Journal Entry  -  October 11, 1999  -  Day 30

Monday Evening Position Report
8:00 p.m., Central Daylight Time

8 Degrees, 45 Minutes North


85 Degrees, 27 Minutes West

Days Run:

59.6 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:  2,483.9 Nautical Miles
Total Average Speed:  5.18 Knots
Hours / Days This Leg:  479.5 Hours, 19.98 Days
Distance To Go This Leg:  463.9 Nautical Miles
Estimated Time Of Arrival:  7:00 a.m., Saturday, October 16, Balboa Sea Buoy, Panama
Present Course:  117 Degrees Southeasterly
Winds:  Southwest at 12 Knots
Seas:  2 Feet
Swells:  8 Feet from the Southwest
Barometric Pressure:  1011 Millibars
Air Temperature:  76 Degrees
Sea Temperature:  79 Degrees
Visibility:  10 Miles
Skies:  Overcast
Sea Floor:  Ocean depths beneath the USS New Jersey at this point are 2,853 Fathoms or 17,118 Feet

Position:   USS New Jersey is currently 51 Miles South-Southwest of Isla Cabo Blanco, an island oval shaped, barren and composed of white rock. The channel between the islet and the cape is about one mile wide, but is not recommended to sailors.  A light is shown from the summit of the island, 69 Meters, or 226 Feet high.

"We Got A Ready Light For One Turret..."

The morning of May 21, 1951 in Wonsan Harbor, Korea, was more than the USS New Jersey bargained for that day.  By the time it was over, Mess Cook Robert Osterwind was dead from a shrapnel hit, the Battleship's armor-plated main turret surface was peeled back like a banana, and Fire Control Technician Clarence J. "Joe" Brooks, Jr., would receive a Navy Commendation Ribbon with Combat Distinguishing Device for meritorious service under fire.

It was the morning after the New Jersey arrived in the harbor on her first assignment of the Korean conflict.  She was there to take aboard injured sailors from a casualty-inflicted U.S. destroyer recently hit.  The New Jersey's huge sick bay could accommodate the injured.

"I had just come off my 4 8," Brooks related.  "I was going down to the after-plotting room, which is four decks below the main deck ... then, all of a sudden, they sounded general quarters.   We had no idea why," he said.

"I proceeded to run to my battle station.  I was four decks below the main deck.  I had done this many times in general quarters practice ... up a ladder, right up the side of the superstructure ... and as I stepped out on to the main deck, there were 5-inchers being fired.  Of course, we were being fired at, which I didn't know at the time.  I worked my way up into the level above, officer's country, then up to admiral's country, right up through the middle of the superstructure, until I got up to my battle station," Brooks said.

"Having run all this distance, my body ... as I sat down on my chair and my feet in the main battery position, my face was radiating heat from the running I was doing," Brooks detailed.  "Immediately, my sights fogged up.  We had a defroster-type of thing built into that thing.  It cleared a sight ... and the first thing that I saw in my sight was flashes ... the trainer had already trained on the target ... and we saw flashes coming from this cave."

Brooks said it was a gun emplacement they saw on the peninsula inside Wonsan Harbor, and the gunfire flashes were coming from a place close to the North-South Korean border, and from a place "fairly close to my line of sight."

"The ship was rolling and tossing.  We were trying to get off our own hook, trying to just get out of their range.  This J.G. reserve officer was there, and we were waiting for ready lights.  I was getting my job lined up, getting the horizontal hair setup on the target, where we had the flashes coming from," Brooks said.

"We got a ready light for one turret, and to this day I don't know whether it was a gun or turret one or two - to this day I don't know that. And he said to fire when I was ready.  The first single 16 that we fired was short," the seaman said.  "It was right in line with the target, but it was down, so that was my fault.  The next single 16 we fired - which was just a fraction of a minute thereafter - we got another ready light, and fired another single 16 ... and this was the right level, but to the right.  My counterpart was off target a little bit."

"Then we got the third single one."  Now when you fire the 16, you could see, it would come down like a doughnut, you could see it coming right into the target.  And the third one went right in the damned cave ... right smack, straight smack, into the cave," Brooks said, almost with amazement at his own performance, his team's performance, and the unbelievable power of the 16s when they hit their targets.  "In the New Jersey's cruise book from another recommissioning, they even have a picture of that hit in the cruise book, with a circle around the cave, and mentioned that it was the firing from the New Jersey that delivered the direct hit," Brooks said with a Jerseyman's dutiful pride.

