DD436; DP 1,630; L348'2" B36'1"; DR 17.5'; S33k; CPL276; A 5–5-inch, 1040mm ;7–20mm; 10–21"TT; 6 dcp; 2dct; CL GLEAVES.

The first Monssen (DD436) was laid down 12 July 1939 by Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Washington. The launch on 16 May 1940 was sponsored by Mrs. Mons Monssen, widow of Lieutenant Monssen.

When I decided to volunteer for the Navy in 1940, I drove my old 1931 Chrysler from Porterville to Fresno (76 miles). I found a recruiting station and joined eleven other teenagers there. They gave me an application to fill out and then gave me an oral, written and physical exam. Of the 12 of us I was the only one that passed, the others were color blind, missing fingers, or under age or something. The recruiter suggested that they should go next door to the Army and apply.

I was real happy, because from past experience with the other fellows that had joined the Navy from Porterville, they usually had 30 to 60 days to go home and “crow” about it. (Then they were very popular with the girls.) But I didn’t get any crowing time. They gave me papers, told me to go home and have my father sign them, have them notarized, and return in the morning at 10:00 a.m. with only one change of underwear and a toothbrush. After I got home, I had a l-o-o-o-o-o-n-n-g talk with my dad, before he agreed. Finally he called the manager of the Bank of America, and the manager opened the bank at midnight and notarized the papers. I drove back to Fresno the next morning, parked my car on the street, and left the key in it with the “pink slip” and a note to whoever wanted it (it had cost me $25 when I bought it).

When I got back to the recruiting station, they gave me a ticket to San Francisco and took me to the train station. I reported into San Francisco the next morning. They gave me another more complete physical, oral and written exams. When I finished, they said to go across the hall and wait in the auditorium. When I stepped into the auditorium, there was the nicest guy there to greet me. He had four slanted gold stripes on his lower left sleeve and three gold V’s with a gold bar and an eagle above. I just “knew” he must have been an admiral, because he was so nice and polite. He told us to come in, light a cigarette, and get acquainted with approximately 70 to 100 people from all over the country, because we would be living and working together. He sure was a nice person! Then he told us that it was customary when our boss walked into the room to stand and put out our cigarettes “please.”

The boss had three full stripes on his sleeve (commander). When the boss walked in, someone shouted “ATTENTION.” Everybody stood up and tromped their cigarettes out on the floor. The boss told us all about the pros and cons of the Navy, and he said that if you took care of your job, the Navy would take care of you. Then he said that if anybody didn’t want to go through it, they just had to raise their hand, “and we will send you back home, no questions asked.” Nobody raised a hand. He gave us another 15-minute talk about the pros and cons of the Navy and told us it wasn’t all white hats, convertibles and girls (like in the movies). Sometimes we might be working 24 hours in the bilges or some similar job. “Now if anybody does not want to go through with it, just raise your hand.” Nobody did.

Then he started out, “Now raise your right hand and repeat after me: “ I, your name, do solemnly swear to uphold and protect the constitution of the United States, obey my superior officers (etc, etc. continued oath ).” When he finished, he came along, shook everybody’s hand and said to each and every one, “Congratulations. You are now men among men.”

As soon as he left, the same nice man with all of the gold on his left sleeve returned. “ALL RIGHT YOU BUNCH OF PUKE FACES. FALL OUT OF HERE, LINE UP OUT IN THE HALL LIKE FOUR ROWS OF CORN. HEY YOU BACK THERE, DUMB- DUMB, GET IN A LINE. NOW FOLLOW ME. STAY IN A LINE.” He took us to a restaurant for lunch and then to the train station. We arrived at the San Diego Training Station at about 3:00 a.m., and at 5:00 a.m. it started all over again. They gave me the number 376-16-17 and told me to remember it, because it would be my serial number. When I graduated from boot camp I was honor man of the company. We were paid $21 a day, once a month, or in other words, $21 per month. Seaman second class paid $36 per month.

And I put in a request for a battlewagon in Hawaii as my first choice. My second choice was for a cruiser. When I returned from boot leave, I was assigned to a destroyer in Bremerton, Washington. We were taken to the train station in San Diego and left for Bremerton. We changed trains a couple of times, and in Portland we were put on an old coach with wooden seats and an old wood stove in one corner.

When we finally got to Bremerton, we reported directly to the hospital for short arm inspection, which is customary in all transfers. There was a doctor sitting in a chair doing the short arm inspection of each man in line. As I stepped up, he ordered, “Skin it back, milk it down, pull up your jumper higher, higher, turn around, turn around.” Then he shouted, “CORPSMAN, CORPSMAN, GET THIS MAN OUT OF HERE. PUT HIM IN ISOLATION.” Two corpsmen ran up and grabbed me under the arms and dragged me off to the isolation ward. I was scared and did not know what was happening or what I did wrong until after I took my dress blues off and got into hospital clothes. Then I was told that I had the measles.

After I got out of the hospital, I joined the rest of the crew aboard a destroyer, helping to finish building the ship as directed, pulling in electrical cables, painting, loading spare parts and stores, etc. The ship was commissioned on 14 March 1941 with Lt. Cmdr. Roland N. Smoot in command. After a few trial runs in Puget Sound, we started our shakedown cruise down the Pacific coast. I was a new seaman with good eyesight, so they assigned me to the crow’s nest watch. (The crow’s nest was a cylinder welded to the top of the mast, and it was large enough for a man to stand about shoulder high.) I remember that over the horizon I saw the mast of a freighter, and I called the bridge on the voice tube, “Ship ahoy.” They called back from the bridge, “Where away?” I answered back, “Two points off the starboard bow.” They called back, “Can you make her out?” I replied, “Hull down.” Most of the officers on the bridge came out on the starboard wing with their binoculars. They kept looking and asking, “Where away?” About twenty minutes later, the ship came up over the horizon.

Following shakedown and training, we cruised down the Pacific coast and through the Panama Canal. In Panama, everybody got a chance for liberty, either in Panama or Colon, where the “cribs” (cots and curtains for prostitution) were lined up along the sidewalk, just like any other place of business that was selling merchandise. Some of the bars had running water in a little gutter right under the bar stools, just in case you got too full of beer and didn’t want to go out back to the open “outhouse.” Anyway, that’s what we used them for after we had a few beers and got a little braver.

Next was the Caribbean Sea. As we crossed, it was as calm and smooth as a lily pond. The flying fish would jump out of the water, spread their wings and sail in the air for 50 to 100 feet. A couple of the flying fish landed on the deck of the ship, and I picked one up. It was about 8 or 9 inches long and had a wing on each side about 6 or 7 inches long. The wing was a stiff bone that hinged in and out with a web from the bone to the side of the fish. We arrived at Pier 2 in Charleston Navy Yard, where I won $100 in the anchor pool.(an anchor pool is where a person entering puts in $2 chooses and number from 1 to 60 on a card, the minute the anchor is dropped or the ship is docked determines the winner.) (continued)