U.S.S. George E. Davis DE-357 Destroyer Escort

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USS Arctic  AF-7

Editor Note...
     The USS Arctic is not a Destroyer Escort, nor even a DD. As a matter of fact, it began life as the civilian ship, the Yamhill in 1918 and was later acquired by the navy in 1921. During WWII she was based in Alaska and plied the dangerous waterways of the Pacific. Her mission...supplying our guys with frozen food. Not exactly glamorous duty, but it is possible that you (If you're an original shipmate) or your dad or granddad ate provisions supplied by this ship.
    They called it the "Beef Boat" because that was part of her mission...supplying fresh frozen meat to the troops. Because of her valuable cargo she was welcome wherever she cared to sail. She carried thru the war and was scrapped in August 1947. You can get the details here... http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/sh-usn/usnsh-a/af7.htm ...
    Bringing the story forward, I happened across a letter that one of the Arctic's shipmates wrote to his shipmates shortly after the close of the war. It's a lengthy and interesting piece. You may find it necessary to round up an "old salt" to translate portions for you, but it's interesting reading all the way. Since it was a personal letter written to comrades, you'll have to read it that way. In its way, it makes it even more fascinating because you are allowed to peek into the lives of these guys in this fashion. It's a letter...not an article.
   The author is USN Lt. Joseph Henry Callahan. He joined as an enlisted man in 1941 and served until 1946.  He passed in 1985 and his brother-in-law, Herb Griffin of Oxford, Alabama has made this shipmate mail available to us.
    A thing, of which you will read, makes this all the more interesting...if not downright strange. Lt. Callahan mentions in his epistle that the USS Arctic (Remember...built in 1918) could be rigged for sails...which at one point they did.
    The gallant men of the USS Arctic deserve our praise and gratitude. Keeping in mind that this was a mail shared among crusty shipmates, please note that any similarity between the USS Arctic and the supply ship described in "Mr. Roberts" is purely accidental... If you are a child or possess virgin eyes, be advised the passages below are sprinkled with the "colorisms" of the day!


USS Arctic AF-7 circa 1920-1930




20 NOV. 1945


From: Young ensign Joe Henry who as 1st. Lt. is no longer young

To: Long John (My, tall dark and good looking) Dr. Joe

Borehold Johansen (just call me "Irish")

Double Ugly Reyman (who ought to be here to see the fun)

Subject: Pick one out. . .I'm going to tell all

Ref: The good ole days when people just bitched in general

1. Please don't think that I am lazy or anything but I did want all you members to know how the situation stands and to get a little laugh out of it. . .I ain't. To start with there was the old fight in Pearl to see if we went home or came on this trip as you all remember, but Doc and Bugs. . .and to them let it here be said that this trip was useless and could have been avoided. . .but the old man kept screaming "Yokohama, Yokohama!!!" until he convinced himself that we were able to come and then it was too late. For about the time we were loaded, he changed his mind and said he wished that we weren't going . . . but we started. With an order from the Yard to make 55 turns. It took us 28 days to get here and sometimes we only made 40 miles a day . . .a 24 hour day I mean too. But I'll say this for the old man, I think that he began to see the way the wind was blowing for he was just as nice as pie coming out, not a word, not a word to anybody and he actually acted human all the trip . . . and things went just fine with the exception that we were so goddamned slow . . . and I was first Lieutenant . . . why? Well, we got two brand new ensigns aboard at Pearl. I am sure that you have not forgotten Mr. Morressettee in your memories of the old Arctic and her men.

      Well, Morrisette is a gem compared with either of them. I don't think either one of them has been on deck twice since they have been here. Cook got off at Pearl so they were immediately made 1 and 2nd Div. officers, Mr. M going to Com officer and Mr. W taking Morgan's place. That was the only good deal we got. Strange as it seems, he is trying to do right by everyone and give all divisions and the men a break and making a damned good Exec. . . he goes in every morning, has a pow wow with the old man tells him what is going on and the old man stays away. It has now come out that the old man didn't know half of what was going on, and Morgan lied to him so much he didn't know the difference, and I think that he is really trying to make up for it. We have not asked a damned thing for us or the crew that he has turned down. Coming out we had smokers twice a week, a happy hour every two weeks, and we had beer with the parties too. . .the old man said that Morgan never even approached him on anything like that, and remember how he would come down and tell us how the old man said such and such. Well, I suppose you heard about the "Bridge" by this time. We got a message a couple of weeks out that she had hit a mine just off Korea . . .taking the load we would have taken. Only a few hours later our sta'bd lookout sighted an unidentified object deadahead. It was an ole nasty mine. . .so we got to ring CQ again, man the guns and blew her up. . .gosh, it was fun to see her go. . .it made me sorta squeamish up there on that dark bridge at night all by myself. By the way, you know what watch standers we had. . .and got. . .Mr. M, a Mr. Adams (Lt. JG) who took Cook's relief and a very nice fellow. Sorta old like me and a hell of a lot of common sense and just falls in place like money in a bank. . .and little me. . .them is us ODs. We hope to have these other two cuties to where they can open their mouths to feed themselves before we start back. Well, one of the most interesting little items that might be of note to you as well as the present first Lt. is this. A couple of times the old man would drift down on the QD, hold his finger up to the wind and test it and the mighty force of our 55 turns, edge off the bitt and gently remark to me that it was a fine wind maybe we ought to rig sails. And a nice little joe it was and nice conversation to pass away the time. Until it became too frequent and I casually remarked one day that if he didn't quit saying that about sails he was going to believe it himself. You know me. . .I put the fire where previously there had only been smoke.

