1st Korean Cruise (1951-52)

“First Day At Sea Off The Korean Coastline”

Memory from: Sonarman 3rd class Brodie Ernenwein

Setting the Scene

For someone who has never before been to sea, their first days aboard ship can be quite an eye-opening experience, particularly during wartime. The following recollection comes from Sonarman 3rd class Brodie Ernenwein and recounts his own first day at sea during the Korean War.

The Recollection

My friend, Phil Hartsfield, and I, after graduating from Fleet Sonar School, were finally ready to join the Fleet (Task Force 77) somewhere around October 1951. I recall how Commander Jeffrey was such an excellent ship handler in contrast to the other ships that had come alongside to transfer sailors or other goods. The KIDD pulled alongside with her Jolly Roger flying. The heaving line was tossed all of twenty feet. We “highlined” across and were welcomed by our new shipmates. We were assigned to Quartermaster Chief Leo. He was to be our “mother hen” or whatever. Before retiring in our temporary bunks on the port side of the crew’s mess, Chief Leo told us that if General Quarters were sounded, we were to report to him on the bridge. As we got ready for our first night at sea aboard our very own ship, my friend, in the process of getting ready to “hit the sack,” placed his shoes at the edge of the passageway and went off to a sound and excited night’s sleep. At approximately 0200, General Quarters sounded. By the time we had gathered our wits and gotten our clothes on, everyone else was gone. My friend was missing a shoe, but we eventually found it and started to proceed to our battle station. We soon discovered that the main hatch had been secured. (We later learned this was standard for General Quarters). After some discussion, we opened the small hatch [scuttle] and quickly secured it and proceeded to our battle stations on the bridge. We were making flank speed. (I found this out later.)

Chief Leo sent me down to the main deck just aft of the number one five-inch gun to get life preservers and battle helmets that were in a large net hanging from the 02 deck forward bulkhead. While hanging on for dear life and getting soaked from the waves, I managed to grab two life jackets and battle helmets. As I stood up, we hit a mine. I was knocked down and felt a burning sensation. For a moment, I thought that I was going to die my first night at sea. Finally, common sense took over. What I thought was a mine was in reality the number one five-inch gun firing at a very low angle that was aimed aft near where I was standing. (I was later told that the pain and burning sensation was the cork used to separate the powder from the charge. Also, the loud ringing was in fact the gun training toward its target.) I went with all due haste to the bridge and reported to Chief Leo. He commented in effect, “What took you so long?” It was three or four days later before I could tell him what had actually happened. Needless to say, my friend never left his shoes in the passageway again nor did I ever forget the ringing of a five-inch gun as it was turning. After that first horrible night, I enjoyed my tour on the KIDD until January 1953 when I went to Submarine School.

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