Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sentimental Sunday: Navy Grandfather and WWII

This story is about my EISWERTH grandfather who served in the Navy during WWII. (He's not the grandfather who took all the photos that are on this blog).

Past Down’s of Dad’s Navy Days by Jim Eiswerth

My dad often reminisces about some of his days in the US Navy during and after WWII. For someone 88 years old he still remembers several interesting things from his sailor days. I try to call and talk to my dad every Sunday morning and this past Sunday we got talking about his time in Rhode Island.

After basic training up in the Great Lakes, dad was stationed at the Naval Air Station at Quonset Point, Rhode Island. In the Navy dad was assigned to be a sheet metal mechanic primarily in support of Navy aircraft.

Being a farm boy from the middle of Pennsylvania, dad had little exposure to aircraft of any type. On his first day after reporting into his Chief, other more senior sailors/mechanics told dad to go get a bucket of prop-wash to clean the plane they were working on. So dad grabbed a bucket and started out asking everyone where he could get some prop-wash. After walking almost the entire field, someone finally told him that prop-wash was just the turbulent air being pushed behind a plane by its propeller. When he made it back to his group they all had a big laugh. Dad must have taken the hazing pretty good, and laugh right with them, because they all became friends.

Dad remembers his Chief, Chief Dollan by name, who had retired from the Navy and was called back due to the war. While dad was at the Naval Air Station, they had a shortage of people working in the control tower. Chief Dollan “volunteered” dad to help out. At the time Quonset Point was a very busy place. Airplanes were being delivered from Grumman and other suppliers and flown out to the various Navy groups. Other planes were being used to train pilots, while others were working submarine patrols in the North Atlantic. Dad was assigned the job of logging all flights, time of departures, number of planes in the flight, destination, and had to calculate their ETA- estimated time of arrival. If the planes were leaving Quonset Point, he then had to call the destination airport to give them this information. Dad said that the pressures from the volume of airplanes he had to keep track of drove him to smoke cigarettes like everyone else in the tower. This was the one and only time he smoked. Until just a few years ago he could still remember most of the other Navy airport phone numbers he called so often.

Dad always spoke kindly of Chief Dollan. When dad had arranged for a leave, especially in the fall of the year where his dad, my grandfather, was trying to bring in crops, Chief Dollan would let dad leave earlier often chasing him out, or helping him arrange transportation to the train station. Once Chief Dollan turned a blind eye during roll call, when dad made it back a little late due to train connection problems in Philadelphia. During roll call, Delmore, one of dad’s sailor friends, said present when Eiswerth’s name was called. The Chief knew but just continued with roll call. When dad arrived a few hours later, Chief Dollan just asked how the work went at home.

Getting home to the middle of Pennsylvania by train wasn’t always a lot of fun. To save time, dad tried to catch rides with pilots that were headed to the Philadelphia area. Once he hopped a ride with a full Navy Commander who was flying a TBF/TBM – torpedo bomber. Dad had to sit backwards in the rear gunner’s seat. On landing the plane blew a tire, skidded off the runway, and flipped nose first into the grass. The emergency crew lowered the plane and got everyone out safe and sound. The Commander asked dad if he was alright, to which dad responded, “Yes sir, thank you sir, but I will be taking the train from now on!”


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  2. Loved this, especially the story of your grandfather riding home on a bomber. I imagine my dad's experience in the Air Force after leaving his farm home in Texas may have been a bit similar. Thanks for posting this!