     The next day into my room comes his little man and says that the old man request me to see him immediately. So up I walk a fine, healthy young Christian lad of great promise and enterprise. About ten minutes later I come out. . .worn out, dejected, bent, broken, nay a shell of a human being. Lifting my voice as best I could I cried out, "Break out a working party. Move the machine from the sail locker to No. 3 hold, bring on the sailmakers. We're going to use the gig and boat booms for gaffs, have two sails, one fow'd and one aft off No. 2 and 10 booms, we'll have her furled against the mast, with the sail itself with a foot of 50', a leech of 44' and about a 20' gaff. Hey, Long John did you get them terms? I called in Newton, Jake Avola, and Rowe and give them the dope. At first nobody liked it worth a damned, but you know we have got 'em made now and if it will increase our speed a couple of knots it will well be worth the trouble. . .but nobody knows a thing about sailing and I appreciate the old man's attitude about it. He says we will put 'em and try it out, if it works all right and if it don't, over the side and no one out anything and we've got a little experience. But like I told him, I was the sailmaster for I ran down right quick and read about four pages of Knight't Seamanship and then went out on the quarterdeck to practice throwing a few at the boys. "Hands about the ship!" "Ready, Ready!" "Rise tacks and sheets!" "Main topsail haul!" "Shift lazy tack of main topmast and other stays'le to windward!" "When around, down fore tack, aft fore sheet, trim all sails!" (Boy I hope I copied that right!) But like I told 'em. . .any man on board could be a sailing expert. . .just read the fastest and the furtherest the firstest. . . run out on deck and yell a couple of fast, breezy old rugged sailing terms, let everyone look dumbfounded at them, blare at 'em a couple of times for being so damned dumb. . .and you're a sailing expert. But the thing that amuses me, is just to picture in my mind what the lookouts, quartermasters, and gold braid back of them windows in the Ferry Building and along the front are going to say when we come sailing under the Golden Gate bridge. "Yes, the Arctic is due. . . sails, sails. . .but she's a Navy ship. . .look, she's got a commission pennant. . .the Arctic, sails, SAILS. . . My God, what was I drinking last night!!!" So you see, we might be a cure for alcoholism at that. I'm trying to stay ahead of the captain on the reading and so far have done pretty good. Mr. Adams scaled her on a piece of graft and he's pretty savvy and we got the old man right where we want him on this deal. . .if nobody don't get killed. . . which with the old black magic we have been running into it sorta looks that way. . .and with the Arctic slowly sailing out of Tokyo Bay with beautiful Mt. Fugiyoma in yon background to throw a glistening sparkle of purity against the tired old ship's bow, we leave the Isle of Japan and wander on out into the great blue..... Well, our real serious trouble started when we tried to get in the harbor. With the speed we could make we had no control over the ship at all in the channel. But coming in of course, I had mid. We were browsing around the entrance waiting till about four to start in. The night order book said that I was to pick up this Jap light at about 45 degrees relative, flashing every 24 seconds. . .white light . . .at about 0200. Well about thirty minutes after I came on or about 0030 I spotted a steady white light about 10 off to sta'bd. I had a first class radar man as usual that was picked up in Pearl. . . He is of the darkest dark, a S2c, went to radar school, smarter than Harris or even Munro, and I'll have to tell you this before I go further. A couple of days previous on the mid again we were in pretty bad weather. Raining like hell.

