Journal Entry  -  September 30, 1999  -  Day 19

Thursday Morning Position Report
8:00 a.m., Mountain Daylight Time

19 Degrees, 45 Minutes North


106 Degrees, 33 Minutes West

Days Run:

61.8 Nautical Miles


5.15 Knots (Average)  running at reduced speed due to a fixed ETA of October 16 at the Panama Canal.

Total Run This Leg:  1,083 Nautical Miles
Total Average Speed:  5.3 Knots
Hours / Days This Leg:  204.5 Hours, 8.52 Days
Distance To Go This Leg:  1,864.8 Nautical Miles to the Balboa Sea Buoy, Panama
Estimated Time Of Arrival:  7:00 a.m., Saturday, October 16
Present Course:  125 Degrees South by Southeast
Winds:  Light Northerly breeze at 5 Knots
Seas:  Rippled Surface
Swells:  Northwest at 5 Feet
Barometric Pressure:  1009 Millibars
Air Temperature:  78 Degrees
Visibility:  10 Miles, Reduced at times in Rain Squalls
Skies:  Showers and Lightning, Convection Activity
Sea Floor:  1,920 Fathoms or 11,520 Feet

Position:  USS New Jersey is 60 Nautical Miles Southwest of Cabo Corrientes, the neighborhood of Puerto Vallarta.  Farther down the West coast of Mexico from there is Manzanillo.

First In The Chow Line, Plus The Spruce Goose!

USS New Jersey's March, 1947 transit down the Pacific coast of the United States, Mexico and Central America, introduced 19-year old Harold Gill, Seaman First Class and Radarman with the Combat K Division, to the rigors of Battleship life, and its pleasant surprises.

"I was really fascinated being a Radarman," Gill said, as he recounted his service when the New Jersey came out of her overhaul in Bremerton and headed south to Long Beach and Panama on basically the same course she is following now.

"Especially early on," he said, "as you get chosen for different jobs as a Radarman, we had so many duties, we were all over the ship.  Controlling aircraft, launching our own aircraft off our catapults, many of us would frequently stand 12, 14, 16, 20 hours a day, depending upon what was going on."

It wasn't all work with no privileges, though, by any means.  The radar contingent spent four hours on, and four hours off, as the rest of New Jersey's crew worked four, and got eight hours off.  Since there were so few men to work the shifts, 800 in 1947 compared to 2,400 during the war, they had to invest more time.

"Yes, there were off-duty hours," Gill said, "we were free to go any place on the ship except the bow.  No skipper ever likes sailors lounging around on the bow.  On the stern, we ended up, with the K Division, on the main deck, in the compartment between two 5-inch guns," Gill related, "next to the one lifeboat on the ship, and the Captain's gig. That was kind of our deck, and we spent time during the day, when we were off, out on that deck, and back on the stern."

Gill said the Radarmen, because of their four on-and-off rotation, took the head of the chow line for their meals.  "That was nice for us," he said, "because the rest of the crew had eight off."  But when they were on duty, there was plenty of it.

"You had Radar up behind the bridge, you had the Combat Information Center/CIC, you had Radar in main battery plot, you had Radar in after-steering," Gill said from his Berkely residence.  "Those were actual radar sets.  You had gear of various types up in the tower.  We had several, what we called Rad-stations, rooms where gear was running, like the old radio sets, and many of the Rad-stations we had to check once a watch," he said, then related how.

"You merely undogged the hatch, stuck your nose in, sniffed, and if nothing smelled too hot, you dogged the hatch and walked away from it," he said, simple as that.  "We weren't troubleshooting, we had ETMs, Electronic Technicians Mates, who worked on the Radar gear if anything broke down, but we were just maintaining a watch where we made sure nothing was on fire, that nothing was a problem," he said.

The 19-year old Jerseyman was born and raised in San Luis Obispo, California, where New Jersey would pass during his trip then and now. During the 1947 cruise, Captain Leon J. Huffman held the Battleship on a course just south of Gill's hometown.

"I was up on the bridge," he said, "not more than 3 or 4 miles off the coast, right off the Hearst Castle.  With binoculars off the bridge, I could see cars running up and down Highway 1, just north of where I was born and raised," Gill said with a note of nostalgia.

"Then off of Avala, we stopped, and they let off balloons, and they fired 40s and 20s, and that was the first time they did that," he recalled.  "And that was a heck of a racket.  I kept expecting, and hoping, some boat would come out and see what was going on, and that it might be somebody I knew, but that never happened."

Gill said their trip 52 years ago was exactly what the USS New Jersey is doing this year.  Apparently, even down to the Long Beach anchorage, or nearby, where Sea Victory pulled BB-62 to rest eight days ago.  But the crew of the Sea Victory, and New Jersey's handlers this time, had nothing like the experience that the Jerseymen had then in Long Beach.

"We did just exactly what you did, according to your map," he said.  "We stopped at Long Beach, and anchored right inside the harbor.  When I finally got off watch on the Special Sea Detail, because we had dropped the hook, I came up on the main deck.  I had been down below the entire time off the California coast."

Then, what Gill observed as he got a view of the outside was something hard to believe.

"Howard Hughes was running the Spruce Goose down the harbor. I swear he took off, but they tell me that didn't happen then.  I had no idea what this big airplane was until someone explained it to me, and it was huge.  Only in hindsight did I realize how incredible it was," he said.

From Long Beach, BB-62 proceeded on a track south, through the waters of Mexico, as she is doing today, with squalls nearly hiding her from Sea Victory's view, and winds doing complete turnabouts from one compass point to another as she moves through them.

Gill and his shipmates had a very calm cruise that year, on their way to the Panama Canal, then Guantanamo, and to her new Bayonne homeport.  But it could not have been more successful than this 1999 version has been.

Submitted by Bob Wernet onboard the Sea Victory.


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