkey.
The Division Officer when I went
on board was Ltjg Ron Louis. We called him “Uncle Louie”. He was the scion of the Louis family that owned a number of Louis
Stores (grocery stores) in the Bay Area. He had gone to Stanford, I believe, and had majored or minored in music. At least
that was the "word". He was replaced during my twelve months by another Ltjg named “Skip” Wollenberg but Uncle Louie was
still aboard when I left in Mid March, 1956 for Treasure Island and my discharge because he signed my "Goodbye and Good Luck"
going away card.
Our doctor was Lt C. B. Sigal (according to his name stamp on my medical records) who was a
real doctor and a surgeon, even. I believe his middle name was Benjamin and that he went by that name. I later heard that
he served at the Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in Oakland after his tour on the “B”. Our nurse was Lt Janet Pohlman (I think).
chaplain, last but not least, was Ltjg William A. Getchey. After his Navy service, “the padre” worked in a few churches in
the Bay Area but eventually became a state park ranger in Sonoma County, California at the Jack London State Park. He and
I stayed in touch off and on forever but suddenly things from his end became quiet around 1999. I didn’t get any letters
from him or any phone calls. I called his number and got the old routine that the number was no longer in service and there
was no new number. I wrote to his address (he also lived in the same place for about 30 years with the same phone number)
but my mail was returned. He had spent his life also caring for his mother and her sister. I knew something had happened.
I tried to find him but couldn’t. I kept checking the social security death index and then one day his name was there. He
died February 16, 2001. RIP “padre”: 1926-2001. He must have suffered something like a stroke that really disabled him because
he would have contacted me if he could have.
We had two chief petty officers on board. One was in charge of the
corpsmen and the other in charge of everybody else. When I went on board Boatswain’s mate chief Maxwell was there, later
replaced to Chief Fredericks (“Chief Freddy”) who, I think, was also a boatswain’s mate. The chief corpsman was Chief Olsiewski
later replaced by Chief Eleyet.
The C.O., X.O., Doc and Nurse each had their own cabin. I think the D.O. and
Chaplain shared a cabin, I think the Chiefs shared a cabin, and the two girls from the medical department shared a cabin.
The rest of us were located on the troop deck, four men to a room.
I was the senior yeoman on board but really
had no responsibility for anyone but myself. I was a YN3 when I went aboard and made YN2 sometime later. It would have been
easy to become a YN1 within a year after being rated as a YN2 and I did think about staying in. At the time I had no real
education or finances and no particular future in the outside world. If I had stayed in high school, I would have graduated
with the class of ‘53. I did get a high school diploma from my old high school in January of ‘54 through a program called
the general education development program (GED). I enjoyed that “sailor suit” for about the first two years I was in but by
the time my enlistment was coming up I didn’t think it was so great and there was a minimum time wait between YN1 and Chief
Yeoman of three years. I didn’t want to wait that long. I decided to give the “outside” a try and I knew that I could always
come back within about ninety days, I think, at my old rank. I never did go back.
Aside about the Navy:
I had not been out of Military Justice School very long. I had graduated there in November of December of 1954. My training
would have been of some use there in the reserve fleet and the shipyard. But whatever then served as a “computer” over at
Commander, Western Sea Frontier at Treasure Island discovered that I was resting comfortably at Hunter’s Point, had already
overstayed my normal time there, and would probably be discharged from there if they didn’t route me out. So they sent me
somewhere where my training was absolutely worthless. When I “got the word” that ComWesSeaFrontier was “after me” I got on
the phone to other “wheeler-dealers” over there and managed to get myself assigned to the Barrett which, I had been assured,
was some of the “best duty” anybody could ask for. I guess it was.
I replaced another yeoman named Robert Rust.
He was also aboard for my first cruise showing me my “duties” which were practically none and which were “learnable” in about
five minutes! As I recall, I don't think I worked more than two or three hours a month! Ironically I did put in for an early
discharge. I was trying to get out in November or December of 1955 so I could start school in January. I went through all
the necessary paperwork, citation of authority, chain of command, etc. but somewhere up the line it was denied! What a laugh!