     The port wing lookout spotted a light a couple of points off the port bow. By the time I got there you could see the running lights of 5 DDs in convoy. For the fun I suppose or perhaps they looked us up right quick, the headman changed course and I was OK and didn't have to move. I went tearing into this radar specialist and asked him in no uncertain language that I was accustomed to speaking to sech on sech occasions just what in hell was the matter. He came up with the story that the DD had jammed our radar. . .and stuck to it. Just that to tell before I go so you will understand the confidence I had in radar that night going into the harbor. So this goddamned steady white light kept getting a little closer and a little closer and shifting until it was dead ahead. ..and gitting bigger and bigger. I began to walk faster and faster across from one wing to the other. Soon I figured that little ole light wasn't on any ship and it was sho hanging on to something that wasn't supposed to be there. . .no radar clues. So I got the messenger and raised the navigator and the old man on the double. They got there, no such characteristics or such a light listed, so we pull out the ever dependable Harris on the radar and he reports land dead ahead. . .we were carried 12 miles off course and set right into the stuff. 55 turns. About the time I got off the watch we set special sea detail. We were going lickety split up the channel holding our own when we hit a nice little quiet place and picked up a little speed so that we must have been going all of 5 knots and the old man calls for all boats in the water so the 1st and 2nd started dropping them. About that time I heard a lot of screaming going on and running to the poop deck. I stretched my neck over the side and there was No. 4 turned upside down floating gently back of us. Two of the boys were on top of it trying to hang on and screaming that there were two under the boat. They were yelling at the top of their lungs for which I was thankful for by that I knew that at least they were not knocked out and were alive. They all had on life jackets. Well those two boys, wouldn't come out from under that boat for hell and high water and altho I know I would have been just as shocked and scared we had to do something. I sent all the boats back quick but by that time a couple of LCM's had come alongside and were diving under after them. . .to no avail. Somebody grabbed an ax and cut a hold in my brand new reworked job. . .yelled down that there was a boat standing by and for them to come out. . .so we got them, but you should have seen the boat. For Mr. Double Ugly's sake, I tell you that Avola says somebody took the sea painter off, he told 'em to put it back on, they didn't, the old man called for the boat over the side with Mr. W. screaming, "Smartly, smartly, hurry, hurry" they all got excited and she went in, little wind and sea hit her, bow show out, caught, hook held and over she came. A good day started.

