Journal Entry  -  October 11, 1999  -  Day 30

Monday Morning Position Report
8:00 a.m., Central Daylight Time

9 Degrees, 12 Minutes North


86 Degrees, 20 Minutes West

Days Run:

59.7 Nautical Miles


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

Total Run This Leg:  2,424.3 Nautical Miles
Total Average Speed:  5.19 Knots
Hours / Days This Leg:  467.5 Hours, 19.48 Days
Distance To Go This Leg:  523.5 Nautical Miles
Estimated Time Of Arrival:  7:00 a.m., Saturday, October 16, Balboa Sea Buoy, Panama
Present Course:  117 Degrees Southeasterly
Winds:  Westerly at 20 Knots
Seas:  3 Feet
Swells:  8 Feet from the Southwest
Barometric Pressure:  1011 Millibars
Air Temperature:  80 Degrees
Sea Temperature:  79 Degrees
Visibility:  10 Miles
Skies:  Mostly Cloudy
Sea Floor:  Ocean depths beneath the USS New Jersey at this point are 3,200 Fathoms or 19,200 Feet

Position:   USS New Jersey is now 58 Miles Southwest of Costa Rica's Punta Guiones.   Costa Rica, Panama's next door neighbor to the West, is a large supplier of American fresh fruit products, and is also known as a major American retirement pocket.   No wonder the Sea Victory's AM radio station is picking up so many "over-the-hill" American top-40 popular musical hits performed by such notables as "The Singing Nuns," with that French language ditty of theirs no one knows the words to, or title of, Glenn Miller's perennial "In The Mood," that young, un-remembered voice singing "Diana" ("Oh, please, stay by me Diana ..."), and, of course, the unforgettable Tennessee Ernie Ford coal miner's saga, "Sixteen Tons," plus countless other nostalgia triggers.  What a country!

"Reflective Highest Credit Upon Himself and the U.S. Naval Service"

Two days shy of USS New Jersey's commissioning anniversary, on May 21, 1951, while she lay anchored in Wonsan Harbor, Korea, enemy gun fire from a hidden hillside cave blasted the 8-year old Battleship with a surprise strike, and inflicted the only shipboard casualty of her career. The cave fire blew apart her primary gun turret, the single major damage she suffered in 57 years.  It forced her to evacuate the harbor, man all her guns immediately, and created a massive New Jersey retaliation that earned one seaman that day the Navy Commendation Ribbon for meritorious service and coolness under fire.

Seaman Clarence J. "Joe" Brooks, Jr., now a resident of Arlington, Virginia, and an avid Washington Redskins fan, was an active naval reservist working in a D.C. naval gun factory when the Korean War broke out.  He was called up, and assigned to the New Jersey while she was taken out of Bayonne, New Jersey's Mothball Fleet.  Months later, after a complete re-fitting in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Brooks witnessed her first re-commissioning at Bayonne, November 20, 1950.

"The guest admiral was Bull Halsey," said Brooks in a recent interview. "It was quite a sight to see his five stars then, his flag hoisted, and it was one heck of a cold day on the water," recalled Brooks, then 23 years old.

The newly recommissioned Battlewagon, with her Naval reservists aboard, headed to Norfolk, Virginia to pick up recruits, then went to sea for a shakedown cruise near "Gitmo," as the seamen called Guantanamo, the U.S. Naval Base in Cuba.

"I had been a store keeper as a naval reservist," Brooks said.  "When I went aboard the ship, I was just a seaman.  My previous experience in the Navy, over on Guam, right after WWII, I was doing basically the same thing as a reservist," he said.  "That didn't really interest me, so I was put in the FM Division, Fire Control Main Battery."

Brooks continued his story.

"So as we proceeded on our shakedown cruise in Cuba, I was given the job of Leveler Pointer in Spot One - as you look at the Jersey behind you," he advised, "it's the main battery director, which is the highest part of the superstructure and has two arms that stick out, and those arms were the range finder.   The range finder operated to constantly feed distances on any given target as he received them.  We had to be in the same train and all," Brooks explained.

"While I was in Cuba, I was told that if we ever did any firing of a direct-line-of-fire nature, not inland, but line-of-fire, that I would be the individual controlling the level of the 16 inchers, and also firing same," he recounted.

"So I proceeded to learn my job.  We took on these boots that I mentioned, came back from "Gitmo," went to Pearl Harbor, took on fuel, and from there to Yokosuka, Japan, where we took on ammo, 16-inch projectiles.   Yokosuka was our homeport.  As we left Pearl, they had some target ships towing sleds that we used for 5-inch and 16-inch practice."

Seaman Brooks's story continued, but now with a little more hesitancy, a hint of reserve, evidence of a scar, perhaps.

"Then we got to Yokosuka," Brooks said.   "I guess the Captain got his orders, and we became the Flagship of Task Force 77, Seventh Fleet, and we were the Flag for Vice Admiral Harold Martin.

"When we left Yokosuka, we came around the corner of Japan and up into the Sea of Japan, to the east coast of Korea.  And our first day up in the area, which we called the bombline, which was whatever the latitude was where the battle was going on, that was the bombline, it varied with the U.N. people making progress, then the North Koreans making progress.

"The very first day that we were over there, we had to run to Wonsan because a destroyer had been hit.  There were some casualties, and we had a large sick bay on the New Jersey, so we proceeded to go into Wonsan Harbor and drop hook.

"Why we did that, I'll never understand."

(Continued with this evening report...)

Submitted by Bob Wernet onboard the Sea Victory.


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