The USS New Jersey, her Seventh Fleet Flag Commander, Vice Admiral Harold M. Martin, her Captain David M. Tyree, and his officers and crew, picked up the pieces after that one, and continued the fight, winning 2 Battle Stars that year, and 2 more in her second tour of Korean service in 1953.

For his part, Seaman Clarence J. "Joe" Brooks, Jr., was honored six months later in a ceremony totally unexpected.  It had the 23-year old shaking with nerves, more for the ceremony than anything the New Jersey's 16s would offer, or anything the Korean caves could level at him.

"Much to my surprise - I didn't know there was anything in the works - the day that we changed commands from Captain Tyree to Captain Francis D. McCorkle, (November 17, 1951), we had ceremonies, and I think it must have been in Yokosuka Harbor," he recalled correctly.

"I was told by my fire control chief to be in dress blues on the double, and to get my butt back there and meet the personnel officer on the fantail.  When my name was called, I proceeded to the platform where the Admiral and his staff were.  I was so damned nervous I didn't hear a thing.  Then, I read this thing after it was all over," retired Seaman Brooks said.

"This thing," as Brooks referred to it, was his Navy Commendation Citation.

It was awarded to him not just for the Wonsan incident, but as he says, "for a series of actions he and his shipmates were involved with that year."  The order of precedence for U.S. Navy medals and honors ranks Brooks's Navy Commendation Medal as 16th of 74 possible awards available through 1994, the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross being uppermost.

"There were a lot of other targets then," he explained, "destroying bridges, getting direct hits on railroad tunnels, what we basically worked on a lot of the time was destroying that daggone railroad that came through Wonsan to supply the North Korean troops further down the line."

The official records of the Commander, Seventh Fleet/U.S. Pacific Fleet, and the Captain of the USS New Jersey, as delivered on the ship's fantail November 17, 1951, in Yokosuka Harbor, Japan, speak to the service performed by the young seaman, who was too nervous to remember until later what they said. Chances are he knew anyway.

12 November 1951

From - Commanding Officer

To - Commander Seventh Fleet

Subject - Letter of Commendation with Commendation Ribbon and Combat Distinguishing Device; recommendation for.

1. In accordance with reference (a), it is recommended that Brooks, Clarence J., Jr., 256-98-67, Seaman, U.S. Naval Reserve be awarded a letter of commendation with Commendation Ribbon and Combat Distinguishing Device for continuous meritorious service including actual combat during the period between May, 1951 and November, 1951, while this ship operated in the Western Pacific.

2. Seaman Clarence J. Brooks, Jr., by his outstanding alertness, aggressiveness and coolness under fire, has contributed materially to the combat performance of the USS New Jersey in action against the enemy. Brooks, as main battery director pointer has been instrumental in the accuracy with which the main battery of this ship has fired against enemy positions by his devotion and initiative during long periods of operation when the director was being used to determine the ship's position for firing.

Despite heavy smoke, Brooks was able to pick up enemy gun positions at Wonsan on 21 May 1951 when this ship was being fired upon.  It was through his efforts that the main battery was able to open fire with speed and accuracy and thereby silence the enemy guns.  Again at Wonsan on 2 November 1951, Brooks was firing pointer in the main battery director when this ship took known enemy gun positions under fire with main battery and effectively destroyed them.  Seaman Brooks again displayed initiative and devotion to duty while in action as firing pointer in the main battery director when this ship destroyed enemy bridges, railroads and tunnels in the Hungnam - Iwon - Songjin area in October and November, 1951.  Brooks displayed outstanding devotion to duty, initiative and coolness in battle which reflect the highest credit upon himself and the Naval service.

3. The facts as contained in this citation are personally known to me.

Signed: D.M. Tyree

Copy To: ComCruDivTHREE

United States Pacific Fleet
Commander Seventh Fleet

The Commander Seventh Fleet takes pleasure in commending Seaman Clarence J. Brooks, Jr., United States Naval Reserve for service set forth in the following Citation:

For distinguishing himself by meritorious service in the USS New Jersey from May, 1951 through November, 1951 while engaged in combat with North Korean and Chinese Communist forces.  His outstanding alertness, aggressiveness and poise under fire has contributed materially to the combat performance of this ship.   On 21 May 1951 at Wonsan, Korea, while the ship was under artillery fire from the Communist batteries, Seaman Brooks with phenomenal accuracy directed his fire on the enemy gun positions obliterating them with direct hits.  He has displayed exceptional devotion to duty, initiative and courage reflecting the highest credit upon himself and the United States Naval Service.

The Commendation Ribbon with Combat Distinguishing Device is authorized.

Signed: H.M. Martin
Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy

Submitted by Bob Wernet onboard the Sea Victory.


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