Well, I can see this is getting too damned long and tiresome so I will try to hurry along. We had a hell of a time anchoring, it was crowded and the old man couldn't maneuver very well. And then we find out that the water is so contaminated and so much sickness going on that we couldn't use small boats and would go alongside different ships to discharge or they would come along us. DDs on down came to us, BB and Dv, CA we went to them. Brother that was work. They had been holding up a maneuver on us and the Lex. and 8 dds had to get chow working 24 hours per. . .and I thought this was over. It wasn't but just started. Going by the Lex. we had a couple of Jap tugs that one of them was supposed to know a little English and tell the rest of them. It took us an hour and a half to tie up to her. . .the Jap tugs had about as much power as a good forty dollar mule that had been eating fodder all summer, and we had less, so you can imagine. When we got back our deck force such as they are now. . .14 men in the 2nd and 15 in the 1st, took along two DDs at a time, pulling 'em in, and shoving 'em off, riggins port and star'bd, running the winches. . . going on working parties in between. . .but I stopped that at least. But they did do a damned good job. Then we go back and anchor again that night. The next day we go over the go alongside the New Jersey. The captain takes a little off her 40s tub and takes four rivets and a huge bent in our laundry. . .raining and cold as hell all the time. Shoving off from her there is quite a sea running and the wind has kicked up. The old man stomping the deck already upset by not doing so well in front of the flag. We head out into that damned channel again which is pretty crowded. He misses about by a hair. He starts by an LCT, gets her bow by her and then we are set smack bad into her. It cuts a gash about four feet long on the star.bd quarter right at the mast stay ripping it to hell, and the chill box under it tore No. 6 off the skids (where I had transferred and put the Gig up in No. 4 skids) knocked a big hole in her so we won't have to worry about her anymore. . .tore a couple of doors off the LCT (or LCI. . .the one with the double doors and a big mouth about the size of Double Ugly's taking a bite from one of them galley Dagwoods). . .the old man blew up. We finally got her anchored that night. Messages began to fly. And folks, I'm telling you I actually felt sorry for him. He was reporting to the SOPA and getting a ARK to fix us up and running up and down like a wild man. . .and I don't mean the kind of wild man that you were accustomed to either. . .It just looked like it tore him up. He was as white as a sheet and trembling and trying to keep from it and the more he tried the worse it got until I was actually afraid for him. He came into my room four times that afternoon for I think I was one of the few that had never really had words and with him and I'm telling you Doc, He was like a kid. . .been in forty years and had to do this out here at a time like this. . .just as I'm leaving the service. . .something like this has to happen to me. . .I'm just getting too old Callahan. . .I'm just getting too old. . .I'm an old man. . .and I'll be damned if he didn't look it. He looked every bit of 80 if a day. I tried to pep him up a little and with all the stuff about it was one of those things, etc.. . .which he, in a way couldn't help. Perhaps he should have looked for a safer course, but it did look like he could clear it they all said from the bridge, but with the speed he could make, and the sudden wind change and set, it set him right on top of her. Well next day, we're going along another ship. . .and by this time, the crew doesn't understand all the things that goes on the bridge and you could hear remarks about "Lookout, get off the foc'le, there's a ship ahead. Two to one the old man picks a cruiser today." "When are they going to issue life belts?" "He's crazy". . .and I know that he heard some of the remarks and know that it hurt him tremendously, for he was no longer the bull of the woods, a know-it-all. . .he was just trying to get by. . .for a little while longer. Well, I don't think the next thing was appreciated but I knew the tenor of things and thought maybe a little humor would help the next situation and also knew that in the condition he was in he wasn't really going to say anything about anybody that was too serious. . . so. . .we got up bright and early to go alongside this ship. We were in 24 fathoms of water with 90 ft. of chain to St'bd. (Info: for Long John and Double Ugly). They give me heave in, just as I gave 'em 75 at the water's edge, he gives me bring her to 50 and hold. Just about that time I gave him "60 fathoms at the water's edge. . .Anchors away . . .you spell it AWAY. . ." That sonofabitch parted and I thought all hell had come up to pay me a visit and had started confessing. A piece of the link came shooting up through the hawse and we retrieved it. Bosan ought to see it. . .rust about a quarter inch all around the break and the whole link break crystalized to a dust almost. So we lost the st'bd anchor and 60 fathoms of chain. (and the old man ain't said a word to this minute). Well I went over to the Jap naval base here and got in with the salvage commander and swapped him four boxes of steaks for 135 fathoms of brand new 2-1/4" chain and an anchor. He is going to set her on a barge and bring her out in a day or two, I went over today, took a working party and cut off seven links and brought it back to be sure it would fit in the wildcat. . . but Tranholm (Little Ugly, Wilkes got to go home to Pearl) tells me that Mr. Reymann told him that any chain up to 2-1/2" would work fine on that wildcat so if he told him that I said that was good enough for me. . .but it does look like it will work out all right. Course the Captain and I had to go all over hell and high water and the Argonne telling Maintenance and Operations about it. . .by then the Captain was so shipped I was doing the talking and there wasn't anything to talk about so far as I was concerned. . .we just ain't got no st'bd anchor. But I wrote the letter and all to the bureau on it as all the pep had gone from the throne and things have begun to settle down again. Well boys, there it is. Do any of you want to come back and be First Lieut. I'll quote you a saying I heard one time from a fellow I used to think was a pretty good egg. But. . ."Oh, there's nothing to it. . .just get up and wander about the decks a little every day and have 'em chip a little and paint a little. . ."

We are in Yokosuka, that is here at the Jap Naval Base or what is left of it. We got on the train and have three cars reserved for us officers of the Allied Military Government, so it is not crowded for us. . .but the rest of the train. . .like a madhouse. Times Square on New Years is like a morgue compared with the people trying to get in the coaches and in between and up and under the cars. But we ride through Yokohama to Tokyo in about an hour and a half. There are returning soldiers everywhere, walking, just wandering listlessly about, boys, kids most of them. All of them and all the people are dirty, filthy, and stink. There is nothing standing that the pin point bombing didn't want to stand. Straight down the train track for blocks, for miles, for acres. . .nothing. Perhaps a smokestack so you would surmise that a factory once stood there. Everything level. We came to a station with a grass and tin roof over the train shed marked "Yokohama." I looked out and all I could see was several thousand dirty Japs trying to get on the train from the platform, but everywhere deserted. . .no people, no nothing. No stores, no shops, no eating establishments, no cafes, no nothing. I asked where was Yokohama, thinking perhaps the city might set off from the tracks a bit. You're in the center of Yokohama was the reply. On into Tokyo the Tokyo Central that used to be a big beautiful central station was a rumble of old brick and mortar. The roof was covered with rice straw, the floor was mother earth. Just outside was the civic center of group of government buildings where dug-out has his quarters and has all the offices. . .there wasn't a scratch on them. All the rest of Tokyo looked just like Yokohama. Flat. To the ground. Atomic bomb to win the war? To hit what? To destroy what? There is nothing left now, but the exact buildings that they wanted to leave intact.