The Navy needed me? They couldn't do without me? They could have left my billet unfilled and nobody would have noticed. Even
if they had needed me, I was due to get out in April of 1956 and was discharged on April 5th. I was so important and filled
such a vital slot that the Navy couldn't get along without me for January, February and March of 1956! Well, that was the
Navy! I probably wouldn't have started school in January anyway. I was just getting "antsy" to get out.
yeoman, Paul David Johnson, YNSN, was aboard for my whole cruise and worked in the purser’s office. The chaplain also had
a yeoman. The only other yeomen I remember during my cruise were John Bell (transferred to Formosa), xx Fortson, YNSN, and
xx Boettiger, YNSN, transferred to Kwajalein. I think all of these men were assigned to the chaplain. Bell and Boettiger
were on board at the same time and both were transferred at the same time, sometime around June of 1955.
three electricians on board. Steve Ellis from Oakland (a “character”) , xx Smith (“Smitty with the crew cut” to distinguish
him from Smitty in the medical department) and xx Moore. Smitty and Moore were fairly quiet.
It was the medical
department that was well stocked with people. Here’s the list as I remember them:
Slicer, HM3 (James, I
Had been pretty
badly wounded with the
Paulino (from Guam,
Gibbs, HM3 (maybe Gibs)
Salazar HM2 (?),
Wadley (?.. maybe was
And there were two female
corpsman from the
Coronation Helm (“Connie”), and Mary Ann
Then we had our great ship's servicemen who ran the ship’s stores and, most importantly, the soda fountains.
I think there had to be at least five of them but can’t seem to get a handle on their names. Their “leader” was William W.
Podczervinski SH2 (“Big Ski”
because he was taller)
SH3 (“Little Ski” who made
SH2 with some help from his
(can’t remember whether he
was an electrician, corpsman or
Sader (a SHSN, I think).
Bill Silver is the one who went on the become a “mustang” supply officer eventually
retiring as a Lcdr. I last spoke with him in July of 1996. He was living in St. Marie, Mt. He was a good man, good friend,
and good sailor. The Navy got more than their money’s worth with him. He had a good sense of humor, had fun, appreciated
jokes, pulled some jokes himself, but ran those ship’s stores and soda fountains strictly “by the book”. His areas were about
the only areas on the ship that the “wheeler-dealers” had not acquired keys for. We all did, however, have access (keys) to
the soda fountains and were free to whip ourselves up anything we wanted there at any time of the night or day. (Update:
Bill and I stay in regular contact now.)
Paul Johnson and I stayed in touch for a short period of time. When
he first got out he was frying hamburgers for Bob’s Big Boy down in the L.A. area. Then we lost touch for many years. Then
about 1987 or 88 he called me. I had a premonition before his call that I would be hearing from him soon. He and his wife,
Carolyn, met us in Pismo Beach (my wife, Sandy, came along) and we had a great visit going through old pictures and history.
We talked a few times after that and then I lost touch with him again. His phone number was disconnected and mail to him
was returned. He had been living in Pleasanton and had bought some property in Livermore and was going to build there when
I last talked to him.
Before that he had been with Motorola and was a high-up person or manager for them in
the Northern California region but when we got together he and a partner had started some new business in San Francisco.
I can’t remember the name or the nature of the business. In October of 1995 I contacted someone at the business number he
had given me and they told me that he had retired about a year or a year and a half before that and moved out of state up
to Oregon or Washington. I haven’t been able to locate him since then. I know that he has at least one son and one daughter.
I believe that his parents had been missionaries at one time in India. I don't recall the church or denomination that they
were affiliated with.
I can’t remember what the future plans of most of the crew was. I do recall that Gibbs
was contemplating dentistry and I think that Smitty was likewise going to do something in the medical field in civilian life.
crew was considerably varied but got along well. There were only two crewmembers that I didn’t particularly care for. Chief
Maxwell and I clashed a lot but I’m not aware that he clashed with anyone else but then, neither did I. There really was no
reason for it. Although he nominally supervised all of us who were not in the medical department, he and I really had no
contact with each other. He aspired to go further in the Navy as a warrant officer or a “mustang” officer. I never heard
what became of him.
Chief Freddy who replaced Maxwell was also a boatswain’s mate but was loved by the whole
crew. He was one of those guys who was so liked that nobody wanted to be the cause of any grief or trouble for him and so
the crew hummed along beautifully just because of his presence.
THIS IS STUFF TO BE PUT IN SOMEWHERE:
GIVE SPECS AND DATES
ping pong, drinking,
pesos, yellow bar, Pasay City.
surgeries, tattoos, circumcision
Liberty, Oakland Supply Depot
insomnia, hours of sleep
the fate of the B
Barrettians? Soft or hard “t”?
the other guys websites and accounts of the B
updates & additions
The master key caper
The seabat routine