I suppose that it used to be very beautiful. Coming along the train I could see every inch of fertile soil being used in rice fields or truck farms that looked very healthy and in good condition. The people are dressed about half and half between Western and Eastern dress. But nearly all the farmers I saw were in the old Japanese big straw hats with long coats with lapels down the front held in with this sash-like gizmo. The farm implements were a long handle maddock that any sharecropper in South Alabama should have been ashamed to be seem with. . .and everything still by hand. All the things I saw, the buildings with very few gov. buildings or foreign buildings that I could count on my hands were cheap, second or third rate material. . . old long outdated machinery, tools, buildings. . .everything cheap, dirty. It make one gasp that they could have been advised by any reputable agents or representatives that had seen American to wage war against her. . .I couldn't help but take one crack at the old man tho as we went through Yokohama. . ."Well Captain here it is, after thirty-two days." "You can have it", he replied. We like to have died laughing at him and kidded the pants off him about his Yoko.

Well, there are lots of little incidents about the customs, the people, etc. that I would like to talk with you about and tell you about, but I know that you're getting pretty well fed up with this dribble.

So, to facts. For the rest of you besides Doc. . .I got a letter from Doc Joe stating that Jensen had left for the USS Virgo (AK) and had left three days before. His letter was dated the 20th. Well that like to have floored us all, after all the people he knew in the Bureau and how damned sure he was of getting shore duty, etc. . .so we waited. The reason we waited is that the ship I was telling you about that we started out to go alongside when we dropped the anchor was the USS VIRGO. . .so we waited. And today he came aboard. And we had been over asking about him of course and found out that it is a real stinker. The exec makes them leave their doors open at all times where he can check them in the sack. . .he is going to love that! They have water hours and he was just over here wanting to borrow a shower. They stand 1 in 4 in port and at sea with one man on the bridge at all times, in sea and at port. They have no officers mess . . . the capt. says they only have 23 officers and that is not enough to have a mess so they are on general mess. . .and lots of other little things that would just kill you and make you love it. . .and have we been riding him! She is a station ship to boot and will be here forever I suppose. But all in good fun and he was in high spirits. . .he came in and I got all the low down on Doc, etc. and what they had been doing and how he spent his leave. . .all with Doc it seems. . .but we have had him to lighten our loads and talk to about our troubles. We are leaving tomorrow to go back to our little berth outside the breakwater, but I suppose he'll be over for a visit . . . every day I imagine. . .he ain't going to like his new home I'll betcha. He is navigator in case any of you want to come out and try to get home.

Mr. Wearin. . .oh, you dog, I wish that you were here. . .as you can readily see you're a damned liar. . ."Oh, nothing to it. . ." But I am picking up my orders just as soon as possible today, but I will still ride to Pearl or the nearest fueling point. This trip has really been a hoodo, but seems to be getting on the ball again as the admiral got hot yesterday and told 'em to get some stuff out here and gut us out in three days, and from the stuff alongside I suppose they will and we'll be on our merry little slow way again.

I hope that you have situated OK now and got you a swell job again. (Of course if you have a opening or see a good thing I'm always available.) So when you and the Lady start up the avenue on Christmas Day with all the cheer and good will glowing in your breasts. . .just drop in and take one for pore little ole Joe Henry.




PS: Still hanging on to your package. Don't know what arrangement I'll make, but I'll get it to you sooner or later. Don't suppose you're in any hurry if it gets there ok without a slipup.



Editor Note: This page was originally built in September 2004. Playing it forward to February 2008... I received some excellent information from a gentleman by the name of Bill Jervey. Read his email and information about the US Arctic AF-7 below:

I came across the USS Arctic page at your DE357 website.  My father (Lt.JG Charles "Steve" Jervey) was an engineer aboard the Arctic.  He passed in 1979, but I recall his mention of Joe Henry, Doc, and some of the other shipmates.  While they were in the Pacific, my mother lived in the Californian Hotel in San Francisco, but they were both from Massachusetts, as was the captain of the ship, Commander Wright.  The attached article made it all the way east to the Boston Evening Globe on January 18, 1946.  My mother had returned home by then for the birth of my older brother and I'm sure she was surprised to see her husband's ship on the front page. 
Best regards, 
Bill Jervey

     Thanks to great folks like Bill, we are able to continue the work of documenting the history of the American naval fighting man of WWII, heroes all! Click here to bring up the article in a readable size! Thanks Bill Jervey for your GREAT work!



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